Milwaukie bird watchers record species on the wing
Ninety-five bird counters turned their eyes and binoculars to the skies on Saturday, Jan. 4, to ring in the new year as part of the Audubon Society of Portland's annual Christmas Bird Count.
The group gathered before dawn at the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church in Southeast Portland and spread out over seven areas in the metro area, including Mount Tabor, Springwater Corridor, Oaks Bottom, Westmoreland, Eastmoreland and east and west Milwaukie.
Before the group dispersed, Dan Strong, the Southeast Portland sector leader, noted that this was the 94rd annual bird count in the Portland area and the 120th in North America. In fact, it is the "longest running ornithological data set in the world," he said.
Numbers are entered into a national database, and that information is used to predict climate change and loss of bird habitat, among other factors, Strong said.
At the East Milwaukie group's first site at Bell Station they spotted a hooded merganser in Johnson Creek, but it was at Giadanj Estates, just off King Road that the counters saw a bald eagle and peregrine falcon.
Those raptors sailed over the estate's lake, filled with northern shovelers, buffleheads and coots. Anna's hummingbird, yellow-rumped warblers and Oregon juncos filled the nearby bushes and trees.
The group stopped at a number of other sites, including 72nd Avenue and Southeast Thompson Road, King/Queen Road loop, and Furnberg Park.
This was Reta Suzanne's first bird count, and the Gladstone resident said she had taken Strong's birding class through Gladstone Community Schools and came to the count to learn more about birds.
"The more I do, the more knowledgeable I get," she said.
Ron Myers, who works with Strong at Clackamas Water Environment Services in Oregon City, has been the official compiler of bird numbers for the Southeast sector for eight years.
He said he enjoys seeing the variety of birds during the activity, noting, "You never know what you are going to see."
This was Oregon City resident Mark Bassick's third bird count and what he likes best is "the feeling you get when you share the birding experience with other people" who have the same interest.
Ann Farley's favorite bird sighting that day was the tree filled with Townsend's warblers on King/Queen Road loop.
"They are so bright yellow and so lively. I like the sensory overload of birding," she said.
At the end of the day, participants tallied 14,436 birds representing 95 species.
"Combining sectors, we covered nearly 40 miles on foot. The data we gathered will provide important information on bird populations and habitats," Strong said.
He noted that the 14,436 individuals is nearly 20% greater than the nine-year average since he has been compiling Southeast Portland data.
This increase came mostly in the form of cackling geese, mallard ducks, northern shovelers, rock pigeons, American crows, bushtits and European starlings.
Notable decreases included Canada geese, American wigeons, green-winged teals, great blue herons, glaucous-winged gulls, golden-crowned kinglets and American goldfinches.
Local notable sightings included eight band-tailed pigeons, seen by the Rose Villa group. West Milwaukie counters saw 1,501 cackling geese, 22 green-winged teals, Western grebes, two Western screech owls and two white-throated sparrows.
The central Milwaukie group counted three greater white-fronted geese, 49 American wigeons, common goldeneyes, red-shouldered hawks, two Iceland gulls, 21 mourning doves, two barred owls, and 40 cedar waxwings.
The East Milwaukie group observed 1,500 cackling geese, 106 northern shovelers, five species of woodpecker, 70 buffleheads, Cooper's hawks, 263 American crows, 26 Townsend's warblers, four Lincoln's sparrows, and 66 house finches.
For more information about the Portland CBC and other upcoming birding activities, visit audubonportland.org.
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