An adult with a spotting scope stand with their back to the camera while observing a snowy landscape.
An adult with a spotting scope stand with their back to the camera while observing a snowy landscape.

A member of Bighorn Audubon Society surveys birds during the 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Buffalo, Wyoming. Photo: JoAnne Puckett
A member of Bighorn Audubon Society surveys birds during the 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Buffalo, Wyoming. Photo: JoAnne Puckett

Christmas Bird Count

Surprise Appearances and Concerning No-Shows in Northern Wyoming

While several uncommon bird species were recorded during Bighorn Audubon Society's 2022 Christmas Bird Counts, some historically frequent species were notably absent.

The Bighorn Audubon Society is thankful for the multitude of Christmas Bird Count (CBC) participants within our chapter and across the country.  Through their commitment, the nation’s longest-running citizen science project continues to provide tremendously valuable bird population data. The counts in Sheridan, Kane (Big Horn County), Buffalo, and Story-Big Horn, Wyoming yielded interesting results, including concerningly low counts of certain species. Below are the highlights from Bighorn Audubon Society CBC compilers. 

Sheridan Christmas Bird Count 

By Annie Dunn, Compiler of the Sheridan CBC in Sheridan County, Wyoming. December 17, 2022 

Saturday, December 17, 2022, found 22 field observers and four feeder watchers tallying each bird they spied in the Sheridan area as part of Audubon’s 123rd Christmas Bird Count. 

With a low temperature of 19 degrees and a high of 34, temperatures for count day were considerably warmer than those of the preceding week. Similarly, winds were far milder than in previous days, ranging from 0-12 mph. Water areas were mostly frozen and food crops were recorded as poor to fair. 

In total, the count volunteers observed 4,746 individual birds, comprised of 49 species. Below are a few highlights from the 2022 count: 

The Cassin’s Finch and Pine Grosbeak made their first appearance on our count list since 2018. Two individuals of each species were spotted. 

The well-camouflaged Brown Creeper was a fun find for two groups, making its return after being absent from last year’s list. Four individuals of this species were spotted. 

Another fun find for four groups was the Townsend’s Solitaire. This year, six individuals were seen, while the past two years saw just one and two recorded. 

Thirty-one Common Goldeneyes were recorded, the highest number since 2018! 

Bald Eagles have held steady over the past seven years, while Golden Eagles were recorded at their lowest since 2015. This year, we recorded 43 Bald Eagles but only five Golden Eagles. 

Also noticeably down was the count for Rough-legged Hawks, of which we saw 10 individuals. The past three years’ counts were 27, 20, and 43. 

On the upward trend is our western mainstay, the Black-billed Magpie, recorded at its highest number in at least the past eight years, with 306 individuals recorded. 

A Clark’s Nutcracker—an uncommon sighting in the Sheridan area, more typically found in coniferous forests—made its first appearance on our count list in over 20 years! The Clark's Nutcracker has been recorded in only two previous counts in the history of the Sheridan CBC: two individuals in 2000 and one in 1979. 

A huge thank you to all involved in making the Sheridan, Wyoming count happen. We are already looking forward to next December and the 124th Audubon Christmas Bird Count. 

Kane Christmas Bird Count 

By Christy Fleming, NPS, Compiler of the Kane CBC in Big Horn County, Wyoming. December 17, 2022 

Can you believe it? This was year 32 of the Kane Christmas Bird Count! Thank you to everyone that came to help count birds. Below are some highlights from this year's count. 

We added the Lesser Goldfinch to the list of species seen during a Kane CBC! One of our very experienced birders identified them during the count. Other birds of interest spotted included eighty-five Wild Turkeys seen in count area seven, two Belted Kingfishers found in count area four and one in count area five. An impressive 1,500 Pinon Jays were also counted in area 10, along with two Canyon Wrens and two Marsh Wrens, while 300 Bohemian Waxwings were seen in count area five! 

Several of the birds counted this year have only been counted five or fewer years out of Kane CBC’s 32-year history. They included the Gadwall, Wilson's Snipe, Short-eared owl, Canyon Wren, Field Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon), and Lesser Goldfinch.  

Buffalo Christmas Bird Count 

By Deane Bjerke, Compiler of the Buffalo CBC in Johnson County, Wyoming. December 18, 2022 

Thanks so much to all participants.  Cold, snow cover, and frozen water made it a challenging day. 

During this year’s Christmas Bird Count, we recorded 47 species, which is about average. We did have some highlights, the biggest being a Snowy Owl observation by two of our chapter members, JoAnne and Tony. Five Rusty Blackbirds was another exciting observation. I had one in my yard the day before the count. A White-winged Scoter was another good sighting. 

As usual, we missed some species we normally get, but saw a lot of migrating geese that were pushed down by the cold temperatures heading our way. 

Story-Big Horn Christmas Bird Count 

By Ariel Downing, Compiler of the Story/Big Horn CBC in Sheridan County, Wyoming. December 29, 2022 

The 50th Story-Big Horn Christmas Bird Count was held on Thursday, December 29, 2022. For most observers, the day was overcast in the morning and the skies cleared by the afternoon. 

Temperatures were above freezing, with calm winds. Ponds were frozen over and creeks were mostly frozen, likely due to the extremely cold temperatures the week before the count. One of the biggest highlights of the day was the 670 Bohemian Waxwings that were seen on the Brinton Museum grounds. 

Count participants saw 10 Bald Eagles (adult and juvenile) and two Golden Eagles (juvenile), which may possibly have been the same bird. A Northern Goshawk was seen during Count Week at The Brinton and two Great Horned Owls were seen during daylight hours in Story. 

Mountain birds are always a treat! Six Mountain Chickadees were spotted at feeders in Story and at the Fish Hatchery in Story. Eight Pygmy Nuthatches were also observed at feeders in Story and on routes in Story. Wild Turkeys are doing well—more than 300 were seen at various locations on the Story-Big Horn Count! 

Low in numbers were American Goldfinches and absent were Common Redpolls, Red Crossbills, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. The latter has been observed in great numbers in previous years. 
Learn more about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. 


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