Plus a species seen in the area for the first time

Christmas bird count in Belfast breaks record

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 4:15pm

BELFAST — A team of Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition volunteers participated along with other bird counters in the 120th Christmas Bird Count, the oldest citizen science bird project on the planet.  

The Belfast Circle is a 15-mile diameter circle from Belfast to Stockton, Frankfort, Monroe, and Waldo. The center of the circle is Mt. Ephraim.

Watchers stalked their sections all day January 4 tallying birds by species. The weather was mild with no wind, and participants didn’t feel threatened to be out all day, according to the Coalition, in a news release.

Collectively, teams in the Belfast Circle found 71 species, including 4 species of owls, setting a record of species counted in the Belfast Circle.

Bob Brown found a Snowy Owl. Tom Aversa, the only "party" to go owling, was rewarded with responses from Barred and Northern Saw-whet, while a Great Horned Owl flew in and landed over his head.

A complete list will be posted to

Numerous stories of the day’s events buzzed at the after-action potluck in Swanville, where hungry birders dined, “a highlight of which is always Ron Harrell’s scalloped potatoes,” said the Coalition. There were apple pies, chicken pie, and “Seth’s famous Cincinnati Chili,” a Christmas Bird Count tradition.

Besides the owl news, a count circle highlight was a first time seen species – Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two individuals together. Raptors were also a highlight; in addition to the owls, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Peregrine, Merlin, and American Kestrel made the list.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 aiming to reverse the trend of going out on Christmas Day and shooting birds.

“It indeed caught on, never missing a year of the 20th century and still continuing, now happening all over the world,” the Coalition said.

Maine has 29 count circles with individual counts scheduled on different days, between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, to allow participation in more than one count.

To join the team for the next Christmas count, contact Seth Benz at

The Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition works to support conservation and stewardship of natural, scenic, and public access resources of the Belfast Bay watershed through research, community-building, and education.