The 67th Nantucket Christmas Count took place on January 2, 2022. Our island was divided up into 8 sections with a team assigned to each one with the common goal of counting all the birds within a 24-hour period. The response to the call was tremendous with over 60 participants joining in on the fun, including a big participant one who wasn’t anticipated. The Nantucket Grey Lady enveloped us all, making the count a little more challenging. Mother nature threw everything she could think of, short of snow, this year with very dense fog and an extreme high tide. However, we birders prevailed with having one of the highest species counts of 133 species for count day. We did not break the record of highest species counted which was attained in 2014 with 140 species, but it was quite an impressive high count since visibility over the ocean was very limited. The actual number of birds was a bit on the low side at 23,747 individuals but that could also be explained by the weather conditions throughout the day.

Nantucket Bird Count Results Over the Past 5 Years.

The day was chock full of excitement. Nantucket was the only Christmas Bird Count in Massachusetts to have all three species of swans, 106 Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), 2 Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus), 1 Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator). Other rare bird species that were identified were 3 Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius), 1 American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), and 1 Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida). There was also an unusual high number of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) with 5 individuals seen on the count. This year, one bird made the count come to a quick halt, the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens). Once the news broke out to all the birders, they all flocked (no pun intended!) from their assigned section to catch a glimpse of once in a lifetime rare bird for Nantucket. It sat on the telephone wire all day, as if it didn’t realize what a showstopper it really was.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Photo: Libby Buck

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
Photo: Libby Buck

American Redstart ( Setophaga ruticilla )
Photo: Mike Tucker

Another way to volunteer on count day is to be a Feeder Watcher, where the volunteer records all the birds the visit their feeder throughout the day. Without the help of the Feeder Watchers some key birds would have been missed. These clutch birds were 2 Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), a Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), Dickcissel (Spiza americana), and 2 Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca).

Northern Cardinal & Blue Jay on feeders.
Photo: Anne Dyer

Since the birds aren’t dependable to show up on the day of the count, there is a buffer period of three days before and after the count day, called the “count week.” The count week birds included an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), Dovekie (Alle alle), Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis), Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus), and American Kestrel (Falco sparverius).

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Photo: Libby Buck
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
Photo: Libby Buck

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Photo: Libby Buck

Save the date! January 1, 2023 is the next Nantucket Christmas Bird Count. Come join in on the fun next year.  If you would like to volunteer or would like more information, please click the link below:

Nantucket Christmas Bird Count

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