By Michelle Roedell
You may have noticed small groups of people armed with binoculars and spotting scopes gathering once a month at Seahurst Park and the public access beach down from the Three Tree Point Store.
These citizen scientists are part of the Puget Sound Seabird Survey, a community science project originated by Seattle Audubon. Volunteers observe and record seabird species at 130 key locations throughout the Puget Sound region, including the two sites in Burien.
On the first Saturday of each month October through April, hundreds of volunteers throughout the region synchronize their schedules during a four-hour window based on high tides. Each survey lasts 15 to 30 minutes.
You can count on these intrepid birders to make their observations, come rain or shine. Using a ruler and compass, the surveyors gather data that provide a snapshot of seabird density throughout Washington’s inland saltwater habitats, from Olympia to the San Juan Islands.
Maureen, who was a bona fide scientist during her career, has translated her skills for this citizen science project. She has been volunteering with the Seabird Survey since the very beginning and calls herself “one of the old fogeys.” Maureen and her team members survey the beach at Seahurst Park; in the past, she also surveyed Three Tree Point and the Des Moines Marina. Said Maureen of the project:
“The Seabird Survey has become even more important because of climate change that may be impacting populations. It is critical, from my point of view, to monitor these trends.”
Longtime Burien residents Michael and Carlyn (pictured, right) have been surveying the Three Tree Point site since 2015.
“We’ve learned so much about seabirds ourselves by doing the survey,” said Carlyn. “It’s made us much better birders.” Michael agreed, then added, “And we get to talk to all the people who come down to find out what we’re doing.”
Since 2007, Seattle Audubon has managed this important project. This year, the project has a new home with the Puget Sound Bird Observatory. The move allows a continuation of the valuable long-term data gathering efforts. New organization, same volunteers.
Are you interested in volunteering for the Puget Sound Seabird Survey? Novice birders willing to learn seabird identification are welcome!
For more information, visit www.pugetsoundbirds.org/about-psss.
Michelle Roedell is the longtime editor/publisher of Northwest Prime Time, a local publication for people over age 50,