by Bob Boekelheide
The 43rd Sequim-Dungeness CBC, held on December 17, tallied 145 species this year. This is above average for the last 25 years, but still lower than our all-time high of 154 species in 2015. The total number of individual birds this year was 71,187, also above average, but lower than the all-time high count of 85,777 individuals in 2011. We had 104 valiant field observers in 36 to 43 parties, along with 20 feeder watchers. The weather cooperated for about half a day depending on which route you counted, starting with clear skies and calm winds for owling, then turned windy and eventually rainy by the end of the day.
The most abundant species, as usual, was American Wigeon, with 11,020. Other abundant species, in decreasing order of abundance, were Mallard (9449), Cackling Goose (5400), American Robin (4716), Pine Siskin (3493), Northern Pintail (3389), Glaucous-winged/Olympic Gull (3122), Dunlin (2674), Brant (1742), and Bufflehead (1657). These 10 species made up about two-thirds of all the birds seen on our count.
Big numbers of Cackling Geese have really put on a show in Dungeness this fall, with huge flocks flying around and ganging up on fields along Anderson Road, Schmuck Road, and others. We also set record counts for Greater White-fronted Goose and Snow Goose. Other species that posted high counts this year, or close to it, were Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Barred Owl, Anna’s Hummingbird, Bushtit, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, House Finch, and American Goldfinch.
Bushtits were a notable standout, far surpassing the previous high total and seen by over half our field parties. Our Dungeness Greens party found a large concentration of Yellow-rumped Warbler visiting myrtle bushes. The Dungeness Schoolhouse party recorded an amazing 363 goldfinches, three times more than the previous high count for our entire CBC. Could the mild fall weather have allowed some of these birds to stay further north this year?
Species with very low numbers this year included White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Mew Gull, and, perhaps most interesting, European Starling. White-winged Scoter scored the lowest count ever with only seven birds, down from hundreds just 15 years ago. Even though starlings tallied above 1000 birds, their count was still the lowest in 36 years. Another introduced species, Eurasian Collared-Dove, seems to have plateaued in numbers after reached their all-time high count in 2015.
Unusual species for this CBC included 1) two Rough-legged Hawks in Dungeness, 2) a Sora calling at dawn with Virginia Rails at Graysmarsh, 3) the fourth straight year a Willet is wintering in Dungeness Bay, 4) the first Ruddy Turnstone since 2007 at Dungeness Spit, 5) two Yellow-billed Loons seen by our boat party, 6) a photographed immature
Gyrfalcon at Graysmarsh beach, 7) a continuing Tropical Kingbird near Port Williams, 8) a backyard California Scrub-Jay, 9) one lovely Townsend’s Solitaire, 10) three Palm Warblers at 3 Crabs, and 11) a record six Swamp Sparrows seen by three different parties. It is an exceptional year for both Swamp Sparrows and Palm Warblers in western WA; curiously both these species nest in similar boggy habitats across the boreal forests of Canada.
Special thanks to property owners who allowed access for the count, including USFWS, Olympic Game Farm, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Dungeness Farms and Habitat, Willits family, Graysmarsh, Maple View Farm, WAState Parks, WADNR, Clallam County Parks, and more. Great thanks particularly to Durkee Richards for providing the offshore boat, and to Gary Poor for ferrying counters to Dungeness Spit. To our esteemed observers who traveled long distances to help with the count, we particularly thank you. And of course huge thanks to all the great cooks who provided food for the compilation dinner, and to the Dungeness River Audubon Center for hosting the compilation. If I forgot anyone, sorry about that, and thank you very much!
Dungeness Spit-Jamie Acker, Al Westphal; Dungeness Rec. Area– Ken Wiersema, Coleman Byrnes, Sue Nattinger, Matt Montague, Scott Horton; West Dungeness-Denny Van Horn, Dow Lambert, Marlene Lambert, Laura Davis, Alan Smith, Enid Phreaner, Barb Boekelheide, Shirley Anderson, Trudy Wegehaupt; Three Crabs-Scott Gremel, Mandy Holmgren, Blaine Dalton, Eric Guzman, Dave Manson, Tom Butler, Lee Bowen, Sue Guilleland; Jamestown-Brad & Dan Waggoner; Graysmarsh-Bob Boekelheide, Michael Barry, Ted Stadtmueller; Port Williams/WA Harbor-Bruce Paige, Sharon Paige, Dana Scott, Ron Miller, Steve & Nancy Smith; W. Sequim Bay-Susan Savage, Bob Blush, Jim & Audrey Gift, Bob Hutchison, Margaret Levitan, Bruce & Carol Von Borstel; Olympic Discovery Trail E-Carolyn Wilcox; E. Sequim Bay-Judy Mullally, Dan McDougall-Treacy; Miller Peninsula-Powell Jones, Greg Voyles, Katherine & Otis Bush; Diamond Point/Gardiner-John Gatchet, Bob Bagwell, Jean Spargo, Sharman Richardson, Brenda Landstrom; Offshore Boat-Charlie Wright, Linnaea Wright, Bruce LaBar, Mike Crim; Durkee Richards; Chicken Coop-Bob Steelquist; Palo Alto Rd-Andy & Ellen Stepniewski; Burnt Hill-John Bridge; South Sequim-Kendra Donelson, Pat MacRobbie; Happy Valley-Peter Walker,Judi White, John Acklen, Juanice Reyes, Clare Hatler, Suzanne Anaya, Ken Kennedy; W of Dungeness Riv./S of Hwy 101-Quenn Charrier, Norrie & Barb Johnson, Sally Holm, Pat McGuire, Jane Nicholas, Mary Morgan & Tim McNulty; Robin Hill Park/Solmar-Barb Blackie, Heidi Pedersen; Olympic Discovery Trail W.-Kathe Smith, Sue Taylor, Stuart, Pat Willits; McDonell Creek-Tom Guobis, Joan McDermott, Margie Palmer, Richard Bloomer, Debbie Turner, Barbara Vanderwerf; Carlsborg/W. Dungeness-Marie Grad, Laura Pollock, Dan & Valerie Stahler, Jane Stewart, Neil Burkhardt, Jim & Diane Luoma, Steve Koehler, Sharle Osborne; Sequim neighborhoods-Bob Iddins, Cindy Fullwiler; North Sequim to Dungeness-Enid and Bob Phreaner, Gary Bullock, Kevin Froese, Marion Rutledge, Stacey Fradkin, Grace & Kate Goschen; Railroad Bridge Park-Mary Robson, Jenna Ziogas, Keith Lehn, Allyson Simons, Tom Backe; Sequim feeders-Joy Bertman, Sara Blake, Bev Swearingen, Doris Causey, Pat Schoen, Annette Hanson; Swans-Bob & Ann Sextro.
In other bird sightings, it has been another busy fall at Neah Bay. Besides more Palm Warblers and Swamp Sparrows, some of the more interesting birds included an Arctic Loon first seen 12/1 by Michael Barry, a Northern Goshawk spotted on 12/24 by Michael Barry and Bruce Paige, and a female-type Indigo Bunting at Butler’s Motel found on 12/15 by Ryan Merrill. Judi White photographed a Nashville Warbler at Neah Bay on 11/23, then up to 2 were found in mid-December, so perhaps at least one stuck around for a few weeks.
Speaking of Neah Bay, the Neah Bay Christmas Bird Count occurred on 12/16, its fourth year. Charlie Wright, the Neah Bay CBC compiler, says the species total came to 124 this year, 3 of which were count-week birds. Seven species were new to the count: Canada Goose, Rough-legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Bewick’s Wren, American Goldfinch, Nashville Warbler, and the Indigo Bunting mentioned above. The Arctic Loon also stuck around to be counted, for the second year in a row.
In eastern Clallam, John Gatchet discovered a Brewer’s Sparrow in his yard at Gardiner on 10/24, but within a few days it moved down the street to the Gardiner boat launch, where John last recorded it on 12/2. Ken Roberts, while walking at Port Williams on 12/12, photographed a very late Tropical Kingbird, which thankfully stuck around for the Sequim CBC. Bruce Paige found a female Mountain Bluebird by the Sequim airport on 12/9, but unfortunately it did not stick around for the CBC.
While walking the back roads of Joyce on 12/5, Sue Nattinger watched six very late Turkey Vultures sail overhead at Onella Road. She later discovered an American Tree Sparrow at Wasankari Road on 12/23, perhaps the first for Clallam County this year.
Long-eared Owls are kind of a mystery in Clallam County, infrequently heard and even less often seen. Several observers recorded Long-eared Owls in the Waatch Valley between 10/13-11/11, starting with Will and James Brooks. This is the same area where Long-eared Owls have been recorded over the last 3 years. Sam McCollough, farm manager for Nash’s Farms, discovered a dead Long-eared Owl at the haybarn along Schmuck Road on 12/3, where he had seen one alive just days before.
Day lengths are getting longer, so it’s time to go birding and share your sightings with the world. Please send your interesting bird sightings to Bob Boekelheide at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your sightings.