Dec. 18 was a day to remember, at least in terms of bird watching! It was a dark and stormy day here in the Stackpole area where Susan, Sharon, Joe, Jean, Larry, and I went looking for birds on the 2021 Annual Christmas Bird Count.

We split into two groups. Susan and I birded Leadbetter Point and the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge area, while the others birded from the Oysterville Road to the beginning of Leadbetter Point State Park. We were part of one the largest citizen science projects in the world. This year’s annual Christmas bird count was number 122. It is held worldwide. North America’s part is sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Locally ours is organized by the Willapa Hills chapter of Audubon. Our coordinator was Suzy Whittey, and our compiler is Robert Sudar.

Despite wind speeds that varied between 10 and 32 mph with wind gusts up to 48 mph and rain for the entire day, it was relatively warm. The high for the day was 52F, while the low was only 49F. The groups tallied 32 species in all, which I think is terrific for a dark and stormy day! Six of the species were waterfowl.

Some of the highlights were seven bald eagles, a ruby-crowned kinglet, a red-breasted merganser, a hermit thrush, 174 dunlins wheeling and swirling over the bay, 20 varied thrush and 21 dark eyed juncos. Six American robins were seen too.

The tide was very high for most of the day even as the ebb tide was happening. Thus, we saw very few shorebirds except for the dunlin, a few least sandpipers and six black-bellied plovers that were hunkered down in the grasses of a wetland right beside four green-winged teal. It must have been too blustery for the great blue herons. In addition, there was a lack of mudflats or shallow water on the bay area of the point for foraging. Only one was observed that day. Most of the raptors, except for the eagles, and two red-tailed hawks, were hunkered down for the day. However, they were out in force the next day (Dec. 19) when the sun came out in all its glory for the day. Birding at the South Bay Unit in the sunshine produced five raptor species including a red-shouldered hawk that we were lucky enough to be able to photograph.

The songbirds on this rainy day in December were mainly seen foraging along the roadsides. Song sparrows, fox sparrows, spotted towhees, dark-eyed juncos and varied thrushes shared the goodies that were there for the most part, but every so often a little skirmish would take place. Juncos flew at the larger varied thrush to scare it off into the edge of the woods. Song and fox sparrows though were congenial. They just jumped up and down scratching in the leaves and debris for whatever tasty morsel was hidden there.

This is the story of just one of the eight sections that make up the Leadbetter Circle. I hope to receive information on the totals for all eight. I wonder what that dark and stormy day had in store for the rest of the Leadbetter Point Circle? I hope you will stay tuned for the rest of the story. Watch this space! Happy birding.

“Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.

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