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Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Matter of Record Keeping

It's been a while since I've checked in on where I stand with the year list. I was stalled out for a while at 197, and figured my best shot at pushing over 200 would be when I do some traveling for the upcoming holidays. Then, however, I got an e-mail from Tim over at 39 Counties, who is looking to see 39 species in all 39 of Washington's counties this year (and in fact is close to getting 50 species in every county). He was looking at data on eBird and noticed that I'm within spitting distance of the San Juan County record for species seen within a year. Washington Birder has the record at 156 species, and at the time of the e-mail I had 149 in the county for the year. Of course I can't resist a challenge, so it was time to comb through the species list and renew my efforts birding on the island down the stretch.

The first thing I noticed on my San Juan County species list was the northwestern crow. Personally, I think the American crow and northwestern crow are probably one species, but currently they are considered separate species and the general consensus is that only northwestern crows inhabit the San Juan Islands. If I'm going to count this as a species on my county list, I've got to count it as a species on my year list, right? I hadn't included it as separate from the American crow just yet, so the northwestern crow now occupies the out of order position of 198 on the year list - chintzy, I know.

One species that's been reported around the county recently that I hadn't seen was the ancient murrelet, and I had been trying to see some from shore for quite some time, but without any luck. Lucky for me, my bird-watching friend Phil helped me out and we took a little trip out into San Juan Channel where he had been seeing lots of murrelets. It didn't take us long to locate a few ancient murrelets (year bird 199, county bird 150):

Ancient murrelet in San Juan Channel
It was a beautiful, calm afternoon - a nice break in some of the stormy weather we've been having - and there was lots of other bird activity out there as well. Bonaparte's gulls, mew gulls, and glaucous-winged gulls, plus common murres, rhinoceros auklets, and loons. We also saw several pairs of marbled murrelets, and I got my best-ever photo-op of this endangered species:

Marbled murrelets in San Juan Channel

I've identified 20 possible county species to look for down the stretch, and I've been out several afternoons looking for them since then. No luck just yet, but of course I've seen lots of other cool stuff. I've found two short-eared owls at different locations on the island, found a Eurasian wigeon mixed in with a flock of American wigeon, seen my first trumpeter swans on the winter, and found an impressive flock of 150+ Canada geese (especially large numbers for on the island).

Coming up this week, after scouting out a couple of potential owl locations on the island, we'll be heading to Portland for Thanksgiving. The county birding effort will be put on hold, but I expect to push the year list over 200 on the trip. Dave, my rival year lister, beat me to the 200 mark a good two weeks ago, but of course what really matters is where the count stands at the end of December 31!

So, now that all that record-keeping is out of the way (did you follow all that?), I'll be updating my bird list status more regularly down the home stretch of 2011. What will my 200th year bird be? Will I end the year ahead of Dave? Will I get the county year list record? Stay tuned to find out!!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

"Dave, my rival year lister, beat me to the 200 mark a good two weeks ago, but of course what really matters is where the count stands at the end of December 31!" - Exactly and I've got stuck on 200 now :(

Good luck with the county record...go for it!!!


The K said...

Glad to hear I'm not a rival at 221 ;-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - had a good day yesterday now on 203, glad we're not competing with The K!!!! or our young uns who have me wupped already.

here's the link for the Burston Blues - email Aussie Glen for prices, shipping rates etc

Thanks D