[Tweeters] Re: Seabirds down?

Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Thu Mar 19 07:45:01 PDT 2015

Hello, Dennis, and Tweeters,

The likely answer to your question about where are Puget Sound water birds right now is another question: “Where are the herring spawning?" Unfortunately for us in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, herring spawn in late winter/early spring has virtually disappeared. The really big herring spawn left in the Salish Sea is up at Parksville, BC, in the Strait of Georgia, and it happens right now in March. The last good herring spawn locations in WA have been at Cherry Point and Birch Bay, but I haven’t heard whether they're happening there this year. Anyone know? There used to be herring fisheries in lots of local bays around here, even Discovery Bay and Sequim Bay, but no more.

When a big herring spawn happens, it is a magnet for tens of thousands of birds from all over our region, not only piscivorous birds, but also for diving ducks like scoters and scaup that gobble up the herring eggs like there’s no tomorrow. It is a phenomenal thing to watch. So my guess is the action is in the Strait of Georgia right now, and the birds know it.

In early February there was a smelt run at the mouth of the Elwha River, with a few thousand piscivorous birds gathered for several days, but the birds left as soon as the smelt were finished.

As far as Red-necked Grebes, there are pretty good numbers of them along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, starting west of Dungeness. Not only Red-neckeds, but also Horned Grebes, seem to trickle west down the Strait in late winter, with fewer in the eastern Strait (and Puget Sound?) and more in the western Strait as spring approaches.

One species that seems to be a real question through all this is Rhinoceros Auklet, our most abundant local nesting seabird. There are thousands here right now, starting to visit nests on Protection Island at night in February and feeding all the way from the Strait of Georgia to Puget Sound. There can be big feeding flocks of Rhinos this time of year in Admiralty Inlet, Rosario Strait, and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. Rhinos seem to be doing okay. Are they that much better at finding fish than the other birds?

So the bottom line is we need more forage fish.

Bob Boekelheide

From: Dennis Paulson <dennispaulson at comcast.net <mailto:dennispaulson at comcast.net>>
To: TWEETERS tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu <mailto:tweeters at u.washington.edu>>
Date: March 16, 2015 at 5:00:40 PM PDT
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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