CBC Report 2014

Redbud Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count Results 2014
Making Sense of the Numbers
by Darlene Hecomovich

One hundred and thirty-three species of birds were seen on the Redbud Audubon 2014 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday, December 27. The 133 count is down from the previous 5-year average of 137.8 birds but considerably higher than the all-time low count of 122 birds tallied in 2003. The 40,622 total number of birds seen, however, was higher than the previous 5-year average of 32,300.

Highlights of the count were a Greater Roadrunner, a member of the cuckoo family, that was seen for the second year in a row as well as a Black-throated Gray Warbler that is considered extremely rare in Lake County in the winter but fairly common the rest of the year.

The sighting considered to be the most unusual was a potential Iceland Gull, a gull that has been seen only once before in Lake County. Documentation of the sighting details for all three birds will be submitted to the Audubon CBC Regional Editors for approval, but acceptance of the Iceland Gull sighting will be the most difficult to achieve. The field marks that differentiate it from an Iceland/Thayer’s Gull hybrid are subtle and extensive written documentation as well as photos will be submitted to support the sighting. The report will also be sent to the California Bird Records Committee for acceptance as well.

The Western Grebe wins the prize for the most individuals tallied with a high of 8,585 outranking the 7,501 Ruddy Ducks, the species that had this distinction for the previous three years. Several species hit record high counts including the Acorn Woodpecker with a count of 354 outdoing its previous high of 307 in 2011, the Red-breasted Sapsucker and the Phainopepla, both usually seen in single digits, each had a high count of 16, the 88 Black Phoebes counted surpassed the 70 seen in 2004, and the Northern Mockingbird topped it’s 1990 high of 50 with 64 this year.

On the other side of the spectrum but not unusual, only 1 Golden-crowned Kinglet and 1 Pacific Wren were seen, species that are often missed entirely. The European Starling registered a low count of 217 a decline that does not dismay birders as the Starling is a non-native species that has a significant negative impact on native cavity nesters that compete for the same nesting sites. Brewer’s Blackbirds appear to be diminishing in numbers over the history of the CBC in the County. The 257 birds counted this year registered a low. The previous 10-year average of this species is 705 a figured remarkably lower than the high count of 2,558 in 1992 at a time when the Brewer’s often garnered 1,000 or more on the CBC. The only species that was seen by all participating groups this year was the American Crow. The big misses were the Northern Pintail and Redhead ducks, Cooper’s Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Wilson’s Snipe and Barn Owl.

Fifty-nine individuals participated in the count, which represents an all-time high since the Lake County count began in 1975. The previous high was 55 participants in 2009 and the all-time low was only 10 participants in 1993. Nevertheless, those 10 participants found 129 species, the lowest number recorded on a count, but down just 4 from this year’s total. Consider this a challenge for next year’s Count!