[Tweeters] seabirds down?

Larry Schwitters leschwitters at me.com
Tue Mar 17 22:03:30 PDT 2015

This info comes from Drew Schwitters who's currently working for the Wildlife Research Division of WDFW. He's been spending his days off shore in a small boat counting seabirds. A project that has been going on since the early 90s with WDFW recently taking it over from USFS. What they count as seabirds are loons, grebes, cormorants, alcids, sea ducks, and shorebirds, but not gulls.
If seabirds are those who are in a marine environment when not breeding, I'll bet pelicans are in there too. For the ducks, probably three species of scoters, four eiders (good luck finding many of those in Washington), Long-tailed, Harlequin, and and 2? mergansers. Ducks Unlimited also includes both goldeneyes, and buffleheads, but not Greater Scaup. And how about a Smew?

Drew is going to put some of their population trend data together for us, but thinks he remembers Marbled Murrelet populations have been shrinking 4% per year for at least the last ten years.

Larry Schwitters
On Mar 17, 2015, at 8:46 AM, Wayne Weber wrote:

> Dennis (and Tweeters),


> When you say "seabirds", what exactly do you mean? Mainly loons, grebes,

> cormorants, alcids, and the like? Do you include ducks and gulls as

> "seabirds"?


> I do some birding at Blaine and Drayton Harbor about once a week, on average

> (I have a mailbox in Blaine). I bird Boundary Bay in BC even more frequently

> (it's about 2 miles from where I live). I have been birding these and

> similar areas regularly since 1967 (48 years).


> I have not noticed an overall decline in waterbirds in recent years, with

> the major exception of Western Grebes. The huge flocks of Western Grebes

> that used to winter in Bellingham Bay, Boundary Bay, and English Bay

> (Vancouver) simply are not there anymore. It appears that this is more a

> shift to more southerly wintering areas rather than an overall population

> decline.


> I hope you record numbers of birds seen on each visit, species by species. I

> do, and I enter these data in eBird. (However, it will take me at least 5

> years to enter all my old data in eBird, which I am doing year by year.)

> Unless you record birds systematically, it is easily to be fooled by

> erroneous impressions and vague memories of former years.


> You mention Blaine and vicinity in particular. This is an area with which I

> am very familiar. One thing which should be noted is that birds using

> Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay are part of the larger Boundary Bay

> ecosystem, and move frequently back and forth in different parts of that

> ecosystem. A large flock of Pintails or other dabbling ducks can move

> several miles after a Bald Eagle attack, for instance, and you might think

> they were "gone". Tidal cycles also have a huge impact on numbers of birds

> seen in a visit. The place may be packed with shorebirds and gulls if you

> are there at low tide or mid-tide, but they are somewhere else at high tide.

> If you are comparing counts, it should be at the same stage of the tidal

> cycle.


> If some of the "missing birds" you couldn't find are waterfowl, it should be

> noted that some species, like Mallards, Pintails, and Am. Wigeon, start

> their spring migration very early. I have noted huge flocks of these

> arriving in southern interior B.C. in the last few days of February or early

> March. So the numbers in wintering areas like Drayton Harbor can start

> declining quite early in the spring, giving the impression of low numbers in

> March when there were thousands in January. In summer, of course, there are

> few dabbling ducks and not as many scoters, but there are usually impressive

> numbers of Canada Geese, gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants, which nest on

> the Blaine breakwater.


> So no, I have not noticed significant declines of waterbirds in the Blaine

> area, either in the last few years or the last 2-3 weeks, other than the

> aforementioned huge decline of Western Grebes. However, smaller declines may

> go unnoticed, and bird populations are always changing, so it is a good idea

> for everyone to always record numbers of birds when they go out birding.


> Wayne C. Weber

> Delta, BC

> contopus at telus.net



> -----Original Message-----

> From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu

> [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Dennis

> Paulson

> Sent: March-16-15 5:01 PM

> To: TWEETERS tweeters

> Subject: [Tweeters] seabirds down?


> Hello, tweets.


> I've been going out just about every week to some high-quality birding area

> in the Puget Sound region, as I've had friends visiting who wanted to go out

> and was actually able to score some sunny weekend days. But everywhere I go

> I have the feeling there are fewer seabirds than usual.


> I was appalled at the low numbers of birds in general (except of course

> Double-crested Cormorant) when visiting Blaine/Semiahmoo two weekends in a

> row. I was shocked at how few birds were visible in an hour spent at Point

> Wilson in Port Townsend (of course my memories go back 45 years). I have

> scarcely seen a Red-necked Grebe all winter, and they are usually common at

> Edmonds.


> With unusually high temperatures to the north of us, I was wondering if a

> lot of birds just aren't coming south, and I thought it would be worth

> getting the opinions of others. It will be interesting to see what the

> Christmas Bird Counts tell us.


> Has anyone had similar thoughts? Best that you have been birding actively in

> the area for 10 years or more, so you have some perspective. I've been doing

> it for 46 years.


> Dennis Paulson

> Seattle, WA


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