This morning was pay-back time. For some BBS routes, it takes an hour of driving time (or even more) to reach the starting point. Today, I could have walked to it from my motel in "downtown" Ontonagon, MI. I knew that I would tally Common Nighthawk since I had listened to them the previous 2 evenings, but I figured it would be too early in the morning for the swifts. I was correct on both accounts.
The last time the route was run was in 1985 - 20 years ago, and there were some obvious changes. See the Bird of the Day for details on one of them. Some of the biggest changes in bird life were with the thrushes. Just look at these numbers from 1985 and 2004.
Hermit Thrush - 17 and 7
Wood Thrush - 9 and 0
American Robin - 51 and 46
Veery - 37 and only 6!!!!
But not all species went "south" - Nashville W from 7 to 22, Indigo Bunting from 4 to 25, and Red-eyed Vireo from 39 to 63.
But, but, there were some other interesting "declines" - Least Flycatcher from 29 to 7, Rose-breasted Grosbeak from 16 to 3, and White-throated Sparrow from 41 to 20.
In addition to possible changes in habitat along the roadsides and the obvious changes that are occurring in bird populations, one of the "problems" with a technique involving volunteer observers like the BBS is the differences among participants in their bird identification and counting abilities. Over the long-term and over a large geographical region, these issues tend to be taken care of, but care must be exercised when comparing one survey with another survey when 2 observers are involved.
Stop 50 yielded one of the larger surprises. The last 7 stops were on a busy state highway. As I looked down the road toward a couple of lumps in the mowed swath of grass along the blacktop, even with my dirty binoculars, I immediately identified 2 Upland Sandpipers casually foraging in the thin grass area as traffic sped past only a few feet away. Two Turkey Vultures also made an appearance as they soared over me on stop 46. I'm sure this species along with the House Finch heard in Ontonagon were not species to be expected in the region in 1985.