2019 OPAS Birdathon/World Migratory Bird Count Results
by Bob Boekelheide
The Clallam County Birdathon, always held on World Migratory Bird Day on the second Saturday in May, is in significant transition partly due to the growth of eBird, the online bird records app. In the past, Birdathon participants counted birds at many Clallam locations and submitted paper tally sheets with their records. eBird instead provides an electronic tally sheet, and anyone who submits eBird records in Clallam County on Birdathon day essentially becomes a Birdathon participant, as long as the compiler (me) can find their data in eBird. Are the two methods comparable? Yes and no.
This year 79 people in 42 parties counted 15,429 individual birds of 177 species. This is a very respectable species count for any county in Washington, but still far below the record Clallam count of 203 species seen in 2012. The species count is also below the average of 181 species for the last 26 years. Our total number of individual birds is well below the record total of 33,537 birds observed in 2010, and also below the average total (23,760 birds) for our mid-May count.
This year’s Birdathon data includes eBird tallies from a group of birders riding on the Star Princess, a repositioning cruise ship traveling from Los Angeles to Vancouver BC. This group counted birds approximately 30-35 mi west of La Push, technically within Clallam County according to the way that eBird tallies offshore birds. Consequently we ended up with high counts of species like Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, and Red-necked Phalarope. But other than the cruise ship, the only species setting a record high count on land this year was Sora.
Unfortunately there were fewer people counting in fewer places this year, particularly at the west end of Clallam County. This led to lower counts than typical for several species. Species with low counts this year included Brant, Surf and White-winged Scoters, California Quail, Common Loon, Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants, Black Oystercatcher, Western Sandpiper, Mew and Western Gulls, Caspian Tern, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Vaux’s Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Tree Swallow, and Pacific Wren. In addition, we totally missed several species typically on our list, including Merlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Western Screech-Owl, and Great Horned Owl.
The most unusual Birdathon species was a migrating Broad-winged Hawk that passed over the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse, seen by Mark Salvadalena and Bob Boekelheide.
No matter how the data are recorded, our goal remains unchanged — to produce a one-day snapshot of the avifauna of Clallam County on World Migratory Bird Day, the second Saturday in May. Please put next year’s Birdathon on your calendars right now — Saturday, May 9, 2020.
Many thanks to our Birdathon participants: Lee Bowen, Laura Davis, Alan Smith, Bruce & Carol Von Borstel, Marsha Wiles, Bob Iddins, Karen Parker, Kate, Peter, & Annette Buenau, John & Diana Anderson, Audrey Gift, Kathy & Otis Bush, John Gatchet, Trudy Wegehaupt, Ken Wiersema, Powell Jones, John Woolley, Alan Selig, Arnold & Debbie Schouten, Michael Barry, Judy Mullally, Steve & Sandy Bengtson, Tom Butler, Lee Leddy Scott Horton, Bob Boekelheide, Mark Salvadalena, Judy White, Pete Walker, Jean Siesener, Ida Domazlicky, Bob & Enid Phreaner, Iris Winslow, Heidi Pedersen, Ally Simons, Sandra Boren, Marie Grad, Denny Van Horn, Bruce Paige, Myra & Ed Koszykowski, Karen Holtrop, Derek Buchner, Sue Nattinger, Coleman Byrnes, Judy Collins, Adrianne Akmajian, Kristen Johanson, Kendra Donelson, Killian White, Star Princess Cruise Ship — WINGS tour, NatureScape tour, Matt Dufort, and others.