Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Second Reedsport Christmas Bird Count--December 28, 2016

The second Reedsport Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was a great success!  Although we had fewer participants and fewer bird numbers this year (a common report from CBCs this year), all the participants, including a handful of new ones, put out superb effort with enthusiasm to document the bird life of the Reedsport area this winter. It is also very important for a new count like this to evaluate the team areas, and people's input for this count has been extremely valuable!

Temperatures began in the 30s and ended up in the upper 40s, with mostly sunny skies. Total individual birds this year was only 8,249 versus 16,349 last year, and species totals 116 this year versus 133 last year. Charts of species detected this year are sorted and linked here: by taxonomy, by total number of each species, and by number of team areas recording each species. Click here for a map of the team areas and here for additional information on Douglas County CBCs.
Waiting out high tide at the North Jetty (photo by Russ Namitz)

For the second year in a row, but for different reasons, our boat plans for the estuary fell through, so we didn't get to count birds on the river between Salmon Harbor and Gardiner. Hopefully everything will fall into place next year! In contrast, we were successful for the second year in a row getting a boating team on Tahkenitch Lake where they counted many species of waterbirds, and obtained two new count species! Way to go Captain Bill Evans and First Mate John Sullivan!!! Their eBird checklist from Tahkenitch Lake with some great photos is here.

John Sullivan and Bill Evans exploring Tahkenitch Lake (selfie).

Tahkenitch Lake boat route.

The birding fun of the count started the previous day when James (Jimmy) Billstine found a GRAY CATBIRD at a small pond surrounded by willows, waxmyrtle, shore pine, and sitka spruce out toward the south jetty. The bird was extremely difficult to relocate, but Jimmy did detect it on the day of the count. The day after the count several of us were standing there talking when the bird mewed at us several times and once did its ratchet call. I was able to obtain a mediocre recording of its mew calls, and got one good quick glimpse of the bird. We obtained no photos of this skulker. It is amazing how this species can remain undetected for long periods only 20 feet away!

Early morning owling was not very successful for small owls, but GREAT HORNED OWLS were heard several places during the early morning hours, a pair was heard calling during the day out Sparrow Park Road, and one was flushed during the day at the Dean Creek Elk Area. Jimmy Billstine and Miracle Fingerson had one WESTERN SCREECH-OWL near the Umpqua Lighthouse. During the day Bill Evans and John Sullivan had 3 NORTHERN PYGMY-OWLS from Tahkenitch Lake, and Russ Namitz had one along Sparrow Park Road. No Barn Owls, Barred Owls, N. Saw-whet Owls, though all are present in the count circle in numbers.

New count species included a female HARLEQUIN DUCK in the "triangle" at the south jetty, by Jimmy Billstine and crew; 6 GRAY JAYS and 8 TREE SWALLOWS at Tahkenitch Lake by Bill Evans and John Sullivan; 1 CALIFORNIA SCRUB JAY at the Umpqua Lighthouse by Judy Franzen and company (Billstine's crew); and 1 SEMIPALMATED PLOVER by Glenn Reubon on the Oregon Dunes Overlook/Tahkenitch Creek beaches (North Dunes); 2 BLACK TURNSTONE on the North Jetty by Russ Namitz's team and 2 at Winchester Bay by Billstine's team. Most Oregon birders don't realize that "rock-pipers" are relatively difficult to come by in Douglas County because the only coastal rocks are the jetties, and Salmon Harbor area.

Female Harlequin Duck (Photo by Jimmy Billstine)

Tree Swallow (Photo by John Sullivan)
Gray Jay (Photo by John Sullivan)
Black Turnstones on North Jetty (Photo by Russ Namitz)

Some "standard scarce birds" included a few SNOWY PLOVERS by Russ Namitz and crew on the beaches off Sparrow Park Road, and up north of Tahkenitch Creek by Glenn Reubon; a SWAMP SPARROW at Leed's Island by Matt Hunter (last year there were 6 counted in 4 areas); an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER at the exact location as last year at Champion Park dike; a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT at the exact location as last year off the east parking lot at Dean Creek Elk area (both warblers by Matt Hunter). Finally, two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS at one feeder in east Reedsport by Matt Hunter.

Snowy Plover (Photo by Russ Namitz)

Orange-crowned Warbler (photo by Matt Hunter)
Swamp Sparrow (photo by Matt Hunter)

White-throated Sparrow (Photo by Matt Hunter)

Since this is only the second year of the count, we can't really compare highs and lows, and from my perspective we did not have any significantly high numbers of any species.  On the other hand, some low numbers and misses were apparent that either had an explanation or were mysterious.  From Russ's photo below of the Bald Eagle on the north jetty, you can see that the surf was huge and full of spray, so it was nearly impossible to find and identify birds over the ocean. So, understandably, we had low numbers of scoters and missed some alcids such as Rhinoceros Auklet. Anyone want to try to pick out a Marbled Murrelet in that surf??  Finally, birds I consider surprising misses include Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Greater Yellowlegs; all shorebirds that are often found near each other at small pasture ponds or mudflats. I'm not sure where they were!

Enjoy more photos from our photographer bird counters, and hope to see you next season!!!  :-)

Bald Eagle and huge surf at the jetties (photo by Russ Namitz).
Immature White-crowned Sparrow (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Adult Red-tailed Hawk (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Adult Bald Eagle (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Female Common Goldeneye (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Male Bufflehead (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Horned Grebe (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Female Bufflehead (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Red-throated Loon (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

American Coot (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Surf Scoter (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Surf Scoter (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

House Finches (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Male Red-breasted Merganser, front (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Western Grebe (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Near adult Mew Gull (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Harbor Seal (Photo by Stephen Franzen)

Anna's Hummingbird (Photo by Stephen Franzen)



  1. Great summary Matt! And can we elect Stephen Franzen as our count photographer? Great photos!

  2. I think Stephen would win by a landslide!