Another year, another great Christmas Bird Count. This year we saw a whopping
147 species, surpassing our previous record of 146 species seen in 2002.
For full details by species, please see this
(a small PDF file).
Other than occasional mild weather fronts and minor wind storms, beautiful
weather occurred during most of the early CBC period, with many counts around
the Northwest similarly setting all-time species records. Victoria, B.C.,
for example, set a Canadian record for species seen on a count, reporting
154 on Dec. 18. Grays Harbor, at the southern edge of the Olympic Peninsula,
set a record for Washington with 149 on Dec. 26.
The total number of individual birds we counted this year was 72,815, the highest individual total ever seen on our count, slightly ahead of the 69,079 counted last year. The most abundant species on our count was American Wigeon (11,402 individuals), thanks to typical large flocks around Dungeness Bay. American Robin was next abundant (7272), with thousands of robins counted by Sue Chickman’s group in coastal areas at Jamestown, most chowing down on hawthorn berries. Rounding out the top ten most abundant species were Mallard (5175), Starling (3139), Dunlin (3120), Ancient Murrelet (2857), Glaucous-winged/Olympic Gulls (2651), N. Pintail (2455), Bufflehead (2126), and Brewer’s Blackbird (1878). These 10 species made up well over half of all the birds seen on our count.
This year 25 species beat or tied their previous records for number of individuals, plus several others came close. Species at or near record highs included crows, ravens, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, Robin, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Purple Finch. We had excellent numbers of certain wintering sparrows, with new count records of Savannah, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, plus Spotted Towhees. It was a great year for dabbling ducks, with high counts of Gadwalls and shovelers. We had a record 5 Pygmy-Owls, seen by 4 different parties, and exceptional numbers of accipiters and Red-tailed Hawks.
The offshore boat party together with the Dungeness Spit party far surpassed our previous records for Pacific Loons (484), Long-tailed Ducks (1804), and Ancient Murrelets (2857!). Not surprisingly, species that do well with humans continue to thrive in our area, with substantial increases of Canada Geese, Rock Pigeons, Cal. Quail, and House Sparrows.
At the other end of the abundance spectrum, we saw 5 or fewer individuals of 30 different species, so if we weren’t at just the right place at the right time, we might have missed these species. We added four new species to our count, all of whom should be basking at more southerly climes this time of year: Turkey Vulture, Barn Swallow, Palm Warbler, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.
Just as interesting as the record-setting and unusual species were the species that were very low or non-existent. We completely missed Trumpeter Swans, the first time this has happened since 1988. For the third year in a row we missed American Bittern. It was the lowest year for Merlins since 1993, the lowest year for Mew Gulls since 1994, and the lowest year for Dippers since 1999. Meadowlarks continue to fade from our area – we saw 6 meadowlarks, only at Graysmarsh and Protection Island. Northern species did not make an appearance, even though Snowy Owls have invaded the interior of North American in some numbers this year.
As usual, we had a top-notch group of counters who spent many hours in the field on count day. Thanks so much to all our counters! We had wonderful help from many excellent birders from Seattle, Tacoma, and other areas. We owe special thanks to Mike Crim and Walter Doyle, both of whom provided their boats for the count. Mike, along with Bruce LaBar, Charlie Wright, and Vivian Gross, was the reason we set records for the offshore birds mentioned above. For a full listing of participants, please see the Jan-Feb PDF version of the newsletter .