Christmas bird count shows record number of robins

A total of 386 Mallard ducks were tallied in Wallowa County during the annual Wallowa County Christmas Bird County held on Dec. 15 last year. A total of 75 bird species and 6,273 birds were counted. Photo by Kim Lamb

While the previous year a record number of bald eagles were spotted during the Wallowa County Christmas Bird Count (CBC), the lowly American robin took center stage during the 27th annual count held Sunday, Dec. 15. The count was preceeded and followed by strong winds blowing through the county.

Thirty-five observers in 16 groups recorded a total of 75 bird species and a total of 6,273 birds.

Observers counted a record number of several species: California gull, white-breasted nuthatch, Townsend's solitaire, American robin, and Song sparrow. The count of robins was 576, more than twice the previous record.

"There were so many robins (and Townsend's solitaires, California gulls, and song sparrows) because the mild weather had not caused as many of these species to migrate as usual," said count compiler Joe Minato. "We usually have a few of each of these species

hang around all winter, but not nearly as many. I haven't been out bird watching since count day, but I suspect that these numbers are down now."

The number of observers was also a record for the Wallowa County Count. Included were many long-time observers, some experienced observers new to the Wallowa County count, and a few first-timers. Also a group of very experienced bird-watchers from out of the area traveled to the county to help out.

Sue Juve reported that the highlight of her day came first thing, while driving to the 6:00 a.m. breakfast meeting at Old Town Cafe in Joseph from her home on Alder Slope. A great horned owl was illuminated by her headlights and gave her a great view of this magnificent bird. Michelle Perales reported that her group was particularly delighted by three pair of western meadowlarks singing in the tall grass near Tenderfoot Road. The highlight of the day for Jeff Greene was good views of a pied-billed grebe and a horned grebe on the eastern edge of Wallowa Lake.

Long-time Wallowa County resident and bird watcher Janie Tippett finally decided to join the count this year and had a rewarding day observing a wide variety of birds in the upper Prairie Creek area with expert bird watchers Sue and Frank Conley.

First-timer Kirk Borgerding, age 17, suggested that he was mostly interested in the extra-credit points offered by his biology teacher, but quickly proved to be a natural, spotting little birds in the brush before the more experienced observers in his group. Kirk especially enjoyed the small flock of golden-crowned kinglets that surrounded the group and displayed their brilliantly colored crowns.

Next-year's count is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 14, 2003. Anyone who would like to be involved and is not yet on the mailing list is asked to contact Minato, 432-5043, jrminato@eoni.com.

Following is the list of birds counted on count day 2002 in Wallowa County.

Pied-billed Grebe, 2; Horned Grebe, 1; Canada Goose, 489; Gadwall, 9; American Wigeon, 25; Mallard, 386; Green-winged Teal, 6; Ring-necked Duck, 88; Lesser Scaup, 5;Bufflehead, 34; Common Goldeneye, 32; Barrow's Goldeneye, 37; Hooded Merganser, 1; Common Merganser, 35; Common Snipe,12; California Gull, 30; Herring Gull, 1; Rock Dove, 29; Mourning Dove, 11; Great Horned Owl, 4; Belted Kingfisher, 9; Downy Woodpecker, 3; Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker, 37; Pileated Woodpecker, 2; Northern Shrike, 2; Gray Jay, 1; Steller's Jay, 13; Clark's Nutcracker, 24; Black-billed Magpie, 160; American Crow, 12; Common Raven, 68; Horned Lark, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 38; Mountain Chickadee, 51; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 70; White-breasted Nuthatch, 8; Winter Wren, 4; Marsh Wren, 1; American Dipper, 2; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6; Townsend's Solitaire, 42; American Robin, 576; European Starling, 1184; Bohemian Waxwing, 1361; Cedar Waxwing, 34; Bald Eagle adult, 18; Northern Harrier, 11; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-tailed Hawk, 65; Rough-legged Hawk, 21; Golden Eagle adult, 4; American Kestrel, 1; Merlin, 1; Prairie Falcon, 3; Ring-necked Pheasant, 17; Ruffed Grouse, 2; California Quail, 151; Virginia Rail, 3; American Coot, 12; Spotted Towhee, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 33; Song Sparrow, 99; Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, 263; Red-winged Blackbird, 35; Western Meadowlark, 27; Brewer's Blackbird,19; Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, 51; Cassin's Finch, 4; House Finch, 180; Red Crossbill, 121; Pine Siskin, 7; American Goldfinch, 11; House Sparrow, 157.

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