The 72nd Eugene Christmas Bird Count (ECBC) took place on Sunday, December 29, 2013, when 139 enthusiastic bird-watchers went looking for birds. Another 99 reported birds seen at their homes to Herb Wisner, Feeder Watcher Coordinator. Birders in the field and those at home recorded a combined total of 133 species, which is the average number of species seen on the past six ECBCs.
A Cooper’s Hawk regularly visits the bird-feeder area on our property in the southwest hills of Eugene. The raised bird feeders are in a deer-fenced 20' x 20' space filled with plants and flowers and surrounded by trees. In our effort to provide suitable habitat for songbirds, we have attracted the resident predator of birds.
Each fall, I anticipate the arrival of the first White-throated Sparrow at our feeder. We usually see only one or two individuals that stay from November to March or April. Then they leave, presumably to fly north to find breeding territory along the west coast or interior of Canada—or as the biologists say, to achieve their biological potential. When the sparrows arrive for the winter, I always wonder where they have been since last spring. Did they find a mate and adequate habitat to breed successfully? Why do we never see more of them? Are they the same birds that appeared last year at the feeder? Always mysteries without answers.
One reason I love spending time in my garden is just to be outdoors. Gardening is a great excuse to be in the yard and watch birds at the same time. If I had not been checking the fruit trees the morning of August 31, I would not have seen the dark bird in the lower field sallying out from the bird boxes and flying back to perch, catching insects. It gradually made its way from box to box, up toward my garden area. I grabbed the binoculars (I keep them nearby) and saw it was a Black Phoebe! This was the first sighting for the species on our property, and it made my morning! Its plumage was not the bright black of an adult, so I assume it was a first-year bird exploring the area. It spent about 15 minutes in my view, then flew up and over some trees to the north.