San Juan bird report

Dennis Paulson dpaulson at
Tue Feb 6 10:05:42 PST 2001

Hello, tweeters.

Just a note about a weekend on San Juan Island, 3-4 February 2001.

No rare birds seen, although 10 Ancient Murrelets in a flock in San Juan
Channel off Cattle Point (4 Feb) were a bit of a surprise, as I usually
think of them being there earlier in the winter and gone by February.

What was a bit of a surprise was the generally very low numbers of
seabirds. I used to teach a class on SJI every year in February, and I
have 13 years of records with which to compare from the 70s and 80s. I
felt that on this visit I was seeing fewer birds of just about all marine
species - loons, grebes, cormorants, sea ducks, and alcids (perhaps not
gulls). I wonder if this decline is real or apparent and whether the
prevalent El Niño conditions we've had has anything to do with it or
whether there is something else going on.

The other surprise was the virtual lack of raptors from the island. Our
only raptors in the whole American Camp area, on a beautiful sunny midday,
were one Bald Eagle and two Red-tailed Hawks, when in past years these
birds would be all over the place. There are still lots of rabbits, and we
saw one or two red foxes roaming the grassland there. We also saw fewer
eagles anywhere on the island and from the ferry than what I would have
considered normal. What's going on?

I always hope that information about the status of common birds will be
gathered by birders as we roam the countryside in our quest for rarities.

We could find no Sky Larks at American Camp (I almost never missed them in
February in past years). Randy Hill wrote a week or so ago "During the
Partners in Flight meetings in October, Bob Altman found one or two
skylarks at the south end of San Juan Island." That observation would be
of great value to document, as people on SJI have told me they thought the
species was gone from there. I hope a visitor to the island didn't see Sky
Larks there because he *thought* they should be there. I have found the
species extremely hard to see when they weren't singing in the spring.


Dennis Paulson, Director phone 253-879-3798
Slater Museum of Natural History fax 253-879-3352
University of Puget Sound e-mail dpaulson at
Tacoma, WA 98416

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