[Tweeters] Clallam County Birdathon results

B Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Fri May 22 09:52:28 PDT 2015

Hello, Tweeters,

On International Migratory Bird Day, May 9th, we held our 22nd annual Clallam County Birdathon. Sixty people in 37 parties scoured Clallam County, from the Olympics to Cape Flattery, counting birds along the way. Although imperfect science, it still give us an interesting snapshot of birds during spring on the north Olympic Peninsula.
In total, on May 9th we recorded 182 species and 18,295 individual birds. The species count is slightly ahead of our 22-year average of 180 species, but well below our highest species total of 202 set in 2012. Unfortunately, this year we did not have an offshore boat from either La Push or Neah Bay, so we missed large numbers of seabirds, particularly tubenoses. The individual bird total was our lowest since 2004, and well below the 22-year average of about 24,803 birds.
Our total could be 183 species if we considered the little crows walking around in the West End intertidal to be Northwestern Crows, but we erred on the side of genetic caution and lumped all the crows together. We could count even more if we included dead seabirds found on beaches on count day (Black-footed Albatross, No. Fulmar, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, and Cassin’s Auklet), but we only included live birds in our totals. Shucks!
The 10 most abundant species this year, an eclectic mix, were Glaucous-winged/Olympic Gull (1,847 individuals), Common Murre (1,096), American Robin (629), Surf Scoter (540), Violet-green Swallow (513), Pigeon Guillemot (487), Dunlin (486), crow sp. (486), Brant (456), and Rhinoceros Auklet (452). Check it out — 3 alcids in the top 10!
Species setting record or near record high counts for the last 22 years included Pied-billed Grebe, Turkey Vulture, Am. Kestrel, Black Turnstone, Mew Gull, Marbled Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, W. Wood-Pewee, Horned Lark, and Purple Martin. Some of these were undoubtedly just lucky sightings, but a few are particularly interesting. Ancient Murrelets have been remarkably noticable this spring between Clallam Bay and Neah Bay, even offshore of Dungeness, with individuals and small flocks visible from shore through May. Are these local breeders, or are they just delayed in moving north? Ancients are most certainly nesting somewhere along the Olympic coastline, but where? Anna’s Hummingbirds and Purple Martins continue to increase, likely due to human intervention with feeders and nest boxes. Although not a record, Harlequin Ducks, which have had a general decline on both our local Christmas Counts and Spring Counts, rebounded with their highest numbers since 2002.
The Collared-Doves are a remarkable story. They were first seen in Clallam County in 2004, they were first tallied on this count in 2007, and this year they numbered 217, more than Band-tailed Pigeons and Mourning Doves combined. In contrast, Mourning Doves recorded their lowest number since 1999 (60), and Band-tailed Pigeons recorded their lowest number ever (111). As far as Anna’s Hummingbird, we first recorded them on this count in 1996, we never recorded more than 3 Anna’s before 2007, and this year we recorded 86.
Some glaring misses included Barrow’s Goldeneye and W. Screech-Owl. Barrow’s Goldeneyes used to be fairly easy to find in spring in the slack water behind Lake Aldwell on the Elwha River, but since the Elwha dams were removed Barrow’s are gone from that site. They may be nesting at higher elevation lakes, like 7 Lakes Basin, a tough place to get to in May. Reliable screech-owls have become hard to find, perhaps because of Barred Owl predation. We also missed Cassin’s Vireo, typically scarce in Clallam after April migration. Curiously, other species with relatively low counts this year included both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Savannah Sparrow.

The principal avifauna in Clallam County on May 9, 2015: (These 50 species made up about 2/3rds of all birds tallied)
Most abundant geese: #1 Brant, #2 Canada
Most abundant dabbling ducks: #1 Mallard, #2 Am Wigeon
Most abundant diving ducks: Surf Scoter and Harlequin Duck
Most abundant loons: Common and Pacific
Most abundant grebes: Red-necked and Pied-billed
Most abundant cormorants: Pelagic and Brandt's
Most abundant diurnal raptors: Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk
Most abundant plovers: Black-bellied Plover and Killdeer
Most abundant sandpipers: Dunlin and Sanderling
Most abundant gulls: Glaucous-winged and California
Most abundant alcids: Common Murre and Rhinoceros Auklet
Most abundant pigeon/doves: Eurasian Collared-Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon
Most abundant owls: Barred and Barn
Most abundant hummingbird: Rufous
Most abundant woodpeckers: N. Flicker and Hairy
Most abundant flycatchers: Pacific-slope and Hammond's
Most abundant vireos: Warbling and Hutton's
Most abundant corvids: Crow and Com. Raven
Most abundant swallows: Violet-green and Barn
Most abundant chickadee: Chestnut-backed
Most abundant wrens: Pacific and Bewick's
Most abundant thrushes: Am. Robin and Varied
Most abundant warblers: Wilson’s and Orange-crowned
Most abundant sparrows: Song and White-crowned
Most abundant icterids: Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds
Most abundant finches: Am. Goldfinch and Pine Siskin

Our tally this year included very few rarities. At Bahokus Peak near Neah Bay, Denny Van Horn recorded 8 Broad-winged Hawks and one Swainson’s Hawk migrating with other raptors and large numbers of Turkey Vultures. Otherwise, nearly every species we recorded typically occurs somewhere in Clallam County during mid-May; it’s just a matter of being lucky and knowing where to look.

Total numbers and comparisons with past years will eventually be posted on the Olympic Peninsula Audubon website, http://olympicpeninsulaaudubon.org

Thank you very much to everyone who helped find birds on May 9th!

Bob Boekelheide

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