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June 2, 2023

Rarities spotted in Christmas Bird Count

CENTRAL COAST—Dozens of volunteers counted 206 species of birds during the annual Christmas Bird Count, which despite its name took place on New Year’s Day here in Monterey Bay and in locations throughout the U.S.

The numbers will be fused in with the Audubon Society’s database, which pools bird counts from across the country.

Rarities spotted during the day included four Lewis woodpeckers, two long-tailed ducks,  Tropical Kingbirds, a Eurasian/American Wigeon (hybrid) and a Prairie Falcon, said Kat Bailey of Elkhorn Slough Safari. 

“Participation was down this year due to ongoing concerns about Covid-19, and perhaps because we took a year off in 2020,” Bailey said. 

Watsonville birders Sam Earnshaw and Jo Ann Baumgartner joined Bob and Chris Johnson-Lyons in one team of counters. Their stops included Thompson and Carlton roads, Tynan Lake, Cutter Road, a section of Highway 152, and Carlton Road.

Earnshaw and Baumgartner said this year marked their fourth bird count.

“We visited a number of habitats and with those habitats, we saw so many different kinds of birds,” Baumgartner said. “We’re so lucky here in Watsonville; the birdlife is so rich.”

Earnshaw said their day started around 5:30am.

“We started out just listening for owls and we did hear a few,” he said. “From the grasslands to redwood forests, area foothills and wetlands, it was quite a day. And it was good to be with friends and out in nature. We are in a very special place.”

The overall count also included red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, bald and golden eagles, scores of shorebirds, great horned owls, barn owls, burrowing owls, and a northern saw-whet owl, egrets, herons and many more.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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