The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in Oregon

Nearly all active counts in the region (44 out of 46) managed to proceed this winter, after drastically reduced coverage due to the pandemic in the previous year. Participation levels by volunteers were also good, with an average of 34 field counters per count statewide, and only three counts with fewer than ten volunteers. Dormant counts this year again included Hood River and the two Baker County counts, plus Coos Bay on the south coast which has produced some of the highest species tallies in past years. Another species-rich coastal count, Yaquina Bay, was cancelled due to hazardous driving conditions after a winter storm in the Coast Range. The Sisters count took place, but results were not included in the regional summary due to unforeseen circumstances.

West of the Cascades where large concentrations of waterfowl are expected, counts were generally above normal, despite or perhaps because of relatively dry weather in November which limited wetland habitat. Notable high counts included 600 Trumpeter Swans at Sauvie Island, 26 Cinnamon Teal in Forest Grove, 1426 Ring-necked Ducks at Airlie-Albany, and 659 Lesser Scaup at Dallas. Two unusual hybrid ducks were found in Union County: a "Brewer’s" Duck (Gadwall x Mallard) and a Canvasback x Redhead. Sea ducks found inland included a White-winged Scoter in Yamhill Valley, a Surf Scoter off Sauvie Island, and a Red-breasted Merganser at Klamath Falls.

Loon counts were hindered by poor visibility at a couple of key sea-watch locations along the coast, with no counts exceeding a few dozen for the three typical species (Red-throated, Pacific, and Common loon). Inland Red-throated Loons included six on the Columbia River at Portland and one on Hagg Lake near Forest Grove. Red-necked Grebes turned up inland at Portland (7), Forest Grove (3), and Salem (cw), and also in the NE corner of the state in Wallowa County (cw), where four Eared Grebes were found on Joseph Lake.

Prineville's total of 70 Mountain Quail was the highest total recorded in the state in over 40 years. Populations in eastern Oregon had declined steeply prior to the early 2000s, when the state fish & wildlife agency began translocating birds from southwest Oregon to the Ochoco Mountains and other sites east of the Cascades. Over 9000 California Quail were found statewide, with Burns accounting for over 3700. Forest grouse were scant except for five Ruffed Grouse at Cottage Grove and three Dusky Grouse at Prineville; no Sooty Grouse were tallied. Burns and Hart Mountain each had six Greater Sage-Grouse.

Madras had surprisingly high numbers of Double-crested Cormorants (129) for east of the Cascades. The trend for American White Pelicans to winter in the upper Willamette Valley continued with flocks at Eugene (47) and Cottage Grove (31). A Snowy Egret was at Eugene, along with a remarkable 93 Turkey Vultures, which now roost in the area through the winter.

Inland Osprey were at Madras and Tygh Valley. White-tailed Kites were found on just two coastal counts, Coquille Valley (11) and Tillamook (1). The most remarkable buteo was a Swainson's Hawk photographed at Tillamook Bay. Red-shouldered Hawks continued to be found well inland, including Summer Lake (3) and Union County (cw). Rough-legged Hawks were found in good numbers, especially at Redmond (64). Ferruginous Hawks were found north of their typical winter range in John Day (1) and Wallowa County (cw).

Snowy Plovers were found on three coastal counts: Columbia Estuary (45), Florence (31), and Coquille Valley (13). All 39 of the Semipalmated Plovers tallied this year were at Columbia Estuary. Turnstone and Surfbird numbers were generally low, and Rock Sandpipers barely made it onto the state list thanks to Tillamook (cw). Snowy weather led to good counts of Wilson's Snipe at Dallas (351) and Yamhill Valley (168).

As more coastal counts returned to action, a few tubenoses and good numbers of alcids were reported, including a suspected Thick-billed Murre among over 5700 Common Murres offshore of Coquille Valley. Unusual gulls included Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Columbia Estuary and Klamath Falls, and a Glaucous Gull inland at Forest Grove.

Band-tailed Pigeons usually winter south of the area but were found on four Willamette Valley counts with a high count of 15 at Salem. A male Costa's Hummingbird was in Medford. Good counts of Lewis's Woodpeckers came from Tygh Valley (83) and Medford (78). A Red-naped Sapsucker was at Klamath Falls. Williamson's Sapsuckers turned up in Ashland and four counts along the East Cascades slope.

Black Phoebes were found on four counts east of the Cascades, notably Summer Lake and Madras. Say's Phoebes turned up at Tygh Valley (1) and Umatilla County (cw). Even more surprising for the cold interior was an Eastern Phoebe, which survived in Pine Valley into late December by gleaning arthropods from an old building under renovation. A Least Flycatcher was found in Coquille Valley. Only two swallows were found this winter: a Tree Swallow in Medford and a Barn Swallow in Eugene. A Black-billed Magpie at Sauvie Island may have been pushed through the Columbia Gorge by strong easterly winds just before the count on 2 January.

Winter reports of House Wren have traditionally been treated skeptically, but patterns of occurrence may be shifting as this species is increasingly found in northern California and even Nevada. This year two reports with good descriptions came from Medford (1) and Bend (cw). A thrush near John Day suspected to be a Swainson's Thrush was left as Catharus thrush sp. for the regional compilation, as the description did not rule out Gray-cheeked Thrush; either would be extremely rare in Oregon in winter. Unusual winter warblers included Nashville Warblers at Coquille Valley and Port Orford, a MacGillivray's Warbler in Portland, and a Wilson's Warbler in Eugene.

Snow Buntings were found only in Union County (2) and Wallowa County (cw). Lapland Longspurs made it to the opposite corner of the state at Port Orford (7) and Coquille Valley (1). Good counts of American Tree Sparrows included Summer Lake (15) and Union County (14). Five Harris's Sparrows were found statewide, including two in John Day.

A Western Tanager was at Coquille Valley and a Black-headed Grosbeak was at Tillamook Bay.  A female Rusty Blackbird was in Bend.

Union County (218) and Wallowa County (178) accounted for all of the state’s Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches. Common Redpolls irrupted into the state with 264 in Union County, 32 in Tygh Valley, and 27 at Klamath Falls, plus smaller numbers on other counts including Portland and Silverton in the Willamette Valley, and Hart Mountain near the Nevada state line. High numbers of Cassin's Finches were noted east of the Cascades, with a few trickling into the Willamette Valley. Numbers of Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins continued to be strong in west-side forests for the third straight year. Evening Grosbeaks were found in improved numbers, including 66 west of the Cascades in Corvallis.