[Tweeters] Seattle CBC report: December 27, 2014

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 9 10:23:36 PST 2015

Hi Tweeters

I've finished compiling the raw data from the Seattle Christmas Bird Count and wanted to share some results. A full set of totals will be posted on the Seattle Audubon website in the coming days.

2014 Seattle Christmas Bird Count
December 27, 2014

128 species tallied (count day + count week)
Count day: 120 species
Count week: additional 8 species
Individual birds: 47,855 birds
Observers: 206

The 2014 Seattle Christmas Bird Count featured more participants than ever and slightly lower than normal numbers of most species. 120 species were tallied on count-day, a bit lower than our count-day average. Eight additional species (Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Green Heron, Marbled Murrelet, Red-naped Sapsucker, Orange-crowned Warbler, White-throated Sparrow and Evening Grosbeak) were added in the count week, giving us a total of 128 species, right in line with the 10-year average. The total number of species counted, 47,855, was the second lowest total since 1996, but again in line with the totals of the last five years.

2014’s CBC set a record for the number of participants, with 206 observers taking part, 196 in the field and 10 at feeders. This is only the second time the Seattle CBC has included more than 200 participants. On the bird front, a Horned Lark at Discovery Park was the first count-day record for our CBC.

Notable misses:
Ruddy Duck (count week only), Great Horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Marbled Murrelet (count week only), Northern Shrike, White-throated Sparrow (count week only),

Record high counts:
For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for Cackling Goose (57), Horned Lark (1), and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (389).


Ducks and geese:
For the most part, ducks and geese were seen in somewhat lower than normal numbers this year. Cackling Geese set a new record high within the circle with 57 reported. Though still only present in small numbers within the count circle, their increasing numbers on our CBC reflects their recent establishment as regular wintering birds in large numbers just outside the count circle. Northern Shovelers (243) were seen at the second highest level in the last 20 years, behind only last year. The 501 Northern Pintail reported was the highest total since the 1970s, but was due mostly to one overflying flock estimated at 500. “On the ground” Northern Pintails for the day totaled just one. Green-winged Teal seemed to hide out on count day, with only 57 seen compared to a normal average of twice that many. Canvasback (45) were seen at the second lowest level since the 1960s. Greater Scaup normally average around 500 on the Seattle CBC, but this year only 91 were reported, a record low. Surf Scoters (1017) were seen in above average numbers, but White-winged Scoters (6) and Black Scoters (16) continued their declining trend.

Pied-billed Grebes (218) were again found in above-average numbers, but all other grebes were seen in numbers well below average. Western Grebes were at a new low. We’ve been below 750 Western Grebes only one other time in the last 40 years; this year we tallied only 223. Given that recent years have seen numbers of Western Grebes around 1000, whether this year’s total represents a random fluctuation or a sign of a larger decline will probably need to await further data.

93 Bald Eagles was second highest total we’ve had. As recently as the 1980s and early 1990s, our count only recorded Bald Eagles in single digit totals. Accipiters were a little below average, and falcons came in a little stronger than average, with 10 Merlin, 9 Peregrine Falcons and 1 American Kestrel, our first kestrel on the count in 15 years.

Shorebirds, alcids & gulls:
These bird groups came in pretty close to average, in general. Surfbird (161) appears to have solidly replaced Black Turnstone (40) as the dominant ‘rockpiper’ in our count circle, a change that has occurred over the last five years. Gull numbers were a bit above average, as were all alcids except Rhinoceros Auklet (31).

Owls were not cooperative this year in general, with Great Horned Owl, Western Screech Owl, and N. Saw-whet all eluding counters. Even the four Barred Owls reported was a lower than normal total for a species that seems to generally be increasing in the region.

Though Black-capped Chickadees (1385) were recorded at their lowest number in a decade, Chestnut-backed Chickadees (389) set a new record high for the count. Sparrow numbers were low in general, except for Dark-eyed Junco (1157) that showed up at our second-highest level ever. Finch numbers in general recovered from last year, with Pine Siskins (3975) coming in 100-times higher than last year! Purple Finch, with only 12 seen, were still above average for our count circle, where they are only marginally present. House Finch (530) were reported at a 25-year low. House Sparrows continue a long decline, with the 263 found being the lowest since 1980. Likewise, European Starling (1445) appear to have continued to decline recently from their 10-year average of 2500 and 40 year average of 3500.

Thanks to everyone who participated and made this another great count.

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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