From a Great Horned Owl on Snake Mountain on January 1st, to Long-tailed Ducks at the South Hero Causeway on December 31st, Vermont birders scoured fields and fens, mountains and meadows, lakes and lawns to discover as many species as possible during the 6th annual Vermont eBird County Quest.
The year-long contest pits county versus county, birder against birder — all engaged in a friendly rivalry for top birding honors. The main idea behind the year-long Quest is simply to get people out birding, promote camaraderie, and better document bird life across the state, using Vermont eBird.
This year marks the 14 year anniversary of Vermont eBird, the first state portal for eBird. In just a decade-and-a-half, the bird checklists that bird watchers have shared have helped make Vermont eBird, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life, the largest citizen science biodiversity project in the state and around the world. Nearly 2,000 Vermont eBirders have submitted over 221,000 complete checklists, representing all 385 species of birds ever reported from Vermont. We’ve added nearly 112,000 images and over 500 sound recordings to Vermont checklists.
GREEN MOUNTAIN BIRDERS PUT UP BIG NUMBERS in 2016
With nearly 50,000 eBird checklists submitted, comprising over 250,000 bird records, representing 279 bird species, and tallied by 1,674 birders in 2016, there is no doubt it was another banner year for birders and Vermont eBird.
County Cup Champions
Franklin County, a quiet underdog just a few years ago, topped the field for the 3rd year in a row and claimed the 2016 Quest Cup with a score of 29.5 birds over par. Windsor County was second with 26 species over par.
The County Cup award is based on a carefully calculated “par” system, realizing that not all Vermont counties are created equal in terms of avian diversity. Par scores reflect the number of species that a given county should find in a year with consistent birding effort. Each year a particular county wins, 5 birds are added to their par.
The bird rich counties of Addison and Chittenden often duel for overall total bird species found. This year, Chittenden County birders edged out their rivals 245 to 240.
Many birders ventured outside their home county of course. Jim Mead continued his dominance in total species observed with a record 264 species, followed by Taj Schottland (244) and Zac Cota for 3rd (243). Ian Worley continued his amazing effort by submitting a remarkable 3,024 checklists, again besting his previous winning years. Craig Provost placed second with 2,074 checklists followed by Sue Elliott (953).
The 150 and 250 County Club
eBirders who identified 150 species or more in a county were also inducted into the prestigious “150 Club”. Even in counties with higher avian diversity, a birder must be dedicated and in the field during all four seasons to join this club.
With two eBirders, Thomas Berriman and Fred Pratt, surpassing the 150 mark for Essex County, all Vermont counties now have at least one member in the club. Fred Pratt has pulled it off for 10 counties and Craig Provost in 8 counties – remarkable efforts. Overall, nearly 100 individual birders have joined the elite 150 Club since the Vermont County eBird Quest began in 2011.
The Vermont 250 Club requires even more dedication. This is a list of eBirders that have found 250 or more bird species in Vermont during one calendar year and reported them to Vermont eBird. Jim Mead, the sole member, has passed 250 species 5 times in the last 6 years!
Rare and Out-of-season Bird Observations
eBirders also contributed many records to the Vermont Bird Records Committee (VBRC). The 36th annual report of the VBRC covered the evaluation of 48 records involving 31 species and 2 subspecies. There were no first state records for any species during this period. The first fully documented subspecies record for Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata auduboni) observed in Windsor, Vermont was accepted. Previously, one record from 2012 was deemed as a ‘hypothetical’ first state record because the report was submitted as a written description by a single observer only.
With no additions or subtractions this year, the official Vermont State Bird Checklist remains at 388 species, representing 22 orders and 61 families of birds. There have been 202 species found breeding in the state. The checklist can be viewed and downloaded at the VBRC website. Species taxonomy and nomenclature follow the seventh edition of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) Checklist of North American Birds and supplements. Subspecies group nomenclature follows taxonomy of The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World (Version 6.9).
Congratulations to everyone for a fun year of birding! We hope some of you will vie for top honors in 2017. You can follow the scoreboard all year long and see where you rank. Even if you come up short, all of the data collected in Vermont eBird is valuable for science, education, and conservation. The game is afoot!