By Robert Sudar

Strong coastal storm systems in the preceding days gave way to better weather on Saturday, December 21st, as 29 intrepid counters took part in the Leadbetter Point Christmas Bird Count.  The count circle is centered in Willapa Bay and includes about half of the Long Beach Peninsula along with a considerable portion of land on the east side of the bay.  The counters were distributed over seven portions of the circle, recording species and numbers from before daylight (when a Great Horned Owl was heard!) until dusk.  Overall, 97 species were seen (or heard) on count day and two more during “count week”. 

As has been the case every year there were some interesting results, both encouraging and disappointing.  On a positive note, there were record numbers of Pacific Loon (8), Pied-bill Grebe (27), Spotted Towhee (86), Brown Creeper (8), Double-crested Cormorant (128), Red-winged Blackbird (500), Brewer’s Blackbird (192), Bald Eagle (58), Pine Siskin (953), Ring-billed Gull (1425!), Eurasian-collared Dove (125) and Belted Kingfisher (28).  That’s a lot of new record highs!

On the other hand, there were no Scaups of either species at all, along with no Mourning Doves and only a single Coot.  There were also no Great Egrets or Bitterns, species which are not always seen but still a disappointment when we can’t include them.  I remember seeing my first Great Egret on the 1981 count, the first time I participated, in the Bay Center area.  I find it interesting that I now see them so frequently in the Longview area, but they appear to remain only an occasional visitor to the coast.