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Bird Counts

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

2017 Wahkiakum CBC Results

By Andrew Emlen

The 20th annual Wahkiakum Christmas Bird Count was held on December 29, 2017, with 21 participants. Rain fell throughout most of the day, heavily at times. There were also fewer birding parties than usual, particularly kayakers to cover the Columbia River islands, so numbers of species and individual birds were lower than average: 104 species, 27,758 birds.

The most abundant bird was Cackling Goose with 7644, followed by Greater Scaup with 2785, the lowest Greater Scaup total in the history of the count. A large falcon seen by Mike Patterson in Brownsmead was probably the Gyrfalcon identified by other birders in the same area the following week. Great Egrets continue to increase their numbers in the area; this year's total of 35 nearly doubled the previous high count.

Last year was the first year Turkey Vultures had been recorded wintering in the count circle, on Puget Island, and Turkey Vultures were present again during this year's count week. Misses included Horned Lark, as not enough boaters were available to send someone to their year-round colony on White's Island.

Other than that, there was a fair representation of the common species in the circle. Full results can be found on Audubon's website: http://netapp.audubon.org/cbcobservation/

Many thanks to all the volunteers who braved the wet weather.

2017 Cowlitz Columbia Christmas Bird Count Results

By Bob Reistroffer

25 field observers and three feeder watchers joined and spent the cool sunny day finding 17,160 birds with 97 species recorded. The temperature ranged from 31° to 42°. Also during count week an additional 3 species were reported

High or low counts this year: No low counts this year but several highs;

249 Trumpeter Swans, 329 Gadwalls, 468 American Wigeons, 445 Northern Shovelers, 342 Ring-necked Ducks, 126 Common Goldeneyes, 96 Hooded Mergansers, 56 Bald Eagles, 5 Greater Yellow Legs, 12 Thayer’s Gulls, 28 Western Meadowlark’s, 

Seen during count week:  Clark’s Grebe, 8 Evening Grosbeaks, and 16 Common Redpolls (first reported sighting in Cowlitz County by Russ Koppendrayer).

Thank you all for a great job.

Hope to see you all next year on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019.

2018 Cowlitz County Bird List - January Update

Common Redpoll - Russ Koppendrayer
Common Redpoll - Russ Koppendrayer

As usual our composite year list for Cowlitz County got off to a big start on January 1st with the Christmas Bird Count in the Longview/Kelso area.

Then on the 2nd the first ever Cowlitz record of Common Redpolls were found in Longview's Altrusa Park. And not just a single bird, but a nice flock of sixteen mixed with four American Goldfinch. This tiny finch of the north is not found in western Washington annually, but this has been a banner winter for them. Typically when they are found it is one or two individuals in a flock of Pine Siskins, but this year pure flocks of Common Redpolls have been found in numerous places as far south as Olympia. Even farther south there was a flock near Morton for a first Lewis County record and another group seen on Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge in Wahkiakum County.

This phenomenon could well continue through the winter until they return north in late February. They especially like the catkins of alders and birches and may even show up at a seed feeder so be on the lookout in your neighborhood.

Russ shot the image with his phone held up to the scope eyepiece (digiscoped).

Download the pdf here.