Homer’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held Dec. 20, and it was a beautiful, warm, calm day. There were 67 species seen that day and an additional eight species recorded for the Count Week (three days before and three days after).
A total of almost 9,500 birds were counted. The final report is on the Kachemak Bay Birder’s website at kachemakbaybirders.org.
There were some unusual and interesting birds spotted. The American coot was still where it had been for almost a month — right there where the culvert empties out of Beluga Lake into the Slough. The coot rests in the grass there but then comes out to feed. It’s a dark bird with a very obvious white bill so it is hard to miss. Seeing it from the bike path gives a good, close view. There have been only three previous sightings here in Homer.
Another interesting bird was the Townsend’s solitaire which was seen by the airport observation platform and has been seen in town near the hospital for many weeks also.
A group of rusty blackbirds was seen at Bishop’s Beach, a very late horned puffin, probably migrating through, was seen off Land’s End, and good finds of cedar waxwings and red-throated loons. Two teams reported hearing varied thrush singing.
Good birds were found in the Count Week also. A trumpeter swan surprised everyone when it was seen in Mud Bay on Dec. 21. They are never here in the winter but several hundred winter over at the mouth of the Kenai River.
Others unusual for this time of year were northern shovelers, Eurasian wigeon and green-winged teal. Two interesting hybrids were found, a mallard crossed with a northern pintail and a glaucous-winged gull crossed with a herring gull. Hybrids do not count as a separate species but are documented.
Overall there were a high number of finches counted, both white-winged crossbills (2,070) and pine siskins (2,019). The fantastic cone crop this year is likely a factor and the mild weather contributed to the high number of species seen.
Mallards (1,055) were third highest.
A big thank you goes to all the 30 or more participants and especially Dave Erikson who has been the coordinator/compiler now for 38 Christmas Bird Counts. And a thank you to the folks at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center for the use of their facilities. As we like to say “It’s a great day to bird!”