Tim Quinn looks for birds in Kachemak Bay during the Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Jim Herbert)

Tim Quinn looks for birds in Kachemak Bay during the Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Jim Herbert)

Annual Christmas Bird Counts log 4 new species, falls one short of record

Despit COVID-19 restrictions, birders show up for annual December tradition to count birds in Homer.

By Dave Erikson

For the Homer News

The 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held in Homer on Saturday, Dec. 19, the 44th year the count has been done there. This year’s count was a little different due the COVID-19 pandemic, which restricted ride sharing within the field teams, required mask-wearing and social distancing, and canceled pre- and post-count meetings.

Even with these limitations, 31 stalwart volunteers braved the weather to count birds throughout Homer’s 15-mile diameter count circle. Another 11 “feeder watchers” kept track of the birds that came into their feeders throughout the day. These dedicated birders were able to tally 13,818 individual birds of 79 different species, one fewer than the record of 80 species for last year. Eight additional species were also documented within the Homer count circle during count week (three days before and after the actual count day). Numbers of feeder watchers were up from previous years and helped achieve these high numbers.

Four species were new to the count this year: the Siberian accentor, red-throated pipit, Swainson’s thrush, and the yellow-rumped warbler. The Siberian accentor, a first for Homer, is a small perching bird similar in size to our common redpoll. This bird normally ranges from the Ural Mountains across Siberia but will occasionally wander east into western Alaska. Hopefully, this colorful little bird will stay long enough for locals to get it on their list. The red-throated pipit is another rare visitor from Siberia that often travels with our American pipit. This was also the first record of this species in Homer and was sighted during count week in Mariner Park at the base of the Homer Spit.

Swainson’s thrush is a local breeding bird in Homer, but typically migrates south to winter in Central and South America. This late occurrence of this bird is unusual. The yellow-rumped warbler is also a common breeder in the Homer area, but this late migrant was the first one seen on a Christmas Bird Count.

Anna’s hummingbirds were again documented on the count this year with three individuals. The population of Anna’s has been expanding in the western U.S. and they have become more common in Homer in the fall and early winter. Some individual birds are believed to successfully overwinter with the help of some heated hummingbird feeders.

The most abundant bird species this year were the rock sandpiper (3,120), greater scaup (2,711) and Bohemian waxwing (1,870). Rock sandpipers are typically one of the most numerous winter residents in the Homer count circle. Greater scaup are one of the common sea ducks in Kachemak, and numbers on the Christmas Bird Count are generally high when there is a lack of ice along the northern shoreline, as was the case this year. Bohemian waxwing numbers are generally high this time of year due to the abundance of berries on ornamental trees such as the European mountain ash and European bird cherry (Mayday). These amazing birds were very uncommon in the Homer area prior to introduction of these trees. Seventeen species were represented by only one individual.

Over the last several years, there have been a downward trend in numbers of four species of sea ducks in the nearshore waters of the count area. These include the common eider, Steller’s eider, white-winged scoter and surf scoter. Primary factors in this continuing negative trend are unknown.

Dave Erikson is the Homer Christmas Bird Count coordinator and compiler.

More in News

Kelly Tshibaka addresses members of the community at Nikiski Hardware & Supply on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tshibaka makes rounds on the peninsula

The former DOA head is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her Senate seat.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces a tourism aid initiative during a press conference on Friday, April 9, 2021, at Wings Airways Hangar in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy was joined by officials and business owners, including Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche (left). (Governer’s Office/Kevin Goodman)
Dunleavy announces tourism aid initiative

Dunleavy said 1.3 million tourists were expected to come to Alaska via cruise ship before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations.

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Sockeye runs on Kenai and Kasilof predicted to be less than 20-year average

The sockeye fishery opens the third Monday in June or June 19, whichever comes last.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kenai Peninsula cases continue rise

State reports more than 1,200 new COVID cases this week

Dr. Cheryl Siemers, the new director of Kenai Peninsula College, is seen in this undated photo. She begins her term on Monday, June 21, 2021. (Courtesy photo)
Cheryl Siemers to lead Kenai Peninsula College

Gary Turner is the current KPC director, and will be stepping down in June.

U.S. Rep. Don Young addresses a joint chamber luncheon at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Don Young presented with bipartisanship award

Young is the longest-serving Republican in Congressional history, having represented Alaska for almost 50 years.

A screenshot of the Kenai Peninsula Borough GIS Parcel Viewer shows the different layers available, including aerial imagery. (Screenshot)
Borough, cities to get millions more in COVID relief money

Roughly $1.36 billion in federal funding is expected to flow into Alaska.

The Kenai City Council meets on Wednesday, Feb. 18 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)
Kenai approves projects manager position

The manager will be responsible for capital projects “from inception to completion.”

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai approves grace period utility payment plan

Doing nothing would have made delinquent accounts due with penalty and interest on past due amounts.

Most Read