Putah Creek Christmas Bird Count 2021 Summary

Bart Wickel

The 51st Putah Creek Christmas Bird Count was held on December 19, 2021. Area leaders sought to cover all usual routes with teams of experienced birders accompanied by new or less experienced birders. While the count was open to the public we adhered to a modified protocol due to covid recommendations, which limited this resulted in lower participation than in pre-covid years with 73 participants compared to the usual average of 85.

The count was successful in covering all the usual routes with a combined 187 party hours during which we collectively traveled 110 miles on foot and 209 miles by car. Conditions were colder than usual and foggy, especially in the early hours of the day.

A new eBird feature that was introduced this year was the trip-report function. This allows the creation of a summary of all lists for a particular day, which turned out to be particularly helpful for a Christmas Bird Count. While not all of the observations this year were covered, we managed to get close to the count totals for most species. The day report can be found at: https://ebird.org/tripreport/26130

During this year’s count we observed 138 species which is typical for this count circle. We observed unusually high numbers of waterfowl and gulls, likely due to these foggy conditions. In contrast to previous years, owl-counts were low.

Among water fowl record high-counts were observed for: Snow Goose (826), Greater White-fronted Goose (693), Green-winged Teal (449), Common Merganser (357), Lesser Scaup (25), and a first observation of a mute Swan on Putah Creek.

Among gulls we observed record high counts for: California Gull (316), Herring Gull (54) as well as a first observation of two Glaucous-winged Gulls in two distinct locations.

Multi-year trends of increasing numbers of insectivores and fructivores, correlated with warmer winters and a lack of overnight freezes, seem to persist with continued high counts for Western Bluebird, Anna’s Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Sora and Virginia Rail.

A record number of Common Raven (679) was also observed. Along Putah Creek at the fishing accesses a record number of 5 Pacific Wrens were counted.

The impacts of the LNU Lightning Complex megafire in August 2020, which burned approximately 60% of the count circle, are clearly marked by sustained low numbers of American Robin, Wild Turkey, Wrentits, Canyon Wrens and an all-out absence of Pileated Woodpeckers.

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 traditional potluck.

Bart Wickel
Davis, CA