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Wednesday, August 17

 

OK, hereís another report, after several weeks.† Today my cousin, Bruse, and I drove over to the north end of the Olympic Peninsula on a two night road trip, with birds as the focus (at least, for me).† I have a list of 24 birds that live in this area and are theoretically possible, although they are all low percentage ones, and there were only four that I thought were at all reasonable chances.

 

It was a beautiful summer day in the Seattle area, as most of them are.† I picked up Bruse at his brotherís house in Edmonds (Bruse lives in Honolulu), and we caught the 9:40 ferry from Edmonds to Kingston.† In the harbor in Edmonds, I saw a Rhinoceros Auklet for the second time in my life, but the first one had been earlier this year in February, at the same location, so it wasnít one for my list.† I took three pictures, but they were not good enough to publish here.

 

On the crossing we saw some Common Murres and a few other species, but nothing new for me.† I did see one bird that was larger than a gull, and it turned out to be an Osprey, out in the middle of the Sound.† I even got a picture of it, and here it is:

 

 

A little later I got this picture of the other ferry on the route, with Mount Rainier in the background.† It was a little hazy, so the picture isnít great, but you can see the mountain in the background, at least.† It was really beautiful out on the water today.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of Kingston, with the Olympic Mountains in the background:

Once we got to Kingston, we drove along to Discovery Bay, just short of Sequim.† We drove off on Gardiner Beach Road and stopped at the beach, but didnít see much, although I did get this distant picture of a Bald Eagle in a tree top:

 

 

We went on along to Diamond Point, to look for a key bird that was one of my main targets for this trip.† As it turned out, I got a great look through the scope at my target bird, a lovely TUFTED PUFFIN (lifer).† It was too far away for a picture, but we both got great looks at it through the scope.† It was really nice to see one today, as the plan was to drive out to Cape Flattery tomorrow, mainly to try to see one, and it is a two hour drive each way, and a ĺ mile hike each way, carrying my scope, to get to the lookout points there.† And, still, it would not be guaranteed, so seeing one today at Diamond Point was very satisfying.† It means that today we were able to spend time looking for birds along the coast, and tomorrow we will go up into the Olympic Mountains to Hurricane Ridge to look for another target bird.† The original plan was to go up onto Hurricane Ridge today and then go out to Cape Flattery tomorrow.

 

After that, we boogied on in to Sequim and got a Mickey Dís lunch.† Then we visited the Three Crabs area (named after the road and restaurant there, I guess).† There were some shorebirds there, and we walked along the beach to get a closer look at them.† I got some pictures, and here they are.† Here are some Black-bellied Plovers in various plumages, ranging from their summer plumage (very black and white) to their winter plumage (pretty gray and white, and very nondescript compared to the summer plumage.† These birds breed in Alaska or Northern Canada, and then migrate to the California or Mexican coasts in the winter, and these birds today were on their way south.† They gradually molt their summer feathers and they are replaced with the winter ones, and these birds show various stages along the way.† You can see one bird in almost summer plumage, and others are almost in winter plumage.

 

 

They are all the same species, though, in various stages of molt.

 

There were also a number of what I think were Western Sandpipers (much smaller birds) and a few Semipalmated Plovers.† Here is a picture of a Semipalmated Plover (on the left) and a Western Sandpiper (on the right).† You can see that the plover is a little bigger than the sandpiper.

 

Here is a close-up of a Western Sandpiper ( I think), still mostly in its summer plumage.† They also breed in Alaska and Northern Canada and spend their winters in the lower 48, along the West Coast.† They are much redder in the summer and pretty much black, gray, and white in the winter.

 

 

After that, we moved along to Port Angeles, where we are spending the night.† We went to Ediz Hook, a spit that curves out around the Port Angeles Harbor.† I didnít really expect to see anything new here, but there was the possibility of some Sooty Shearwaters (gull-like birds), out over the straits.

 

I got a few pictures of birds we saw there.† Here is a picture of a juvenile (one or two years old) Heermannís Gull in flight that I like:

 

 

And, there was a Rhinoceros Auklet diving for fish with a bunch of gulls, and I got one picture that isnít great, but it does show the orange bill and the white plumes on the face:

 

It wasnít a new bird for me, but it was only the second day that I have ever seen one, the first being in February in Edmonds, so I was glad to get a recognizable picture of it.

 

I also got my first recognizable picture of a Common Murre from Ediz Hook.

 

 

I have seen them several times over the years, but this was the first time I was close enough to get a picture even this good.

 

It was getting to be late afternoon by then, and we were heading back to our motel.† I pulled over several times, though, as there were small groups of some bird out on the bay, on the harbor side of the spit, and I couldnít tell what they were.† I took a lot of pictures, even though they were really too far away for anything good, but I hoped that the pictures might be good enough to identify the birds.† I went through the list of possible birds, and I couldnít come up with anything that seemed possible except one species that I hadnít expected to see on this trip.

 

When we got to our humble motel and checked in, and I looked at my pictures, I decided eventually that the birds in the harbor had to be CASSINíS AUKLETS (lifer).† They are listed as fairly common in this area in August, but I thought they were less common or something, and I also thought that even if I did see one, I wouldnít be able to identify it.† There were a lot of them out in the bay, but I couldnít come up with any other species that met all the things I could see on them, in the pictures.† The key identification point for this species, compared to other alcids (the class of seabirds they are in) is a white spot around the eye, but you have to be fairly close to see that, the books say.† I have one picture, though, that shows what I think is a white spot around the eye, and here it is:

 

 

The bird in question is the one in the middle that is flapping its wings.† I think I can see a white spot around the eye area, and so I am calling them Cassinís Auklets, based on that, and also on the fact I canít find any other bird that meets the size and coloration that these birds have, that would be here in August.† Can you see the white spot in the eye area?

 

So, that was the end of our birding day. †Two lifers for my list, which is outstanding.† I said this morning that if I saw two new birds on this trip, it would be a birding success, and three would be really great.† Tomorrow we are going up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics, hoping to see a Sooty Grouse, along with a very few other less likely species I could use.† If you donít get a report tomorrow, it either means that I didnít see any new birds and didnít get any pictures worth sharing, or it means that I donít have internet access tomorrow night.

 

So, there is your report.† How do you like that?

 

 

Thursday and Friday, August 18-19, 2011

 

Ok, now for something completely different Ė or, at least, somewhat different.† No new birds the last two days, but I have some pictures I would like to share anyway, so I write.† The ďdifferentĒ is that this report covers two days, and yet has no new birds for my year list.

 

On Thursday morning, Bruse and I were up and out by about 9 am.† Not exactly early, but it was in keeping with my status as a dilettante birder.† The Royal Victorian Motel had a nice little continental breakfast that included some Safeway muffins, and I had brought some chicken and cheese for my protein, so I was well set for the day.

 

We drove up to Hurricane Ridge, in the Olympic National Park, and stopped a few places to play bird calls and look for birds.† It was the typical mountain birding experience, or worse, though, and we didnít see anything much at all.† Hurricane Ridge is at about 5800 feet, I think, and we drove to the end of the paved road to take the Hurricane Hill hike.† I had read a post on the local birding mailing list by someone who had seen a great bird on August 1 on that hike, so we went for it.

 

The scenery was spectacular.† Here is a picture of the Olympics.

 

 

 

There were tons of wildflowers, which was interesting at this late date.† It has been a very cool spring and summer here in the Northwest, and everything is late.† Here are some of the wildflowers.

 

Here is a picture of my cousin, Bruse, on our little hike:

 

And here is a picture of the trail.† This was taken about one-quarter of a mile from the car, and I eventually managed to make it to the snow patch in the distance, which was about a one mile hike each way, I think.

 

 

Another picture from up near the snow patch:

 

Here is a picture of an interesting yellow wildflower.† There werenít many of these.

 

 

The Hurricane Hill hike was extremely beautiful and well worth doing, but it was a total bust for birds.† I didnít see any of the species up around the snow patch that were reported as having been seen on August 1.† Thatís birding, though.† All you can do is put yourself where the birds are (or were), and after that, it is up to the gods of birding, or some such.

 

By the time we got back to the car, my knees and ankles had had enough hiking, so we headed on down the mountain.† On the way, we stopped several places and looked for birds, but never saw anything.† At one point, there was a guy on the side of the road who was looking up in the sky with binoculars, and we could see that he was looking at a raptor up there.† I pulled over as soon as I could, and got out and was also looking at it.† I got a couple of really distant pictures that arenít any good, and the guy we had seen stopped by the road walked down to where I was able to stop, and we chatted for a few minutes.† It turned out that he was from Seattle and was in the area for a Washington Ornithological Society conference.† He was going to be leading a group up onto Hurricane Ridge the next day, so he was scouting out the area.† I chatted with him about what I had seen on the trip, and he gave me some good ideas and thoughts.† He was obviously a much more serious birder than I am.† By a long and complicated process, I was able to figure out who he is, after the fact, and I plan to send him a couple of pictures from my trip and ask him some questions.† Oh yes, he thought the bird we were looking at was a Northern Goshawk, which is a bird I have only seen once before, in Yellowstone National Park in July.† I got this picture, which is terrible, but it does show the overall shape of the bird, and I plan to send it to the guy and ask him if he still thinks it is a Northern Goshawk.† Iíll be interested to see if he still thinks it was a Northern Goshawk.† I think he was right, based on the pictures in my field guide, but I am far from an expert, so I am interested in his opinion.† The one I saw in July was gray underneath, rather than brown, but this one might be a juvenile one, which seems to be much more brown.

 

 

At another stop, I took this picture of blue wildflower.† I am a real sucker for the color blue, and I really like this flower.

Once we got down from the mountains, we grabbed some lunch at Mickey Dís and went on back to Ediz Hook, which is the spit that protects the harbor of Port Angeles.† I was hoping to get a better look at the birds that I saw the day before that I had identified as Cassinís Auklets, because the birding guy we had met on the way down from Hurricane Ridge had said that it would be unusual to see Cassinís Auklet in the harbor.† I wasnít able to get any better a look at the birds, though, and there werenít as many as there had been the day before.

 

There were some other birds there, though, that we hadnít seen on Wednesday.† There were a number of ducks that mystified me, so I took a lot of pictures.† I guess they were Harlequin Ducks, in some kind of non-breeding plumage, or maybe in a transition plumage from breeding to non-breeding.† Here are a couple of pictures of them.† I plan to send these pictures to the guy who we met on the way down from Hurricane Ridge, to see if he agrees.† I just donít see what else they could be, even thought they look somewhat different from any pictures I can find of Harlequin Ducks.

 

Here is one of them flapping its wings and showing its underside a bit:

 

 

Some of them seemed to have some white on their back ends, too, and here is a picture of a couple of those.

 

 

Iím looking forward to seeing what my birding acquaintance has to say about them.† I think they have to be Harlequin Ducks.

 

There were a lot of Black-bellied Plovers along the shore that day, too. †I hadnít seen any the day before.† Here is a picture that shows one in its breeding plumage (with the black belly) and one that has molted already to winter plumage.† It always amazes me when I see the differences in plumages for some birds, between breeding season and the non-breeding season.† These are migrants that breed in Alaska and northern Canada and winter on the west coast.

 

 

 

We also saw three Black Oystercatchers on Thursday, and we hadnít seen any on Wednesday.† Here is a picture of two of them.

 

 

They are very distinctive birds, easy to identify.

 

I didnít see anything new for my year list, and eventually we moved along.† We stopped at Diamond Point again, where I had seen the Tufted Puffin the day before, because my birding acquaintance from the Hurricane Ridge road had seen one there that morning, close to shore.† I didnít see one, but I did see a bird out on the water that I couldnít identify, because of the distance.† I thought it looked like a duck, and I took a lot of pictures, but when I got home and looked at the pictures, it turned out be a Pigeon Guillemot, which I saw a lot of on the trip.

 

We then drove to the little beach community of Holly, on the east shore of Hood Canal.† Bruse has an old friend (named Bruce, to confuse things) who has a house on the water there, and we had wangled an invitation to spend the night.† We had a nice visit, some Scotch, and a lovely spaghetti dinner.

 

While sitting on the front porch steps, enjoying the view, I got this picture that I like.† The bird is a common one, a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, but I liked the light and the pose.

 

 

Here is a picture of Holly.† Bruceís house is sort of in the middle, with my white car parked out in front (I guess my car is too small to see, though, in this picture).† Holly is at the end of the road, and so it is very quiet and peaceful.

 

 

Here is a close-up of the house.

 

We left about 11 oíclock, got another Mickey Dís lunch and caught the 12:20 ferry for Seattle from Bremerton.† Here are some gulls being fed by a guy on the ferry:

 

 

And, here are a couple of the Washington State ferries:

 

Here is the Space Needle as we approached the terminal in Seattle:

 

 

And here is downtown Seattle:

 

So, that is my no-new-birds report covering the last two days.† I am now at a total of 375 species for the year, of which 111 are lifers.† It might be several weeks before I write again, we will see.