Author :
R.L. (Buzz) Scher
Category :

The 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Alaska

 Audubon > News Read More 

This past winter 38 counts were completed in the Alaska Region, which produced 144 species (plus 10 others during count weeks, cw), 118,778 individual birds, and involved 1033 participants (field and feeders). Excluding the number of counts all other of these metrics represent huge increases from the 121st CBC cycle; although also all still slightly below the proceeding five-year running averages. No ‘new’ species were added to the State CBC list; although about one-quarter (36) of the total count day plus count week species were only found on one of the counts (*, see below), while at the other extreme Bald Eagle and Common Raven were the only species found on at least three-quarters of the total counts, and six species (Northern Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak, and Common Redpoll) were found on at least one count in each of the State’s five geographic-climate subregions (described below).

Considering the region in closer detail, 13 counts were conducted in the southeast ‘panhandle’, where the early winter climate is generally characterized by mild but often very wet maritime conditions. These counts tallied 104 count day (relatively low) plus five other count week species, 42,590 individual birds, and involved 249 total participants. Sitka again produced the most count day species (65), Glacier Bay the most count week species (12, State high), Mitkof Island the most individual birds (8952), and Haines involved the most participants (37). Noteworthy species for this subregion included Cackling Goose* at Juneau, Wood Duck* (3) at Sitka, Sooty Grouse* (cw) at Glacier Bay, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel* (cw) at Sitka, Brandt’s Cormorant* at Ketchikan, American Coot* and Sandhill Crane* at Sitka, Short-eared Owl (cw) at Glacier Bay, Spotted Towhee* (cw; casual in Alaska) at Juneau, Red-winged Blackbird* at Glacier Bay, Brewer’s Blackbird* (casual in Alaska) at Ketchikan, and a House Sparrow* (casual in Alaska) at Skagway. Additionally, single Bramblings were found on five counts, two during cw (Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Mitkof Island, Sitka and Skagway).

Nine counts were conducted in the south-coastal subregion, which extends from the western Gulf of Alaska across the Cook Inlet-Kenai Peninsula to Kodiak Island, where relatively ‘mild’ winter climate conditions typically prevail. These counts, with their 420 total participants, tallied 117 count day plus five count week species, and 58,691 (very low) individual birds. Kodiak reported the most species (79, highest for the State), while Anchorage had the most individual birds (12,223) and total participants (154) (both highest for the State). Highlights for this subregion included a Northern Shoveler* at Kodiak, Canvasback* (cw) at Homer, Sharp-tailed Grouse at MatSu Valley, Northern Harrier* and Rough-legged Hawk at Homer, at Kodiak Ancient Murrelet*, Crested Auklet* (9), Tufted Puffin* and Horned Puffin [only the fourth time both puffins were seen on the same Alaska CBC – all at Kodiak], Western Screech-Owl* (cw) at Cordova, Great Gray Owl* (cw) MatSu Valley, Short-eared Owl (cw) at Homer, Rufous Hummingbird* at Kodiak [only third time on any Alaska CBC – previous two were in the southeast subregion], Black-backed Woodpecker* at Soldotna, Gyrfalcon* at Anchorage, Cedar Waxwing at both Homer (2) and Kodiak (cw), Mountain Bluebird* (2) at Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay, White-throated Sparrow at Anchorage, and Brambling at both Homer (cw) and Kodiak.

Ten counts were completed in the interior subregion, which covers the vast majority of Alaska and is characterized by drier and more extreme cold winter conditions. The total counts involved 283 hardy participants who tallied 30 count day plus two other count week species, and a respectable 8177 individual birds. Fairbanks again topped all others with most species (26), individual birds (6978), and participants (149). Highlights for this subregion included a Boreal Owl* at Trapper Creek-Talkeetna, Sharp-tailed Grouse (cw) at Fairbanks; and new subregion high counts all set at Fairbanks for Red-breasted Nuthatch (61), American Robin (10), and Pine Grosbeak (853).

Three counts were completed in the western subregion of the State, which shares similar but slightly milder winter temperatures with the interior conditions. These counts produced a total of 20 count day plus four count week species, a low 741 individual birds, and involved 50 participants. Shageluk reported the most species (13), while Nome tallied the most individual birds (359) and involved the most participants (23). Most notable species for the subregion included King Eider (cw), Spectacled Eider*, Glaucous Gull*, and a most remarkable Red-tailed Hawk* all at Nome, and Hoary Redpoll* (3) at Shageluk.

Wrapping up our review of the State, three counts were completed in the southwest subregion – characterized by wet and very windy maritime conditions. On these counts, 31 participants tallied 57 count day plus 11 other count week species, and 8579 individual birds. Unalaska took all the honors with the most species (39), individual birds (4432), and participation (21). Highlights for this subregion included Barrow’s Goldeneye, Smew*, Arctic Loon*, Laysan Albatross* (47), Northern Fulmar* (2), Thick-billed Murre*, and Rough-legged Hawk (cw) all at Shemya Island, a very surprising European Starling (cw) at King Salmon-Naknek, and at Unalaska Horned Puffin and incredibly Orange-crowned Warbler* and Townsend’s Warbler* [the only warblers found in the State during the count cycle!]. New subregion high counts were also set for Trumpeter Swan (31) at King Salmon-Naknek, and Black Oystercatcher (119) at Unalaska.

Finally, Rich MacIntosh, who has participated in virtually every Kodiak CBC since 1973 (and continues to do so) stepped away from his compiling role, after nearly 40 years! Rich served as co-compiler with Bill Donaldson for most years from 1980 through 1998, and then went solo to 2022 (although I doubt he would have lasted that long had not for the help of Molly) – Good luck to Bill Pyle who has taken Rich’s place.



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