[Tweeters] Eastside Audubon CBC Report 2020

Andy McCormick andy_mcc at hotmail.com
Sat Mar 6 11:47:56 PST 2021

Hello Tweets,

Here is my report for the 2020 Eastside Audubon CBC. I thought you might like to see how we did.

Andy McCormick
Bellevue, WA

Eastside Audubon Christmas Bird Count, 19 December 2020
2020 Eastside Audubon Christmas Bird Count Summary
19 December 2020

108 species tallied (count day + count week)
Count Day: 102 species
Count week: 6 additional species
Individual birds: 21,095
Observers: 41 (23 in the field + 16 feeder watchers + 2 eBird reports)

The 37th Eastside Audubon CBC was held on December 19, 2020. The day was cloudy with calm wind and sporadic light to heavy rain in the afternoon. The species count of 102 in the field was the second highest in the past 10 years. The range for Count Day is 90-103. With the addition of six Count Week species the total number of species was 108. The total number of birds at 21,095 was the second highest in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, we did not have coverage for the Fall City section of the CBC and this likely led to a reduced count. However, we supplemented the count with bird counts from two eBirders who visited the Neal Road area of Fall City on our Count Day.

The count was conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic under restrictions specified in Washington State and King County guidelines for mask wearing and social distancing. We did not recruit volunteers for the count and team leaders conducted the count alone or with one or two other people. One route was split between two people. Eight of the 14 circle sections were counted by one person and four by two persons. One section, that in Fall City, was not counted by a team.

The EAS CBC tripled the number of feeder watchers from 5 in 2019 to 16 in 2020. We had set a goal last year to increase the feeder watchers. This increase may be partly a result of restricted participation in the field teams to comply with state and county regulations.

Rusty Blackbird, a rarity observed by many birders including two on our Count Day appears on the EAS CBC for the first time. The bird is part of a large mixed flock of Brewer's Blackbirds and European Starlings in Fall City. A rare Common Grackle has also been part of the flock and was seen during Count Week, but not on Count Day. Northern Pygmy-Owl was seen for the first time in the past 10 years.

It was a big year for irruptive finches and nuthatches. Pine Siskins numbered 1,187 the highest total since 2012. Red Crossbills were in the area and 14 were seen on Cougar Mountain. Red-breasted Nuthatches at 54 were at twice their 10-year average.

We were pleased to see Cackling Goose numbers at 10,380, double their 10-year average. Last year's count of 1,518 was hampered by drone testing in the fields in Carnation, WA. However, this year we requested drone flights to be stopped for the week prior to and including Count Day. The farm staff agreed with this request and the geese showed up.

Notable Misses
Once again Peregrine Falcon, which is known to be in our area, eluded our count. After being counted for four consecutive years Northern Saw-whet Owl was missed again for the second straight year. For the third year in a row Band-tailed Pigeons eluded the count. Cedar Waxwing and Evening Grosbeak were also missed.

The CBC uses the previous 10-year average as one yardstick to provide context for a particular year's count totals. The following review shows a mix of how birds fared on the Eastside Audubon CBC. The numbers in parentheses are the total number seen in 2020, and the percentage as a ratio of the 10-year average.

Ducks and Geese
Cackling Geese (10,380, 205%) rebounded after the drone flight interference in 2019 (See above.). Canada Geese (388, 29%) were well below average. For the fourth consecutive count duck species have continued a downward trend. Ruddy Duck (9, 23%) rebounded but was still low. Greater (5, 38%) and Lesser Scaup (4, 20%%), Northern Shoveler (9, 39%%), Green-winged Teal (16, 17%), and American Wigeon (100, 27%) all fell further behind their 10-year average. Hooded Mergansers (42, 66%) were down to their lowest count since 2015. Mallard (1248, 82%) rebounded nicely to their highest count since 2015.

Grebes, Pigeons, Hummingbirds, Coots, and Rails
Pied-billed Grebes (67, 93%) were at their average count. However, Western Grebes (28, 57%) were down. Virginia Rail (6, 120%) and American Coot (349, 88%) were near their 10-year average. Anna's Hummingbirds (74, 106%) were at their average but still down from the 2018 total of 133. For the third year in a row Band-tailed Pigeon was not seen on Count Day, and this year was also missed during Count Week.

Gulls, Loons, Cormorants, and Herons
Mew Gulls (984, 179%) were the news among the gulls. Ring-billed Gulls (12, 29%) showed at a shadow of their former selves. However, their outlier high count of 114 in 2019 pushed the average up considerably.

The lakes held no loons that we could see this year. Great Blue Herons (30, 64%) were the lowest since 2013. Double-crested Cormorants (67, 49%) continued their decline in our circle. This year we happily found two Green Herons in Issaquah: one at Pickering Place and the other at Lake Sammamish State Park.

Raptors and Owls
Bald Eagles (30, 79%) dropped a bit below average. Red-tailed Hawks (28, 68%) declined to the lowest count since 2013. Once again only one Northern Harrier was seen. Only two Cooper's Hawks and one Sharp-shinned Hawk were seen. The count of American Kestrels (2, 67%) dropped from the 11 of 2019 back to close to an average number. One Merlin was counted. Expanding our count into more forested areas helped raise the count of owls to 10. Great Horned Owl (4) and Western Screech Owl (2) showed well. Barn Owl (2), Barred Owl, and Northern Pygmy-Owl were also found.

Kingfisher, Woodpeckers, and Falcons
Belted Kingfisher (11, 110%) met the average. Red-breasted Sapsuckers (4, 50%) continued in low numbers. Northern Flickers (73, 79%) also fell a bit below the mean. Downy (19, 73%) and Hairy (12, 109%) Woodpeckers were close to their average, but Pileated Woodpeckers (12, 171%) continued their expansion and growing numbers.

Common Ravens (21, 111%) were about average, and American Crows (618, 66%) continued a gradual decline since a high count of 1,723 in 2017. Steller's Jays (74, 65%) dropped to their lowest count since 2010. We were unable to hike Tiger Mountain to look for Canada Jays this year.

Both Black-capped (257, 78%) and Chestnut-backed Chickadees (126, 84%), and Bushtits (153, 100%) were seen in close to or in average numbers. Red-breasted Nuthatches (54, 200%) were seen in high numbers, but Brown Creeper (11, 50%) fell back this year.

Varied Thrushes (35, 60%) were seen in better numbers this year. However, we had the lowest count of American Robins (345, 61%) in the past 10 years and far below the high of 722 in 2017.

Pine Siskins (1,187, 149%) irrupted this year with the highest count since 2012. House Finch (86, 65%) dropped considerably to the lowest count since 2013. Purple Finch (16, 50%) numbers were even with 2019, and American Goldfinches (9, 20%) were quite low. Red Crossbills (14, 48%) made the list but Evening Grosbeaks did not.

Two White-throated Sparrows were seen on Count Day at Marymoor Park in Redmond, and a Lincoln's Sparrow was posted on eBird from Fall City. Most other sparrows were counted in average numbers. A welcome return to average by Golden-crowned Sparrows (114, 109%) and solid numbers of Song Sparrows (200, 87%) were evident. White-crowned Sparrows (29, 83%) and Spotted Towhee (138, 96%) were close to average. Dark-eyed Juncos (505, 69%) typically the most frequently seen bird on Project Feederwatch were below average on this CBC. Unfortunately, Fox Sparrows (22, 44%) dropped again. House Sparrows maintained their average (54, 98%).

We added six Count Week species to our count in 2020: Common Grackle, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Western Meadowlark, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, and Orange-crowned Warbler.

I am grateful for the resolve of our volunteer team members and feeder watchers who produced a solid count that I believe accurately reflects the status of birds in our count circle.

Andy McCormick
Eastside Audubon CBC Compiler
Kirkland, WA

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