Birders flocked to Clackamas County Saturday morning for the 88th-annual Audubon Society of Portland Christmas Bird Count.
Nearly 60 participants met at the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, where leader Dan Strong, a Gladstone resident, walked them through the process, and then helped people divide into groups.
Strong took his group to a pond just off of Southeast King Road and then to the Three-Creeks Natural Area; Jeff Dillon and his group went to spots in central Milwaukie; and Dennis Wolffs group took in west Milwaukie and the waterfront area.
The pond was a hotspot for waterbirds, first thing in the morning, and Strong pointed out the two Gs geese and gulls, along with hooded and common mergansers, striking black and white buffleheads, coots, colorful shovelers, scaups, a pied-billed grebe and a ring-necked duck.
Shovelers have spoon-shaped bills, which they use to filter up food from the water; they are not diving ducks, like the mergansers, Strong said. You can tell a lot about a birds by the way they feed.
After listening to Strong explain other avian characteristics, Marsha Robideau, one of the participants said, One of the advantages to going on the bird count is the opportunity to learn things about the birds and their habitats.
The group spent about an hour at the next spot in the Three-Creeks area. Just below the Aquatic Center, Clackamas County had wanted to build an extension of Sunnybrook Boulevard until Milwaukie residents and environmental advocates protested a couple years ago. There they saw an impressive array of birds, including a red-tail hawk and a Coopers hawk, a great blue heron, two green-winged teals, a hermit thrush, flickers, chickadees, finches, robins and hummingbirds.
Ron Myers, who kept track of all the numbers of bird species, noted that the group saw at least 250 geese, mostly Canada and cackling geese, throughout the first part of the trip.
But it was Strong who went the extra mile to see two of the most elusive birds. Rising way before the crack of dawn, he saw a screech owl near Kellogg Lake and a great-horned owl in an oak tree at the Three-Creeks area.
The activity ended at 7 p.m., when all the group leaders gathered at the Audubon Society of Oregon headquarters to turn in and collate their bird counts. Results will be tabulated and used to see how habitat reduction and weather changes are affecting bird life in the metro area.
For more information about the Audubon Society of Oregon, visit audubonportland.org.