A Report from Tillamook’s 53rd Annual Christmas Bird Count

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John P. counts huge flocks of waterfowl and shorebirds at Kilchis Point while Denise H. writes it all down. If you are curious about our local birds, don’t miss next year’s Christmas Bird Count!

Our Council members spend a lot of time in and around the Tillamook Bay, which means we are always surrounded by birds. We recognize some of them on sight: bald eagles, red tailed hawks, great blue herons, as well as local favorites, like the great egret and the white tailed kite. We are familiar with several of the many different duck species that frequent our bay: mallards, buffleheads, goldeneyes. But there are dozens of species that fly or swim by us that get lumped into broad categories like “gulls” or “shore birds.” Even experienced birders can be daunted by the number of species, especially given their seasonal changes in plumage. So when our Council Coordinator got the chance to participate in the 53rd Annual Christmas Bird Count on Tillamook Bay, he jumped at the chance, even if it required a pre-dawn meeting on a cold winter’s day. Here’s Rob’s report from December 17th, 2016:

Our team met at the Tillamook Denny’s at 6:30AM. It was still dark, but a fresh layer of snow made everything seem brighter, and colder! Denise H. and I were paired with a master birder named John P. who has been doing bird counts for over 40 years. We knew we were in for a real education, and it sure turned out that way.

We launched the boat at Park’s Landing on the lower Kilchis and floated out to Hathaway Slough and Kilchis Point. It snowed periodically, which added a magical quality to the morning. We made several stops on gravel bars to set up the spotting scope, where John counted literally thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds. From there we proceeded to Bay City, counting as we went, and arrived at Pacific Oyster just in time for lunch. Then we climbed back in the boat and motored across the bay to the Bayocean side. This was important because there were birds that John knew would be associated with the eel grass beds in the middle and West bay. Then we made our way up to Dick Point and the Picket Fence, where we crossed back to the east side and explored the massive delta of the Kilchis, Wilson and Trask. Since the Southern Flow Corridor project had mostly finished, we were able to enter Blind Slough for the first time–very exciting. And we were all blown away by the beauty of the newly-connected tidal channel. Our team ended the day at Memaloose Point with over 8,000 birds counted, representing 65 species. There were 14 other birders who participated–a total of 17. Between all of us we counted 27,381 birds of 121 species. A few points of interest from the organizer, Owen Schmidt: The biggest news was the Hooded Oriole coming to the Tweelinckx’s in the Village of Meares and staying at least until Count Day.  Not everyone who stopped by saw the bird, which had been coming daily but stayed only briefly.  The bird was photographed in the days prior to the Count and appears on eBird lists. Say’s Phoebe was seen for only the third time, a single bird near the Air Museum.  A total. of 13 Western Bluebirds from 2 locations set a new high Count record.  Great Egrets continue to grow in their winter numbers with 114 birds from several locations.

Click here to see a PDF of the complete species list and tally from the 53rd Tillamook CBC:

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For more information about the Tillamook Bay CBC, contact the compiler, Owen Schmidt, at (503) 789-4854, oschmidt@att.net.

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A Western Bluebird poses for a snapshot near the Tillamook Air Museum. Owen Schmidt photo. Thank, Owen!

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