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A great blue heron flies over Spanish Creek during the American Valley bird count Dec. 14. This species was one of 83 the Plumas Audubon Society counted in the area that day.
The Plumas Audubon Society participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count between Dec. 14 and 16. The Plumas chapter held counts in American Valley, Sierra Valley and the Lake Almanor Basin.
This year’s count marks the sixth year the local chapter conducted counts, but the 114th year for the national organization. The tradition, founded to better understand the migrational habits of birds, dates back to 1900.
Since birds travel extensively, the Audubon Society realized that studying their migrational habits was a good way to gauge the condition of the earth. Birds act as the earth’s barometer. Changes in migration can mean changes in the environment.
The American Valley count was headed up by Darrel Jury and held Dec. 14. Last year 89 species were spotted during the count, and this year the number fell a few short at 83. During the count, Colin Dillingham spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a medium-sized woodpecker. This was the first time a yellow-bellied sapsucker was recorded in Plumas County.
The group found a few species that were new to the annual count as well. A Lewis’ woodpecker and four red crossbills were spotted.
The next day Dillingham headed up the Sierra Valley count with 13 other birders. The team of avid birdwatchers spotted 64 species that Sunday. According to Dillingham, this year’s particularly cold and icy water meant fewer waterfowl were in the area.
The counting team spotted only two Canada geese and five mallards. There were, however, a multitude of Cassin’s finches spotted.
The final day of the area’s bird count, Dec. 16, a team of eight headed up by Ryan Burnett scoured the Almanor Basin. The group found 78 species, around the average of what it normally finds in the area.
The area contained fewer small birds than average for mid-December, however. Dillingham suggested it was because the weather in the area was so much colder than it normally is this time of year. Normally the area has multiple warblers, but this year the group didn’t spot a single one.
The society did find a few rare birds around the Basin during the count. The mew gull was the rarest bird the birders spotted. The group also spotted a pileated woodpecker and a northern pygmy owl.
Membership to the Plumas Audubon Society is always open and the chapter is always happy to meet fellow birders. Those interested in joining the society can contact Darla DeRuiter at 283-2939.
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