Date: 6/7/20 12:54 pm From: B Boekelheide <bboek...> Subject: [Tweeters] Clallam Migratory Bird Day results
It’s old news at this point, but here are a few tidbits from the Clallam County Birdathon/Migratory Bird Day, our annual tally of birds in Clallam County on the second Saturday in May.
On May 9, 2020, 98 participants in 45 field parties counted 19,598 individual birds of 161 species in Clallam County. The 161 species tied for the lowest species count for the 27 years that we have data for this count (the record is 203 species in 2012). The total number of individual birds was below average for the 27 years, but still higher than the last three years.
Coronavirus caused several major changes. Olympic National Park was closed, so we missed mountain birds at Hurricane Ridge and Blue Mountain. Both the Makah and Quileute Indian Reservations were closed to non-residents, decreasing our count particularly of seabirds and unusual species. But with no one on vacation this year, we had the highest number of feeder-watcher hours since 2006 and the highest number of participants and total party hours since 2007.
Despite the low species count, we ironically set record or near-record numbers for many individual species, even when corrected for our higher number of party-hours and duplicate sightings. Species with much higher than average counts this year include: Canada Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Anna's Hummingbird, Sora, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Merlin, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Purple Finch, Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Wilson's Warbler, Western Tanager, and Black-headed Grosbeak.
Were there really more of these birds this year, or is it just because we had more observers out counting? Likely some of both. But it definitely seemed to be an early year with higher numbers of neotropical migrants such as flycatchers, vireos, and tanagers early in the season. Coincidentally, California and the Southwest experienced an early-season heat wave during the week before our count, which may have encouraged migrants to move north.
The most glaring misses this year were seabirds, particularly Common Murre, because we had neither an offshore boat nor access to Cape Flattery. We also totally missed Peregrine Falcon and saw much lower than average numbers of Northern Shovelers, Dunlin, California Gulls, and Hermit Thrushes. Some the areas in the upper Dungeness River drainage where Hermit Thrushes used to be heard singing at dawn now have numerous Swainson's Thrushes singing instead. Are nesting Hermits and Swainson's moving upslope, as foretold by climate change models?
One other milestone is worth noting. For the first time in our Birdathon's history, Anna's Hummingbirds outnumbered Rufous Hummingbirds. Anna's first appeared on our Birdathon in 1996, with only 2 birds. For the next 13 years, until 2009, we never saw more than six Anna's on our Birdathon, and still considered Anna's an unusual sighting. This year we counted 304 Anna's vs.183 Rufous. Are the Rufous suffering because of the increase in Anna's? It turns out our count of Rufous this year (183) almost exactly equals the average number of Rufous for the last 27 years (180.8). This year Rufous did seem scarcer than Anna's in the Olympic lowlands like around Sequim, but Rufous continues to be more abundant in places like the Olympic foothills. Regardless, we are witnessing an amazing increase in Anna's over a very short period of time, an important ornithological story of the early 21st century.
We did not find as many unusual species this year, perhaps because people stayed home and did not visit West End hotspots. There was one immature Glaucous Gull at Ediz Hook and a Yellow-headed Blackbird at 3 Crabs.
Complete results will be posted soon on the Olympic Peninsula Audubon website. Many, many thanks to everyone who helped with the count.