"Our Birds" (Gazette)
2006 SEQUIM-DUNGENESS CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT RESULTS
by Bob Boekelheide
This was the 31st year of the Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count, and once again our CBC easily set the standard for Christmas Counts in Washington State.
On December 18, 2006, our 103 field observers and 31 feeder watchers saw 145 species, the third highest number of species viewed on our count and only two species short of the record set in 2004. In ten out of the last eleven years we have equaled or surpassed 140 species, a remarkably consistent record. The total number of individual birds seen this year set a record at 81,339, easily surpassing the old record of 72,815 also set in 2004 (see accompanying table).
The most abundant species on our count this year was Mallard (20,334 individuals), followed by American Wigeon (13,696). These two species almost always lead our count in abundance. If you observed sections of Dungeness Spit and Dungeness Bay during the CBC you would have seen why these two species were so numerous, as they filled the sky in giant dark clouds during their morning and evening fly-overs.
Other abundant species this year (in order by decreasing abundance) were N. Pintail (6328), Am. Robin (4462), large pink-legged gulls (Glaucous-winged and hybrid Glaucous-winged X Western Gulls, aka “Olympic Gulls”) (3870), Dunlin (2519), Brewer’s Blackbird (2225), European Starling (1958), Bufflehead (1643), and, rounding out the top ten, Red-winged Blackbird (1599). These ten species made up about 72 percent of all the birds seen on our count.
Only 13 species set high-count records this year, substantially less than we’ve seen in recent years. Species setting or tying all-time high counts this year included Canada Goose, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, Cooper’s Hawk, Heermann’s Gull, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Anna’s Hummingbird, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Fox Sparrow, and Pine Grosbeak.
A couple of the species listed above have experienced large increases in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s no surprise that their counts were high this year. First, Anna’s Hummingbird seem to be increasing all over the Pacific Northwest, with many CBCs reporting record numbers in recent years. Canada Geese are really proliferating throughout the area, sometimes, as you’ve undoubtedly heard, in conflict with golf courses and city parks.
Wintering Cooper’s Hawks show a long-term increase; it’s tempting to credit their increase to higher prey populations, but it may also be that we’re just better at counting Cooper’s Hawks. It’s a pleasure to see that Barn Owls and woodpeckers are holding their own, despite habitat changes in our area that may seem detrimental for them. Pine Grosbeaks, one of the eruptive finch species, may be entirely absent most years, but this year they’re showing up all over western Washington.
Our fabulous offshore boat party, skippered by Mike Crim in a boat owned by Jamie Flowers, saw an impressive assortment of birds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, particularly an unbelievably high number of Yellow-billed Loons. Bruce LaBar and Charlie Wright, leaders of the boat party, did a great job picking out both common and unusual birds on the water. Many thanks are also due to Dave Jensen and Walter Doyle, who piloted our Dungeness Spit field party to their counting area on the Spit at dawn.
It’s always interesting to look at the other end of the abundance spectrum, which reveals that we saw 10 or fewer individuals of 40 different species. This is partly a tribute to our great observers, who made sure they were at the right place at the right time to see as many birds as possible.
The most unusual bird this year might have been the Burrowing Owl that Scott Atkinson and party found sitting in Port Williams Road at 4:30 a.m. This was not the first Burrowing Owl seen on our count – one was seen in 1987 and one was seen during count week in 1989. Scott also found two Barn Swallows flying over Graysmarsh this year, the third year in a row that Barn Swallows have been recorded on our count.
The boat party, besides finding record numbers of Yellow-billed Loons, also found the second Thick-billed Murre on our count plus a Red Phalarope, the sixth time that this species has been seen. The Dungeness Spit party, blocked from reaching the lighthouse by a 100-yard breach in the spit, still was able to see our only Snow Bunting, the first Snow Bunting seen on our count in 11 years.
Heermann’s Gulls stayed late in Clallam County this fall, so finding two at Sequim Bay by Gene Kridler’s group was perhaps expected. And thankfully the Canvasback and Redheads stayed for the count at pond at Woodcock and Kirner Roads and the Kitchen-Dick Ponds.
Are there any species we missed that we should have seen? Not really. The only real possibilities are American Bittern, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Swamp Sparrow, but these species are as likely to be missed as seen every year.
Lastly is the saga of the Wild Turkeys. Sheila Joyce, who lives near RR Bridge Park, has been keeping tabs on a number of Wild Turkeys released into the wild about three years ago near the Dungeness River. It turns out that one pair of Wild Turkeys nested in the woods by the river in 2006, fledging at least six chicks. Sheila found the turkeys on count day, consequently it’s time to put them on our list, since they now breed in the wild. We had one Wild Turkey at the Miller Peninsula in 2004, but we didn’t submit it to National Audubon because it was an escapee. But now that we have real live breeding Wild Turkeys in our circle we’re going to count them.
Time to put the 2007 Christmas Bird Count on your calendars – Monday, December 17, 2007, looks like the appointed day. See you then!
Many thanks to the Christmas Bird Count Participants:
Dungeness Spit - Jamie Acker, Brad Waggoner, George Gerdts, Eugene Hunn, boat by Dave Jensen & Walter Doyle, thanks to Dungeness NWR for access.
Dungeness Rec. Area - Pam Sanguinetti, Nancy Wiersema, Don Chesebro, Alan Watkins, Bob and Janet Mullen, thanks to Dungeness County Park for access.
Dungeness Bay, Olympic Game Farm, Dung. River, 3 Crabs - Bob Boekelheide, Jerry Freilich, Bob & Bev Cooper, Darcy Stumbaugh, Cassidy Grattan, thanks to Olympic Game Farm for access.
Jamestown, Three Crabs - Sue Chickman, Doug & Pipper Watkins, John & Pat Willets, Bruce Moorhead, Patty McManus, Ron Richards, Dan Duncan, Pat and Jack Fletcher, Connie Case, Lee Bowen, and Sue Guilleland.
Graysmarsh - Scott Atkinson, Anne Winskie, Jessica Coyle, thanks to Graysmarsh Farms for access.
Port Williams, Washington Harbor - Roger & Cat Hoffman, Steve Acker, Gene Kridler, Beth Winslow, Lee Bowen, thanks to Battelle Labs and the Burrowes Family for access.
West Sequim Bay, John Wayne Marina - Bob Norton, Carol & Bruce Von Borstel, Jim & Audrey Gift, Jim, Sam, and Zack Riley, Peter & Gavin Klein, Collin Vassallo, Gene Kridler, Beth Winslow, Lee Bowen.
E. Sequim Bay, Miller Pen. - Greg McCormack, Barb Blackie, Katherine Bush, John Woolley.
Diamond Point, Gardiner - Judy Mullally, Barbara Williams.
Offshore Waters - Mike Crim, Bruce LaBar, Charlie Wright, Jan & Angie Kummet, thanks to Jamie Flowers for use of his boat.
Protection Island - Annette deKnijf, Ken Wiersema, Rod Norvell, Janet Oja, Janet Breuning, Pat Schoen, Mary Nilsen, Trish Fedderly, thanks to Protection Island NWR for access.
Chicken Coop Road - Charlotte Watts, Powell Jones, Dave Kirner,
Palo Alto Rd, Woods Road - Dave Manson, Scott Gremel, Scott Horton, Carlene Moberg, + owling Powell Jones, Jerry Freilich, & Bob Boekelheide
Happy Valley, Burnt Hill, Bell Hill, SE Sequim - John Bridge, Jerry Kasher, Megan & Tim Cullinan, John & Diana Anderson, Clare Hatler, Charlie & Karen Clanton, Helga Montgomery.
Dungeness Mdws, River Rd, Sporseen Rd - Susan & Gary Mortimore
Lost Mtn, Dung. Fish Hatch., W of Dung River - Elizabeth & Nanette Noyes, Ray Tomko, Pam Bedford, Bob Iddins, Linda Stumbaugh, Larry & Tyler Rymon, Yvonne Clerc, Tim & Caitlin McNulty, Vonnie Vorris, Evan Milller, +owling - Bob Boekelheide & Jerry Freilich.
Flatlands West of Dungeness River, to McDonald Cr - Dick & Phyllis Wenger, Joan McDermott, Tom Guobis, Barbara Vanderwerf, Sherry & Angus Anderson, Pat Holden, Jim Richard, Connie Engrall, Pat Schoen.
Central Sequim, E of Dungeness R., RR Bridge Park - Kendra Donelson, Bob Hutchison, Jim Karr, Ellen Chu, Margaret Levitan, Hank & Raedell Warren, Mary Robson, Mary Whitmore, & Virginia, Riley, Chase, & Quinn O'Neil.
Dungeness Schoolhouse, E of Dungeness R. - Dave & Julie Jackson, Doug Schwarz, Mary Mira, Joy Maxion, Tom & Diane Marciniec.
Railroad Bridge Park and surrounding neighborhoods - Mary Robson, Sue Nattinger, Joan Sullivan, Harold Day, Mary Robson, Karen Holtrop, Sheila Joyce, Linda & Ed Holden.
If I forgot anyone: sorry, and thank you!
And a huge thank you to the Dungeness River Audubon Center and Olympic Peninsula Audubon for hosting the compilation dinner!
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