The 34th annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count was held December 19, 2015, a nearly windless though chilly day, clear in the morning and overcast in the afternoon with temperatures ranging from 11°F to 45°F.
An excellent turnout of 61 birders in 12 teams tallied 101 species with a total of 12,310 individual birds. Overall bird numbers and diversity were average, with many teams reporting fewer birds than in recent years. Most open water was frozen, so waterfowl numbers were slim. No geese were encountered of any species.
A good selection of rarities were found, notably a male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD which was new to the Bishop CBC. Yellow-headed Blackbirds typically vacate the Owens Valley for warmer climes in winter and return in late-March and early-April. This bird was photographed at a ranch south of Bishop.
Also rare in December, three male CINNAMON TEAL were observed during count week at Pleasant Valley Reservoir. Cinnamon Teal are typically absent from the Owens Valley mid-winter but return late-January as one of our first ‘spring’ migrants.
A LEAST SANDPIPER was found on count day, also at Pleasant Valley Reservoir. One team was lucky enough to find a BURROWING OWL beside an earthen burrow north of Bishop.
Two teams photographed YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS, an immature bird in West Bishop and an adult male at the Golf Course. A silent PACIFIC WREN (a recent split from Winter Wren) was found in west Bishop. Two teams found single LARK SPARROWS. A rare “PINK-SIDED” race Dark-eyed Junco was well-documented at the East Line Street Cemetery.
Only a few new high counts were established this year (2015 count/previous high count): CANVASBACK (16/9), RING-NECKED DUCK (237/162), ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD (16/11), BLACK PHOEBE (52/48), RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (13/7), CEDAR WAXWING (230/206), AND LINCOLN’S SPARROW (53/48).
TRENDS – Here’s how 2015 compares with the past thirty-three Bishop CBCs:
- In 2015, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE numbers were the second-lowest in the history of the Bishop CBC with only 42 birds encountered. In the late 1990’s through 2005, tallies over 150 were common.
- GEESE – 2015 was one of six Bishop CBCs when no geese were found, though one Snow Goose was seen flying over the golf course during count week this year.
- In the 1980’s, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK tallies were frequently above ten or even up to twenty-one! In the past decade, we’re lucky to find one. In 2015, we missed entirely.
- EURASIAN-COLLARED DOVES were first encountered on the Bishop CBC in 2004 and are now ubiquitous.
- Between 1982 and 2002 no ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS were encountered on the Bishop CBC. Since then, numbers have increased nearly every year, reaching the maxima this year of sixteen Anna’s encountered by seven teams.
- WESTERN BLUEBIRD numbers have spiked in the past decade with 42 individuals tallied this year. MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD numbers appear stable, though they were missed entirely this year.
Many thanks to all the talented and generous people who contribute to the Bishop CBC!
The 2016 Bishop CBC on Saturday, December 17, 2016.
Bishop CBC Compiler