Annual Christmas Bird Count
Join us for the next Tule Lake Christmas Bird Count, which includes areas within Lava Beds National Monument, on Sunday, January 4, 2015. To attend the full-day event, bring binoculars, a field guide, lunch, water, plenty of warm cloths, and sturdy shoes. Plan to be outside all day, from dawn to dusk. An annual compilation potluck dinner in the town of Tulelake completes the day and allows participants to share good food and birding highlights. To participate, you must register in advance. Contact the count organizer, Kevin Spencer by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tule Lake count began in 1979 and usually draws about a dozen participants consisting of local biologists, park staff and community members who have a keen interest in birds. The designated survey area includes the northern portion of Lava Beds National Monument.
Here's an account of last year's count highlights from coordinator Kevin Spencer:
Twenty-one participants conducted the count, which included the following notable sightings: three Red-shouldered Hawks, one very brave Black Phoebe (due to the very cold temperatures!), 28 Pinyon Jays in the Lava Beds NM area, one Eurasian Wigeon (scoped out of the dense waterfowl group on Sump 1B), at least 3 Wood Ducks (amazing!), about 12,000 American Wigeon, and 12,000 blackbirds (including 10,000 Red-winged Blackbirds and 1,800 Brewers Blackbirds), 538 White-crowned Sparrows, and the last bird, a Short-eared Owl!
Both Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes were very good to see. The lack of Horned Larks, and absence of Lapland Longspur was disappointing. The lack of trees in the southern portion of the count circle, which happened as a result of the 2008 Jack Fire in Lava Beds NM, really showed its impact on this count in recent years as forest species were not detected.
In looking at total numbers, 80% of the birds on the count consisted of three species: American Wigeon, Red-winged Blackbird, and Brewer's Blackbird. Those were contained mostly in one very crowded hole in the ice on the Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge in Sump 1B, and in dense balls of mesmerizing murmurations. The other 20% were scattered loosely and sometimes singly over the rest of the circle.
Those are some amazing statistics! All the participants enjoyed the beautifully sunny, but cold, count conditions, and learned something about winter bird populations in the lower Klamath Basin.