The 118th count period was preceded by two weeks of dry, cold weather which froze many lakes and ponds in eastern Oregon, impacting counts of waterfowl but improving access to remote areas of some circles. In the western Coast Range, although conditions favored access to higher elevations, montane bird numbers were low, suggesting that the cold snap had already pushed many birds to lower elevations. Ground fog was also a factor in some counts in western valleys. Early-season coastal counts reported generally good conditions, except for strong easterly winds in Port Orford December 17th which pushed pelagic species and gulls well offshore.
The weather changed abruptly on December 19th as a storm dumped heavy rain on the Willamette Valley. Gale force winds ahead of this front at Summer Lake resulted in very difficult counting conditions and minimal counts for many species. The storm left snow drifts on Hart Mountain the night before the count, but fortunately most volunteers had already arrived and count day brought calmer weather.
Weather in the later part of the period was mostly good apart from occasional fog, and another storm front that brought heavy rain to western Oregon 28-29 December and a rapid thaw to eastern Oregon. The thaw may have caused lower bird numbers in Umatilla, as birds dispersed from areas where they had been concentrated. Good weather in Coquille Valley 30 Dec contributed to 150 species, the highest species tally in the state this year. In Eugene on December 31st, fine weather was enjoyed by counters whose ages spanned 90 years, as 5-year-old Summer Kofranek helped her father on her first count, and 95-year-old Herb Wisner, who formerly compiled this count, kept a feeder list after nearly 50 seasons as a field counter.
Among rare waterfowl this season was an Emperor Goose in Bend, which stayed there through late spring. A Mute Swan turned up in Wallowa County and a Mandarin Duck was found at Yaquina Bay. Three scoter species are expected on the coast but this year also brought reports from the Willamette Valley, as Surf and White-winged scoters were found for Forest Grove, and a Black Scoter turned up in Portland. Another coastal species, Red-breasted Merganser, showed up well inland at Klamath Falls.
Counts of loons and grebes along the coast where large numbers winter were down just slightly from the previous year. Away from the coast, Portland scored rare inland loon trifecta with a Red-throated Loon, a Common Loon, and three Pacific Loons. Red-necked Grebes were found in Medford and Prineville, and a Western Grebe was found in Baker County-Salisbury.
The statewide total of Greater Sage-Grouse – a species that has been under consideration for ESA listing in recent years – held steady with 42 at Burns and seven at Hart Mountain. Mountain Quail counts were low, with only 27 total statewide. California Quail numbers in contrast were strong, led by a tally of 5581 in Burns where flocks around town were thick. Statewide numbers of introduced Wild Turkeys (3416) and Eurasian Collared-Doves (10,537) continued to climb.
Rare seabirds included a Black-vented Shearwater offshore of Coquille Valley and a booby sp. that flew past Yaquina Bay. A Sabine's Gull was at Yaquina Bay. A total of 318 “Thayer's” Gulls were recorded (mainly along the coast) in the first count in which this species was treated as a subspecies of Iceland Gull.
The coastal population of Western Snowy Plovers is federally listed as Threatened, so a tally of 101 (including 66 at Reedsport) was an encouraging sign of recovery. Flocks of 20+ Western Sandpipers – which mainly winter south of Oregon – were found at Coquille Valley and Yaquina Bay.
American White Pelicans have lately become a nearly year-round presence in the southern Willamette Valley, represented this year by 39 at Eugene. Two Snowy Egrets were found for Sauvie Island. Numbers of wintering Green Herons in western Oregon increased slightly from last year, but fewer American Bitterns were found.
The trend toward more wintering Turkey Vultures and Ospreys in western Oregon continued. A Broad-winged Hawk at Port Orford was rare for the state. Northern Goshawks turned up in Medford and Oakridge, as well as on seven counts east of the Cascades where the species is found more regularly.
A Lincoln City birder who had to stay home on count day wound up with a Costa's Hummingbird at his feeder. One was also seen during count week in Grants Pass. Anna's Hummingbirds continued to expand their range east of the Cascades, with sightings in Utopia and in Union County.
Wintering flycatchers included Tropical Kingbirds at Columbia Estuary and Port Orford, and 24 Say's Phoebes statewide including birds in Pine Valley, Prineville, and Madras. Over 90 Tree Swallows were found in western Oregon, including 52 at Eugene. Unusual warblers included a vagrant Virginia's Warbler visiting a feeder in Portland, a wintering Hermit Warbler in Yaquina Bay, and a Wilson's Warbler in Eugene. Bullock's Orioles were found on count day for Columbia Estuary and during count week at Florence and Lincoln City. Great-tailed Grackles made the list at Summer Lake after nesting there last summer.
Red Crossbills were numerous along the Coast, with multiple call types detected. White-winged Crossbills were found on three coastal counts, including 26 at Columbia Estuary. Pine Siskins returned in force after being scarce the preceding year. Common Redpolls were found on seven counts, with the highest numbers in Union County and Pine Valley in the northeastern part of the state.