The annual Put-in-Bay Birding Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held on the Lake Erie Islands on Sunday, December 18, 2016. The lake was starting to freeze and open water was restricted to the east side and pockets at Put-in-Bay and at the South Bass Island State Park. The winds were brisk from the northwest with temperatures at -3 C in the morning. It was a relatively quiet day in the woods, ideal for Put-in-Bay Birding.

Waterfowl numbers were down as the lake was freezing. We were unable to visit Green Island due to ice on the lake. Highlights for the South Bass Put-in-Bay Birding count were 243 tundra swans with most found at Chapman’s Point, as well as a variety of waterfowl including common goldeneye, bufflehead, mallard, black ducks, redheads, canvasback, ring-necked ducks, gadwall, hooded mergansers, red-breasted mergansers, and ruddy ducks.

A northern pintail was seen on Friday at the Scheeff East Point Preserve. A common loon was found by Sharon Gray and Richard Gump in the last open water at the South Bass Island State Park. Carmen Trisler’s feeder yielded a common redpoll, purple finch, and winter wren.
The calm evening of the count was great for listening for owls-8 great horned and one eastern screech owl was counted this year on South Bass. Raptors included 6 bald eagles, 4 red-tailed hawks, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s hawks, and a northern harrier. One of the red-tailed hawks was seen perched on the sign at the Massie Cliffside Preserve with an injured wing-but not injured enough for it to be caught to take to rehab-it flew into the woods!

The most numerous bird counted at the Put-in-Bay Birding event were scaup at 1206 (126 which identified as lesser scaup) followed by European starlings at 773. Large numbers of starlings, brown-headed cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and common grackles were seen at island feeders the day after the count. A lone great blue heron and belted kingfisher were seen two days after the count by Bob Glauser, Elizabeth Heineman, and Susan Harrington.

On South Bass Island Put-in-Bay Birding enthusiasts, Lisa Brohl, Elizabeth Heineman, and Karen Wilhelm spent 9.5 hours each 7 a.m. -5:30 p.m.) surveying by car and on foot (shore, wooded areas, and fields). Sharon Gray and Richard Gump counted for 2.5 hours that day covering 3 miles of shoreline by car. Sixteen people watched their feeders (total of 42.5 hours total) for at least a portion of the day Jean Hilt, Ruth Scarpelli, Carmen Trisler, Mary Ann McCann, Brian and Sandy Hovey, Barb Chrysler, Susan Harrington, Bob Glauser, Heidi Ladd, Walt Duff, Kit Knaser, Gene and Pam Zajac, Russ Brohl, John Ladd and Michelle Heineman, .

On Middle Bass Island, Nancy Welter and Tedi Pertner spent 4 hours to survey the island. They were joined at the Middle Bass Island State Park by John Linhart and Becky Schmaltz. They tallied 34 species with Canada Goose being the most numerous bird counted at 196.
On North Bass, Bud and Ruth Stonerook surveyed the island for 1.5 hours. Joe Dopps watched from his property and drove the island too. We really appreciate the efforts of these hardy North Bass residents to participate in the count this year!  Counters were also busy on Kelleys Island and Pelee Island that day. The total number of species found on all the islands was 99 with count week birds.

On Pelee, participant Graeme Gibson reported high-lights of 83 sandhill cranes and a count week snowy owl! On Kelleys Islands John Pogacnik, Tom Bartlett, Sandi Tkach, and other feeder watchers tallied great numbers with snow geese, a red-throated loon, hairy woodpeckers, high numbers of American pipits and a Lapland longspur. Thanks to John Pogacnik for his work as the Lake Erie Count Circle Compiler and to Tom Bartlett for helping us organize. Thanks for everyone’s help with the count-it is great to participate in such a great citizen science effort! And a fun day watching the winter come in! Be sure to Visit Put-in-Bay in the spring for more Put-in-Bay Bird Watching action!