[Tweeters] 20 Years at Marymoor
birdmarymoor at frontier.com
Wed Mar 26 14:45:23 PDT 2014
Tweets – on March 31, 1994, I made my first visit to Marymoor Park for the
year. It was the 23rd time I’d birded Marymoor. Starting in 1990, I’d made
a few visits each year in April and May, with a couple of March visits in
1993, a couple of June visits in 1992, and one January visit in 1991.
On that March 31, 1994 trip, as with most of those early visits, I was
joined by friends from Microsoft – both Geoff Shilling and Pat Brenner were
with me that day. We probably only stayed a couple of hours, and we found
just 26 species. Some of the more exciting sightings of the day included
COMMON LOON, RING-BILLED GULL, WILSON’S SNIPE (then called Common Snipe),
many good views of Downy Woodpecker, and a good look at a FOX SPARROW. My
notes show that it was overcast, and that we were hassled by a mutt all the
way to the lake. The loon and the gull were new for my park list, which
brought the total number of species I’d seen at Marymoor to 80 species.
We came back the next week, and the week after that, and the week after
that. It might have been the female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD and HERMIT THRUSH on
April 14th, or the WHITE-THROATED SPARROW on May 5th, or the WESTERN
KINGBIRD on May 12th, but at some point in that spring of 1994, there had
been so many great birds that I just decided to KEEP ON COMING TO MARYMOOR
every week, so see what might be found if we birded the whole year.
Geoff and Pat weren’t as committed as I was, but they both kept coming along
at least occasionally for a while, especially Pat. But there were a lot of
weeks that I birded alone, and then emailed Pat and Geoff reports. Sometime
in 1995, I met Brian Bell while walking the boardwalk, and he became (and
remains) the most dedicated of the Marymoorons. Hugh Jennings is another
long-standing member of our flock. I believe I started making regular
reports to Tweeters in May 2, 1996, though I’d certainly posted Marymoor
sightings to Tweeters before that.
Sometime, probably in the late 1990’s, I began to realize that my compiled
bird lists from Marymoor had a value as a whole that was far greater than
the sum of the value of the individual reports. That is, the longitudinal
tracking of bird occurrence was worthwhile. I began to take my Marymoor
visits more seriously, and started to think about them, and refer to them as
my weekly SURVEYS of the birds of Marymoor Park. I tried to increase the
quality of my efforts, and I submitted my data to the NatureMapping project
at the University of Washington.
Throughout all of my time at Marymoor, it has been a phenomenal way to
improve my birding skills. Initially, it was spending a few hours every
week with Brian Bell, who had decades more experience and who taught me,
well, everything. Then it was having MaryFrances Mathis, and later Matt
Bartels join us, and needing to learn enough to answer their questions.
Brian went through the Seattle Audubon Master Birder program, and then I
did, and then MaryFrances and Matt. More and more prospective and current
Master Birder students began showing up at my surveys, so that it’s not been
uncommon to have three or four or five Master Birders and a few MB
students/candidates tromping around together every week.
Over the years, the great birds have piled up. My first real rarity was a
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER that I found on October 21, 1999. At that point, it
was only Washington State’s fifth BGGN ever. On June 4th, 2006, David
White found a BALTIMORE ORIOLE that stayed around for about a week. That
also was a state rarity. And, of course, on August 30, 2006, we found the
states first-ever SMITH’S LONGSPUR. But there have been other great birds,
including Brown Pelican, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-tailed Jaeger,
Burrowing Owl, Lewis's Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Ash-throated
Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Sage Thrasher, Northern
Mockingbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, American Redstart,
Yellow-breasted Chat, Clay-colored Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Lark Sparrow,
Sagebrush Sparrow, and Common Redpoll, just to name (many more than) a few.
And some of those have been seen in multiple years!
The park list is now over 220 species. All the data is on eBird now, under
the user name "Marymoor Survey". Last year, there were an average of more
than 11 people a week out with me, and more than 70 people in total. Over
the years, more than 300 different people have come out at least once,
including visitors from out of the state, and even from other continents.
So it's been TWENTY YEARS now, and I'm not planning on stopping any time
soon. I must give thanks to all of the Marymoorons who come out; we have
fun and friendship along with our Citizen Science. Especial thanks to Brian
Bell and Matt Bartels, both for the numerous times they’ve led the surveys
while I've been traveling, and for all they've taught me over the years.
Tomorrow is Thursday, so of course I'll be down there at Marymoor Park once
== Michael Hobbs
== BirdMarymoor at frontier.com
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