The 25th annual John Day Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held Saturday, December 17. All of the 16 participants happened to be members of the Grant County Bird Club this year, with one couple coming from Bend.
Most of the count took place between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., but one of the birders searched for owls earlier that morning between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.
There are about 2,000 similar counts designed to help survey wintering birds in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South American, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific islands from Dec. 14, 2005 through Jan. 5, 2006 (inclusive).
By tradition, the count area is a circle with a 15-mile diameter, or an area of roughly 177 square miles.
The John Day Christmas Bird Count has its center at the stoplight in John Day and has the unique distinction of having an irregular circumference, an exception allowed due to our topography and accessibility.
It is not possible to see every species or individual during that short period, especially with a small group of people, but the longevity over the years provides valuable information concerning the concentrations and distribution of birds during the winter in North America.
This year's weather was about the most miserable in the John Day Christmas Bird Count history. Except for some sunshine at Four Corners, the day remained cold and overcast, with the temperatures staying in the teens all day.
The birdwatchers spent most of their time in vehicles, with only short walks on foot. Even the most bundled participant got chilled after a short period outside (birdwatching is not the most active of sports).
Three new species recorded this year: Western Grebes and Golden-crowned Sparrows in the Mt. Vernon area and Western Scrub-Jays at several locations.
Other rarities for this count included Mountain Quail (seen three times before), Black-backed Woodpecker (seen twice before) and Western Meadowlark, which has been recorded once before at this time of year.
There were high numbers of Bald Eagle (27), Northern Goshawk (3), Red-tailed Hawk (61), California Quail (1025), Mountain Quail (10), American Coot (20), Barn Owl (5), Black-billed Magpie (184), Common Raven (219) and Oregon Junco (555). The totals for the day were 70 species and 5186 individuals.
Birds seen this year during the count day were Western Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk;
Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Wild Turkey, California Quail, Mountain Quail, American Coot, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Barn Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher;
Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Gray Jay, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven;
Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, American Dipper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet;
Townsend's Solitaire, American Robin, Varied Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Shrike, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Slate-colored Junco, Oregon Junco, Western Meadowlark, Purple Finch, Cassin's Finch, House Finch, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin;
Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak and House Sparrow.
Also seen during "count week," the three days before and after the actual count were Merlin, Red-naped Sapsucker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Bushtit and Spotted Towhee.
Participants in the field this year were Mary Alexander, Bob Authier, Ann Frost, Cecil Gagnon, Tom Hunt, Peter Meyer, Al Near, Robin Near, Frazier Nichol, Clarence O'Leary, Marilyn O'Leary, Terra Lang Schultz, Daniel Soupir, Jamison Soupir, Jim Soupir, Barbara Winters and Tom Winters.
Several landowners, including the Crown and Holliday ranches, gave counters the opportunity to observe birds on their properties.