Every year across the US and Canada, avid birders set off to participate in the largest annual bird census in North America: The Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). CBC participants set out to count all the birds in a 15-mile diameter circle over the span of 24 hours. This 24-hour period happens on one calendar day (per circle) between December 14th and January 2nd every year.
The Christmas Bird Count was started by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman in 1900 as an alternative to a Christmas hunting tradition. With the help of 27 birders, Chapman started this century-long tradition with the simple idea of counting birds, instead of killing them. Since its conception, the CBC has provided useful data to the scientific community, informing reports like the 2012 EPA Climate Change Report, and Audubon’s 2014 Climate Change Report.
The Eastside Audubon Society includes the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery as a part of their 15-mile diameter circle that is surveyed during the CBC. In 2020, and again this year, FISH will be assisting Eastside Audubon Society leaders in their census of the hatchery grounds. As many know, the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is an urban wildlife refuge, rich with animals, bugs, and plants that create a complex ecosystem ideal for many native bird species. Last year during the CBC, 20 species of birds were counted at the hatchery including species of sparrows, starlings, gulls, mergansers, and more! Stay tuned to see what birds are spotted at the hatchery during the 2021-2022 CBC!
Update: Final Birds from 2021 CBC at the Hatchery
Dark-eyed Junco 36
Black-capped Chickadee 6
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 2
House finch 16
Mallard ducks 8
Common Merganser 2
Northern Spotted Towhee 9
Glaucous-winged gull 6
Cooper’s hawk 2
Song Sparrow 2
English sparrow 10
Anna’s hummingbird 3
American Robin 25 (in the large Holly tree across the ally from the
library parking garage)
American Crow 29
Great Blue heron 1
Rock pigeons 55
Tours were back in 2021!!!
We were delighted to be able to hold guided tours again this year starting the week of September 13th and going until November 14th — two whole months of touring! While the hatchery was closed for public visitation and self-guided tours, our guided tours were an opportunity to learn about and see the salmon this season. Now that tours are over and the hatchery has reopened, feel free to drop by for a self guided tour, or to visit some of the displays and salmon fry that live at the hatchery year-round!
Guided tours are now available for Spring and Summer 2022 on an as-requested basis. Please contact us at least 2 weeks before your desired tour date to schedule. Fall tour scheduling will being in late May. Tours are $5 per person*
Here’s to a great year full of cool, flowing water, eggs, alevins, frys, fingerlings, smolts and returning adults! Keep ’em coming home!
Your Friends at FISH
*Some financial assistance available. Contact FISH for more details.
Tour Sign-Up Links
Recent research in the Salish Sea and off the Washington coast examined the orca’s seasonal diet. It is well documented that orca prefer Chinook, presumably because of their larger size, but it turns out “Chinook salmon were identified as an important prey item year-round, averaging ~50% of their diet in the fall, increasing to 70–80% in the mid-winter/early spring, and increasing to nearly 100% in the spring. Other salmon species and non-salmonid fishes, also made substantial dietary contributions.” How did the researchers establish this detailed diet analysis? Poop. More specifically, analysis of feces collected from October to May 2004-2017. The authors reach a number of conclusions, ranging from noting that most Chinook consumed consisted of 50-80% hatchery fish, and that the unexpected diversity in species consumed suggests that a successful orca recovery strategy include more than just Chinook enhancement.
Brian Foote, co-founder of EarthViews, sent us a special treat: a view of Issaquah Creek from the hatchery weir down to Confluence Park. This amazing technology gives you the ability to virtually ‘walk’ down the middle of Issaquah Creek, spinning your head for a 360 degree view — all from the comfort of your desk chair or smartphone! Check it out. We’d love to get your feedback! Should we do more of the Creek — maybe from the mouth to the headwaters? Maybe do this multiple times per year? Tell us what you want.
When one hears about farming fish, you think about the net-pen rearing of Atlantic salmon or trout — which we know pose threats to our resident and migratory salmon. Cramming thousands of salmon into a small pen creates a continuous, concentrated plume of fish excrement for the local environment. This plume pollutes the environment, and since many pens are built in inlets to reduce wave action, the effluent concentrates in these areas.
The collapse of the net pens off Cyprus Island in 2017, moreover, demonstrated how the largest net pen operators can fail to comply with existing regulations, which should cause all of us to closely reconsider this type of farming.
Thankfully, Canada is addressing these problems by phasing out pen-rearing of salmonids (including salmon and trout) and encouraging a whole new form of aquaculture: Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). RAS are land-based, closed systems which eliminate the problems and risks of net pens. The fish are raised in tanks, and the water goes through several stages of treatment before recycling back into the closed system. No effluents are released, and potential disease is contained.
Last year, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to a transition from net pens in coastal waters to RAS systems by 2025. British Columbia is carrying out this national policy locally, detailed in this excellent article in RASTech Magazine: Canada Begins Transition for Salmon Net Pen Farms. Check it out!
Sewage plants release 26 million pounds of nitrogen in Puget Sound each year, according to the Department of Ecology. This is a serious problem for salmon, orcas, and the Puget Sound food web.
If you’re a gardener, you know that nitrogen is a key component in manure, infusing our vegetable gardens with explosive harvest potential. Likewise, in water, concentrated nitrogen fuels explosive growth (blooms) of phytoplankton (algae) — particularly from spring to early fall when there is more sunshine and the temperatures are warmer. As algae blooms use up the nutrients in the surface water, their growth slows and they eventually die. Their cells sink to the ocean floor, where they are decomposed by bacteria, which consume oxygen in the water (and release CO2). Large algae bloom die-off’s can create oxygen-depleted dead zones where aquatic life cannot survive. Even when they don’t create dead zones, the CO2 released by the bacteria during decomposition mixes with H20, increasing acidity, which impacts shellfish. No matter how you look at it, these blooms are bad for aquatic ecosystems, and the 26 million pounds of nitrogen introduced into the Puget Sound from wastewater treatment plants creates a devastating problem for the food web, all the way up to salmon and orcas.
Our wastewater treatment plants fall short. The article points out that Washington state treatment plants are behind the times. Requirements for upgrades were last made in the 1980’s, where they adopted technology developed in the early 20th century. Most treatment plants in Washington today simply do not remove nitrogen.
The article posted on Crosscut.com presents more details on the current debate on how we can meet Clean Water Act standards for dissolved oxygen for the Puget Sound, but where there is no debate is that nitrogen from human activity is to blame. We encourage you to read the article to learn more about the timeline, costs and interim measures associated with upgrading our wastewater treatment plants throughout the Puget Sound.