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Monday, December 21, 2009

Bird Reports

Next weekend I'll be participating in the 110th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), another citizen science program where volunteers count birds in a given area, contributing their data to what is the "longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations". I've done the CBC before in the San Juan Islands, but it's a bigger deal here in the Portland area where there is a lot more ground to cover. I'm sure I'll be posting highlights of that trip, but this is also the time of year where list compilers are gathering notes on birds seen at the county and state levels.

If I look back at my own birding year, during my 11 months on San Juan Island I saw 129 species in the county. The highlight for me was seeing sooty and pink-footed shearwaters for about a week in September.

From front to back: two sooty shearwaters, a Heermann's gull, and a pink-footed shearwater

According to my resources, sooty shearwaters are rare in San Juan County and the pink-footed shearwaters were a new county record. However, my shearwater sightings haven't gathered much attention from the list compilers, maybe because they were around for a longer period of time and were recorded by many. Instead, what the "highers up" in bird record keeping have honed in on was my sighting of a pair of pine grosbeaks back in February during the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Male (left) and female (right) pine grosbeaks

At the time I was excited since it was a new life bird for me, but I didn't realize how rare the pine grosbeak is west of the Cascade Mountains. As you can see on this distribution map, winter irruptions of pine grosbeaks south of the Canadian boreal forests are relatively rare. Since I was the only one to see them, I've been asked several times to share my photographic evidence of my sighting so the account can be proven and entered into the record books. Good thing I had my camera with me!

I wonder if we'll find any record-worthy birds during the CBC? Probably not, but they've given us a list of "target birds" that would result in some good finds. Some of the target species even came with a detailed description of where to look for them based on where people have scouted them out ahead of time. I look forward to seeing just what turns up, and I'll be sure to report back here.

2 comments:

Whidbey Woman said...

Just want to send my best wishes for the holiday. I enjoy reading your blog.

Warren Baker said...

Enjoy the CBC work Monika. I hope you get a few goodies!