The 50th Putah Creek Christmas Bird Count was
held on December 20, 2020 under strict Covid protocol. Area leaders sought to
cover all usual routes with teams of one to two local experienced birders only.
Thus, the count was essentially closed to the public. No carpooling was allowed
and social distancing was required.
Clear and calm weather made for a long and enjoyable counting
day, ultimately tallying 143 species.
As expected, the total number of participants was low, only
55 compared to the usual 85. The count was successful in covering all the usual
routes, as evidenced by 206 party hours, the third highest total ever. This
high number was largely driven by an extraordinary effort in Area 6, whose 38
party hours eclipsed the historical average of 13.
We traveled 121 miles on foot, a record high, and 171 miles
by car. The early hours were marked by 16.4
hours of owling, also a record high.
There was one new species found on the count: a Black-throated
Sparrow that was known to be over-wintering at a private residence in Area 4 (Yolo County).
Record high counts were set for seven species. These were: Virginia Rail (7), Great-horned
Owl (95), Anna's Hummingbird (262), Black Phoebe (252), Common Raven (450), White-breasted
Nuthatch (236), and White-crowned Sparrow (3,011).
Many of the record high counts continue increasing trends
among insectivores and fructivores, correlated with warmer winters and a lack
of overnight freezes. Yellow-billed Magpies rebounded to their highest total
since 2011, though still below pre-West Nile Virus numbers, especially when
adjusted for party hours.
For the second year in a row, the only all-time low record
was for Brewer's Blackbird (370).
Thanks to all the area leaders for assembling thorough coverage
under pandemic conditions. We hope next year we can invite all birders and birders-to-be
and finish the day with the comradery of a potluck.