The Kachemak Bay Birders presented Dave Erikson with a certificate of recognition and appreciation for his 45 years of service to the Homer Christmas Bird Count. Erikson is pictured with Jim Herbert of the Kachemak Bay Birders. (Photo by Tim Quinn)

The Kachemak Bay Birders presented Dave Erikson with a certificate of recognition and appreciation for his 45 years of service to the Homer Christmas Bird Count. Erikson is pictured with Jim Herbert of the Kachemak Bay Birders. (Photo by Tim Quinn)

9,900 birds reported during Homer Christmas Bird Count

The count identified 71 species on Dec. 18, 2021.

More than 9,900 birds of 71 different species were counted during the 50th consecutive Homer Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 18, 2021. The count is sponsored by the Kachemak Bay Birders and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maritime Refuge, and was hosted in accordance with the 122nd Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Homer joined roughly 2,700 communities across the world to create a log of the birds found in the area.

“It’s basically a snapshot in time of what birds are where,” organizer Dave Erikson said. “We get an idea of how many birds there are, where they are in relative terms.”

Erikson has organized the Homer Christmas Bird Count for 45 years.

The count was conducted by 27 volunteers who covered a 15-mile-diameter circle, which was centered in Mud Bay and included individual bird feeders, according to the count results summary prepared by Erikson.

The volunteers received a refresher course on bird identification before the count day to ensure accurate species reporting.

The event saw 9,904 birds in the Homer area, including a new species never seen before during the count — a red-winged blackbird.

Snow buntings and a northern harrier were spotted during the week of the count, but were not seen on the official count day. The 2021 count remained on average with previous years, Erikson said.

While the red-winged blackbird was counted for the first time in Homer, the most interesting bird the crew spotted, Erikson said, was the brambling, a Eurasian finch, which has only been listed on the Homer Christmas Bird Count four times. The brambling is normally found in Western Europe to Eastern Siberia, but a few sometimes make their way to Alaska, making them a highlight of any birding adventure, Erikson explained.

“It is a very interesting and beautiful bird, but it’s not that unusual,” Erikson said. “We always like to see them when they get here though.”

The most commonly seen bird this year was the rock sandpiper, Homer’s winter resident shorebird, with 2,700 birds counted. Following in second and third places were the black scoter with 861 spottings and the American crow with 598 spottings.

Of the 71 species included in this year’s count, 11 were represented by only one bird, Erikson said.

One oddity Erikson noted was the lack of American robins, which had been spotted regularly in the weeks leading up to the count, but on the official counting day, only one was to be found.

While local birders find joy in spending the day searching for birds across Homer, their findings provide an in-depth look into bird populations for Audubon to use in research.

“They’ve used this data for all kinds of scientific publications over the years,” Erikson said. “They’ve also used this along with the breeding bird surveys to document that we have lost 3 billion birds in this area over the last 50 years.”

When asked what caused the loss in bird populations in Homer, Erikson’s answer was short. “Humans,” he said. “Humans, climate change, loss of habitat …”

“This is a very invaluable survey over time, and we’ve done this for over 50 consecutive years in Homer, so we’ve got to witness changes in this area.”

Another brambling is spotted during the Homer Christmas Bird Count. (Photo by Charlie Gibson)

Another brambling is spotted during the Homer Christmas Bird Count. (Photo by Charlie Gibson)

A brambling perches on a snow-covered branch during the annual Homer Christmas Bird Count. (Photo by Debi Poore)

A brambling perches on a snow-covered branch during the annual Homer Christmas Bird Count. (Photo by Debi Poore)

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