Tree Swallow. Justine Kibbe Photo

FIConservancy’s 2019 Spring Migration Bird Count took place Sun. May 19 under sunny skies. Eleven bird-watching enthusiasts traveled the Island from end to end, noting 56 species, which surpasses 2018’s record 55 observations.

Entomologist Adam Mitchell, Ph.D.*, along with the University of Delaware team of Emily Baisden and Will Aleida led the bird count. Dr. Mitchell provided a quick summary of this year’s findings:

“We had a very successful count, in spite of this spring’s weather, which was colder and wetter than usual. We observed 56 species of birds, beating last year’s spring migration count of 55 for the highest number of species reported.

“The count started strong with 11 participants heading down to Race Point, where we observed a flock of about 20 blue jays and yellow warblers among common yellowthroats foraging in the scrub for food. A red-tailed hawk sat patiently atop the Parade Grounds’ black gum tree while we proceeded with our count.

“Our second-to-last stop near the Fishers Island Club golf course provided us with a bird count first: a yellow-billed cuckoo. We also found a breeding pair of American redstarts and their nest, suggesting that some of the birds we encountered will be sticking around for the summer.

“Despite the good news, the unusual weather patterns this year led to a decrease in available habitat for many of our migrants. Colder temperatures delayed plants from ‘greening up’ (sprouting leaves), which in turn delayed the presence plant-feeding insects, an essential food source for songbirds.

“Birders have reported large congregations of birds at bird feeders, or feeding on fallow crops, to supplement the lack of food. Even though this year’s spring migration count was later than usual, many of the trees we observed were just beginning to leaf out, and the cherry trees were still in bloom.

“As we move into summer, things should return to normal, but it will be interesting to see how the birds on Fishers Island respond to this delay later in the season.”

Species Recorded for Spring 2019:
American crow
American goldfinch
American redstart
American robin
Baltimore Oriole
Barn swallow
Belted kingfisher
Black-capped chickadee
Black-throated green warbler
Blue jay
Blue-winged warbler
Brown-headed cowbird
Canada goose
Carolina wren
Cedar waxwing
Chimney swift
Chipping sparrow
Common eider
Common grackle
Common loon
Common yellowthroat
Double-crested cormorant
Eastern phoebe
Eastern towhee
European starling
Gray catbird
Great-crested flycatcher
Great egret
Greater black-backed gull
Green heron
Herring gull
House finch
House wren
Least tern
Mourning dove
Mute swan
Northern cardinal
Northern mockingbird
Northern parula
Orchard Oriole
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-eyed vireo
Red-tailed hawk
Redwing blackbird
Ring-necked pheasant
Song sparrow
Tree swallow
Tufted titmouse
White-breasted nuthatch
White-eyed vireo
Yellow warbler
Yellow-billed cuckoo
*Adam Mitchell, Ph.D., is Associate Wildlife Biologist, Assistant Professor of Entomology; Department of Wildlife, Sustainability, and Ecosystem Sciences; Tarleton State University, a Member of The Texas A&M University System