With sunny skies and warm temperatures, Saturday's weather was a perfect day for the 58th annual Plainfield Christmas Bird Count. Forty-six volunteers from Plainfield, Barre, Montpelier, East Montpelier, Plainfield, Calais, Marshfield, Orange, and Middlesex totaled up a staggering 4,117 birds over the course of the day.

This total, more than 300 birds greater than last year's, was a bit surprising considering the reports from several teams that walked and drove dozens of miles with hardly a chickadee or turkey to be seen. The action, it seemed, was more concentrated near bird feeders and developments than usual. Concentration around feeders might be expected on a frigid, snowy day. Saturday's thaw, however, shouldn't have yielded such quiet woods. Other CBCs around Vermont anecdotally reported similarly sparse birdlife, and we'll be curious to learn whether the scarcity is corroborated by statewide CBC data.

Grand total aside, our birders checked off an impressive 46 species altogether, beating last year's count of 43, and trouncing 2016's 35-species list. Special thanks to our feeder-watchers, who knew that their backyard Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers might be the only sightings of those species in the whole 8-mile-radius count circle.

While quantity drives some birders, quality gets the rest. The last few weeks have brought small but consistent flocks of nomadic winter finches to our area. These boreal wanderers like Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks, and Pine Siskins, are often absent from Vermont for months, or years on end, and arrive from the north on the heels of winter storms to feed on ornamental fruit trees and abundant conifer seeds. Uncommon and uncommonly beautiful, these species were a treat for many of our birders this weekend.

The year's most unusual sighting of the count was an adult Golden Eagle soaring over the farm fields of East Montpelier with a Bald Eagle. While Bald Eagles are regular winter residents near Vermont's open waters, Golden Eagles rarely winter in the northeast, and are often only seen in Vermont soaring high overhead  during spring and fall migration.

Speaking of rare winter visitors, three Eastern Bluebirds, the first ever documented in the history of the count, had also taken up weekend residence in one Montpelier backyard.

Another oddity of this year's count was the total absence of Canada Geese Ring-billed Gulls, and Herring Gulls! And although Common Redpolls and Snow Buntings have been seen around the area in the last few days, none made an appearance in our count circle on Saturday. If you see any of these species in the next 24 hours, please let us know. so we can add your to our "Count Week" list.

Below, enjoy some photo highlights of species seen this weekend, and the full results from the count. For more about Christmas Bird Counts, visit our CBC page.

58th Annual Plainfield CBC Results

2 American Black Duck

209 Mallard

9 Common Merganser

15 Ruffed Grouse

377 Wild Turkey

3 Bald Eagle

1 Golden Eagle

2 Sharp-Shinned Hawk

3 Cooper's Hawk

3 Red-Tailed Hawk

400 Rock Pigeon

181 Mourning Dove

2 Barred Owl

2 Red-Bellied Woodpecker

27 Downy Woodpecker

44 Hairy Woodpecker

0 Northern Flicker

15 Pileated Woodpecker

232 Blue Jay

488 American Crow

61 Common Raven

1127 Black-Capped Chickadee

28 Tufted Titmouse

29 Red-Breasted Nuthatch

68 White-Breasted Nuthatch

16 Brown Creeper

4 Carolina Wren

4 Golden-Crowned Kinglet

7 American Robin

252 European Starling

35 Bohemian Waxwing

9 Cedar Waxwing

7 American Tree Sparrow

1 Song Sparrow

5 White-Throated Sparrow

39 Dark-Eyed Junco

56 Northern Cardinal

2 Common Grackle

1 Brown-Headed Cowbird

102 Pine Grosbeak

9 Purple Finch

14 House Finch

2 Pine Siskin

53 American Goldfinch

68 Evening Grosbeak

100 House Sparrow

3 Eastern Bluebird

46 Total Species

4117 Total Number Of Birds Seen

355 Miles Driven

45.5 Miles Walked

46 Total Participants

212.5 Birding Hours