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ROBINS RULE IN WALLOWA COUNTY BIRD COUNT

Around when it counts: The large number of robins probably reflects the fact that Northeast Oregon had a mild fall, said Joe Minato of Joseph, the count's compiler. (Jim Ward photo).
Around when it counts: The large number of robins probably reflects the fact that Northeast Oregon had a mild fall, said Joe Minato of Joseph, the count's compiler. (Jim Ward photo).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Bobby Day's 1958 hit "Rockin' Robin'' could have been the theme song of the 27th annual Wallowa County Christmas Bird Count.

American robins rocked the count's record book the way Day's hit record rattled the music charts in 1958. A total of 576 robins were spotted, more than double the old record of 267.

The large number of robins probably reflects the fact that Northeast Oregon had a mild fall, said Joe Minato of Joseph, the count's compiler. Many common birds which like gardens and parks stayed around longer as a result of the mild conditions.

Records for four other species were also set at the count. Participants spotted:

• 30 California gulls, breaking the old record of 26;

• eight white-breasted nuthatches, four more than the old record;

• 99 song sparrows, topping the old record of 91;

• 47 Townsend's solitaires, eight more than the old record.

Bohemian waxwings were also a hot item during the Wallowa County Christmas Bird Count.

A total of 1,361 Bohemian waxwings were spotted during the count, the most of any species. The majority were seen in the Joseph area, where 800 were seen near the rodeo grounds. The Bohemian waxwing total fell short of the count record of 1,388.

Starlings were the second most populous bird with 1,184 spotted. The total was short of the record of 2,016.

Seventy-five species were spotted during the count. The Dec. 15 count saw 6,273 birds.

The total included 18 bald eagles, the second most in count history. The record is 29, set in 2001.

Thirty-five people, divided into 16 groups, participated in the count. Those participating ranged from in age from 4 1/2 to about 70.

Minato noted that the count was conducted during a calm day following a large windstorm. He said that birds may have been easier to spot as a result. During storms birds stay under cover and do not feed very much. Following a storm they may be hungrier and thus more active and easier to see.

Wallowa County's count area — between Joseph and Enterprise — has a 15-mile diameter involving 177 square miles. It takes in Enterprise, Joseph, Wallowa Lake, Zumwalt Prairie, Little Sheep Creek and other sites. The area was selected because of its diversity of habitat. The same area has been used since the count started.

This is the 103rd anniversary of the original Christmas Bird Count. Each Canadian province, every American state and many South American and South Pacific countries have organizations participating.

In North America there are about 2,000 count sites, with 50,000 people participating each year.

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