The 117th CBC in Oregon

Joel Geier

Remarkably mild fall weather lasted until 7 December, when near-record-late frosts finally arrived in western Oregon valleys. Neotropical birds that lingered past that date faced an abrupt change, as much colder weather moved in, bringing freezing rain and snow just ahead of the earliest counts. In western Oregon, ice-glazed roads caused postponement of four early counts, while east of the Cascades, fresh snow up to two feet deep limited access. In Burns, organizers made a snap decision to hold the count two days early, to get (mostly) ahead of the snowstorm.  Even for coastal counts where most roads were clear, hazardous conditions in the Coast Range limited participation by inland volunteers. Warmer weather returned on 19 December, and most of the later counts reported mild conditions until 2 January when another cold front moved in.

Rare waterfowl included two Emperor Geese found on the Columbia Estuary count, a King Eider in Coos Bay, and Long-tailed Ducks on two inland counts, Roseburg-Sutherlin and Utopia.

Continuing the trend of recent years, Turkey Vultures and Ospreys stayed for multiple counts in western Oregon. Good numbers of Cinnamon Teal, Green Herons, American Bitterns, Virginia Rails, and Soras were also found, many of them in artificial wetlands with warm, nutrient-rich municipal wastewater input.

The persistence of mild weather into early December no doubt contributed to unusually high numbers of Say's Phoebes, including six in Medford, five in mid-Willamette Valley counts (Dallas, Salem, and Corvallis), one along the coast at Tillamook Bay, and even one that lingered at Antone in north-central Oregon through 17 December.

Other insectivores lingering well north of their usual range included a Hooded Oriole at Tillamook Bay 17 December, two Bullock's Orioles in Coos Bay plus a count-week bird in Florence, and a total of 36 Barn Swallows (24 along the south coast – 21 of them at Coquille Valley – and 12 in the Willamette Valley), as well as good numbers of Tree Swallows which are more expected. A few non-hardy warblers were also found: a vagrant Tennessee Warbler at Coos Bay, a Nashville Warbler at Columbia Estuary, a MacGillivray's Warbler in Eugene, and a Black-throated Gray Warbler in Portland.

Among more northern species, Bohemian Waxwings staged a notable irruption, with a few reaching Medford and Coos Bay and hundreds in Summer Lake, John Day, and Burns, as well as Wallowa and Baker County counts in the northeast corner of the state where this species is more expected. Finches including Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks were notable scarce, and there were no reports of redpolls.

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Bald Eagle. Photo: Don Berman/Audubon Photography Awards

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