The 24th annual Coquille Valley Christmas Bird Count, held in early January, resulted in more than 43,800 birds being counted by 37 birders braving challenging weather conditions and 11 observers at homes.
The count was held Jan. 2 and included the Bandon and Coquille areas.
“It was a unique experience this year as the birders did not gather as a group, wore face masks in the field, did not carpool and practiced social distancing to cope with COVID-19,” said Harv Schubothe, the organizer and count compiler.
A total of 43,831 individual birds were seen, which is about average for the annual count but well below the 65,000 seen half a decade ago, Schubothe said. The impact of the gusty and rainy weather was felt in the total number of species spotted — 142, which is six below average. It was the smallest number of species since 2014 and second fewest in the history of the count.
The Wandering Tattler was spotted for just the third time in the annual count, all coming in the past four years. A Bullock’s Oriole was spotted for the fourth time, in the same apple tree in Bandon Heights where one was witnessed two years ago.
A Northern Mockingbird was spotted for the fifth time, again in the Arago area.
Three species were seen for the sixth time — the Snow Goose, the Nashville Warbler and the Harlequin Ducks. Six of the ducks were seen, matching the previous high for the species.
An Osprey was seen for the seventh time.
A pair of Say’s Phoebes were spotted, matching the previous high. It was the eighth time for that species to be spotted during the count.
Record numbers were seen for four species — Wild Turkey, Common Raven, Western Bluebird and Cinnamon Teal. The previous record for the Wild Turkey was set last year as that species grows more abundant in the area.
The total number of species might have been closer to the average if three other area birds had been spotted. Block Scoter, Common Yellowthroat and Tree Swallow all were seen in the area on better weather days both before and after the count.
The Red Throated Loon was missed for the first time and the White-Winged Scoter, Swamp Sparrow and Sanderling were missed for just the second time. The Snowy Plover, a regular on south Bandon’s beaches, was not found for only the third time in the 24 years of the count.
Others not seen this year included Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Common Murre and Western Meadowlark.
Next year’s Coquille Valley Christmas Bird Count is tentatively scheduled for New Year’s Day. For more information about the count or how to get involved, contact Schubothe at 541-297-2342.