Environment : Notes about your surroundings.

RECORD COUNT: Orange County's annual Christmas coastal bird count, held Jan. 3, turned up a record number of species. In fact, the final tally of 215 species may turn out to be the highest in the state, perhaps even the nation, according to Gerald Tolman, who organizes the count for the local Sea & Sage chapter of the Audubon Society. The chapter's previous record was 195. The inland count, held a week earlier, also produced a record: 159, surpassing the old high of 155.

Doug Willick, an Audubon member and environmental educator, credited the record to a variety of factors: the increasing skill of local birders, better organization of the count, a greater number of counters, a lowland invasion of bird species that usually reside in the local mountains and an unusual number of vagrant birds from the eastern and southern United States. The most unusual sighting, Willick said, was of a yellow-throated vireo, a resident of the Eastern hardwood forests. It is a rare fall and spring vagrant on the West Coast; there has been only one previous winter sighting recorded in California.

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