Point Reyes alluring as ever, Christmas bird count shows

01/16/2014

Avian enthusiasts spotted more birds during the annual Christmas count last month than in 2012, organizers
report. The event, part of the Audubon Society’s census of birds in North America, took place at 27 separate sites in Point Reyes National Seashore, including birding hotspots like Abbotts Lagoon and Home Ranch. 

Participants counted over 120,000 specimens, a jump from the just over 100,000 seen last year, including 200 different species, also a few more than last year. 

“We were a little surprised. We thought there were fewer birds,” said Tom Gaman, referring to his and others’ gut feeling about the count before the numbers were finalized. 

Several rarer birds, including the shearwater manx, red-breasted sapsucker and yellow warbler, were spotted by participants this year. 

“We also saw Say’s phoebes, a beautiful bird often all by itself sitting on a branch somewhere, with a beautiful orangey-pinky crest. It’s just a wonderful bird,” Mr. Gaman said. He noted a big bump in the number of birds observed around the Giacomini Wetlands in the years since the restoration took place, and said birders are counting more snowy plovers, an endangered shorebird the park has worked to protect. 

An absence of oystercatchers last month came as a surprise, however; participants typically catch sight of one or two dozen at the count. Mr. Gaman hypothesized that the birds might have been somewhere remote that day. 

Though counts from other sites around the country have not yet been finalized this year, in 2012 Point Reyes ranked tenth out of well over 1,000 sites in the United States for the number of species counted. 

The seashore says the park has one of the greatest avian diversities among national parks—in part because the peninsula juts out into the water, creating an alluring stopover point.