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Saturday, January 3, 2009

CBC: Variety but not abundance

Today I participated in my second Christmas Bird Count (CBC) here on San Juan Island. There was light snow last night, but most of it melted today so I was able to get out to my count site at Lime Kiln State Park, as well as conduct a local count at our marina. It was cold and windy, but the precipitation luckily held off so it was a pleasant afternoon to spend three hours birding. Overall, I saw a respectable 25 species, but most species were just ones and twos. I have a feeling a lot of birds were hard to see/count because of the high winds. Here is my species list from my two count sites:Harlequin duck
Surf scoter
Hooded merganser
Common loon
Horned grebe
Red-necked grebe
Pelagic cormorant
Bald eagle
Glaucous-winged gull
Gull sp.
Rhinoceros auklet
Northern flicker
Common raven
Chestnut-backed chickadee (topped the list at 22 individuals)
Red-breasted nuthatch
Brown creeper
Bewick's wren
Golden-crowned kinglet
Varied thrush
Spotted towhee
Fox sparrow
Song sparrow
Dark-eyed junco
House sparrow

An interesting species of late is the locally common glaucous-winged gull. When I got back from my holiday trip, my bird feeder was gone, and I assumed it had blown away in the strong winds we had up here. Now, I'm starting to think maybe it was the gulls! As soon as I put out a new feeder (read: flimsy disposable baking pan), two gulls immediately came over and started pulling at and bending the plate. I spooked them off yesterday, but this morning the plate was bent in half. I guess I'll have to come up with a sturdier, more permanent feeder. Here's a picture of one of the troublesome gulls on my roof, looking down at the feeder:

Also, Dave at Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventures told me that a glaucous-winged gull was recently seen in Cleveland, England which is along the northeast coast of the country. (You can read about the sighting on Bill Aspin's birding blog.) This is remarkable to me! Sometimes European and North American birds will end up on the wrong continent, but often it will be from the east coast of the US to the west coast of Europe, so the bird "just" has to cross the Atlantic Ocean. But in the case of this glaucous-winged gull, it is a WEST coast bird from North America and it has ended up on the EAST side of the UK! I have no idea how this could have happened, although Dave reports that apparently American birds end up on the eastern shores of England by "bouncing" off of Norway. If this bird flew directly from Friday Harbor to where it is in England, it would have had to travel more than 4500 miles, and that's if it flew in a straight line over the shortest possible route. Talk about ended up off course! Wikipedia does list it as a rare visitor to the western palearctic zone, with its first ever record in Britain in the winter of 2006-2007. Maybe the same bird is still there!

1 comment:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika

There is a chance it came through the arctic over the pole, perhaps following a succession of fishing boats some how? Well travelled which ever way it came! We used to have a few Ring Billed Gulls turn up now and then at the nature reserve I was warden of but they seem to have dried up now, still occur in fair numbers in teh UK but not at Blackpool it would seem.

Thanks for the links