Shorebird Monitoring in Puget Sound
|A nonprofit organization committed to ecological research and conservation
|Beginning in the winter of 2012, Ecostudies Institute, in
collaboration with Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and
US Forest Service International Program, began coordinating
a citizen science shorebird monitoring effort in Puget Sound.
This program is part of two closely related large-scale,
flyway-wide shorebird monitoring efforts: The Pacific Flyway
Shorebird Survey and Migratory Shorebird Project.
This multi-partnered program will work to address this problem. The goals of the project are to: (1)
quantify trends in distribution and abundance of shorebirds at local sites and across their range, (2)
develop a analytical framework to evaluate specific hypotheses about the factors influencing population
changes, and (3) conduct outreach and education to establish a motivated group of citizen surveyors to
engage the public and encourage support for conservation actions. In 2011, initial surveys were
conducted in California, Canada, Mexico, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador and Perú.
In Washington State, Puget Sound contains 26 estuarine sites that support > 1,000 shorebirds.
However, the major stopover and wintering areas, especially for Dunlin and Western Sandpiper are
located in four large estuaries in northern Puget Sound that empty into Samish, Padilla, Skagit, and Port
Susan Bays. Together, these sites annually support >50% of overwintering shorebirds in the Puget
Sound. We will focus our shorebird surveys at these four bays. Skagit and Port Susan Bays support up
to 45,000 wintering Dunlin and 25,000 migrating western Sandpipers, while Samish and Padilla Bays
support up to 25,000 wintering Dunlin and 25,000 migrating western Sandpipers.
Although these estuaries in Puget Sound are of great conservation importance to shorebirds and
species, they have been highly modified and remain extremely threatened. For example, in northern
Puget Sound approximately 80% of tidal estuarine wetlands and nearly all non-tidal freshwater wetlands
have been lost, primarily due to their historical conversion to agriculture. Despite the loss of wetlands,
the region still serves as critical habitat for shorebirds, but threats, such as development, invasive
species, and sea level rise due to climate change, continue to exert pressure on the system.
Shorebirds using the Pacific Flyway are dependent upon
a network of widely spaced estuarine sites between the
Arctic and South America for wintering and migrating to
and from their breeding grounds. Shorebirds also have
exhibited long-term population declines. The lack of
broad-scale coordinated monitoring along the Pacific
Flyway limits our ability to understand the problem and
design conservation strategies to benefit shorebirds.
Winter 2012/2013 Survey Summary
We had over 45 volunteers, the majority from local Audubon Chapters, participate in our training
events. We identified 15 survey sites in four of the bays in North Puget Sound that serve as major
wintering areas for shorebirds. Although poor weather (excessive wind and rain) hampered our survey
efforts, we did manage to count 15,585 shorebirds during our survey on 15 December. The majority
(15,454) were Dunlin, although we also detected some Greater Yellowlegs and Black-bellied Plovers.
Surveyors also detected 26 raptors, including 4 Snowy Owls, which were abundant in the region this
The next scheduled training sessions and surveys will not occur until Fall of 2013. If you are interested
in participating, contact Gary Slater.
Why are we involved?
You can follow the status of the project on our Facebook
Funding for this project is provided by the U.S. Forest Service