Thursday, January 7, 2016

First Reedsport Christmas Bird Count--Dec 30, 2015

The estuary of the largest coastal river between the Columbia and San Francisco now has a Christmas Bird Count. Why did this take so long? Perhaps because much of the estuary is not accessible except by boat. Perhaps because until recently there have not been many birders in Douglas County to tell of its wonders. Well, things are changing, and several features of this coastal area make it an attractive area for birdwatchers of all types, from the quaint Salmon Harbor to the wilderness-like Umpqua Estuary and North Spit.

Coastal Douglas County could use an economic boost. Having a Christmas Bird Count in the area will play a part in making known to others in Oregon and beyond that coastal Douglas County has some good things to offer. The CBC itself brought business to Reedsport and Winchester Bay in the way of motel stays, restaurant visits, fuel, and grocery store purchases.

Before getting to my summary of the count, I want to provide links to some individual accounts worth looking at:  1) Jim Scott's blog and eBird report (w/photos) on his and Jeanette's experience on the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail. 2) Bob Archer's blog w/photos on his experience on the North Spit. 3) Phil White's account w/photos of the Scholfield Road area.

This inaugural Reedsport CBC was conducted by 33 volunteers, predominantly from Eugene, Coos Bay, and Roseburg area, with a single local participant from Gardiner. I expect local participation will increase over time as the word gets out. These volunteers were grouped to form teams of 2-3 people covering 15 different areas (see map). The ocean and central estuary sections were not covered this year. Several private landowners were generous to allow participants to count birds on their land, including industrial sites, forested sites, tidal marshes, freshwater marshes, and pastures. These added tremendously to the diversity of habitats sampled in the area, and I extend a big THANK-YOU to these folks!

The first year of this count succeeded in detecting a total of 16,349 individual birds comprising 133 species. Tables detailing species found in each of the 15 surveyed areas are linked here: sorted by taxonomy, total number of each species, and number of areas in which each species was found. These tables can be interesting to look at. For example, you can answer the questions: What were the most numerous species on the count? How many species were found in all 15 Team Areas? What were they? Which species were found in only one area in the count circle? What species was found only by our one feeder counter?

How does the Reedsport CBC compare to other coastal counts? The table below shows average species counts for Oregon coastal CBCs (arranged north to south) from the 2005-06 to 2014-15 seasons (data obtained from This year's Reedsport CBC seems to fall roughly in the middle of the average counts.

Columbia Estuary124117-13110
Lincoln City117106-1282
Yaquina Bay135126-15210
Coos Bay158152-1688
Coquille Valley149142-1557
Port Orford128112-1418

Some of the most exciting finds for the count were:

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD--found by Jack Williamson the day before the count and seen by Alan Contreras and crew and many others on the day of the count in E Reedsport.

Northern Mockingbird (Photo by Matt Hunter)

PALM WARBLER--found by Tristen Hynes and company at Champion Park in Reedsport.

Palm Warbler (Photo by Jimmy Billstine 3 days after count)

BLACK SCOTER--suprisingly scarce in Douglas County, spotted by Russ Namitz and Eric Clough off the tip of the N Jetty.

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER--in with Yellow-rumped Warblers at S end of N Spit, by Bob Archer.

SWAMP SPARROWS--total of 6 birds found in 4 different areas!

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT--calling in marsh near Matt Hunter while waiting for Short-eared Owls at Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS--expected, but always neat to see, 2 by Matt Hunter in Alan Contreras's area (score!), Champion Park.

Orange-crowned Warbler (blurry subspecies, by Matt Hunter)

CINNAMON TEAL--one male by Sally Hill and Vickie Buck along South Smith River Rd.

SNOWY PLOVER (45 birds total!)--An astonishing number of birds. Forty-three of these were on the upper beach in the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail covered by Jim and Jeannette Scott. Photos of some individuals can be seen in Jim Scott's eBird checklist. One is included below.

Snowy Plover (Photo by Jim Scott)

SORA--Single birds were detected in three different areas! One in the Dean Creek area by Tom Mickel, Jim Carlson, Jeanne Standley, et al.; one in some flooded dune marsh by Jim and Jeannette Scott; and one on some private property out Ranch Road by Tim Rodenkirk and Jack Williamson.

AMERICAN BITTERN--photographed by Phil White and Amrit Sidhu on Scholfield Creek.

American Bittern (Photo by Phil White and Amrit Sidhu)

CLARK'S GREBE--observed in Winchester Bay by Keith Phifer, Stephen and Judy Franzen.

Clark's Grebe, Winchester Bay (Photo by Stephen Franzen)
RED PHALAROPE--one by Russ Namitz and Eric Clough on the North Spit.

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE--while not super rare (4 were recorded for the count), they are not detected every year on coastal counts, and having one perched on a rock for a photo is a rare opportunity.

Black-legged Kittiwake (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Night-time owling was tough for Tim Rodenkirk, Matt Hunter, Jimmy Billstine, Keith Phifer, Russ Namitz, and Eric Clough. Weather conditions were not bad, but the owls were not vocalizing much. We ended up with 1 Barred Owl, 4 Great Horned Owls, and 2 Western Screech-Owls. Crepuscular and daytime searches turned up 1 Barn Owl and 1 Northern Pygmy-Owl.

We did not find any species associated with rocky coastal habitats; for example, Harlequin Duck, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird. These are standard occurrences in other coastal counts, but coastal Douglas has no "native" rock habitat, only the jetties. Of the four species mentioned, only the Black Turnstone is somewhat regular on the jetties of coastal Douglas County.

A wonderful variety of birds was found during the count. The following photos will give you an idea of the variety we experienced. I hope you can join us next year: December 28, 2016!

Western Meadowlarks (Photo by Matt Hunter)

Townsend's Warbler (Photo by Matt Hunter)

Lesser Scaup (L) and Greater Scaup (R) (Photo by Matt Hunter)

Pelagic Cormorant (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Common Loon (Photo by Stephen Franzen)
Western Grebe (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Great Blue Heron (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

White-crowned Sparrow (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

  For additional detail on Douglas County CBCs, see the Umpqua Birds CBC website.


  1. Glad you poached those Orange-crowns, Matt. Average for Coquille Valley CBC is 148. In a good year (heavy with owls and seabirds) Reedsport can reach 140+. We had a great time on the count. Alan

  2. Matt, Alan beat me to it. Our average for the Coquille Valley count (Bandon inland to Coquille) is 148. Our preliminary count this year is resting between 146 and 147. As for range, we were below 142 once back in 1992 with 136. We have been over 150 a number of times with our highest species number at 159.

  3. Thanks Alan and Harv. I have updated my table including Coquille Valley, though only for the years stated and as reported on the CBC website, so my numbers are slightly different.

  4. Love the photos! :-) Glad you had a successful first year!