[Tweeters] Seattle Christmas Bird Count 31 December 2016 - summary of results

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 9 17:07:51 PST 2017

Tweeters -

We’ll have a complete run-down of totals for every species up on the Seattle Audubon website and in EarthcareNW eventually, but here’s a summary of this year’s Seattle CBC:

2016 Seattle Christmas Bird Count
31 December 2016

126 species tallied (count day + count week)
Count day: 123 species
Count week: 3 additional species
Individual birds: 45,478 birds
Observers: 335

The 2016 Seattle Christmas Bird Count was marked with about a normal number of species seen, but with lower overall numbers, almost across the board. The lower tally was not for lack of effort: The total number of observers reached a record high, both for numbers in the field, and for feeder-watchers. The total number of birds counted [45,478] was the lowest total recorded since 1996 but was remarkably only 28 birds lower than last year. Our count-day species count of 123 was only slightly below the normal totals for recent years. Three additional species (California Quail, Western Tanager, and Western Meadowlark) were added in the count week, giving a total of 126 species, a couple below our 10-year average.

335 people took part on December 31, setting a new record, with 260 birders in the field and 75 feeder watchers. This level of participation is more than 100 higher than our previous record high from just last year. The most exciting birds of the count included: Rufous Hummingbird in Ballard – only the 2nd time in 40 years we’ve recorded one. Glaucous Gull in the Puget Sound - seen by the boat team, the first ever for our CBC except for one ‘count week’ record. And Bohemian Waxwings were reported from Magnuson, Discovery and Seward Park this year – though the count of nine was not a record high, it is only the 3rd time we’ve had Bohemian Waxwings in the last 40 years.

Notable misses:
Snow Goose, Eared Grebe, Marbled Murrelet, Mourning Dove, Brewer’s Blackbird & Evening Grosbeak were the most notable species we missed this year – though none of these are guaranteed in the circle in any given year.

Record high counts:
For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for: Tundra Swan [3]; Redhead [14]; Hooded Merganser [137]; Glaucous Gull [1]; Barn Owl [4] – tie w/ 2015; Common Raven [8]; Pacific Wren [298]; Bewick’s Wren [354]; Hermit Thrush [38]; Cedar Waxwing [337]; Spotted Towhee [360]; and Dark-eyed Junco [2049].

[numbers in brackets indicate the total number seen and the percentage as a ratio of the 10-year average on the count]

Ducks and geese:
Ducks and geese showed a mixed pattern this year, with many at about normal levels, but some notably higher or lower. Wood Duck [48, 184% of 10-yr average], Eurasian Wigeon [14, 149%], Green-winged Teal [159, 147%], Redhead [14, 788%!], Hooded Mergansers [137, 167%] and Common Mergansers [399, 149%] all recorded numbers well above normal. On the other end, Brant [44, 38% of 10-yr avg], Canvasback [87, 35%], Surf Scoter [360, 38%], White-winged Scoter [5, 50%], and Barrow’s Goldeneye [125, 39%] were all well-below their recent norms.

Grebes, Pigeons, Hummingbirds:
Pied-billed Grebe [230, 130%] continued a trend of higher numbers in recent years, but all other grebes were low this year. Western Grebe [290, 31%] continue to show their downward trend – this was the 2nd lowest total in 40 years, and the last three years have been the three lowest in this period. Likewise, Red-necked Grebes [75, 62%] were found at their third lowest level in the past 40 years. Band-tailed Pigeons [108, 263%] came in strong, while Rock Pigeons [1172, 50%] were found at only half their normal level. Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to be absent from the Seattle count despite their presence seemingly everywhere else in the state. Anna’s Hummingbirds [442, 159%] continue to show up in our urban circle in strong numbers.

Alcids, gulls, and loons:
Alcids, with 78 total across three species, was only about 40% of the 10-year average. Most notably, zero Marbled Murrelets were found, right on the cusp of the Seattle Audubon’s “Month of the Marbled Murelet.” Eight species of gull were found, but the gull total [2751] was about 77% of the 10-year norm. Likewise, loons came in low at just half their 10-year average, with 36 total found.

Bald Eagles [72, 101%], Cooper’s Hawks [21, 91%], and Red-tailed Hawks [40, 108%] all came in close to their recent averages. Likewise falcons showed up at normal levels with 12 Merlins and 8 Peregrine Falcons.

Owls & Woodpeckers:
Six species of owl showed up for the count. Barn Owl [4] tied its record level, while Western Screech-Owl [2], Great Horned [2], Barred [7], and N. Saw-whet Owl [2] all were found at near-normal levels. A Short-eared Owl was a nice find of a species we only occasionally find on the count. Woodpeckers were all present at slightly better than average numbers this years, with the exception of Red-breasted Sapsucker, where the 22 found represent more than twice the expected count.

Pacific Wren [298, 159%] and Bewick’s Wren [354, 132%] both were present in record numbers. Thrush were also surprisingly numerous – I’d been expecting a low count for them given recent discussions of missing Varied Thrush. Instead, we set a new record for Hermit Thrush [38, 514%], came in well above average with American Robins [3512, 132%], and clocked in with 163 Varied Thrush [157% of the 10-year average]. While the nine Bohemian Waxwings were a highlight, they were mixed in among a record 337 Cedar Waxwings, five times their normal number. Purple Finch [29, 266%] and House Finch [810, 109%] were present in good numbers, but the irruptive finch species largely skipped the count, with only 1 Red Crossbill, 89 Pine Siskin [6%], and zero Evening Grosbeaks. House Sparrow [269, 52%] continue a long decline and showed up at their third lowest level in 40 years. Sparrows in general were found in high numbers, notably Spotted Towhee [360, 133%] and Dark-eyed Junco [2049, 188%] set new record highs, and White-crowned Sparrows [71, 147%] were only one below the all-time record for the count.

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

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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