The 119th CBC in Alaska

A record 41 counts were completed in the Alaska Region during the CBC 119 season: 13 in the southeast, nine in the south-coastal, four in the southwest and 15 in interior/western subregions. New was a count at Healy, on the north flank of the Alaska Mountain Range; and the count on Shemya Island, in the far eastern Aleutians, was resumed after a six-year absence. Of additional note, Chilkat celebrated their 20th count, Craig-Klawok their 30th count, Eagle River and Matanuska Valley their 40th counts, and Anchorage their 60th count – way to go! In total these counts involved a record 1338 participants in the field and watching feeders [four counts had 100 or more (Anchorage, Fairbanks, Haines and Healy] who tallied a record 151 species, plus seven others during count weeks, and near-record 160,112 individual birds.

Species highlights for the region overall included a Great Egret, new to any Alaska CBC, on the Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay count (unfortunately, this bird was killed later that same day by a Bald Eagle). A Semipalmated/Common Ringed plover was found on the Shemya Count, but the photographs were not conclusive as to species – in any case SEPL has been seen only once before on an Alaska CBC, while CRPL has never been recorded on any CBC in North America. And a record count, for Earth, of 30,014 Rock Sandpipers were reported at Soldotna – 30,000 alone on the Cook Inlet tidal flats at the mouth of the Kasilof River. For context, the observers arrived at this total by counting the number of birds visible in their photographs, and then estimating the percentage of total area of the birds captured in those photographs. While this approach can be rightly questioned, the observation is still none-the-less very remarkable as even half that total number would represent one of the highest single winter concentrations of this Beringia shorebird (see Gill et al. 2002, in The Birds of North America, No. 686). Finally, 11 species were seen on at least half of the total Alaska counts, as well as seen on at least one count in each of the four general subregions of the state, including Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven [only species seen on all 41 Alaska counts], Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Pine Grosbeak, and Common Redpoll.

Moving east to west across the region; 13 counts were completed in the southeast subregion (Chilkat, Craig-Klawock, Glacier Bay, Haines, Hoonah, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mitkof Island, Sitka, Skagway, Tenakee Springs, Thorne Bay, and Wrangell), where a record 366 participants tallied 111 count day, plus nine count week species, and 48,678 individual birds – the latter two metrics matching the 5-year running averages. The counts at Glacier Bay and Sitka each found 75 species (also highest for the State), with the most individual birds (15,570) at Glacier Bay and participants (100) at Haines. Highlights for the subregion included (new * subregion/** state high count; new species to the subregion counts) a Greater White-fronted Goose at Craig-Klawock, 873** American Wigeon at Juneau, 4798** Surf Scoter and 600* Black Scoter at Glacier Bay, a Pied-billed Grebe at Ketchikan, 9** Black-bellied Plovers at Glacier Bay, 2** Palm Warblers at Sitka, a count week Wilson’s Warbler at Juneau, a Savannah Sparrow at Ketchikan, Swamp Sparrows at Glacier Bay (2) and Ketchikan, and single Spotted Towhees at Glacier Bay, Juneau, and Ketchikan.

Nine counts were conducted in the south-coastal subregion (Anchorage, Cordova, Eagle River, Homer, Kodiak, Matanuska Valley, Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay, Seward, and Soldotna), where 454 participants tallied a record tying 119 count day plus nine other count week species, and a record 89,339 individual birds. Subregion count honors went to Kodiak with 71 species (Homer was a close second with 70 species), Soldotna with a state high 34,188 individual birds (see Rock Sandpiper above), and Anchorage with a state high 174 observers. Highlights for this subregion included 36** Cackling Geese at Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay, three Redheads at Cordova, a King Eider at Soldotna, a Pied-billed Grebe at Seward, a count week ‘dark-bellied’ shearwater at Kodiak, an American Coot, count week Bonaparte’s Gull, and a Western Screech-Owl all at Cordova, 4* Anna’s Hummingbirds at Homer (this hummingbird was also found on the Cordova {2} and Soldotna counts), a Mountain Bluebird at Homer, two McKay’s Buntings at Soldotna, three White-throated Sparrows at Homer, and a count week Savannah Sparrow at Soldotna.

The interior/western subregion, covering the vast majority of Alaska and certainly experiencing the most extreme cold winter climate conditions, was surveyed by 15 counts (Bethel, Cantwell, Copper Center, Delta Junction, Denali National Park, Eagle, Fairbanks, Gakona, Galena, Healy, Kenny Lake, Nome, Shageluk, Tok, and Trapper Creek-Talkeetna). These counts involved a record 473 participants who tallied 43 count day (5-year running average) plus two other count week species, and near-record 12,893 individual birds. Fairbanks again took the honors with most species (31) and individual birds (8688), while a subregion record 151 participants were at Haines (with a close second 149 at Fairbanks). Highlights for this subregion included 8* Northern Goshawks at Fairbanks, a remarkable 84* Bald Eagles at Delta Junction, 120** Glaucous Gulls at Nome, 45* Hairy Woodpeckers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Townsend’s Solitaire, a Lincoln’s Sparrow, and 1195* White-winged Crossbills all at Fairbanks.

Finally, four counts were completed in the southwest subregion spanning the Alaska Peninsula (Dillingham and King Salmon-Naknek) and Aleutian Islands (Shemya and Unalaska), where 45 participants (below 5-year average) tallied 64 count day plus one other count week species, and 9202 individual birds (well below the 5-year running average). Unalaska swept the honors with highest species count (42), individual birds (5113) and participation (18). Highlights for this subregion included a Snow Goose at Unalaska, 14* Trumpeter Swans, 5* Spruce Grouse at King Salmon-Naknek, and five Laysan Albatross at Shemya.

And as a side-note, are other regional editors experiencing a troubling trend in the number of count compilers who increasingly no long provide details for new or rare birds, but instead refer me (as the editor) to eBird – like that alone is enough to ‘validate’ the record - I guess simply relegating the role of ‘compiler’ to an event accountant?

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