"Our Birds" (Gazette)
Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count Results for 2010
by Bob Boekelheide
The 2010 Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count (SDCBC), held last December 20th, will best be remembered for its bone-chilling east winds. Conditions were pretty nice until about 6 a.m., with fairly light winds and partly cloudy skies, so owling did quite well. But as soon as the sun came up east winds started gusting to 40 mph and never let down all day. Our Dungeness Spit party, always a valiant crew, couldn’t boat to the spit like usual, so they started walking from the base but gave up after a few hours of sand-blasting. Amazingly, our boat counters and Protection Island party bravely ventured out on the Strait, reaching their destinations but drenched with spray for their trouble. Overall, birds laid low and our intrepid counters retreated to the shelter of their cars and houses as the day wore on.
We finished the count with 138 species and 37,123 birds, the lowest species total since 1997 and the lowest number of individuals since 1987. This is 12 species below our all-time record of 150 species set in 2007, and less than half the record number of individuals seen just last year. Exactly 100 people counted in field parties during the day, and 41 more watched their feeders or backyards.
The two most abundant species this year, as is typical, were American Wigeon (6,591) and Mallard (3,881), followed in the top ten by large pink-legged gulls (Olympic and Glaucous-winged types, 3,219), Dark-eyed Junco (1,461), European Starling (1,288), American Robin (1,128), Double-crested Cormorant (969), Bufflehead (968), and Brant (907). Because of the wind, most of these species numbered significantly less than previous years. These ten species comprised about 55 percent of our total count.
Only a few species set all-time records this year: Greater White-fronted Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Harrier, Rhinoceros Auklet, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, and Western Meadowlark. This is an odd assortment, but every species has a story to tell.
Many more white-fronted geese have remained in our area this fall, and Double-crested Cormorants have been increasing throughout their range for years. Northern Harriers had a feeding bonanza on count day, apparently capturing rodents flooded out of coastal marshes by high water. Our party watched seven harriers all hunting at once at the Dungeness River delta. The Rhino Auklets have lingered longer in the Strait this winter, seen on count day by parties at Sequim Bay and Diamond Point. The meadowlarks were at Graysmarsh, Schmuck Road, and Protection Island, all grasslands that provide winter habitat for these birds.
If you’ve watched birds during the last few years, you know about the population explosions of collared-doves and Anna’s Hummingbirds in the Pacific Northwest. The collared-doves are particularly interesting, first seen on our count in 2007 with four birds, then 13 in 2008, 44 in 2009, and now 106 in 2010. The sky’s the limit for this species. Anna’s Hummingbird first appeared on the SDCBC in 1994, never numbered more than 3 individuals until 2006 when they increased to 10 birds, and now up to 56 seen in 2010. Both species congregate where humans put out feeders, so it’s likely their numbers will continue to rise.
Conversely, partly due to the wind and partly due to changes in populations, many species had very low numbers this year. Troublesome declines in marine species such as loons and grebes continued, with some of the lowest numbers for the entire history of our count for species such as Red-necked and Western Grebes. Their numbers were undoubtedly affected by the wind as well. Shorebird numbers were also way down, likely due to them hiding out of the wind on Dungeness Spit where we couldn’t see them.
One other reason why the species total was so low this year is because we found substantially fewer “rare” species than normal, but we did find a few. Scott Atkinson, while doing a seawatch from Graysmarsh bluff, spotted an interesting passage of tubenoses in the high winds, two Northern Fulmars and two Short-tailed Shearwaters, both species that are likely present in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during winter but not usually seen from shore. Scott also located a Long-billed Dowitcher and a Swamp Sparrow at Graysmarsh. An immature Glaucous Gull, first located at Dungeness Landing Park by Judy Mullally and Bob Norton on 12/11/10, was roosting with other gulls at the mouth of the Dungeness River during the CBC, trying to get out of the wind. The Dungeness Spit party located one Canvasback in Dungeness Bay near the base of the spit.
The 2011 Sequim-Dungeness CBC will occur on Monday, December 19, so mark your calendars!
If you see any interesting birds or bird activity, please contact Bob Boekelheide at 360-681-4076 or email email@example.com. Keep birding!
Special thanks to organizations allowing access to their properties for the count: Dungeness Farms, Olympic Game Farm, Graysmarsh, Nash’s Organic Vegetables, Severson Family Farms, WA Maritime National Wildlife Refuges, Battelle PNL, and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Many thanks to our Christmas Bird Count Participants:
Dungeness Spit-Jamie Acker, George Gerdts;
Dungeness Rec. Area-Ken & Nancy Wiersema, Alan, Elizabeth, and Adam Watkins, Coleman Byrnes, Sue Nattinger, Barb & Norrie Johnson;
Dungeness Bay, Game Farm-Bob Boekelheide, Jerry Freilich, Frannie Koski, Margaret Lotzgesell, Carl & Sue Christensen, Marlene Lambert, Shirley Anderson, Dale Erz;
Three Crabs, Jamestown-Dan Waggoner, Denny Van Horn, Pat MacRobbie, John & Pat Willets, Bruce Moorhead, Scott Gremel, Mandy Holmgren, Cassidy Gratten, Lee Bowen, Sue Gilleland;
Port Williams, Washington Harbor-Roger Hoffman, Steve Acker, Bruce Paige, Barbara Mahoney, Marian Matsunaga, Ron Miller, Sharon Paige, Dana Scott, Steven and Nancy Smith, Dan Thomas, Marcia Wesesky;
W. Sequim Bay-Bob Norton, Jim & Audrey Gift, Jacob Haverfield, Darcy Stumbaugh, Bruce & Carol Von Borstel;
Battelle-Kate, Annette, & Peter Buenau;
E. Sequim Bay, Miller Peninsula-Dan McDougal-Treacy, Fred Sharpe, Powell Jones, John & Nancy Woolley;
Diamond Point, Gardiner-Bob Iddins, Judy Mullally, Dan Froehlich, Luke Jacobson;
Offshore Waters-Bruce LaBar, Annie Meyer, Bruce Von Borstel, Durkee Richards – boat owner;
Protection Island-Rod Norvell-compiler, Lorenz Sollmann, Sue Thomas, Sue Mayo, MarySue Brancato, Janis Burger, Dow Lambert, Ken & Mary Campbell;
Chicken Coop Road-Charlotte Watts, Powell Jones;
Palo Alto Rd, Woods Road-Bill & Karen Parker, Quenn Charrier;
Happy Valley, Burnt Hill, Bell Hill, SE Sequim-John Bridge, Emily & Kristen Glenn, + 9 friends; John & Diana Anderson, Clare Hatler;
Dungeness Fish Hatchery-Elizabeth & Nanette Noyes;
Lost Mtn, Olson Rd, Atterbury Rd-Karen & Joe Zook, Terry Martin;
W of Dungeness River, McDonald Cr-Phyllis Wenger, Barbara Vanderwerf;
Robin Hill Park, Solmar-Sherry Anderson;
West of McDonald Creek-Tom Guobis, Joan McDermott, Marti Campbell, Margie Palmer, Sheila Kee;
Carlsborg-Barb Blackie, Heidi Peterson;
Dungeness Greens, golf course-Eftin Strong, Michael Barry, Kris Lether;
Kitchen-Dick, Blue Ribbon Farms-Betty Kramp, Pat Schoen, Janet Oja, Mike Cohoon;
Central Sequim, E of Dungeness River-Bob Hutchison, Margaret Levitan, Verla Priest, Carolyn Cooper, Dick Hahn & Loretta Flanders, Kendra Donelson, Marion Rutledge;
Dungeness Schoolhouse, E of Dungeness River-Dave & Julie Jackson, Kate & Grace Goshen, Tom & Diane Marciniec, Hal & Carol Keller, Dave & Patsy Mattingley, Lana Byal, Sandra Schlechter, Jim Bates;
Railroad Bridge Park & vicinity-Mary Robson, Hank and Raedell Warren, Jim Castle, Ali El Maallam, Ndeliste Steineor, Nancy Bargar, Karen Holtrop.
If I forgot anyone, please accept my apologies.
And as always, a big thanks to the Dungeness River Audubon Center for hosting the compilation dinner.
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