[Tweeters] seasons of change

Jane Hadley hadleyj1725 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 14 17:26:58 PDT 2021

Dear Tweetsters -

In responding to a question from David B. Williams about the effect on
birds of seasonal shifts brought about by climate change, Steve Loitz said:

> The extraordinarily hot summer in the East Cascades seems to have

> contributed to earlier-than-typical vertical migration of some summer

> mountain species moving down into the Ellensburg area. The very hot summer

> and early snowmelt -- and resultant drying of mountain meadows -- depressed

> insect hatchings in much of the E Cascades. (It's possible that forest

> fires contributed to pushing the birds around.) I last noticed a similarly

> earlier-than-normal vertical migration in fall 2015, which was a very dry

> summer after a paltry snowpack.

My husband and I have done spring and fall migration counts at the
Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Klickitat County for many years.
This year (September 18) we had very much the experience Steve
describes. And we had a very similar experience in 2015.

Conboy focuses on the protection of two species: breeding Greater
Sandhill Cranes and the Oregon Spotted Frog. It sits at about 1900 feet
elevation at the foot of Mt Adams and is more of a marsh than a lake;
this year and in 2015 it was neither marsh nor lake. It was dry, dry, dry.

We saw no Sandhill Cranes either year. In 2015, a refuge biologist told
us that only 2 colts had survived and the cranes departed earlier than
usual. She speculated that it was because it was such a dry year and
that had allowed predators such as coyotes access to nests. One of the
places on the refuge that we survey is Lake Road to its end. We often
find in the marshes on both sides of this road ducks, rails, sora,
phalaropes, geese and the rare swan, as well as woodpeckers, Song
Sparrows and Yellow Warblers and on occasion yellowlegs. This year we
found nothing; it was completely dead.  We had a similarly desolate
experience at Conboy Headquarters, where we usually find a number of

This year overall, we counted 36 species in a full day of counting,
compared to a usual of 50 to 60 species, and we had far fewer
individuals than usual. We had 0 waterfowl until we got to the Glenwood
Mill Pond, which is not part of the refuge.

Interestingly, the fall migration count for Klickitat County as a whole
this year had fairly normal numbers, both in species and individual
totals. But Steve's observation about the drying of mountain marshes
this year and in 2015 really rang true based on our experience at Conboy.

Jane Hadley

Seattle, WA

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