The 35th annual Bishop Christmas Bird Count was December 17, 2016. Forty-seven birders counted every bird in the 15-mile diameter CBC circle centered on the intersection of Ed Powers Road and Red Hill Road. The circle encompasses Round Valley, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, the Owens River to Laws, East Line Street to the River, south to New Wilkerson, all of downtown Bishop and West Bishop, up Bishop Creek to Big Trees Campground, and the Buttermilks. Weather was cold and breezy in the morning with a low of 14 F with 20 mph winds, warming in the afternoon to 48 F with calm winds. Skies were clear. Birders in eleven teams collectively tallied 104 species and a total of 8156 individual birds. Overall, bird numbers and diversity were below average, with many teams reporting fewer birds than in recent years. Open water and creeks were not frozen, so waterfowl numbers were above average.

A good selection of rarities were found, notably two species never recorded on the Bishop CBC: 1) a TURKEY VULTURE over Bishop, and 2) a BELL’S VIREO at Millpond. Nearly all Turkey Vultures vacate the Owens Valley between November and February. Decades ago, Bell’s Vireo nested in the Owens Valley, but there have only been a few observations since. The Bishop City Park hosted three species of geese, four Aleutian CACKLING GEESE, a SNOW GOOSE, and a ROSS’S GOOSE, as well as a PALM WARBLER which was first found November 28. This year established new high counts for NORTHERN SHOVELER (204) and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (13). The team covering the Owens River encountered a record 21 SORA among the reeds and riverbanks. A BARN OWL on a Round Valley phone pole was a good find, as well as a BURROWING OWL along an old canal north of Bishop. Two species of hummingbirds are being found with increasing regularity, ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD (15) and COSTA’S HUMMINGBIRD (2), mostly at feeders. A female WILLIAMSON’S SAPSUCKER at Plant Four was noteworthy, as it has only been found on two other Bishop CBCs. For the second year in a row, WESTERN BLUEBIRD (43) outnumbered MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (9), and now seems to be the expected wintering bluebird around Bishop. In the past 15 years, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS have been on the increase, with 29 tallied this year. One CHIPPING SPARROW and one Gray-headed DARK-EYED JUNCO at Rocking K were unexpected surprises. Sparrow numbers were above average with a new high count for LINCOLN’S SPARROW (76) and GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (5).

TRENDS – compared with the past thirty-four Bishop CBCs, here’s how 2016 compares:

BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES numbers continue to be depressed with only 55 found this year. In the late-1990’s through 2005 numbers in excess of 150 were common.
GEESE – For the second year in a row, no CANADA GEESE were found.
EURASIAN-COLLARED DOVES made their debut on the Bishop CBC in 2004 and are now ubiquitous. This year reached 149.
Between 1982 and 2002 no ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRDS were found on the Bishop CBC. Since then, numbers have increased nearly every year. This year seven teams tallied a total of 14 birds.

Many thanks to all the talented and generous people who make the Bishop CBC possible! A special thank you goes to Steve at the Bishop Country Club, Destin at the City of Bishop, and Kay Wilson for hosting the post-count tally.

The 2017 Bishop CBC will be Saturday, December 16, 2017. SAVE THE DATE!

Chris Howard,
Bishop CBC Compiler

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