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Christmas Bird Count

A great blue heron perches atop a piling Saturday, Jan. 4, on the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

SOUTH COAST — After a previous evening of gusty winds and heavy rain, the 23rd Coquille Valley Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, Jan. 4, reported the highest number of different bird species seen in any of the Christmas Bird Counts in Oregon this season.

A bald eagle and a great blue heron are seen through a spotting scope Saturday, Jan. 4, in Bandon during the annual Audubon Society Christmas …

Forty-three birders came from near and far to participate in the field during the count, according to a press release from count compiler and organizer Harv Schubothe of Bandon. They came from as far as Portland, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, the Coos Bay area, Gold Beach and Brookings to enjoy a pleasant day of birding on the southern Oregon coast. They were assisted by seven observers at feeders throughout the 15-mile diameter Christmas Count circle that stretches from Bandon to Coquille and just beyond.

Schubothe reported that only 35,294 different birds were seen, the lowest total since 2002 and continuing a downward trend far below the 22-year average of nearly 43,000 and the nearly 65,000 seen just a half-decade ago.

"On the other hand, 150 distinct species were found, two above the average number of species seen in the 23 years of the count," Schubothe said. "It matches the last two years and for the third straight year is believed to be the highest species count for all the Christmas Bird Counts in Oregon this year."

Two bird species were seen for the fourth time ever in this circle. A northern mockingbird was found in the Arago area and a burrowing owl was seen on Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. A trio of species was seen for the fifth time: a yellow-bellied sapsucker, snow goose and Nashville warbler. Ospreys were found for the sixth time. Seen again this year for the seventh time were a Say’s phoebe and short-eared owl. A northern shrike was encountered the eighth time.

Record numbers were seen of the following species: wild turkey, red-necked grebes, great egret, Cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcon, red-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, orange-crowned warbler, spotted towhee, house sparrow and osprey.

The latter used to be rare on South Coast Christmas Bird Counts, but this is the fifth time in the last six years that an osprey has been seen in this circle. Good news for the future is that the largest number of immature bald eagles were seen. An extremely high count of white winged scoters dwarfed previous count records. And, a previous record was tied for harlequin duck, seen for the seventh time.

Two other birds could have made the count even higher. A seawatch observer spotted a shearwater but could not positively identify the species given the distance and misty conditions. Another bird, a wandering tattler, was seen at the South Jetty in Bandon during the week but could not be found on the day of the count.

"Obviously, there had to be misses as well," Schubothe said. "One was very notable and unexpected as they are observed almost daily in Bandon during much of the year. Western Sandpipers were not found." 

As mentioned, the total number of birds seen continued its decline. Bird species seen far less often this year included western grebe, double-crested cormorant, white-tailed kite, Wilson’s snipe, mourning dove, American robin, song sparrow and white-throated sparrow.

Next year’s Coquille Valley Christmas Bird Count is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. For more information about the bird count or about getting involved in the next count, contact Schubothe at 541-297-2342.

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