[Tweeters] Port Angeles-Sequim Breeding Bird Survey

Bob Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Wed Jun 22 18:51:35 PDT 2022

Hello, Tweeters,

My son Eric and I ran the Port Angeles Breeding Bird Survey on Sunday, 6/19/22. The route starts in west Port Angeles and covers 50 stops in the lowlands between Port Angeles and Sequim, ending up in the hills southeast of Sequim. It was a beautiful day, with overcast, light winds, and low 50s temps. It was the 51st year for this survey, and the 26th year that I’ve run it.

A couple things stood out. First, several species had low counts this year. Second, it’s amazing how consistent some common species can be between years.

Several disparate species tallied below their long-term averages: Rock Pigeon, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Spotted Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, and Brewer’s Blackbird.

Why fewer birds? Is it because of the cool, wet spring this year? That might explain some passerines if it’s affected insect populations. Habitat loss? More and more woodlots and hayfields have become home sites in eastern Clallam County, including along my route, which might explain decreases in things like forest birds and Savannah Sparrows. Avian flu? Who knows? Avian flu has been found in domestic birds in Clallam County, but not wild birds, as far as anyone knows. I also start to wonder — am I getting too old and missing birds? Well, I am older, but I still hear pretty well. Besides, many species that showed lower numbers are seen as much as heard, like Rock Pigeons, swallows, and blackbirds.

A few species scored much above average: Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Purple Finch (highest ever Purple Finch count in 51 years. Multiple birds singing in new places), House Finch, and Red Crossbill (seems to be a crossbill irruption year)

As far as year-to-year consistency of some common species, both in numbers and locations, here are some good examples comparing last year with this year:
American Robin (usually the most abundant and ubiquitous species on this survey) - In 2021, 119 individuals recorded at 45 stops. In 2022, exactly 119 individuals at 44 stops. Amazing.
American Goldfinch - In 2021, 45 individuals at 23 stops. This year, 44 individuals at 24 stops.
House Sparrow - In 2021, 14 individuals at 6 stops. This year, 15 individuals at 6 stops.
Swainson’s Thrush - In 2021, 25 individuals at 14 stops. This year, 21 individuals at 15 stops.
American Crow - In 2021, 43 individuals at 22 stops. This year, 45 individuals at 17 stops.
Eurasian Collared-Dove - In 2021, 25 individuals at 18 stops. This year, 29 individuals at 19 stops. (Collared-Doves first appeared on this survey in 2009, with 4 birds at 2 stops. They peaked in 2016 with 60 birds at 30 stops, but now seem to be stabilizing at lower levels.)

Of course one survey does not make a trend, but I wonder if others are seeing similar changes on other breeding bird surveys.
Bob Boekelheide

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