Temperatures were brisk, but nearly windless conditions and plenty of volunteers combined for Ashland's highest Christmas Bird Count last week, organizers said.
Counters tallied 16,212 birds comprising 119 species Dec. 27 within a 15-mile diameter centered on Emigrant Lake's north dam, said Harry Fuller, who organizes the count with John Bullock.
In 2011, the groups counted 107 species for a total of 15,987 birds, said Bullock, who is recognized as Ashland's official counter by the National Audubon Society, which sponsors the count.
In 2010, the group counted 106 species for a total of 13,302 birds, Bullock said.
Out of the birds volunteers spotted during a 10-hour window, "there was nothing too unusual," Fuller said.
One rusty blackbird, generally found in Oklahoma and Texas, was confirmed, Fuller said, as well as the Ashland count's first spotted owl.
"Just about everything else was common and expected," he said.
Fuller said bountiful mistletoe led to an abundance of Lewis' woodpeckers during the count. Nearly 90 were found, compared to none last year, he said.
Counters tallied 222 varied thrush, a bird almost nowhere to be found around Ashland in 2011, Fuller said.
"They are very common in Lithia Park right now," he said.
Fuller said three dozen volunteers broke into nine groups and scattered throughout Ashland's count circle. Areas ranged from the Billings Ranch north of Ashland to the Mount Ashland Ski Road and encompassed part of the Siskiyous and Cascades, an area included in the national count tally just four times before 2012 — in 1939, 1940, 2010 and 2011.
In 1939 and 1940 combined, a single team of birders counted 54 species for a total of about 1,000 birds, according to a website Fuller established.
"It was far less popular back then," said Bullock. "This was our highest year."
For the third year in a row, the American robin was Ashland's most seen bird, with 6,738 counted, Fuller said. Taking second was the dark-eyed junco, with 1,804. And kicking the European starling out of the top three was the golden-crowned sparrow, of which 725 were counted.
In 2011, the groups tallied 4,756 robins, 2,535 starlings and 1,246 juncos, Bullock said.
During the latest count, 591 starlings, an invasive species, were spotted.
"I just have not seen that many starling this year," Bullock said. "It's a very good sign. The fewer starlings "… the better."
In the 1940 count, not a single starling was tallied, Fuller said.
The count data is sent to Cornell University, where it is analyzed alongside data from about 2,200 other counts.
In 2011, 2,248 counts and 63,223 volunteers in all 50 states and all Canadian provinces — plus 99 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands — tallied more than 60 million birds.
Fuller, 66, and Bullock, 67, revived Ashland's Christmas Bird Count in 2010, and are members of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Audubon Society.
"Hopefully it will keep going long after we are gone," Fuller said.
Anyone interested in participating in Ashland's 2013 Christmas Bird Count can contact the Rogue Valley Audubon Society at firstname.lastname@example.org, Fuller said.
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email email@example.com.