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The Observer paper 11/21/14

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Union County Christmas Bird Count yields 13,510 sightings; 7 records set

EUROPEAN STARLING: Starlings, numbering 3,364, were viewed during the Dec. 15 count. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photos/LEE KARNEY
EUROPEAN STARLING: Starlings, numbering 3,364, were viewed during the Dec. 15 count. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photos/LEE KARNEY
Soon it will be official in the eyes of the National Audubon Society.

The Union County birding record book will be rewritten.

The reason? The success of the 32nd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count, the results of which be submitted to the National Audubon Society next week.

Seven records were set and one tied during the count.

In the records shattered category, a total of 3,364 European starlings were spotted, 463 more than the previous high set in 1995.

The record for Buick’s wrens also took flight as nine were counted, breaking the old mark of three in 2005. Another mark was set when 93 northern harriers were recorded, breaking the previous record of 76 established in 2003.

In the raptor category, a record was set when four Cooper’s hawks were seen, topping the old record of three set in 1986.

Three other marks were set when birds were spotted for the first time during the Union County count:

• a common yellowthroat was seen.

• two Lincoln sparrows were seen at a feeder. The bird is an uncommon sight in the east side of the state during the winter and late fall, according to Trent Bray, compiler of the Union County Christmas Bird Count.

• one snow bunting was spotted alone in High Valley. Seeing a snow bunting alone is quite rare. Normally they are in large flocks or with horned larks, Bray said.

“To see one alone is totally weird,’’ said Bray, owner of the Bobolink, a La Grande birding supply store.

The snow bunting was one of 76 species spotted during the count. The total tied the all-time record first set in 2004 and tied in 2005.

Cooper’s Hawk: Four Cooper’s hawks were seen during the 32nd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photos/LEE KARNEY
Cooper’s Hawk: Four Cooper’s hawks were seen during the 32nd annual Union County Christmas Bird Count. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photos/LEE KARNEY
A total of 13,510 birds were sighted during the count. 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.

The sightings of the common yellowthroat, a neotropical bird, and the snow bunting, an Arctic bird, were quite noteworthy. Bray, one of the counters, said few inland Christmas Bird Counts this far north have two such species from such diverse climates.

The count was conducted on a day not ideal for birding. Snow flurries and high winds hindered counters. Bray said that the number of birds spotted is a credit to the hard work of counters and their knowledge of birds and the the count area.

The count area is centered in Union. The same area has been used throughout the count’s history. The area has a 15-mile diameter.

The count, conducted Dec. 15, had 21 participants, most of whom counted as members of parties. A total of 63.25 hours were spent by parties counting.

The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, a worldwide event, has been conducted for 105 years. Information from all counts is sent to the National Audubon Society, which puts out an annual summary.

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