At the end of 2023 on December 30th, Point Blue and TomKat conducted a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) at TomKat Ranch for the 7th year since 2015.
Annual Christmas Bird Count
By: Wendy Millet and Sophie Noda (Point Blue)
At the end of 2023 on December 30th, Point Blue and TomKat conducted a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) at TomKat Ranch for the 7th year since 2015. What is Christmas Bird Count, you ask? Dating back to 1900, Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running community science bird project in North America. Begun by the National Audubon Society as a celebration of birds, the data have grown to teach us all sorts of things about the evolutionary and ecological response birds have to changing weather patterns and habitat loss (a few examples here, here and here).
You can learn more about Christmas Bird Counts, past and present, on Audubon’s website. TomKat’s CBC data is compiled with other units in the Pescadero/Año Nuevo area. The Año Nuevo Count, which encompasses the coast to the redwoods at Big Basin and Sam McDonald State Parks, began in 1972 and ranks consistently in the top 50 counts in the country.
For those who join Point Blue & TomKat staff each year for this fun event, we count birds rain or shine! It’s been really wet the last couple of years so participants are encouraged to bring an extra pair of dry socks, a sunny attitude, and their binoculars of course!
This year’s bird counters, TomKat Ranch Director Wendy Millet and Point Blue ecologist Sophie Noda, observed 40 species on the ranch, with the highest abundances of California Quail (102), Dark-eyed Juncos (57), Golden-crowned Sparrows (55), and American Robin (45). Even though it was a day with patchy rain, large flocks of birds were seen on the ranch roads and in pastures where vibrant green grass is just starting to grow. Birds often form large flocks in winter in order to be safer from predators while they forage. While nationwide and worldwide CBC data has been used to understand long-term and widespread population trends, and serves as a useful wintering bird census on a local scale, deducing ranch-scale trends from this data is challenging since winter conditions can vary widely on a single day.
How do the numbers rank this year?
- The 2023 totals: 40 species of birds, 518 individuals
- The 2022 totals: 27 species, 215 individuals
- Compared to this year and prior years, 2022’s numbers look low but that may be in large part because storms shut many roads to the coast preventing enthusiast birders from making it out to participate in the count.
- Compared to 2020, the numbers this year were pretty similar, though we missed a few species including Ferruginous Hawk, Acorn Woodpeckers, Band-tailed Pigeons, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and Savannah Sparrows.
We appreciate the chance to participate and contribute to this important annual event. Christmas Bird Count engages citizen scientists in understanding our feathered friends better including how we might be impacting their habitat, hopefully for the better!