• Schonchin Butte

    Lava Beds

    National Monument California

Annual Christmas Bird Count

Red-brested Sapsucker

Red-brested Sapsucker

For over a hundred years, birders across the nation have gathered for one full day each winter to complete the Christmas Bird Count, an annual event sponsored by the National Audubon Society. On the day of the count, local groups gather to identify and count every bird they see within an established survey area. The goal is to find as many species as possible and to accurately count those observed. When the results of the count are compiled, they provide valuable information about wintering bird populations.
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.
Juniper Titmouse 3

Juniper Titmouse

Nico E. Ramirez

Here's an account of last year's count highlights from coordinator Keven Spencer:

A low of 15 degrees might have been an omen as three different counting groups were able to see a total of 18 COMMON REDPOLLs. This species is out of the Boreal Forests of Canada, and it rarely makes its way down into the lower 48 states. It has been quite the winter for them in Oregon and California, as they have been widely reported, and some of them were seen on this count; something not done since 1985.

Another rare bird seen was a THAYER'S GULL, although not as rare, and considering all of the frozen water, one BELTED KINGFISHER was a big surprise. The total species count was 97 species, and ties it for 2nd in the more than 30 years of the count. Other interesting species included: a lone Sage Thrasher, interesting because a fire several years ago in the Lava Beds National Monument wiped out the habitat where a few were known to winter, Red-shouldered Hawk-1, which has previously attempted to winter a few other times, seven Short-eared Owls, Red-breasted Sapsucker- 2, both a BLACK PHOEBE, and a Say's Phoebe, Northern Shrike-4, a titmouse sp.-1, a species that has also been unseen on the count since a fire reduced a known wintering habitat, a Hermit Thrush, a NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, and six LAPLAND LONGSPURs.


Sage Thrasher

These bird counts are important because environmental conditions are changing. Documenting these species will allow us to gain knowledge on whether environmental changes are affecting the presence of native bird species in our area.The National Audubon Field Note is the publication of the count and will give the highlights of the Christmas International Bird Count.

The next Tule Lake Christmas Bird Count, which includes areas within Lava Beds National Monument, will be January 5, 2014. 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 closes the day to allow participants to share the Tule Lake birding highlights. To participate, you must register in advance. Contact the count organizer, Kevin Spencer by e-mail at rriparia@charter.net.

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