Birding Around Green Lake: Preliminary Bird Count Results

February 5, 2015 7:37am

The longest running citizen science project in the United States just concluded and it involves some of our Green Lake wildlife.

The annual Christmas Bird Count, administered by the National Audubon Society, is a census-style count that pulls dedicated birdwatchers from across the US to help track populations of birds. While the Seattle chapter hasn’t officially posted the final bird count we asked our resident nature-guy Martin Muller who participated in this year’s count (and more than 24 previous CBCs) what he found interesting this year – especially in the area around Green Lake.

First he directed us to some data by the Seattle organizer, Matt Bartels, who provided interesting findings this year (about the greater Seattle area) including:

  • 120 species were tallied on count-day, a bit lower than our count-day average.
  • The total number of species counted, 47,855, was the second lowest total since 1996, but in line with the totals of the last five years.
  • 2014’s CBC set a record for the number of participants, with 206 observers taking part, 196 in the field and 10 at feeders. This is only the second time the Seattle CBC has included more than 200 participants.
  • Notable misses:
    Ruddy Duck (count week only), Great Horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Marbled Murrelet (count week only), Northern Shrike, White-throated Sparrow (count week only).

    Record high counts:
    For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for Cackling Goose (57), Horned Lark (1), and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (389). 93 Bald Eagles (the second highest total they’ve had) were counted. As recently as the 1980s and early 1990s, the Seattle count only recorded Bald Eagles in single digit totals.

    While the numbers are interesting, Martin warns not to attach too much value to year-to-year changes. Birds are extremely mobile and can be easily missed. He uses the Green Herons at Green Lake as an example because they can be well hidden in the trees and brush around the Lake and were this year during the count.

    Photo via Martin Muller

    Martin said there were a few surprises this year around the Green Lake area from our bird friends, including:
    “We usually get a flock of about 50 or so Barrow’s Goldeneyes. These Bay Ducks are usually found on salt water during winter (they can reliably be found at the locks feeding on barnacles and bivalves). For the past ten years or so a flock comes to spend the night at Green lake (near the Aqua Theater). We usually include them right at the start of our count, often just minutes before they take off. This year they either didn’t spend the night at the lake or they had already left.”


    Martin also said there was a high number of fish eating birds spotted at the lake such as Common Mergansers and Double-crested Cormorants that have been foraging at the lake this winter. Martin attributes this to the thousands of trout and other fish that were added to the lake this Fall by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    Martin said overall they found fewer songbirds than usual around Green Lake- such as Song Sparrows. Just like the Green Heron they were there the day before and again the day after. “I guess they just didn’t want to be counted,” he said. “Overall, the slightly lower-than-average numbers gave the impression that it “simply wasn’t all that birdy.” Something several long-time participants commented on at the compilation that evening.”