Seward 2006 Christmas Bird Count

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Denali, Photos, Travel 4 Comments

Rock Ptarmagain

This Rock Ptarmigan was photographed in Denali National Park.  I have included it here only because I thought it was a nice winter bird photo, not becuase it was seen in Seward, Alaska.  I have seen numerous Ptarmigain around Seward, but usually Willow Ptarmigain.

If my birding ability could ski, it would just now be venturing onto the intermediate blue square slopes, but I am an eager learner.  So it is nice when my bird observations are confirmed by bird experts like Carol Griswold and other knowledgeable birders in the Seward area.  I have written about the large numbers of Common Redpolls in our yard this year, not only did the numbers seem high, but it seems early for them.  Well the bird counters found 967 of them this year, compared to 1 in 2005.  I have also been surprised by the large flocks of Gray-Crowned Rosy Finches, I can’t remember ever seeing this bird before.  Well a record 116 of them were counted this year, compared to zero last year. 

Carol does a great job at reporting local bird sightings.  This is a copy of the actual report written by Carol and published by local newspapers and Internet sites: 

2006 Seward Audubon Christmas Bird Count Report

Count Day: December 30, 2006 Low 26º, high 32º, winds 0-15 mph, snow
depth 15 to 36, cloudy with periods of light snow. Sunrise 10:01 am,
sunset 3:59 pm, for a total of 5 hours, 58 minutes.

Blizzards and power outages canceled the first attempt to count Seward
area birds, but the following Saturday, 17 hardy field observers and 11
dedicated feeder watchers counted over 3655 birds of 60 different
species in just over 6 hours.

The COMMON REDPOLL was most likely undercounted, but at 967 birds was
the highest number for one species. PINE SISKINS trailed in second place
with 343 birds.
In contrast, the 2005 count found only 1 common redpoll and 11 pine
siskins. The other bird feeder regulars, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES,
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES, DARK-EYED JUNCOS,
STELLER’S JAYS, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES, and PINE GROSBEAKS seem to be
doing quite well with fairly high numbers.

4 HOARY REDPOLLS were reported, but are under further scrutiny. There is
a huge range of streaking and coloration in Common Redpolls. Some are
much lighter, and may even lack streaking on the rump, but a true Hoary
Redpoll is much, much frostier with a smaller bill, steeper forehead,
and far fewer stripes. Photos are very helpful to cinch the ID, if you
think you might have a Hoary visiting your feeder.

Highlights included 3 species of LOONS: 12 COMMON, 2 PACIFIC, and 1
YELLOW-BILLED. One SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, and 2 NORTHERN SHRIKES were
attracted, no doubt, by all the redpolls. 116 GRAY-CROWNED ROSY FINCHES
beat the old record of 77 back in 2004 and 0 last year. Four AMERICAN
TREE SPARROWS braved the winter here, but the horned lark did not make a
showing. Three RUSTY BLACKBIRDS magically appeared and haven’t been seen
since. One GREAT BLUE HERON was spotted, down from 11 last year, a
record high count.

BALD EAGLE numbers were down considerably from 123 in 2005 to only 49,
including a low count of only 6 immatures. This may be due in large part
to the double whammy on local salmon streams and the Lagoon from road
construction followed by the October flood.

ROCK PIGEON numbers were also down considerably, from a high of 123 in
2003 to 47, a more manageable number for this non-native species.
Fortunately, no starlings or other invasive species were seen.

A lone GREAT HORNED OWL was heard during Count Week, announcing its
presence a bit early, though they live here year round. Also one
BOHEMIAN WAXWING was spotted during Count Week, hanging out with robins,
feeding on Mt Ash berries.

Many thanks to all the volunteer citizen scientists who helped count the
107th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, to all those who keep their
bird feeders full of nutritious black oil sunflower seeds and suet, and
to the responsible cat owners who keep Fluffy Cat indoors and out of
trouble.

The free 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be February 16-19th
for those wishing to count in the backyard, school yard, park, or bay.
More information is available at < http://www.audubon.org/gbbc/index.shtml>.

For those interested in learning how to identify those confusing gulls,
check out this excellent Gull Identification Website:
<http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Canopy/6181/gulls.htm>.

Happy Birding!
Seward CBC Compiler, Carol Griswold

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