by Rob Rich 

As the season dithered between fall and winter on December 19, 12 devoted naturalists sought birds for the Upper Swan Valley CBC. The morning’s heavy rain gave way to overcast skies with periodic wind gusts in the afternoon, when temperatures rose into the low 40s. While the ground remained white in the mountains, this fitful combination thinned snow and lake ice at lower elevations. Such dynamic conditions stoked great curiosity among our birders, but the birds themselves did not match the activity. We tallied 176 individual birds, but only 17 countable species, the lowest we’ve had on record. This count fell well below our 2000-2019 average of 28 species, but it did include a few notable sightings, especially a rough-legged hawk and a flock of 18 white-winged crossbills.