WHAS - Bird Lists and Wildlife Sightings

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Sandhill Crane (WDFW Image)


2020 Leadbetter Bird Count Results

By Robert Sudar

The Leadbetter Point Christmas Bird Count was held on December 19th, 2020. Nationally, it was the 121st Christmas Bird Count. The Leadbetter count has been held each December since at least 1978, except for 2008, when it was cancelled because of heavy snow that made travel to the coast treacherous.

The count "circle" is centered in Willapa Bay and includes areas on both sides of the Bay, plus part of the Long Beach coastline including the Point itself. There are 8-10 "sectors" assigned to different counting teams, depending on how many counters are available and whether all areas are accessible.

For instance, the northern half of Long Island is within the count circle, but no one has counted it for many years because it's harder to reach. This year, COVID-19 created some challenges trying to make sure counters from different family groups weren't mixed, so there were fewer counters overall and each group had to be from the same household.

Some counters also chose not to participate because of health concerns, and some were unable to travel. But organizer Suzy Whittey, who lives on the peninsula, was able to recruit enough counters to get the job done. Counting is done from cars and on foot, depending on the location.

Many homeowners open their yards for counters, while others greet the slow-moving cars with questions, good wishes and the occasional tip as to where birds were recently seen. The weather was dry and adequately calm despite the storms that week until around 1PM, when the rain and wind returned. Still, the temperatures were moderate which made the work more enjoyable.

Overall, almost 18,000 individual birds were seen comprising 88 different species, which is a little lower than normal but still good results considering the challenges of staging the count at all.

The most unusual bird was a Bar-tailed Godwit spotted in the Oysterville area. Pine Siskins were definitely more abundant, often in a flock of over 150 birds.  And there were over 80 Anna's Hummingbirds.  They were rare at this time of year 40 years ago but are becoming increasingly common on the Leadbetter Count, just as they are in many local areas during the winter. There were also six American Dippers, a bird that likes to forage along fast-moving streams but can be challenging to see.

On the disappointing side of the count, there were no Brants, no Greater White-fronted Geese, no Gray Jays, no Snowy Plovers, no Northern Shovelers, no owls of any species, no Coots, no Bitterns, no Sapsuckers and only Common Loons this year. That doesn't mean there weren't some in the area, but they weren't seen on count day. It's not atypical to have some variation from year to year in what is seen but that doesn't lessen the disappointment for the counters! Brants and Snowy Plovers, for example, are species that have been rebounding a bit in numbers during the winter count in recent years and it would have been good to have recorded them again this year.

It was rewarding for all the counters to be able to spend the day recording birds and helping to maintain the continuity of the data set for the Leadbetter Christmas Bird Count. Hopefully, it will be less of a challenge in 2021!


2020 Wahkiakum Bird Count Results

By Andrew Emlen

The Wahkiakum Christmas Bird Count circle straddles the Columbia River, including Cathlamet, Puget Island, Elochoman Valley, and parts of the Skamokawa Valleys in Wahkiakum County, Washington; and Westport, Brownsmead, and Knappa in Clatsop County, Oregon. The Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge and most of the Lewis and Clark Refuge are also within the circle.

For the 23rd annual Wahkiakum CBC on December 29, 2020, 19 volunteers counted 60,501 individual birds representing 109 species (there were two additional count week species). This is close to average - pretty good, considering that we had half a dozen fewer participants than usual.

The most abundant species this year was Cackling Goose at 19,750, followed by Greater Scaup (14,531), European Starling (4235), and American Coot (3297). Unusual species include the first White-tailed Kite on the count since 2012.

When I started the Wahkiakum count in 1998 White-tailed Kites had been expanding their range northward and were regular here through the early and mid 2000's, with the population peaking at 11 for the count circle in 2006. Their population in Washington plummeted after the heavy snow of 2008-9, and our numbers for the Wahkiakum count dropped to 4, then 2, then 1 for 2011 and 2012 before they were gone. The present individual can still be found along North Welcome Slough Road, Puget Island, where many birders have gone to view it. Puget Island also had three Turkey Vultures on this year's count - this is the fourth year in a row Turkey Vultures have wintered on Puget Island, after no previous Wahkiakum CBC records. 

New high counts were set this year for eight species (for each I have this year's numbers, followed by the previous high count in parentheses):

  • Mourning Dove 66 (64)
  • Northern Flicker 67 (64)
  • Black Phoebe 12 (11)
  • Horned Lark 58 (44)
  • White-crowned Sparrow 139 (97)
  • White-throated Sparrow 9 (6)
  • Western Meadowlark 65 (41)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird 22 (13)

Notable among these are the large number of "Streaked" Horned Larks. Since this subspecies was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in October 2013, the Army Corps of Engineers has been managing their dredge spoil islands to maintain habitat for the larks, and it appears to be helping them.

Also notable is the increasing number of Black Phoebes, which have been expanding their range northward and have been breeding successfully in Wahkiakum and Clatsop counties in recent years.


Read more: 2020 Wahkiakum Bird Count Results

2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - February Update

Swainson's Hawk - Image courtesy of Dick Daniels
Swainson's Hawk - Image courtesy of Wikimedia/Dick Daniels

By Russ Koppendrayer

We're off to a very nice start to the 2021 year list as far as number of species goes. Of the hardy species that overwinter in Cowlitz County in small numbers while most of their compatriots head farther south, we have found more than is typical. 

Only one bird has been found so far this year that would be considered a rarity. That would be the juvenile Swainson's Hawk that was seen for three days in the Woodland Bottoms. A species that nests in the grasslands and sagebrush habitats of interior North America, they migrate south for the winter. A few stop as close as Mexico, but the majority spend their time in Argentina and typically begin to return to areas east of the Cascades in April. While not the first record of Swainson's Hawk in western Washington in winter, it was indeed a very surprising find.

As was our individual, I believe all previous winter visitors were birds that hatched the previous spring and apparently have a flaw in their migration instinct. A few birders enjoyed seeing it at any rate and hopefully it survives the winter. As it was after the snow and cold that it was found it may well stand a chance.   

Download the pdf here.


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - January Update

Cedar Waxwing - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer
Cedar Waxwing - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer

By Russ Koppendrayer

We got off to a typical fine start to our year list as far as the number of species seen.

A bit unusual was the number of species that over winter in small numbers that we usually miss until they begin to return from their winter haunts. Cedar Waxwing would be one of these species that in many years we don't find any until June, but this January we had three reports. The flock found feeding on berries at Lake Sacajawea astoundingly contained an estimated 150 individuals.

All the Code 4 (over 4 records, but less than annual) seen fall into the category of species found nearly every year. 

Download the pdf here.


2020 Cowlitz County Bird List - Final Update

White-tailed Kite- Image courtesy of Kevin Cole via Wikemedia
White-tailed Kite- Image courtesy of Kevin Cole via Wikimedia

By Russ Koppendrayer

Two species have been added to the list since the last report two months ago. This gives us the most species found in Cowlitz County in one year over the life of this project. The first addition was a Heermann's Gull that was actually seen in mid October, but didn't get through the eBird review in time for the October report. This was the third ever record for the county for this gull that has a strong attachment to salt water. While we have three records, Wahkiakum county just downstream on the Columbia River has only one record and the next county upstream (Clark) has never witnessed this visitor. Heermann's Gull is a handsome mostly gray gull whose favorite foraging technique is to follow Brown Pelicans when they plunge dive on baitfish and take advantage of any fish stirred up or spilled by the pelicans.  

The second addition was a White-tailed Kite that appeared for a couple days at Willow Grove. This species has become quite rare anywhere in Washington in the last twelve years. After being well established in the southwest part of the state, their range has regressed southward with the nearest population now in the Tillamook, Oregon area.

As previously stated there is now a new county highest total for species in a year. These 209 species include the three that were new to the county. We added Gray Flycatcher, Siberian Accentor, and American Redstart to our list in 2020.

We'll see what 2021 has to offer for birding excitement and pleasure, and good birding to all.

Download the pdf here.



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