Seawatch – Season Recap

[Surf Scoters flying past the 7th Street seawall. Photo by Skye Haas.]

 Now that the clickers have gone silent and the sea-foam is starting to settle, let’s take a look at some noteworthy happenings from the 2014 Avalon Seawatch. *Any and all data presented here should be viewed as preliminary.

First, the basics:
·      The Seawatch was conducted during a standardized 92-day period, beginning September 22 and ending December 22. The count operated from sunrise to sunset each day, resulting in approximately 966 observation hours.
·      All observations were made from the seawall parking lot at the end of 7th Street.
·      Skye Haas served as the primary counter, with Tom Reed covering two days a week. Sam Galick also provided additional coverage during October.
·      More than 1,000 visitors stopped at the count site during the course of the season.

Next, some highlights:
·      A total of 1,026,836 migrating waterbirds, comprising 69 species, were recorded. This total represents a new single-season record at Avalon, and is only the second time that the Seawatch has surpassed 1 million birds.
·      As per usual, peak movements occurred from late-October through mid-November. Over 615,000 birds were recorded during the period spanning October 20 – November 20, representing 60% of the season total.
·      The highest single-day total was 45,461, which occurred on October 21.
·      The season’s rarity list was headlined by Ross’s Goose, Pacific Loon (2), Great Shearwater, Long-tailed Jaeger, and Franklin’s Gull.
·      Other notables included King Eider (4), Harlequin Duck (7), Red-necked Grebe (15), Cattle Egret, Razorbill (12), Pomarine Jaeger (3), Black-legged Kittiwake (12), Little Gull (2), and Iceland Gull (4).

Season totals and peak dates for the 5 most abundant species in 2014*:
Season Total
Peak Flight
Peak Flight Date
Black Scoter
November 4
Double-crested Cormorant
October 3
Surf Scoter
October 21
Northern Gannet
November 15
Red-throated Loon
November 15

Lastly, some fun facts:
·      Total birds ÷ observation days = 11,161 birds per day.
·      Total birds ÷ observation hours = 1,063 birds per hour.
·      Total “biomass” = approximately 2,700,000 pounds, or 1,350 tons, of migrating birds!
·      The first bird of the season was a Laughing Gull, recorded at 6:37am on September 22. The last bird was a Red-throated Loon, recorded at 4:39pm on December 22.
·      Though they are not included with the official count, 24 species of shorebirds were seen from the Seawatch during the 2014 season. Highlights included Baird’s Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, and American Golden-Plover. 

 Readers can expect a more detailed account of the season, penned by Skye Haas, to appear in this space during the next few days. Happy Holidays and many thanks to everyone who supported the 2014 Avalon Seawatch!

[September sunrise at the Seawatch. Until next year...    Photo by Tom Reed.]

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