WHAS - Bird Lists and Wildlife Sightings

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Sandhill Crane (WDFW Image)


2021 Willapa Bay Christmas Bird Count Results

By Robert Sudar, Compiler

The weatherman predicted a significant storm for Southwest Washington on Saturday, December 18th, and he didn’t disappoint. Despite having to again institute a “pandemic approach” to organizing the count, 19 counters spread amongst 8 groups in 8 sectors of the count circle, plus two feeder watchers, braved heavy (as in sideways) rain and 30-40mph winds to collect bird numbers for this year’s Willapa CBC. It was the worst weather that anyone could remember for count day and it certainly had a negative influence on sightings. Willapa Bay was very rough and so the usually flotillas of ducks were mostly absent, as were some other typical birds that prefer the open water. There were fewer sightings, and in some cases no sightings. The same can be said for the ocean side of the peninsula. Crashing waves and blowing sand made it difficult to observe and count. But that’s a yearly risk, really – who can predict December weather? – and so this year was an aberration, not the norm.

Overall, 18,486 individual birds comprising 84 species were seen and recorded. The total number of birds is actually slightly more than last year (helped greatly by the 11,625 Dunlin seen) but for comparison, last year we had 88 species and some years we’ve been close to 100. I don’t think this indicates a natural decline, but rather the challenges in seeing what’s there. Last year, I lamented that “there were no Brants, no Greater White-fronted Geese, no Gray Jays, no Snowy Plovers, no Northern Shovelers, no owls of any species, no Coots, no Bitterns, no Sapsuckers and only Common Loons.” This count we still didn’t have any Gray Jays, Northern Shovelers, owls, Coots or Bitterns but we did have 10 Brants, 21 White-fronted Geese, 8 Snowy Plovers, a Red-breasted Sapsucker and all three loon species that we might expect to see in the winter.

Of course, the good news and the bad news and overall drop in species means that there were regular species that weren’t seen, such as Peregrine Falcon and Northern Harrier, and really any members of that family except Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk and American Kestrel. Other omissions this year that we would normally expect to see were Ring-necked Duck, Great Egret, Hairy Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Bewick’s Wren or any warblers except Townsend’s. And last year’s star – Bar-tailed Godwit – was nowhere to be seen this year. But that’s kind of the story every year – each count is different.

There were some unusual sightings, too. We had 6 American Dippers – again! We also had 2 Snow Geese, 6 Chipping Sparrows and a White-throated Sparrow. And this year’s star might be the Black Phoebe seen in the North Oceanside sector by Suzy Whittey. That species has been seen more frequently in SW Washington in recent years but I believe it’s the first time it’s been spotted during the count. A Hooded Oriole again made an appearance this year, in the Bay Center area, but unfortunately it was again outside the count week. Bummer! As always, the variety, and the unexpected, are what make birding, and bird counts, interesting!

Many thanks to the counters who persevered through the awful weather to collect another year of valuable data, and especially to Suzy Whittey, who did anther great job of organizing the count and making sure we all had the information we needed to do the job. Next year’s count will be on December 17th. No doubt it will combine the expected and the unexpected, too!


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - Final

Red-throated Loon - Image courtesy of wikimedia
Red-throated Loon - Image courtesy of Wikipedia

By Russ Koppendrayer

As usual the last two months of the year didn't add many species to our Cowlitz County year list. The three additions included a Ring-necked Pheasant in November. This species seems to be getting more difficult to find each year and my take is that they are no longer successfully breeding in the county and we are only finding them after WDFW does their fall release in the Woodland Bottoms for the hunters. Also found were Red-throated Loon and Pacific Loon which are both not quite annual in the county. Amazingly they were both seen in the Columbia River at the mouth of the Kalama River on the late date of December 29.

Our final species list of 204 is above average, but short of our all time best record of 209 species set in 2020. The only species completely new to the list was Great Gray Owl. We did not have any misses for species that are expected annually. 

As of this writing we are already getting going on our 2022 list. Enjoy the birding in 2022.

Download the pdf here.


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - October Update

Surf Scoter - Image courtesy of John and Margret Green
Surf Scoter - Image courtesy of John and Margret Green

By Russ Koppendrayer

We've managed to add five species since the last update at the end of August. A Semipalmated Plover was actually seen in mid August, but not on the eBird accepted list until September. The rarest find was the county's fourth record of Broad-winged Hawk seen by a hawk watcher in the Woodland Bottoms where all previous records also occurred during fall migration. All these records have occurred in three of the last four years, which would seem to imply that they may have been passing through in small numbers for years since this hawk watch has only been happening for four years. The ridge just east of I-5 just north of Woodland may just be one of the primary migration corridors in western Washington for hawks and especially Turkey Vultures. 

Also of interest was the number of reports of Surf Scoter in October. While we expect to see small numbers in the Columbia River as they migrate through in October through early November we had a group of six at Willow Grove and a number of reports from the Woodland Bottoms area. Three were even in the ponds of the former Longview sewage treatment facility, which is not an annual place for them. Furthermore all these birds were either females or juvenile males with no adult males present. Who knows what is driving this phenomenon. 

Download the pdf here.


2022 Cowlitz County Bird List - January Update

Common Redpoll - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer
Common Redpoll - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer

By Russ Koppendrayer

As usual we got our year list off to a nice start on New Year's Day with the Christmas Bird Count, but the addition of more folks interested in the birding hobby and use of eBird has been valuable for additions to the list as well. 

The most unusual bird species of the month was a flock of Common Redpolls found at 7th Avenue Park in Longview on January 17th. This is the second record for Cowlitz County and unlike the 2018 birds that were here and gone, this group seems to be still present at this writing on February 2nd. While they have been seen by numerous birders their presence at the park has been intermittent. The best chance to find them seems to be right after sunrise when they appear in the alder trees between the soccer field and the drainage ditch. Sometimes their stay is only a few minutes and other times they have been seen there for over an hour. We've never figured out where they spend the time away from the park. These birds that nest in northern Canada and Alaska and rarely get this far south in Washington in winter may linger for another month or be gone tomorrow.   

Download the pdf here.


Common Redpolls - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer
Common Redpolls - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - August Update

Pectoral Sandpiper - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer
Pectoral Sandpiper - Image courtesy of Russ Koppendrayer

By Russ Koppendrayer

As usual the July and August period was slow for new additions to our list of species seen in Cowlitz County for the year. This year all three additions were from the shorebird group. Specifically they were Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher.

The dowitcher we find every year at some time as they move through in both spring and fall migrations in small numbers and even will overwinter sometimes. The two sandpiper species are almost exclusively fall migrants through Washington state however, and then in fairly small numbers. Spring migration records of these species are quite rare as they move through the middle of North America at that time. While we do find Semipalmated and Pectoral Sandpipers in Cowlitz County most years we do sometimes miss them completely due to a lack of much shorebird habitat in fall as many places go completely dry.

Download the pdf here.


Upcoming Events

Aug 14;
WHAS Annual Picnic
Sep 10-11;
Puget Sound Bird Fest
Sep 23-25;
Wings over Willapa Festival
Oct 08;
Board Meeting