Article

Christmas Bird Count: Shrike 1, No Owls

Santa Cruz birding, Christmas Bird Count, Santa Cruz Bird Club

by Traci Hukill

Dec. 17, 2013—News from this year's Christmas Bird Count in Santa Cruz County was mixed, as it probably is every year. The number of bird species spotted was up, as was the number of humans counting them. But 11 of the species one would expect to see in these parts went missing this year, including the marbled murrelet and osprey. And of the two species of greatest concern locally, the burrowing owl was absent ("a sad portent," wrote count organizer Eric Feuss), while a lone loggerhead shrike obliged counters at Wilder Ranch State Park with a peek at its striking good looks.

Feuss tells us the day's birders counted 157 species from the "Santa Cruz count list"—call them "usual suspect" birds—plus 17 surprises, for a total of 174 species. That's up from the 162 id'd last year by 62 dedicated birders, whose ranks swelled this time around to 78. Has birding become all the rage? Is it the latest fashion? Oh dear, we do hope so! Wouldn't it be grand?

Read Birding Season: The 2013 Christmas Bird Count
Read Carbon Offsets for Birding?
Read Birding Student, Birding Teacher: Todd Newberry

As for what neighborhood gets bragging rights about the greatest number of exotic species, five of the 17 "off-list" species were spotted along the Lower San Lorenzo River. These visitors are the ones that put the "Christmas" in "Christmas Bird Count" for hardcore birders. Folks who attended the Dec. 6 Coastal Watershed Council-Santa Cruz Bird Club bird walk along the river may remember seeing some of them: a cackling goose, a greater white-fronted goose and a hermit warbler, feathered in understated taupe but quite lovely nonetheless. Another five showed up at Wilder Ranch, including a yellow warbler and a palm warbler. Some 43 Cassin's auklets were spotted by boat, likely enticed closer to shore than normal by the large number of anchovies in Monterey Bay this year. And a long-eared owl made an appearance near Empire Grade Road and Alba Road, not far from the Cemex property.

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