by Bob Boekelheide
OPAS held its 2018 Clallam County Birdathon/World Migratory Bird Count on May 12, a beautiful day to look for birds. On that day, 43 valiant observers counted birds in Clallam County, tallying 13,996 birds of 187 species. Our species total is slightly above the 24-year average of 181 species, but the number of birds counted is well below the average number of individual birds tallied over the last 24 years, at 24,093 birds. Click here to view the results of the bird count.
Unfortunately we had the lowest number of participants for Birdathon going back to 1994, with particularly very few feeder watchers this year. Perhaps it was such a nice day that fewer people stayed home to tally birds, but it’s not a good trend to have fewer people counting fewer party-hours. It was also foggy and breezy off the West End, so Scott Horton and his offshore boat did not search for pelagic birds. Consequently we missed species such as albatrosses and shearwaters that undoubtedly are out there.
Our surveys might not be rigorous science, but they still provide clues about important species in our area. The ten most abundant species, in decreasing order, were Glaucous-winged/Olympic Gull (1334), Rhinoceros Auklet (727), Common Murre (610), American Robin (562), Surf Scoter (431), American Wigeon (415), Violet-green Swallow (363), Brant (340), Pigeon Guillemot (277), and Barn Swallow (279). Three of these species, scoters, wigeons, and brant, do not nest here, so rounding out the top ten with species that do nest here are Crow sp. (273), Song Sparrow (263), and Red-winged Blackbird (256). Remember that just because we record higher numbers of a particular species does not necessarily mean it is more abundant; it just means it is more visible to our counters. If we could count all the passerines hiding out in the woods, then species like Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Pacific Wren, and Wilson’s Warbler might lead the pack.
Very few all-time high counts for individual species occurred this time. The only significant high counts were due to Denny Van Horn and Mike Charest at Bahokus Peak and the Waatch Valley, where they tallied 8 Broad-winged Hawks and 3 Golden Eagles passing over. Denny also tallied a remarkable number of owls between Lake Ozette and the Neah Bay area, with very high counts of Great Horned, Pygmy, and Barred Owls. California Gulls set a an all-time high count as well, with surprising numbers of immature California Gulls appearing before their typical post-breeding exodus from inland nesting areas.
Some species tallied very low numbers, particularly when corrected for party-hours. What happened to Northern Shovelers? Following very low numbers last year, shovelers scored their lowest numbers ever for this count. Curiously, Steller’s Jays again had a very low count, following last year’s low numbers. Are Steller’s Jays in trouble, or are they just sneaking around in the woods like they do this time of year? Spotted Towhees, a common backyard bird, had its lowest count since 1995, perhaps because fewer people watched their feeders. Although no finch species recorded all-time lows, House Finches, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches all tallied well below their long-term averages, again perhaps because of fewer feeder watchers.
As always, some unusual species popped up for the count. The lone Snow Goose that thinks it’s a Canada Goose was still here through May, tallied by Annette Hanson at Kirner Pond. There was a beautiful Pacific Golden-Plover in breeding plumage at Ediz Hook, spotted by Bob Boekelheide, Scott Gremel, Michael Barry, and Iris Winslow. Adrianne Akmajian scored a gull double-play, with both a Franklin’s Gull and a Glaucous Gull at Neah Bay. Fortunately the California Scrub-Jay that’s been hanging around Marie Grad’s neighborhood stopped by her backyard for the count. Many thanks to Eric Guzman for hiking to the Griff Creek burn near Hurricane Hill, where he filled in good numbers of American Pipits, Townsend’s Solitaires, and Horned Larks. Lastly, Denny Van Horn scored really big with a Long-eared Owl at the Makah Fish Hatchery and a Rock Wren at the Waatch quarry.
Remember, World Migratory Bird Day is always the second Saturday in May. Please put May 11, 2019 on your calendar right now to join the Clallam County count, because we need everyone’s help, particularly feeder watchers.
Thanks to everyone who counted birds in Clallam County on May 12:
John Gatchet, Joyce Volmut, Bob & Leslie Bagwell, Richard Atteberry, Otis Bush, Mark Salvadalena, Michael Barry, Judi White, Keith Lehn, Ken & Mary Campbell, Kate Buenau, Nancy Kohn, Susan Savage, Bob Blush, Bob & Enid Phreaner, Laura Davis, Alan Smith, Carolyn Wilcox, T. R. Ryan, Sandy Boren, Marie Grad, Jane Nicholas, Bob Iddins, Dow Lambert, Annette Hanson, David Pearson, Robert Bowker, Iris Winslow, Judy Mullally, Kathe Smith, Sue Nattinger, Coleman Byrnes, Denny Van Horn, Mike Charest, Adrianne Akmajian, Nancy Scordino, Scott Horton, Cindy Fullwiler, Eric Guzman, & Bob Boekelheide.