Rare winter spotting a first for the Dillingham Christmas Bird Count, says one enthusiast.
DILLINGHAM: An American robin was spotted Saturday during the Christmas Bird Count in Dillingham, eating sunflower seeds alongside pine grosbeaks and blackcap chickadees at a bird feeder off Chuthmok Road.
"There have been Christmas Bird Counts in Dillingham on and off since 1994. We've had 14 counts during that time, and this is the first American robin we've ever counted on a Dillingham CBC," says High School science teacher and orni-thusiast Nathan Coutsoubos.
Robins have been sighted in recent weeks in the Bethel area, too, according to local reporting.
"It's a weird thing to get excited over seeing a robin, because they're so common in the summer. But during the winter count, this is a huge deal if you're a birdwatcher," says Coutsoubos.
Why? Well, the food that robins eat in the winter, like berries and even worms, are typically frozen or unavailable this far north. As the temperature drops in the fall, robins (along with many other species) begin the long trip south.
"Some of them will spend the winter in Southeast Alaska, but most of them will head further south to the lower 48, and even beyond there," says Coutsoubos.
(Handy tips for feeding overwintering robins can be found here.)
Coutsoubos and crew also spotted a northern shrike, only the fifth time that species has been counted on the Dillingham CBC. Other results are expected to be compiled early next month.
An even more rare eyebrowed thrush this reporter feels confident he spotted a week prior but snapped an awful photo of proved elusive during Saturday's count. Keep an eye out for that bird, which though similar to a robin, has some distinct and easy to notice differences, ahem. Send sighting reports or photos to email@example.com.