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Four new species observed in Homer’s annual bird count

A Siberian accentor was observed during the Homer's Christmas Bird Count for the first time...
A Siberian accentor was observed during the Homer's Christmas Bird Count for the first time this winter.(Martin Renner)
Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 7:34 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A citizen science project spanning more than a century has found four new species in Homer during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

Seventy-nine species were spotted by 31 volunteers on Dec. 19. Of those, four had never been seen during the Christmas count.

“Birds are one of the most visual wildlife types in our world. So we can see birds and we can monitor their numbers and how they react to changes in the environment, and that’s sort of one of the main things is to track the population and how it changes over time,” Dave Erikson, Homer Christmas Bird Count compiler said.

Of the four new species, two were observed for the first time in Homer at any point in the year and the other two have been seen in the summer but typically have not overwintered in Homer. The two new birds were a Siberian accentor and red-throated pipit. A Swainson’s thrush and yellow-rumped warbler were the birds commonly seen in other months but never before seen on a Christmas Bird Count.

Erikson says there are several interesting trends that the data collected over the years shows.

“Some of the species are down. We have a couple of species of sea duck that we used to have hundreds of them along the Homer Spit, and now they’re down to a little bit more than a dozen. So that’s a little bit concerning,” Erikson said. “The increase in robins that over-winter in the Homer area has been one of the more dramatic things that has happened ... 40 years ago we didn’t have robins overwintering in the Homer area.”

Erikson says several things contribute to the increase in some species. Planting some berry-producing trees like mayday and mountain ash help support larger populations of birds like Bohemian waxwings, robins and other species as the trees mature.

“We’re all very concerned on what’s happening in the world as far as climate change and its effect on wildlife, in particular birds. And we have to pay closer and closer attention to what’s happening in the natural world and try to see if there’s things that we can do to mitigate some of that change,” Erikson said. “Monitoring year after year I think is crucial to being able to determine what’s happening with bird populations.”

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