[Tweeters] Re: Stanley Park/Burrard Inlet Declines

Michael Price loblollyboy at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 01:28:03 PDT 2009

Hi Tweets,

Sorry for an over-generalisation, gracefully pointed out privately. I can
only plead that it was late and I was by then almost completely asleep at
the switch.

>all, except for Barrow's Goldeneye which feeds on mussels and barnacles,

feed on small fish.

I had intended to qualify that blanket statement to make clear it applied
only to the piscivorous seabirds which used to be common along the Stanley
Park littoral and in other parts of Burrard Inlet---alcids, loons, grebes,
mergansers, small gulls and terns and the jaegers which exploit them both. I
did not intend for it to apply to the listed shorebirds or the
mollusk-eating scoters, nor (usually) Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead,
Harlequin Duck, either scaup, or Long-tailed Duck. What has caused _their_
drastic declines? I don't know.

So, here's the list I had intended.

* diet mainly small fish
** diet mostly seabed mollusks, cretaceans etc.
+ both
^ other

*Common Loon fairly common uncommon to rare
*Pacific Loon fairly common rare
*Red-throated Loon common rare

+Horned Grebe very common fairly common to
*Red-necked Grebe uncommon rare
*Western Grebe very abundant uncommon

^Ruddy Duck common rare
**Greater Scaup common uncommon to
**Lesser Scaup very abundant fairly common to
**Black Scoter locally common rare
**White-winged Scoter uncommon uncommon
**Surf Scoter very abundant locally
abundant to common
+Long-tailed Duck uncommon rare
**Barrow's Goldeneye locally abundant locally common
**Bufflehead common uncommon,
common transient only
*Red-breasted Merganser very common fairly common to

*Parasitic Jaeger uncommon migrant very rare

*Bonaparte's Gull common summer and fall uncommon
*Common Tern very common rare
*Caspian Tern common fairly common

*Common Murre common offshore undetermined
*Pigeon Guillemot fairly common uncommon
*Marbled Murrelet common extirpated
*Rhinoceros Auklet uncommon to rare rare

Black Turnstone locally common uncommon, common
transient only
Dunlin common winter, abundant transient rare winter, uncommon
Sanderling common winter uncommon to rare
Semipalmated Sandpiper common juv migrant very rare
Western Sandpiper common juv migrant very rare
Least Sandpiper common juv migrant very rare

Again, let me stress that this mostly applies the Stanley Park littoral,
though for some species this includes Burrard Inlet as well.

Why I feel some confidence in generalising is from the following examples.

>From the 1960's to the early 1990's, each average winter day would see a

winter-resident flock of between 20 and 30 Red-throated Loons arrayed about
1 km out from the entrance to False Creek; a little further out and in
deeper water, an average winter day would see about 5--6 Pacific Loons and
5--10 Long-tailed Ducks. Pairs of Marbled Murrelets were scattered all
around the inlet. Common Loons seemed to settle on a territorial width of
shoreline of about 200m--300m, which meant there were quite a few. There was
a standing flock of Black Scoters of about 50-75 birds at a particular cove
along Bayswater Beach. Any day in winter, I could look out into the center
of outer Burrard Inlet and see 8,000-10,000 Western Grebes. They're all
gone. If you see them now, they're single birds, usually in passage, and
very hard to find otherwise.

When it came to Bonaparte's Gulls, Common Terns and Parasitic Jaegers, in
that period a typical day in mid-September would see a heavy traffic of all
three along the shoreline of Spanish Banks. This year I went out to Spanish
Banks in September for the first time in many years. Deliberately, I went
out on the same date where exactly ten years ago, 1999, at West Spanish
Banks I had seen about 100 Common Terns, 150 Bonaparte's Gulls, 5 different
Parasitic Jaegers, 6 Common Loons, 30 Western Grebes, 1 Clark's Grebe,
Horned and Red-throated Grebes, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots, a Rhino
Auklet, and tons of offshore California Gulls, just to see what changes if
any there had been.

This year, 2009, on the same date at the same time of day with conditions of
dead calm and ideal visibility, observing from exactly the same location: 3
Pelagic Cormorants and a single GW Gull far out on the inlet. Period. That
was it. To the limit of visibility, except for these distant three
cormorants and one gull, the entire inlet was completely empty . As a
birder, I've spent the last decade feeling apprehensive; this is the first
time I've actually felt frightened.

Michael Price
Vancouver BC Canada
loblollyboy at gmail.com

"I feel like a fugitive from th' law of averages!" -- GI Willie
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