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: