by Bob Boekelheide
It was another great year for the Sequim-Dungeness CBC, which once again appears to have led Washington CBCs in total number of species.
On December 14, 2009,107 field observers and 31 feeder watchers spotted 143 species, just about average for the last 10 years but lower than our record of 150 species set in 2007. In 13 out of the last 15 years we have equaled or surpassed 140 species, a remarkable record for a Washington CBC. The total number of individual birds this year was 85,221, surpassing the old record of 81,325 in 2006 (see adjacent table).
It was a banner year for dabbling ducks, concentrated on salt water because freshwater ponds were frozen following several days of chilly weather. The most abundant species on our count were American Wigeon with 16,929 individuals, followed by Mallard with 12,387 and N. Pintail with 11,311.
Other abundant species this year, in decreasing order of abundance, were Dunlin (5558), Bufflehead (3178), Brant (2933), European Starling (2746), Am. Robin (2683), large pink-legged gulls (Glaucous-winged and hybrids) (2345), and Dark-eyed Junco (2078). These top ten species comprised about 73 percent of all the birds seen on our count.
Seventeen species set record high-count records for the 34-year history of our count, including Brant, Trumpeter Swan, Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, N. Pintail, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Bald Eagle, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Great Horned and Barred Owls, Anna’s Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Lincoln Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, and Purple Finch.
Several of these species continue recent increases in their numbers. For example, Trumpeter Swans rarely exceeded 10 birds before 1999, and were missed as recently as 2004. Bald Eagles continue their spectacular recovery from eggshell thinning, first exceeding 100 birds on our count in 2000, now well on their way to 200. Eurasian Collared-Doves first appeared on our count in 2007 with 4 birds, then 13 in 2008, and 44 this year. Mourning Doves were totally missed on 8 of the first 25 years of this count, and didn’t exceed 100 birds until 2000. The first Barred Owl occurred on the SDCBC in 1989, and never exceeded 2 birds before this year. The first Anna’s Hummer occurred in 1994, reached 10 in 2006, and now - look out!
Unfortunately, several species recorded very low numbers this year compared to long-term averages. Many saltwater species continue very low, particularly several diving ducks, loons, and grebes. White-winged Scoters were particularly low, with the second-lowest numbers for the 34 years of our count. It was the first time we missed W. Screech-Owl since 1987, perhaps related to high numbers of large owls, which are known to eat the little screeches. Ruby-crowned Kinglets showed their lowest total since 1995, perhaps due to the cold weather earlier in December. Both Savannah Sparrows and Brewer’s Blackbirds had the lowest counts since 1994, well below average.
As always, we found several unusual species, including some never before seen on the SDCBC. First-ever species included a Sandhill Crane, spotted by Heidi Pedersen and Barb Blackie on the western side of the count circle; a Rock Sandpiper mixed in with Dunlin, seen by our intrepid Dungeness Spit party; a Slaty-backed Gull loitering with other gulls on the beach at Jamestown, picked out by Scott Atkinson; and a Chipping Sparrow mixed in a sparrow flock at Graysmarsh, also found by Scott.
Our fabulous offshore boat, led by Mike Crim and donated by owners Ed and Judy English, had an excellent look at a Thick-billed Murre, picked out by stalwart boat observers Charlie Wright and Bruce LaBar.
Other unusual birds included one Snow Goose at Dungeness Spit; a Canvasback on a pond at Fasola Road, found by Bob Hutchison’s party; and a Yellow-headed Blackbird at Dungeness, found by Julie and Dave Jackson’s party. We see several other species with such regularity that we don’t consider them that unusual anymore, such as Yellow-billed Loon, Sora, Glaucous Gull, and White-throated and Swamp Sparrows.
Time to put the 2010 Christmas Bird Count on your calendars – Monday, December 20, 2010, looks like the appointed day. See you then!
Many thanks to our Christmas Bird Count Participants:
- Dungeness Spit - Jamie Acker, Eugene Hunn, Brad Waggoner, George Gerdts, Harry Bergtholdt - boat (& thanks to Dungeness NWR for allowing access to closed areas).
- Dungeness Rec. Area - Ken & Nancy Wiersema, Alan, Elizabeth & Adam Watkins, Dow Lambert, Coleman Byrnes, Sue Nattinger, Marissa Ortega-Welch, Jim Monahan.
- Dungeness, Game Farm - Bob Boekelheide, Jerry Freilich, Shirley Anderson, Margaret Lotzgesell (& thanks to Olympic Game Farm for allowing access).
- Jamestown, Three Crabs - Doug Watkins, Dan Waggoner, John Willets, Bruce Moorhead, Les Jones, Dave Manson, Scott Gremel, Lee Bowen, Sue Gilleland. Graysmarsh - Scott Atkinson, Anne Winskie, Joyce Hershberger.
- Port Williams, Washington Harbor - Roger Hoffman, Steve Acker, Bruce Paige, Chris and Patricia Andrews, Lucille Cassulary, Kassandra and Kristen Kersting, Mrs Lee, Barbara Mahoney, Sharon Paige, Sandy Schlecter.
- W. Sequim Bay, John Wayne Marina -Bob Norton, Jim & Audrey Gift, Quenn Charrier, Bill & Karen Parker, Jean Kelley.
- E. Sequim Bay, Miller Pen. - Dan McDougal-Treacy, Denny Van Horn, Katherine Bush, Powell Jones, Greg Voyles.
- Diamond Point, Gardiner - Bob Iddins, Judy Mullally, Jane & Ken Henshaw, Sharon Shenar, John & Kay Carroll, Fran & Joe Dieu.
- Offshore boat - Bruce LaBar, Charlie Wright, Mike Crim, Jan Kummet, in Ed & Judy English’s boat.
- Protection Island - Rod Norvell, Lorenz Sollmann-USFWS, Sue Thomas - USFWS, MarySue Brancato, Ed Bowlby, Janis Burger, Pat Willets, Janet Kearsley, Peter & Lori Davis (& thanks to USFWS for allowing access to the island).
- Chicken Coop Road – Charlotte Watts, Powell Jones.
- Palo Alto Rd, Woods Road - Bill Shaw, Don Chesebro & Carlene Moberg.
- Happy Valley, Bell Hill, Dungeness Mdws - John & Diana Anderson, Harry & Eloise Bergtholdt, Gary & Susan Mortimore, Emily & Kirsten Glenn, Tom Schaafsma.
- Lost Mtn, Dung. Fish Hatch, W of Dung River - Elizabeth & Nanette Noyes, Ray Tomko, Karen & Joe Zook, Terry Martin, Dave Shreffler, Larry & Barbara Rymon, Melissa Soares.
- W of Dungeness River, to McDonald Cr -Dick & Phyllis Wenger, Barbara Vanderwerf, Betty Kramp, Sherry & Angus Anderson, Barbara Blackie, Heidi Pedersen, Peter Alexander, Melanie Roed, Eftin & Ingrid Strong, Michael Barry, Pat Holden, Pat Schoen.
- Central Sequim, E of Dungeness R. - Bob Hutchison, Margaret Levitan, Kris Lether, Verla Priest, John Maxwell, Stu & Pat MacRobbie, Kendra Donelson, Mary Finch, Jim Waddell.
- Dungeness Schoolhouse, E of Dungeness R. -Dave & Julie Jackson, Marion Rutledge, Kate Goschen, Jim & Reva Bates, Dave & Matsy Mattingley, Doug Schwarz, Diane & Tom Marciniec, Carol Keller.
- Railroad Bridge Park -Mary Robson, Hank and Raedell Warren, Mark Salvadelana, Sheila Joyce, Karen Holtrop
And as always, a big thanks to the Dungeness River Audubon Center for hosting the compilation dinner.