Bird Counts

2009 Christmas Bird Count Results from Leadbetter Point

Golden-crowned Sparrow (U.S. FWS)For the Leadbetter Point Christmas Bird Count (CBC), on December 19, 2009, we noted 91 species, including one species new and another species with the highest number during our 35+ years of doing the Count.

Number of individuals: 29,508.  Temps: low 38F, high 54F.  Winds: 0 to 10 mph. Cloud cover 90% to 100%, light rain or mist at nearly all times, 95% of day, 0.5 inches total.  Low fog hampered views of water birds, and shortened visibility significantly.  At least the wind wasn't blowing!  Many very low counts or groups of species missing which are noted nearly every year: scoters, loons, grebes, cormorants, finches.

Our number of participants, 37, was the highest ever for our count. Our CBC circle

is more than an hour's drive for many of our people, and for some it is three hours just to get to the edge of the circle.  There are often overnight accommodations to consider, treacherous weather on local roads, and so forth.  Congratulations and thanks to all who made the trip once again this year!

New for our CBC was one species, Lincoln's Sparrow, seen by Randy Robinson, in the SW Bay area, SW of Nahcotta.

Three other species were notable:  (a)White-fronted Goose (flock of 5; noted by NE Bay Group, near Palix River);  (b) Snow Goose (1; seen by eight observers of SE Bay group, near Lynn Point); (c) Western Scrub-Jay (1; noted by portion of Oceanside group, in a residential area).

Two additional species for Count Week, not noted on Count Day: Eurasian Wigeon, Great Horned Owl.

In the analysis below, I have compared the count for 2009 with the average for 1978-2008, using the data available at the National Audubon website:




These species were at or below half their overall average for 1978-2008: Green-winged Teal, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Horned and Western Grebe, and even Double-crested Cormorant.  Perhaps these are not indicative of long-term trends, but only difficult viewing weather.

Peregrine Falcons continue to flourish, with this year's count of 5 at nearly twice the overall average.  The first year our CBC noted a Peregrine was 1981. During years 1981-1988, the count range was 0 to 2; this compares to recent years 2002-2009, when the range was 3 to 11.

Anna's Hummingbirds continue to be more numerous, with the last three years averaging about twice the previous three years, and before 2003 there were none on our count.  Some may point to global climate change as responsible for this increase in numbers. Others, however, say much is caused by increased plantings in yards which allow hummingbirds to find nectar more frequently, and thus gradually expand their range.  More research is taking place to see which human-based factors are most influential.

Crows seem to be fewer now than 10 years ago, a gradually declining population, with this year's count (321) about half of the 30-yr average in our CBC circle. The population of ravens, on the other hand, seems to be holding steady (12 noted this year is close to the CBC average).

Black-capped Chickadees, often the sign of more open habitat (as compared to the Chestnut-backed), at least in our circle, were less plentiful than in earlier years, with this year's count of 23 about two-thirds the average.  Chestnut-backed Chickadees were about twice as plentiful as the long-term average, with a count this year of 149.  These trends and averages are, in my opinion, heavily influenced by this year's weather and the habitats we generally cover within our circle, not any meaningful trend in chickadee populations in general.  It will be interesting to see what happens next year, yes? Plan to be a participant in the next Leadbetter CBC!

Robins: count of 85 is nearly twice the norm; Varied Thrushes, about one-third our average, with this year's count of 30.  I imagine this could be attributed to our milder winter this year, allowing more robins to stay around at lower altitudes (less frozen ground means more feeding opportunities), and more Varied Thrushes to spend more of their time at their usual higher elevations (less effort to migrate altitudinally).

Starlings, less around than formerly, gradual downward trend, as often noted nationally.  Our count this year (557) was about two-thirds of the 30-year average.

Golden-crowned Sparrows, our highest count ever: 76, three times our average.

Brewer's Blackbird: despite the overall average for this species at 34, there are only four years with totals of a hundred or more: 1978, 1994,1996, and this year, with exactly 100.  No trend that I can easily identify, with about two-thirds of the counts below the average.

Purple Finches (2 which is 0.08 of average),  continue a downward trend from highs of 88 in 1991, with the species missing from our CBC in 5 of the last 15 years.

House Sparrows continue to increase in our rural and semi-rural settings: our count of 66 this year is twice the overall average, continuing a gradual upward trend.

Thanks again to all; see you next year!

Alan Richards / CBC Coordinator / Willapa Hills Audubon Society

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Leadbetter CBC
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