2020 Christmas Bird Count

2020 CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 

By Dave Erikson – Kachemak Bay Birders

The 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held in Homer on Saturday, December 19, 2020. This year’s count was a little different due the COVID 19 pandemic which restricted ride sharing within the field teams, required mask-wearing and social distancing, and canceled pre- and post-count meetings. Even with these limitations, a total of 31 stalwart volunteers braved the weather to count birds throughout Homer’s 15-mile diameter count circle. Another 11 “feeder watcher” kept track of the birds that came into their feeders throughout the day.  These dedicated birders were able to tally a total 13,818 individual birds of 79 different species, one less than the record of 80 species for last year. Eight additional species were also documented within the Homer count circle during count week (three days before and after the actual count day). Numbers of feeder watchers were up from previous years and helped achieve these high numbers.

Four new species were new to the count this year: the Siberian accentor, red-throated pipit, Swainson’s thrush, and the yellow-rumped warbler. The Siberian accentor, a first for Homer, is small perching bird similar in size to our common redpoll. This bird normally ranges from the Ural Mountains across Siberia but will occasionally wonders east into western Alaska. Hopefully, this colorful little bird will stay long enough for locals to get it on their list. The red-throated pipit is another rare visitor from Siberia that often travels with our American pipit.  This was also the first record of this species in Homer and was sighted during count week in Mariner Park at the base of the Homer Spit. Swainson’s thrush is a local breeding bird in Homer, but typically migrates south to winter in Central and South America. This late occurrence of this bird is unusual. The yellow-rumped warbler is also a common breeder in the Homer area, but this late migrant was the first one seen on a Christmas Bird Count.

Anna’s hummingbirds were again documented on the count again this year with three individuals. The population of Anna’s has been expanding in the western U.S. and have become more common here in the fall and early winter Some individual birds are believed to successfully overwinter here with the help of some heated hummingbird feeders.

The most abundant bird species this year were the rock sandpiper (3,120), greater scaup (2,711), bohemian waxwing (1,870). Rock sandpipers are typically one of the most numerous winter residents in the Homer count circle. Greater scaup are one the common sea ducks in Kachemak and numbers on the Christmas Bird Count are generally high when there is a lack of ice along the northern shoreline, as was the case this year.  Bohemian waxwing numbers are generally high this time of year due to the abundance of berries on ornamental trees such as the European mountain ash and European bird cherry (Mayday). These amazing birds were very uncommon in the Homer area prior to introduction of these trees. Seventeen species were represented by only one individual.

Over the last several years, there have been a downward trend in numbers of four species of sea ducks in the nearshore waters of the count area. These include the common eider, Steller’s eider, white-winged scoter, and surf scoter.  Primary factors in this continuing negative trend are unknown. 

From Dave 11-18-20…

Greetings fellow KBB members!

Due to the COVID19 outbreak, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count staff have given us the option of canceling this years Homer Christmas Bird Count or conducting the count with a few restrictions to ensure the health and safety of all participants. We have chosen to conduct the count this year. The following is a list of changes to our normal count protocols we feel will meet the  Audubon COVID 19 restrictions, allow us to get a good count, and provide for the safety of everyone involved.

New protocols include:

  1.  In-person gatherings such as the Winter Bird ID, pre-count meeting, and post-count potluck are canceled.
  2. Count Area field team leaders will be selected in advance (preferably people who have counted the area in previous years).
  3. A list of field team leaders for each area will be sent out in an email and posted on the website with contact information so interested team members can contact them directly.
  4. Field team leaders will decide whether to census the whole count area together, as in the past, or divide up the count areas into smaller geographic areas and assign one person for each sub area.
  5. If field teams travel together, members will drive in separate vehicles. Carpooling is allowed for household members or people in the same “bubble”.
  6. Field teams will observe a social distance of 6 feet when birding and masks or face-coverings will be worn at all times. Team members will also avoid sharing spotting scopes
  7. All data can be recorded either on Ebird or on our regular field form and emailed to the compiler, Dave Erikson (derikson@alaska.net) the next day or soon after. 
    1. Team Leads will use our standard form or a note in Ebird to record time birding, miles and times by methods of travel (vehicle and walking). 

Protocols that will remain the same include:

  1. Start and finish times will be the same as previous years, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Owling can occur during the hours of darkness on count day).
  2. Feeder watchers will record species, maximum numbers, and observation time in the same manner as previous years and submit results to the compiler.
  3. CBC Rare Bird Forms will be completed for all bird species that are not on the Homer CBC Checklist.

We have been very fortunate in Homer to have a large number of dedicated birders who have volunteered their time and resources to make the Homer CBC a success over the past 40+ years and I’m confident, with everyone’s help, we can get a good count this year.

Thanks,

Dave Erikson (907 441-7931)

Homer CBC Compiler

**CBC Documents, Forms, and Maps:

2019 Christmas Bird Count Results

HOMER CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT: December 14, 2019

HOMER CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT

The 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held Saturday, December 14, 2019. Thirty-two local bird counters were in the field with an additional seven “feeder watchers”, who kept track of birds visiting their bird feeders, were able to tally 13,780 birds of 80 species, a record number of species for the Homer count and beating last year’s record by nine species. Six additional species were also documented during count week (three days before and after the actual count day). Numbers of feeder watchers were up from previous years and helped achieve the high numbers. A list of counts for each species can be seen at the end of this post.

Three species were new to the Homer count and included the Sooty Shearwater, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, and Orange-crowned Warbler. The exceptionally warm fall is likely the key factor in delaying the migration of these species to more southern latitudes.

The most abundant bird species this year were the Pine Siskin (4,077), Mallard (1,937), and Rock Sandpipers (1,420). A good spruce cone crop this year is supporting large number of finches such as the Pine Siskin, White-winged Crossbill, and Pine Grosbeak, in comparison to recent years. Although large flock of American Robins has been common throughout Homer this fall, only 57 were tallied on this year’s count. It’s often easy to miss large flocks when trying to cover such a large area.

High Mallard numbers reflect the lack of ice in Beluga Slough, Beluga Lake and Mud Bay. These ducks typically winter on the south side of Kachemak Bay when the ice blocks access to feeding habits along the north shore. Rock Sandpipers, a winter resident of Kachemak Bay, were found in generally similar numbers as in previous years.

Over the last several years, there has been a downward trend in numbers of four species of seaducks in the nearshore waters of the count area. These seaducks include the Common Eider, Steller’s Eider, White-winged Scoter, and Surf Scoter. Primary factors in this negative trend are unknown.

A big thanks to all the participants out counting or watching feeders, and to the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center staff for the use of their facilities and helping with logistics for our count. And a special thanks to Dave Erikson who coordinated the count and compiled the results. It was A Great Day to Bird!

View or download the final 2019 Homer CBC list below:

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2018 Christmas Bird Count Results

HOMER CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT: December 15, 2018


With the big dump of snow overnight, many of us began the day getting ourselves out of our driveways and into town to begin the CBC. Many of us were not confident that we would find very many birds for this year. Boy, were we wrong! We found 69 species, which is the most since I started keeping track in 2003. (Dave was going to check back further.) We have yet to hear from feeder watchers who may have picked up another species so we might possibly even break 70!

Thank goodness it didn’t snow during the day so the visibility was good, though with low clouds the day was short. We all had snow to walk through but the group that counted above town had way more. Not too cold and no wind for most of the areas.

Some really great birds (plus one unwelcome one):
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW had never been seen on a Christmas Bird Count before here! Seen out East End Rd a ways. Was actually seen on a previous year, but accidentally left off our list.)
ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS–four of them!! Were at Seaside Farms
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD–seen (I think) near the Gear shed (out E. End Rd.)
RED-THROATED LOON–seen from Munson Pt (south of Bishop’s Beach)
STELLERS EIDERS (2)–seen from Munson Pt (south of Bishop’s Beach); COMMMON EIDERS seen from the Spit
SHORT-EARED OWL–seen out on the spit
(alas) EUROPEAN STARLINGS–seen at Seaside Farms in with some robins
BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS–120 seen in the Diamond Ridge/West Hill area (First ones seen this year!)
AMERICAN ROBINS–a large flock of 100 in the area near Beluga Slough with one VARIED THRUSH in the group (So cheerful to keep encountering the robins and pretty in the snowy trees!)

A huge thank you to Dave Erikson who coordinated the CBC here for the 42nd consecutive year. And of course to IOVC to allowing us to use their beautiful facilities as a home base and for our potluck.

Don’t forget that if you see an unusual species in our Count Area in the next three days (Dec. 16th-18th) please call Dave Erikson (907-441-7931) or Lani (399-9477).
When Count Week is over and Dave has everything added up, send he will compile a report about numbers, trends, comparisons, etc.

It was a Great Day to Bird and equally, it was a great day to be a birder!!

View or download the final 2018 Homer CBC list below:

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2017 Christmas Bird Count

The Homer Christmas Bird Count, held on December 16, had 27 volunteers in the field in 11 teams to cover the traditions 15-mile diameter count circle centered in Mud Bay at the base of the Homer Spit. The weather cooperated quite nicely with temperature mostly above freezing and little wind. A total of 65 species were documented with 8,648 individual birds. Total numbers of several species were slightly lower in compassion to the last few years. The most abundant birds were Mallard (2,2251), followed by the Rock Sandpiper (1,250). Nine species only had one individual seen throughout the day.

Two species were new to the count: Costa’s Hummingbird and Black-backed Woodpecker. The hummingbird was seen approximately 5 miles out East End Road at a hummingbird feeder. The black-backed woodpecker was seen with an American three-toed woodpecker at the northern end of the Calvin and Coyle Nature Trail below Mariner Drive, approximately Mile 1 East Road. This woodpecker is normally found in interior Alaska and is generally rare along the coast. The Costa’s hummingbird, typically seen in southern California and Arizona, is well outside it’s normal range.

Species number and total numbers were generally within the normal range over the past several years. Numbers of wintering American Robins and Bohemian Waxwings continue to be relatively high with 121 and 254 individuals respectively. Counts for finches, including the Common Redpoll (328), Pine Siskin (1,011), Pine Grosbeak (316), were also relatively high in comparison to past years. However, the White-winged and Red Crossbills were totally absent from this year’s count.

Bald Eagle and Northwestern Crow numbers were slightly down this year in comparison to the last five years. The lack of available supplemental food at the Homer Transfer facility in recent years may have been a factor in this decline.”

A big thank you to all the many volunteers and to the staff at Islands and Ocean for letting us use their wonderful facility and helping us out also with logistics during the day. And to Dave Erikson for coordinating our Count here now for the last 41 years!

 

2017 Seabird Report Card

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge has prepared a “report card” on seabird breeding success in 2017:

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Additional observations were provided by John Piatt, Karl Stoltzfus, and Victoria Winne:

(From John Piatt, 10-17-17)
Preliminary results. The usual caveat applies: Results may change a little with more complete analysis. 
 
1) USGS studied two colonies (Gull and Chisik/Duck islands) in Cook Inlet, and two species: Common Murre and Black-legged Kittiwake  
2) Things started out looking better this summer. Counts of both species were up. Things started out looking better this summer, and more nests were initiated than last year (which was a total failure). 
3) At Chisik Island, west side of Cook Inlet, kittiwakes abandoned nests early, and appeared to produce zero chicks. In contrast to last year, murres started off attending nests, and early on we saw at least 11 nests with eggs in one location. However, by mid-August all murres had abandoned breeding efforts, and appeared to produce zero chicks. This suggests much reduced food availability again in 2017. 
4) At Gull Island, east side of Cook Inlet, things were somewhat better, but not back to normal. About 22% of kittiwake pairs produced a chick this year, compared to 1% in 2016, and 46% on average in the 1990s. We don’t have final estimate for murres yet, but many eggs and several chicks were observed this year, compared to few eggs (all predated by GWGU) and zero chicks last year.  This suggests reduced food availability in 2017 but not as bad as in 2016.
5) At both colonies, the timing of breeding was quite a bit later than usual, and breeding was much less synchronized than usual. These are also indicators of changing and/or reduced food supplies. 
 
From Karl Stolzfus (10-20-17)
I did see a fair number of chicks on both Gull Island and 60′ Rock. I am not sure how many made it into the water but I did count about 50 murres with a chick on one trip that I had to Bear Cove so at least some made it. I think it has been about 3 years since they had any sort of nesting success in Kachemak Bay and the first time in about 30 years that murres attempted to nest on 60′ Rock. 
 
From Victoria Winne (10-18-17)
The birds seemed to do very well this year, with far less to almost no harassing by eagles, especially in mid-season. It was interesting to note a ‘new’ and dense grouping of murres on 60ft.
Most of the other species had left by the first week in September, with the murres remaining, still feeding their young – evident by the number still on the main murre rock, and birds with fish in their mouths.
Unfortunately, that is when our season pretty much finishes, with just sporadic visits to G.Island, and it was distressing to see eagles returning right about then. It is impossible to say whether the eagles managed to spook them off right at the end, thus exposing the almost fledged chicks to predation.
I did witness one lone eagle a few weeks earlier spooking all the kittiwakes, and watched in admiration as the murres tenaciously held their ground, so hold out hope that they managed to hold on.

2016 Christmas Bird Count Results

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT

FINAL REPORT

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!

dave-at-cbc
Jim Herbert presenting Dave Erikson with a cake in celebration of 40 years as the Homer CBC Coordinator.

daves-cake

christmas-count-tally-01
BJ Hitchcock, Gary Lyon, and Hal Smith (tallying their species)
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CBC Participants enjoying the after counting potluck
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Chukar (non-native species) (Photo: Landon Bunting)

 

 

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.

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