[Tweeters] W. Tanager at Fill

Constance Sidles constancesidles at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 15:58:07 PST 2018

Hey tweets, Kit, a fellow birder, has just sent me an email to say he has found a male Western Tanager at Yesler Swamp, the easternmost part of Montlake Fill. I've never seen one here this late. I guess with this crazy-warm weather we're having now, maybe some of the insectivores are encouraged to stick with us.

FYI, we did our weekly shorebird count (part of our outcome studies to see how WSDOT's mitigation is really playing out for the birds, rather than theoretically as the WSDOT folks say it will) on Friday. We found 2 Wilson's Snipe and 3 Killdeer. Paltry numbers compared to the glory days of the past, when shorebird habitat really did exist at the Fill. We've been doing these shorebird counts once a week for nearly 2 years now and hope to continue to do them for at least one more year. Preliminary analysis shows that what we've been saying to WSDOT all along is true:

When freshwater mudflats, shallow pools/ponds, or shoreline mud exist with open line-of-sight, shorebirds of many species will come to forage. These birds include migrants, winter residents, and year-round breeders. If the ponds, pools, or shoreline mudflats are closed up with shrubs, trees, or other foliage that might harbor predators - notably, hawks or falcons - then the shorebirds tend to abandon the site.

We saw this partiality for open line-of-sight habitat in particular this fall when mud islands appeared (as many as 7 in Union Bay) as the water level of Lake Washington fell (controlled by the Ballard Lockmaster). These mud islands were all out in the open waters of the lake, with 360-degree line of sight. They hosted shorebirds such as numerous Killdeer, Dunlin, Long-billed dowitchers, Westerns, Leasts, a Semipalmated, some Baird's, and a Red-necked Phalarope.

WSDOT's ecologist had told us a couple years ago that all these species were already gone from the Fill and so creating any more habitat for them was fruitless because they wouldn't come back. History has shown, though, that Nature can return from devastated areas much faster and more thoroughly than we thought. Two such examples spring to mind: Mt. St. Helens after the latest eruption, and the Elwha River after the dams were taken out. Our Fill observations are suggesting that the same thing would happen at the Fill, if only we could provide good habitat for these birds. - Connie, Seattle

constancesidles at gmail.com <mailto:constancesidles at gmail.com>
csidles at constancypress.com <mailto:csidles at constancypress.com>

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