Olympic Audubon bird count report

The report is out for the Christmas Audubon Bird Count. This annual event is extremely important in monitoring the birds of our area. There are a few surprises and also some birds that were missing from the count that had been there over the decades. Read up and join up if you like to get out and enjoy birds and the outdoors!


Department of Natural Resources offers draft plans for comment on harvest, seabird – PDN

The state Department of Natural Resources has released draft environmental impact statements on the agency’s 10-year sustainable harvest calculation and its marbled murrelet long-term conservation strategy. Public comment will be taken until 5 p.m. March 9 on both documents, DNR spokesman Bob Redling said. Public meetings and webinars are planned next month. The 160-page sustainable harvest draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, and instructions for submitting public comments are available at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/shc. The 600-page marbled murrelet draft EIS and instructions for submitting public comments are available at www.dnr.wa.gov/mmltcs. Rob Ollikainen reports. (Peninsula Daily News)


Study gives new meaning to the term ‘bird brain’ – Vanderbilt News

I’ve been close to a number of birds in my life, raising a pigeon and a bunch of canaries. I’ve never felt that birds are a simple creature, given their size. The amazing ability to learn and survive is astonishing. Consider the hummingbird, who knows how to migrate from snowfields in South America to the northern west coast. My pigeon would fly from window to window outside our house while I would walk through the house. It would fly alongside my wife’s van for 8 blocks as she left in the morning. To find out that we have been underestimating these animals ability to think is not really news. But it does open a new way of understanding their abilities.

The macaw has a brain the size of an unshelled walnut, while the macaque monkey has a brain about the size of a lemon. Nevertheless, the macaw has more neurons in its forebrain – the portion of the brain associated with intelligent behavior – than the macaque. That is one of the surprising results of the first study to systematically measure the number of neurons in the brains of more than two dozen species of birds ranging in size from the tiny zebra finch to the six-foot-tall emu, which found that they consistently have more neurons packed into their small brains than are stuffed into mammalian or even primate brains of the same mass. The study results were published online in a paper titled “Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition on the week of June 13. David Salisbury reports. (Vanderbilt News)


State considers conservation options for marbled murrelet – Skagit Valley Herold

Some of the marbled murrelet habitat is in western Jefferson County. 

The state Department of Natural Resources is reviewing conservation plan options for the marbled murrelet, a seabird that is found along the state’s coast, including several bays on Skagit County’s shoreline. The state agency worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to draft five strategies to conserve the bird’s habitat. The options would protect between 594,000 and 734,000 acres of land managed by Natural Resources. The marbled murrelet is considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act, meaning it is likely to become endangered. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)


Restoring Bird Colonies with Social Attraction  – Birdnote

Interesting ideas. Might be of use here in the Sound.

What does relocating Caspian Terns from an island in the Columbia River have to do with luring Short-tailed Albatrosses away from an active volcano in Japan? They both use methods of social attraction pioneered by Dr. Stephen Kress. Social attraction utilizes visual cues such as decoys and audio recordings of birdcalls. Using these, scientists can entice bird colonies out of harm’s way. These Atlantic Puffins represent another successful use of social attraction: Kress and his team established new colonies of puffins on the coast of Maine! (BirdNote)


Jefferson County Dems Adopt Marbled Murrelet Resolution

The Jefferson County Democrats adopted, on Tuesday, a resolution urging the Board of Natural Resources to adopt the strongest of the alternatives it is considering for protection of marbled murrelet habitat. As a federally listed threatened species, the murrelet is protected on federal lands, but not on private lands. The bird has been protected on state trust lands under an interim conservation strategy since 1997, years before most research on the murrelet’s ecological requirements took place.

“The state’s own scientists showed in 2008 that this threatened species is still declining because of our logging practices,” said Bruce Cowan, Chair of the Jefferson County Democrats. “If this species is going to survive, we can’t just keep cutting the trust lands where these birds nest.”

The meeting followed a presentation by Kevin Schmelzlen of the Murrelet Survival Project. Not until 1974 did scientists discover that, unlike any other seabird, the murrelet nests in forests, flying as far as fifty miles inland to nest on large branches high in old growth forests. Breeding pairs switch places daily, with one parent feeding on small fish while the other incubates their single egg.

The Washington State Board of Natural Resources is currently considering five alternatives for habitat protection on state trust lands. According to Shmelzlen, only Alternative E responds to the 2008 Science Report, developed by researchers for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The issue of murrelet habitat conservation has been contentious. In 2013, the courts halted a DNR approved harvest of 12,000 acres of timber in Southwest Washington. The Forest Resources Council, an advocate for the timber industry, was unsuccessful in its attempt to have the murrelet de-listed as a threatened species.

“We’ve waited long enough for action,” said Cowan. “Adopting a clear policy based on the 2008 Science Report will make it easier for DNR to do its work. With fewer lawsuits, the flow of timber revenues to state and local governments will be more predictable,” said Cowan. “The set aside is not huge, and it could save a species from extinction.”

State of the Birds Report: Conservation Works, but There’s More Work to Do – Cornell Lab of Ornithology


This week, the Cornell Lab and partners released the 2014 State of the Birds Report. The report commemorates Martha, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon, whose tragic passing 100 years ago spurred the creation of the world’s greatest conservation movement.

In the last century we’ve saved Wood Ducks and Bald Eagles, Kirtland’s Warblers and Brown Pelicans, and more. The new report offers the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever, identifying a Watch List of 228 high-concern species as well as 33 Common Birds in Steep Decline to begin conserving now. See the full report and download the lists.

Environmental Group Fights Delay In Marbled Murrelet Habitat Protections – Earthfix

For those who may not have been here in the 70s and 80s, the Marbled Murrelett and the Spotted Owl have been the indicator species that triggered limits on harvest of the remaining old growth forest on the Olympic Peninsula (there was less than 5% remaining of it when the Federal Government stopped harvest due to habitat destruction to these birds). Since the 80s, the timber industry has done all it can to remove these protections, as the remaining timber is very valuable, and unavailable for harvest at this point, but the environmental legal teams have been able to prove to the courts scientifically that cutting more would mean the loss of the birds here. The battle is far from over, as this story from Earthfix shows. How much is at stake is an open debate point, and the issue has been used to inflame rural communities that were suffering from loss of timber jobs since the late 70s. The story that has never been adequately covered is that the loss of these jobs were heavily influence by the very companies that criticized the rules, as they had got Congress to open the shipping of raw logs to Japan. Smaller outdated mills could not compete, or afford to change. Also advancements in mechanized cutting came in at the same time, making many jobs obsolete. The story of the “spotted owl” is so much more complex than it was presented. And so, the 2013 chapter of the ongoing drama over the “Spotted Owl”.

An environmental group has stopped an agreement between the timber industry and federal wildlife officials that would have delayed new protections for a threatened seabird. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settled with the timber industry group, the American Forest Resource Council, last summer, to avoid a legal battle over for the marbled murrelet. The industry group argued that maps of protected areas called “critical habitat” had been done improperly. Fish and Wildlife agreed to suspend the current maps ­ but draft new ones. But, that agreement, and the protracted timeline ­ that it would take five years ­ drew a legal challenge from the Center for Biological Diversity. Rob Manning reports.


Seeing More Hummingbirds In Winter Lately? – Earthfix

We have been seeing more Hummers this winter at our feeder. Interesting info here. It’s worth keeping an eye out for species other than Anna’s because that one is native.

As winter begins, humming bird experts say more of the tiny birds may be sticking around the Northwest instead of migrating south. There are three types of hummingbirds Northwesterners might be seeing more of at feeders or in their yards this time of year: the Rufous, the Anna’s or the Allen’s hummingbirds. Read the rest of the story at:


“Magic Mud” found to be important to shorebirds

From the Vancouver Sun:

The “magic” in the mud was first uncovered just south of Vancouver where up to half the world’s western sandpipers touch down to refuel as they migrate north.

Now the gooey, paper-thin biofilm has also been found to be a key bird food on the other side of the Pacific, revealing what researchers say is a “missing link” in the avian world.

Biofilm can make up to 70 per cent of the diet of small shorebirds, which slurp up the stuff like energy drinks, says Environment Canada researcher Robert Elner, who led the international team that reports its study findings this week.

Read more:

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Discussion about seabird populations to take place in Bellingham

While not directly happening here, this event involves us, as our seabird populations are pretty much the same as the ones they are discussing. Another ‘canary in the coalmine”, pun intended…

1/17 Bellingham Herald
BELLINGHAM  – A discussion about seabird populations and mortality trends will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, at The Sustainable Living Center.
The discussion will be led by Julia Parrish, a nationally known seabird and conservation biologist and director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team.
The program is free and open to the public.
The Sustainable Living Center is at 2309 Meridian St., above the RE Store.
Parrish also will lead a hands-on workshop on bird identification and data collection from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22. To register, contact RE Sources at 360-733-8307.        

Superb video on local ocean acidification

Check out this 9 minute video from Oregon Public Broadcasting on the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish and animals at Tatoosh and the Oregon coast. A very good narrative of what’s happening to us right in our backyard of Tatoosh, and Hood Canal for that matter.


Ravens and Crows…a bit of education

Birdnote had an interesting story on ravens and crows this week, good to show kids,  and it was republished on Living on Earth. Enjoy!


Bird ID class

David Gluckman, AAS Field Trip Chair, is once more teaching his Bird ID class at Peninsula College at the Ft. Worden campus in PT the last Wed/Thursday in October (26th and 27th at 1:15 pm each day) and the first Wed/Thurs in November (2nd and 3rd at 1:15 pm each day) with a field trip on Saturday October 30 (in conjunction with the AAS trip to Ft. Flagler). The course is listed in the Community Classes, the first one under the Environmental Interest (p. 29) in their fall class schedule. This course will be an opportunity for those of you who want to sharpen your skills as well as beginners needing information about how to get started, what books and optics you might need as well as information about specific species in various local areas. He will be using his extensive local photograph collection in his lectures. For further information call David Gluckman at 379-0360 or Peninsula College at 385-4605.

Seabirds dying from coastal algae bloom -update

The ongoing bloom on the coast is a disaster for our shorebird population. This may have devasting effects for decades to come. Thanks to the volunteers helping out to get the surviving birds to some shelters. I’m unsure how many otters may be affected as well.

KPLU story on it: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain/article/0/1/1570689/KPLU.Local.News

10/27 Northwest News Network Coastal Algae Bloom: “It’s Like An Oil Spill, Without the Oil” Tom Banse It’s like an oil spill, but without the oil. That’s how wildlife rescue people are describing an unusual red tide along the Northwest coast. The algal bloom is causing hundreds upon hundreds of dead or dying seabirds to wash up on coastal beaches. Today, the deluge of distress shows signs of tapering off. Listen at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain/article/0/1/1570689/KPLU.Local.News/Coastal.Algae.Bloom.’It’s.Like.An.Oil.Spill..Without.the.Oil’ See also 10/28 Everett Herald PAWS rescuers scramble to save seabirds covered in algae http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20091028/NEWS01/710289753/-1/NEWS#PAWS.rescuers.scramble.to.save.seabirds.covered.in.algae

Update on dead birds on the coast

The PDN has this new update on the situation

9/20 Peninsula Daily News
Seabirds on Northwest coast “chilled to death” by brown algae protein (UPDATE)
By Leah Leach–Peninsula Daily News

LAPUSH — Researchers have confirmed that hundreds of sea ducks found dead and dying on West End beaches were severely chilled rather than poisoned. Several hundred birds — mostly white-winged scoters and surf scoters — have been found ill or dead from Rialto Beach south to the southern portion of Kalaloch beach since last weekend.

The birds are dying of hypothermia at least partially because of a protein from a brown algae called dinoflagellate, Mary Sue Brancato, a resource protection officer with Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, said after receiving preliminary necropsy reports.

When the single-celled algae is beaten apart by waves, it releases a brownish-green foam containing a soapy protein that strips the protective coating of oil from the ducks’ feathers.

More at

Surf Scoters wash up dead on ocean beaches – Seattle Times

9/14 Seattle Times
About 100 dead or sick sea ducks found at Kalaloch, LaPush beaches
By Jonathan Martin
Seattle Times staff reporter

Researchers have found at least 100 dead or sick sea ducks on two Northwest Washington beaches since Friday, likely due to a bloom of toxic algae in the coastal waters.

The bird kill appears to be mostly afflicting two specific breeds of sea ducks — the white-winged scoter and the surf scoter — that eat shellfish. The kill also appears to have hit only the Kalaloch and LaPush beaches, said Julia Parrish, executive director of Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a citizen science project from the University of Washington.

“We’re seeing dead and almost dead birds and in huge numbers,” said Parish, director of UW’s Environmental Studies Department. “If you go to outer coast beaches, you might normally see one dead scoter in a kilometer. We’re seeing more than 100, and reports that some are staggering around.”

More at

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