CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Forty two volunteers participated in Homer’s annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, five watching feeders in their own yard and the others out in the field. The weather was not too cooperative with icy walking, limited visibility for most of the day and resulting decreased available daylight hours, but many were expressing the same thought, “We’ve seen much worse!”
A total of 64 species were seen on the Count Day (Saturday, December 17). Highlights included a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW found at a feeder near Crittenden St., a BELTED KINGFISHER found in Beluga Slough near the culvert from the lake, and a single SANDERLING found among the ROCK SANDPIPERS on the Homer Spit. CHUKARS, a colorful gamebird related to a pheasant, were found at a residence out East End Rd, though possibly may not count as an official species due to their probable domestic escapee status.
Three additional species were seen during the Count Week (three days before and three days after Count Day): SNOW BUNTING, MERLIN, and GREAT-HORNED OWL.
There were 10,492 individual birds counted. Most numerous species were MALLARDS (3422), ROCK SANDPIPERS (1700), and COMMON GOLDENEYE (820). Only one COMMON MURRE was seen this year, compared to the die-off that was developing at this time last year when over 200 were counted. (In winter, murres are typically out at sea instead of here in the bay.)
For a complete report of species and numbers seen, check the Kachemak Bay Birders’ website, kachemakbaybirders.org.
A big thanks to all the volunteers who participated, to the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge for letting us use their space for our meeting and potluck, the local Kachemak Bay Birders, and to Dave Erikson for coordinating yet another Christmas Bird Count. It was indeed a Great Day to Bird!
The CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT is the longest-running citizen science project in our nation, and in Homer it is always held on the first Saturday in the window (Dec. 14th to Jan. 5th). This year it will be December 17th in Homer.
The center of the 15-mile-diameter count circle is the intersection of Kachemak Drive and the Spit Rd. The circle extends east to Fritz Creek, south past the end of the Spit, west to the mouth of Diamond Creek and to the north where there are few roads. We do not go out in boats for our count.
Participants meet at 8:30 am at IOVC for coffee/tea/breakfast foods, get assigned to teams and areas, and then go out to count all the daylight hours. At 4:30 teams return and compile results and enjoy a warm potluck supper. Some participants also count what they see coming to their feeders/yard on the count day.
Each year on the Thursday before the count, Dave Erikson teaches a class on “Winter Bird Identification”. This class is valuable for new birders as well as being an excellent opportunity for more experienced birders to brush up on what birds are in Homer in the winter.
During the COUNT WEEK, which is three days before and three days after the CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT additional species are also noted.