[Tweeters] how "good" is a bird?--entirely a matter of perspective

Will Markey yekramw at gmail.com
Thu Jun 20 19:58:55 PDT 2013

Wow, Dennis and tweets, where to begin. Dennis, you really sparked my
interest and memory with your post on the changes over the years of the
birds you see in your yard. It is interesting to look back over the years.

We moved into our home here in November, 1989. It was an old house on 26
acres just east of Auburn on Soos Creek, two driveways up from the fish
hatchery on Auburn-Black Diamond Rd. Soos Creek flows through our
property. We fell in love with the place when the real estate agent
stopped in the driveway and we walked up onto the bridge. A Great Blue
Heron flew up from under the bridge. We were hooked.

So far, we have recorded 89 species of birds on our property. Oddly
enough, we have never seen a House Sparrow or Rock Pigeon here. In the
first 20 years, I only saw two crows flying overhead, in a north-south
direction. Now, since they opened up the golf course on the hill south of
us (Washington National), we see large flights of them in the evening
flying west toward Auburn. We still have not seen one on the ground or in
a tree on our property. They are common on the ground at the end of the
valley (around Neely Mansion and the fields near it).

Our first spring, I was amazed at the lack of croaking frogs. I decided
that was not acceptable. I was working in Bellevue in the business park
south of SE 8th and just west of I-405 at the time. It is on Mercer Slough
that flows down to Lake Washington. They had plenty of frogs. I thought
far too many. I took my old CJ-5 to work for a couple of days with two
plastic garbage cans in the back. I collected water with a 5 gallon bucket
filling the garbage cans about 3/4th full and then collected the pollywogs
with a colander and a rope. I held the lids on with bungee cords. When I
got home, I immediately dumped them into the ponds on our property. There
were no cat tails there either, so I brought some of them down for our
ponds on another trip with my old jeep.

The next spring, it was a veritable cacophony of frogs! Mostly Pacific
Tree Frogs (Hyla regilla, the old name) but quite a few Red-legged frogs
(Rana aurora) too. Over the next 5 or 6 years, their “singing” became less
and less, but there is still a fair population of both. I really enjoy the
sound of them in the evening. They are my “harbingers of spring”.

I don’t keep the records that Dennis Paulson does (who does!), but I have
noted a decline in quite a few species of birds and other animals over the
years. We used to see bats (I never could figure out which species),
porcupines, muskrats, possums, Cal Quail, Common Nighthawks, Vaux’s & Black
Swifts, Bullock’s Orioles, American Kestrels, Killdeer, Western Tanagers,
Calliope Hummers, Red-Breasted Sapsuckers (now, only the Williamson’s),
Ruby & Golden-crowned Kinglets, Cliff & Barn Swallows (only many
Violet-Green now), Yellow Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatchs, Brown Creepers
and Marsh Wrens, often. We haven’t seen any of them in over 10 years. The
decrease is some (mammals and quail) I think I can contribute to the local
population of coyotes.

We had quite a few bats (species unknown), but we haven’t seen one in
several years, despite my addition of a large bat box about 12 years ago. For
the first few years we were here we saw American Bitterns (in the ponds),
Lazuli Buntings, and an occasional Western Blue Bird. We haven’t seen any
in many years now.

We used to have several pairs of American Gold Finches that nested here. I
hadn’t seen one for several years, but I have seen a lone male several
times in the last week near the feeder. No females yet.

Populations that appear to have been in decline are House Finches, Merlins
(they liked to hunt at our feeders), American Dippers, Varied Thrushes
(early spring visitor) and Evening Grosbeaks (only a few in early spring
now). Pine Siskins were plentiful up until 10 years ago or so, we only get
a few now. They may be on the increase, we will see this winter. We used
to have a swarm of Bush Tits in the winter, but I haven’t seen them in
several years.

We used to only get Mourning Dove during the spring/summer, now they are
year around residents. Anna’s Hummers found us about 4 years ago and are
now here all year, too. It has only been 4 or 5 years that the Band-tailed
Pigeons (flying pigs, as we call them) have found our feeders, darn it.

Species on the increase appear to be Bald Eagles, Spotted Towhees,
Steller’s Jays, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Wood Ducks (they nest on the
property now), Red-winged Blackbirds (in the cat tails and at the feeders),
Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Song Sparrows.

This is kind of a lengthy post, for that I apologize, but I couldn’t figure
what to leave out! Also, I don’t post very often. Besides, it is all Dr.
Paulson’s fault.

Will & Willie Markey

East of Auburn on Soos Creek
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