Dry and mild fall weather, with no hard freezes even east of the Cascades, lasted into mid-December, possibly contributing to persistence of lingering migrants such as a Sora in John Day and Black Phoebe, Northern Mockingbird, and Orange-crowned Warbler in Klamath Falls on the 14th. Conditions in eastern Oregon changed abruptly by 16 December, when volunteers in Burns woke to 8° F, cold fog, and nearly a foot of fresh snow, but conditions west of the Cascades remained favorable through the end of the season with just a few days of fog or rain.
Waterfowl flocks wintering in western Oregon included an apparent hybrid Barnacle x Cackling Goose at Tillamook Bay and a Ross’s Goose in Medford. A Brant at Sauvie Island and Red-breasted Mergansers at Forest Grove and Salem were notable for inland locations. A Blue-winged Teal turned up on the new Gresham count. Common Mergansers were found in high numbers statewide, led by Eugene which accounted for more than half of the state total with 2765. Sea duck concentrations along the coast included 30 Harlequin Ducks at Yaquina Bay, 5242 Surf Scoters and 311 Black Scoters at Port Orford, and 615 White-winged Scoters at Coquille Valley. Yaquina Bay again registered the state’s only Long-tailed Duck.
Loon and grebe concentrations in coastal waters were typical for recent years. The Rogue and Umpqua Valleys seldom see divers but had several with a Common Loon at Ashland, two Horned Grebes in Roseburg-Sutherlin, and a Western Grebe in Medford.
No counts included pelagic boat trips this year, but Northern Fulmars were spotted off Florence and at Tillamook Bay, where eight Short-tailed Shearwaters were also seen. Common Murre numbers were down significantly, with just 965 total for the state.
Shorebird tallies were mostly within typical ranges. Killdeer numbers in the Willamette Valley rebounded to nearly 3000 after low counts last year. Eugene turned up four Semipalmated Plovers, rare away from the coast. For the threatened coastal population of Snowy Plovers, statewide numbers were down again after peaking in 2017-18, partly because the Coos Bay count on the south coast was skipped this year. The Yaquina Bay, Tillamook Bay, and Columbia Estuary counts farther north all showed increases over last year. The 14 Marbled Godwits at Tillamook Bay were a notable concentration for a species not found every year. One Rock Sandpiper was found along with Surfbirds and Black Turnstones at Yaquina Bay. A Wandering Tattler turned up for count week in Coquille Valley.
A Heermann’s Gull at Tillamook Bay was only the second count-day record there in the past decade. Otherwise gull counts were mostly in expected ranges along the coast and in the Willamette Valley.
Turkey Vultures were found in double digits again in Eugene and in Coquille Valley, the latter which also had three Ospreys. Cottage Grove and Grants Pass yielded inland Osprey sightings. White-tailed Kite numbers were down with just 10 reports, mainly along the south coast with just one inland at Airlie. A Gyrfalcon in Wallowa County was the seventh record for that count.
Barred Owls, which arrived in the region in recent decades after crossing the northern Great Plains, continued to increase with 29 detected statewide, mainly west of the Cascades where this species is now firmly established. Strays were even found in the Great Basin on Malheur N.W.R. and for count week at Hart Mountain, where one was photographed challenging a young Red-tailed Hawk for its kill. No Spotted Owls were found this year, but two Great Gray Owls were found at Oakridge.
High numbers of Lewis’s Woodpeckers turned up in western Oregon, with 155 in Rogue Valley counts (136 in Medford) and a total of 30 on counts farther north in the Umpqua and Willamette valleys. A Williamson’s Sapsucker was photographed in Eugene. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found at Coquille Valley, Yaquina Bay, and Corvallis.
Anna’s Hummingbirds continued to increase, both in numbers with over 1700 in the Willamette Valley, and also in geographical spread as one turned up in Wallowa County. Black Phoebes – another expanding resident species – turned up for the first time in Oakridge and Prineville. Say’s Phoebes made another strong showing with 25 tallied in western Oregon, plus single birds at Tygh Valley and Malheur N.W.R. east of the Cascades.
Tropical Kingbirds, which sometimes move north along the coast during fall, stayed for count day at Lincoln City and Tillamook, and for count week at Columbia Estuary. Blue Jays continued their westward expansion into the northeast part of the state, with seven in Pine Valley and two in Umatilla County; one even showed up farther south at Hart Mountain.
Horned Lark numbers in the Willamette Valley were notably low with a total of just 32, less than half of the number found last year. Coastal counts saw a boom in Red-breasted Nuthatches, with 757 compared to 27 last year. Bewick’s Wrens continued their northeastward expansion with 42 in Union County, five in Umatilla County and one in Wallowa County.
Townsend’s Solitaires turned up west of the Cascades at Airlie, Portland, and Dallas (count-week). American Robins massed in remarkable numbers in the Rogue Valley, with over 90,000 between the Medford and Ashland counts. Along with notably high numbers of Townsend’s Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers along the coast and in western valleys, a Nashville Warbler and Black-throated Gray Warbler were found in Coquille Valley, and a Hermit Warbler was at Port Orford. A Western Tanager visited a feeder in Medford, and Bullock’s Orioles were found in Florence and Port Orford.
A Rustic Bunting on the Washington side of the Columbia River stayed into count week for the Columbia Estuary count, and a Clay-colored Sparrow stayed for count day on the Oregon side. American Tree Sparrows turned up in good numbers in northeastern Oregon and Great Basin counts, and at least four Harris’s Sparrows reached western Oregon.
Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, and Evening Grosbeaks rebounded from low counts in the previous year, but only four Common Redpolls were found, all in Wallowa County. Four rosy-finches at Hart Mountain had to be left as generic; Gray-crowned is the most expected species but Black Rosy-Finches nest on Steens Mountain, just 60 miles east across the Catlow Valley, and both species roam widely in winter.