Christmas Bird Count In Warm Winter Brings Some Surprises

Dec 22, 2017

Pine Grosbeak was one of the species spotted during Bethel's Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on December 17, 2016.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

Ravens were everywhere during the Bethel Christmas Bird Count this month. Some species showed up in smaller numbers than in the past, but there were a couple birds not usually seen in winter. 

An American robin and a golden-crowned sparrow were spotted at John MacDonald's feeder in Hoffman Subdivsion.

Kristine Sowl, a wildlife biologist with the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, says that this is the first time a golden-crowned sparrow was observed in the Christmas Count.

In all, 10 bird species were counted on Sunday, December 17. Nine crews counted from 10:10 a.m. until 5:20 p.m. Besides 724 common ravens, the bird watchers also saw the following: one golden-crowned sparrow, one American robin, two downy woodpeckers, four gray jays, four black-billed magpies, six common redpolls, nine snow buntings, 37 black-capped chickadees, and 86 pine grosbeaks.

Ptarmigan were not counted on the day of the official count, but were spotted during the week.

Sowl says that generally there were fewer birds showing up in bird feeders, causing lower numbers of chickadees, redpolls, and pine grosbeaks in the final tally. She noticed that several feeders on her route during the Christmas Bird Count were empty. She wonders whether the frequent flip-flopping between rain and snow was causing some people to stop putting out bird seed because the seed was freezing into clumps.  

Observers in the Bethel Christmas Bird Count put in over 23 hours of observation in the field, and 6.5 hours at feeders. Observers covered 19 miles on foot, 71 miles by vehicle, and 13 miles by snowmachine.