A record 39 counts were completed during the 2014-2015 CBC season in the Alaska region; where a record tying 152 species (plus 11 count week, cw) and a near record 163,061 individuals were tallied by 901 total observers (field and feeders). These metrics were no doubt helped by the generally seasonally-mild weather conditions experienced around the region (excluding Ketchikan where as usual the weather was abysmal). For the sake of this summary I have divided the Alaska region into four general areas, based primarily on characteristic environment and winter climate conditions.
The central, western and northern ‘mainland’ area (covering the vast majority of the Alaska region) was surveyed by 14 counts (Bethel, Cantwell, Copper Center, Delta Junction, Denali N.P., Eagle, Fairbanks, Gakona, Galena, Kenny Lake, Nome, Shageluk, Tok, and Trapper Creek-Talkeetna); where 254 very hearty soles tallied a notable 42 species and 13,321 individuals (both record highs). Fairbanks led the way in the area with most species (27), individuals (7299) and participants (74). Highlights for the mainland area included two Eurasian Collared-Doves at Delta Junction (first for any mainland area count); and single Varied Thrush at Fairbanks and Galena.
Four counts were completed in southwest Alaska, covering the Alaska Peninsula (Dillingham, Izembek N.W.R., and King Salmon-Naknek) to the eastern Aleutian Islands (Unalaska); where 63 participants tallied 68 species (plus 5 cw), and a record 31,076 individuals. Unalaska produced the highest species count (50), Izembek N.W.R. the highest number of individuals (24,186), and Dillingham the most observers (23). Highlights for this area included 23,000 Brant at Izembek (new Alaska Region high count); 24 Trumpeter Swans at King Salmon-Naknek (first for any southwest area count); and at Unalaska a Northern Harrier (second for any southwest area count), an Orange-crowned Warbler, and Townsend’s Warbler (both firsts for any southwest area count), and four Golden-crowned Sparrows (new southwest area high count). And dare I not forget to mention the male Eurasian Siskin, the first for any Alaska count, and first undisputed for any North American CBC, found at Unalaska [I still need that one].
Nine counts were conducted in the southcoastal area, spanning from eastern Prince William Sound (Cordova), across the Cook Inlet-Kenai Peninsula (Anchorage, Eagle River, Homer, Matanuska Valley, Seward, and Soldotna), to Kodiak Island (Kodiak and Narrow-Cape-Kalsin Bay); where 370 participants tallied 114 species (plus 6 cw), and a record 66,787 individuals. Kodiak again produced the highest species count (81), while Anchorage again had the highest number of individuals (16,009) and observers (110). Highlights for this area included 135 American Wigeon at Homer (new southcoastal area high count); 789 Bufflehead at Cordova (new Alaska region high count); a Western Screech-Owl at Seward (second for any southcoastal area count); 356 Red-breasted Nuthatches at Anchorage (new Alaska region high count); 292 Boreal Chickadees at Anchorage (new southcoastal area high count); 92 Pacific Wrens at Kodiak (new Alaska region high count); and 2070 White-winged Crossbills at Homer (new southcoastal area high count).
And finally, 12 counts were performed in the southeast ‘panhandle’ portion of Alaska (Chilkat, Craig-Klawock, Glacier Bay, Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mitkof Island, Sitka, Skagway, Tenakee Springs, Thorne Bay, and Wrangell); where 217 participants tallied a record 115 species (plus 13 cw), and 51,877 individuals. The most species (80) were found at Sitka, the most individuals (14,787) were at Glacier Bay (which also set a new Alaska record with 17 cw species), and Haines had the most participants (43). Highlights for this area included 470 Harlequin Ducks at Mitkof Island (new southeast area high count); 111 Horned Grebes at Glacier Bay (new southeast area high count); 97 Eurasian Collared-Doves at Sitka (new Alaska region high count – but I questioned the number); a Long-eared Owl at Juneau (first Alaska CBC record); 10 Anna’s Hummingbirds at Sitka (new Alaska region high count – but I questioned the number); one Rufous Hummingbird at Sitka (first Alaska CBC record); and single Mountain Bluebirds at Ketchikan and Sitka. Also, record numbers of Pine Siskin were tallied on 11 of the area counts.
Here’s to hoping that ALL the ‘unusual’ species found in the Alaska region during the upcoming 116 CBC season counts are ‘documented’ (e.g. field notes, photos, or both – “it was on eBird” means nothing to me) – NOT just species found for the first time.