Last weekend the Oregon2020 team and seven volunteers gathered in Lake Count in southeastern Oregon to enjoy the amazing spectacle of waterbirds stopping over at Summer and Abert lakes during their fall migration. Below are highlights and results from our event!

Altogether, we found 174 species and contributed 163 checklists to eBird. Our efforts focused on counting large numbers of birds, so had longer stationary counts than typical in other situations. Highlights include hundreds of thousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes, as well as tens of thousands of gulls, grebes, and avocets.

Numbers of Wilson’s Phalaropes at Lake Abert were truly impressive. It’s an unbelievable experience to look out across that huge lake and see it covered with phalaropes in every direction. It seems like you can reach out and touch birds sitting on the water nearly 2 miles away! The beautiful morning light began to shine down over the cliffs of the giant fault block to the east. Golden Eagles perched regally 2,000 feet up on the bluff tops surveying their kingdom in the morning light. Over their heads, White-throated Swifts flashed by. Much closer, Canyon and Rock Wrens chided us while families of Black-throated Sparrows posed for photos.

The alkaline Abert Lake, with Oregon’s largest escarpment rising above, was a temporary home to hundreds of thousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes – along with thousands of other migrating shorebirds. The surface of the lake was covered in migratory birds as far as the eye could see.

Multiple observers spent 5-6 hours of counting each day. It’s pretty clear that a migratory movement happened Friday evening as Wilson’s Phalaropes moved in, Red-necked Phalaropes, American Avocets, and Eared Grebes moved out.

We estimated the following numbers of birds at Lake Abert, from 5-6 hours of counting by multiple observers working together each day.

Wilson’s Phalaropes:
Friday (in the afternoon when conditions are tough): 192,000
Saturday: 317,000
Sunday: 312,000
According to Trent Seager, this may be the highest numbers of these birds at Lake Abert in quite a long time.

Red-necked Phalaropes: Relatively fewer were present
Friday: 2000
Saturday: 9
Sunday: 9

Eared Grebes:
Friday: 13,450
Saturday: 1,640
Sunday: 1,220

American Avocet:
Friday: 9,270
Saturday: 2,510
Sunday: 2,027

Other interesting birds during the trip included:
Common Tern
Black-chinned, Calliope, Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds
At least 5 Red-shouldered Hawks
9 Marbled Godwits
7 Snowy Plovers
Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gull

Hendrik Herlyn and Oscar Harper counted birds separately and shared their data with Oregon2020. While camping and fishing in the Warner Mountains, they found Sooty Grouse and Juniper Titmouse. Many thanks!

Many, many thanks to old friends and the new ones we made for their help:
Mark Baldwin
Jenna Curtis
Tyler Hallman
Oscar Harper
Hendrik Herlyn
Spencer Mair
Randy Moore
Doug Robinson
Jack Williamson
Jill Williamson

Come join us next time for all the fun!

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