Bird Notes - Winter 2004-05
by Jim Rogers
Terry Wahl spotted a Clay-colored Sparrow on the family ranch in the Elk River estuary in late November. This bird of the prairies winters in Mexico, but we do see an occasional one or several in Curry County nearly every year. As reported in the previous Bird Notes, one visited Lois Millerís feeder in late September. Terry Wahl again saw one on the ranch on 1/16. Phil Hicks in Brookings has one at his feeder now (1/25) that has been visiting his place for the past 3 weeks.
Lois Miller found 3 Rock Wrens in the rocks at the Port of Port Orford on December 22. Rock Wrens nest in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in eastern Curry County and Iíve seen them on several occasions nesting in new clearcuts on the west side, but to see them hanging out at the dock in the winter is extremely unusual. However a few do winter near the coast in Northern California and with global warming perhaps a few will winter up into our neck of the woods.
Don Munson notes that several Turkey Vultures have been seen in the Winchuck during the past month (i.e. late December). Phil Hicks saw 6 in the Winchuck on 1/22. Itís possible that a few winter a short distance south of the border and drift up into Curry County on nice days. With increased global warming will they eventually become common wintering birds in Curry County? Terry Wahl reported seeing them on the lower Elk on 1/1, 1/8, and 1/16.
Terry also reported 25 Barn Swallows checking out the ranch on 1/8!
The Port Orford Christmas Bird Count on December 26 occurred on a very pleasant day after a storm the previous day. We found 143 species, two short of our record 145 established in 2002. Among the more noteworthy sightings:
A total of 23 Red-shouldered Hawks was far more than weíve seen before. The fIrst year they were seen on the P.O. CBC was 1981. Prior to that one had to go to Pistol River to hopefully see the furthest north Red-shouldered. Yet another sign of global warming no doubt.
The same is true of Black Phoebes. We saw a total of 50 of these flycatchers that were rarely seen north of the Winchuck a couple of decades ago.
Eight Barn Swallows in the Floras Lake area was our first CBC record for this summer resident.
One of the Rock Wrens as noted above stayed for the CBC.
A Townsendís Solitaire up Sixes River was a first. They nest in Curry County but winter east of the Cascades.
An amazing total of 22 Palm Warblers was one less than we found a couple of years ago. It used to be a very rare bird in Curry County. They normally winter in the southeastern United States but the increasingly warm South Oregon coast appears to be coming choice real estate for them.
Alas, there were 0 Harlequin Ducks. In earlier counts we usually had 15 or 20 around the rocky headlands. There are still a few wintering in Curry County, but very few. I donít know what has happened to them.
On January 7 I went into the hardware store in Port Orford and Lois Miller told me that Al Affonso had stopped by to report a Horned Puffin on the dock beach. Having never seen a Horned Puffin in my life (they breed on the coast of the Arctic Ocean and are rarely seen south of the central British Columbia coast) I quickly headed for the dock beach. From the upper parking area I scanned the beach in vain for the puffin. There was nothing on the beach except a lone raven eating something. I continued to search then went back to the raven and noticed that its meal was still moving. Then it dawned on me - the puffin! I drove down the dock road at 80 mph, parked and ran toward the raven as fast as I could. It flew off about 100 feet and sure enough there was the Homed Puffin. It appeared to be o.k. just exhausted. Lois came and photographed it, then we put it in a box cushioned in colored tissue paper and I rushed it up to Free Flight Bird Rehabilitation in Bandon. Dan Deuel expertly checked the bird for injuries and then fed it a little mashed anchovy that it wolfed down. The bird had very little body fat and hadnít the strength to lift its wings. Theyíll feed it through the winter until it builds up its strength then release it from a boat at sea. Free Flight is an organization that fulfills a very important role. No itís not the saving of one out of tens of thousands of Horned Puffins, itís the relief a person feels when theyíve delivered a bird in distress to competent caretakers who will take the responsibility off their shoulders. This is of inestimable value to us and we should in turn help Free Flight with our donations.
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society
P.O. Box 1265
Port Orford, OR 97465