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Bird Counts

2018 Cowlitz County Bird List - June Update

Dickcissel - Royce Craig
Dickcissel - Photo by Royce Craig

2018 is half over and we have seen birds in winter, in migration and in breeding season. This means further additions will be slow, but usually of the unexpected variety for the last six months. 

Easily the highlight of the last couple months was a Dickcissel showing up at a bird bath on Pleasant Hill Road between Castle Rock and Kelso where it made use of the facilities and was never seen again. It certainly does pay to have a water feature in the yard. This first ever record for Cowlitz County was not only noticed by the residents, but well photographed. Assuming this bird is accepted by the Washington Bird Records Committee it will be the sixteenth record for the state. With the excellent photographic documentation we would expect no problem with acceptance.

Download the pdf here.

2018 Cowlitz County Bird List - March Update

Tufted Duck/ Greater Scaup - Lyn Topinka
Tufted Duck/Greater Scaups - Lyn Topinka

Migrants continued to trickle in during March and we also found a few year around residents that had been missed in the first couple months of 2018. There was one bird that didn't fit either of these categories however. That was the female Tufted Duck found in the Columbia River at Woodland in a Greater Scaup flock on 3/24 and was still being seen daily as of this writing on 3/31. Most Tufted Ducks winter in Asia with western Washington seeing two or three in a typical winter.

For some reason this is the first one seen in Washington in 2018 and created quite a stir with all the state big year listers coming to find this bird to add to their year list of birds. Add that to the newly avid birders for whom this was a life time first as well as other local birders and there has been quite a few folks who have seen this individual.

Tufted Duck - Digiscoped - Lyn Topeka
Tufted Duck - Digiscoped - Lyn Topeka

This is the third record for this species in Cowlitz County and the first female, although all three have been in the Columbia River at Woodland. In 2013 there was a first winter male that was present for about three weeks and in 2015 an adult male was seen for only a few days.  

Download the pdf here.

2018 Cowlitz County Bird List - April Update

Vesper Sparrow - Terry Anderson
Vesper Sparrow - Terry Anderson

We arrive at the end of April during the heart of migration with new species arriving in the county daily. It's fun to be out there looking for them or just kicking back and seeing them arrive at our feeders.

The most exciting April sighting for a number of us was the second Cowlitz County record of Vesper Sparrow. This one day wonder was found foraging right at roadside along a fence line in the Woodland Bottoms and was seen by numerous birders for the rest of the day. Despite a number of people searching for hours, the bird could not be relocated the next morning as it had likely moved on.

Vesper Sparrow is a grassland species that is common in appropriate habitat east of the Cascades in Washington, with small nesting populations in a couple west side locations, notably Joint Base Lewis McChord and a beach area on San Juan Island. A few migrating birds are found annually in other western Washington spots and this one was a treat for some local birders.

Tufted Duck - Digiscoped - Lyn Topeka
Vesper Sparrow - Terry Anderson

Download the pdf here.

2018 Cowlitz County Bird List - February Update

Barn Swallow - JJ Cadiz
Barn Swallow - JJ Cadiz

We added a few resident as well as wintering birds in February that we had missed in January. At the end of the month the first of our spring migrants began to appear, with Tree Swallows, Turkey Vulture and Rufous Hummingbird all making an appearance. Barn Swallows were already seen in January, which was part of a wide spread presence of this species in western Washington this winter.

What was unusual about this was the quantity of the reports as we expect some winter appearance of Barn Swallows. After the last migrants leave in late October there may be no Barn Swallows seen until early January, then there will be random sightings until late February. Then another gap in reports occurs until the first spring migrants appear about April first.

This odd seasonal pattern has led some to theorize that the winter birds are not our local breeders trying to over winter, but rather birds from southern South America that have migrated north for the austral winter, then when it comes time to return south for nesting they mistakenly continue north and end up here, where they slowly succumb to the weather conditions. To the best of my knowledge this theory has not been confirmed by DNA research as of yet. 

Download the pdf here.

Leadbetter Christmas Bird Count Results

By John and Margaret Green 

The Leadbetter CBC took place on what we might consider a balmy day in the middle of December (average temperature at 46 F) and certainly not typical of most past counts. There were intermittent showers but not the blustery winds, torrential downpours and brutal cold that have often visited years past.  Robert and Sam Sudar, once again served us well as count compilers, and many of our past participants continued their tradition as section leaders and support teams.

Robert noted several comparisons to past counts: The 111 species found is the best in several years. The 2016 total was 98 and 2015 was 95. Notable sightings included a rare visit from the north, White-winged Crossbill and rare for the season, Band-tailed Pigeons. Other notable water birds included Black, Surf and White-winged Scooters, Common, Pacific and Red-Throated Loons. We are continuing to see increasing numbers of Western Grebes, 35 this year, after becoming a bit of a rarity 10-15 or so years ago. Horned, Red-necked and Pied-billed Grebes were also seen. 2 Pileated Woodpecker showed up; we know they are around but we don't always see them.

Notable absences were Scaup, American Coot, American Bittern and Mourning Dove. Notable "returnee" which hadn't been seen for several years was the Great Egret. The counts implied a notable trend away from Mourning Doves (1) to Eurasian Collared Doves (43) and Western Scrub Jays, rare several years back, continue to be present.

Of the top 10 species, eight were waterfowl (including American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Mallard) and shorebirds (highest numbers of Dunlin). American Crows and European Starlings were the most numerous in the song bird category.

The other count numbers that resonate with us as count coordinators are the human numbers; we had 35 enthusiastic participants and 3 feeder counters, great section leaders and great fun. The Christmas Bird Count continues to provide excitement and enjoyment