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The Observer Paper 09/29/14

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Bird counters will try again Sunday

COLORFUL SPECIMEN: Evening grosbeaks will likely be spotted during the 33rd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count Sunday. Photo/JIM WARD
COLORFUL SPECIMEN: Evening grosbeaks will likely be spotted during the 33rd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count Sunday. Photo/JIM WARD
Members of the Grande Ronde Bird Club are determined not to let Old Man Winter get the best of them.

That is why Sunday they will make another gallant attempt to conduct the 33rd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count. The count was originally scheduled for Dec. 21 but had to be canceled because of extremely poor weather.

People interested in participating in Sunday’s bird count should come to the Bobolink, a La Grande birding supply store at 1102 Washington Ave., to pick up a packet of materials for the event.

Birders can also call Trent Bray at the Bobolink, 963-2888, or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it to sign up.

Bray, a member of the Grande Ronde Bird Club, is in charge of the bird count.

People can participate in the count by traveling certain routes and recording what they see, or by observing birds at their feeders and reporting what they saw.

Bray called off the Dec. 21 count after he and other birders spent hours in the early part of the day searching for birds. The birders first went out at midnight trying to hear owl calls but could detect nothing because of stormy weather.

“We couldn’t hear a lick of anything,’’ Bray said.

Later in the morning Bray and other birders tried to travel routes traditionally used during the count but found them  impassable because of snow and ice. This was the major reason the count was called off.

Results from a count conducted in such conditions would not have provided a fair representation to compare with previous counts, Bray said. Earlier counts were not conducted in such harsh conditions.

Bray said this is believed to be the first time the Union County count was called off because of poor weather.

The Christmas Bird Count is an international event conducted for more than a century by the National Audubon Society. Count results are sent to the society, which tabulates and publishes them. Jan. 5 is the last day a Christmas Bird Count can be conducted.

Sunday’s count will again be centered at the La Grande Airport. The same area has been used throughout the count’s history. The area has a 15-mile diameter and a radius of 177 square miles.

Bray urges people to be extremely cautious when driving during the count. He said people will be tempted to stop their vehicles quickly when they spot a bird but should always avoid doing so. Bray expects to have 20 to 22 people participate in the count.

Twenty-one people participated in last year’s count, conducted Dec. 15, 2007. These birders counted a total of 13,510 birds. Topping the list were mallards, of which 6,042 were counted. Starlings were second at 3,364, followed by dark-eyed juncoes, 566, California quail, 437, and great-crowned rosy finches, 300.

Seventy-six species were spotted. The total tied the all-time record first set in 2004 and tied in 2005.

Sunday’s count will be conducted in memory of Doug Eustace, who died Oct. 25 at age 87. A retired La Grande dentist, Eustace helped found the Grande Ronde Bird Club and start the Union County Christmas Bird Count.

 

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