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Tuesday, July 3
I drove home via Redding, where I stopped at Liquor Barn and loaded up with booze.† It was about ten bucks a bottle less than in Washington, and I got a dozen bottles, so it was a worthwhile stop.† That should last me until the next time I drive to California, which will be in 2013, presumably.
From Redding, I went over to the coast and stayed at Arcata at the Motel 6, where I have stayed several times before.† The next day, I drove up the beautiful Oregon coast, stopping several times to enjoy the scenery and to look for birds.† I didnít see the one I was looking for, though, which was Tufted Puffin.† I added 12 more species to my trip list, to finish the trip at 112 species.† I stopped that night in Florence, and drove on home the next day.† It was a lovely drive up the coast, and Iím glad I went that way, even though I missed the puffin.
Moving on to today, I drove up to the Edmonds waterfront, which is about 12 miles northwest of here.† I had two sea birds as primary targets for the day, but I also was working on something new.
For the second half of the year, Iím going to try to see as many species of birds as I can in Washington State, and Iím also going to start keeping a list of birds seen in each Washington county.† There are 39 counties in Washington, and I imagine I havenít even been to all of them in my life, but my plan is to see how many birds I can see in each county.† For this year, it might only be 3 or 4 or 5 counties, but eventually, I hope to see birds in each county.† The Holy Grail for Washington State birders is to see 39 different species in each of the 39 counties.† I donít imagine I will ever reach that lofty goal, but I think it will be fun to keep county lists and spend more time birding in Washington.† My first goal will be to see at least one bird in each county, and that could take a few years.
So, on July 1, I started my Washington county lists.† So far I have seen 13 species here in my home county of King, but I havenít birded outside of my own yard yet.† Edmonds is in the next county, Snohomish, so I started my list there today.
Anyway, back to this morning, I arrived at the Edmonds fishing pier and it was sunny, but quite windy.† I picked up a few common birds for my Snohomish county list, but the sea was remarkably empty of the sea birds I usually see there.† I donít know if it was the wind or the low tide that caused them to be absent, but there was nothing at all at first.† I was just about ready to give up when I did see a couple of Pigeon Guillemots, and eventually I saw about a half dozen of them.† That was fine for my Snohomish list, but it wasnít one of my target birds for my year list.
On my way back to the car, though, I saw another bird fairly far out, so I looked through my binoculars, and it was indeed one of my targets, a MARBLED MURRELET.† It was too far away for pictures, but then I saw a couple more of them, closer in.† I took some very distant pictures, after checking them out with my scope.
As I said, they were very distant, but recognizable, at least.† It was only the third time I have seen that species, so I was pleased.† That brings me to 434 species for the year so far, and 106 of those have been lifers.† I missed Rhinoceros Auklet, my other target, so Iíll have to go back later in the year to find one.
I went on to the Edmonds Marsh and the street north of the ferry terminal and saw a few more birds, including an immature Bald Eagle flying overhead.† I was too slow to get my camera out to get a picture of the eagle, unfortunately.† I also stopped at the fish hatchery and picked up Red-breasted Sapsucker, a good bird for my six-month list, as I donít see them very often.† I now have 17 species on my Snohomish county list, to go with the 13 on the King county list.† Because of duplications, there are now 24 on my six-month Washington list.† I know, your eyes are glazing over with all this list nonsense, but donít worry, I donít plan to send out regular reports on these new lists, although I might mention them from time to time when Iím sending a report for the year list, or maybe Iíll do month-end summaries.
So, that is my little report for today.† What a life!
Thursday, July 5
I have a report for today, but first a couple of items from yesterday.
Last weekend, we noticed a strange bird in the yard, being fed by a Dark-eyed Junco.† It was two or three times as big as the junco and didnít look anything like the junco.† I figured it must be a Brown-eyed Cowbird.† Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birdsí nests, one egg per nest, I think.† When the cowbird chick hatches, it pushes the other little birds out of the nest, and the poor parents donít seem to notice the difference.† They feed the cowbird and raise it until it can take care of itself.† I had never seen a juvenile cowbird before, and it looked somewhat different from adult cowbirds.† I donít think I would have been able to identify it if we hadnít seen it being fed by the junco.† This was the first time Iíve seen a cowbird in our yard, too, so it was unexpected in that way, also.† Here are a couple of pictures of the just-fledged Brown-headed Cowbird.
By yesterday it was feeding itself, foraging on the ground like a junco would.
It isnít birding related, but yesterday we had an old-fashioned Fourth of July picnic here at the Farm, and I wanted to share one picture.
If you can log in to Facebook, you can see about 20 more pictures of the picnic, by searching for my name and looking at the album of pictures that should be at the top of my page.† Itís public, so anyone who can log in to Facebook should be able to look at it.
Moving on to the actual birding report, this morning I had to go over to the neighboring town of Redmond to get my car emission-tested.† Since I was over that way, I stopped at Marymoor Park to try to pick up a species of flycatcher for my year list, a species I saw there last year, and one that I knew was there in the summer.
It was a beautiful sunny day, and I walked along the river, looking for my bird.† I played the call on my phone, mainly to familiarize myself with it, but also in the hopes that it might entice a bird to fly in to check me out.† The latter hope never came through, but after hearing the call, I did hear it a number of times, so I knew the birds were in the area.† It took a little while, but eventually I saw one of them, a WILLOW FLYCATCHER.† It was foraging on blackberry blossoms, presumably finding insects there.† Normally, a Willow Flycatcher would catch flying insects by flying out from a perch, but I guess that if there are insects on the blossoms, then that would be an easier approach, requiring less energy expenditure.
There are Great Blue Herons nesting in the dog park area of Marymoor, and they had the area under the nest trees cordoned off.† The young birds in the nests are getting pretty big now, almost as big as the parents.† Here is a picture of one of them in its nest, waiting for a parent to bring it food.
While I was there, an adult heron brought some food back for a couple of nestlings in a different nest.† The parent must have been regurgitating the food into the mouths of the young ones, as it kept sticking its bill into the bills of the young ones.† The young birds make quite a racket while that is going on, flapping their wings to get attention.† I wasnít able to get any pictures of that procedure, sorry to say.† Here is another nestling in its nest, though.
There were at least a half a dozen nests in the several adjacent trees, and maybe more.† An information sign said that it was the first time in the last 20 years that Great Blue Herons had nested in Marymoor Park.† They normally return to the same nesting sites, so they will probably be there for a few years now.† One of the biggest predators for Great Blue Heron nests is the Bald Eagle.† They swoop in and steal away the young birds.† There are eagles around Marymoor, but I guess the herons are winning the battle this year, at least so far.
I saw several other good birds for my King County list.† There were Cedar Waxwings around, and I donít see them all that often, so that was nice.†
I was really surprised to hear a bird calling that sounded familiar. †I thought it sounded like a bird I had been looking for last month on the other side of the Cascades.† I tried a couple of calls, and sure enough, it sounded to me like the call of a Veery, a bird I had only seen three times before in my life.† I didnít know they even came to this side of the mountains.† I just now checked the Marymoor Birding website, and Veery isnít even listed for the park.† Whatís more, it isnít even on the eBird list for King County, so now I have to assume that I was wrong and it was another species, most likely Swainsonís Thrush, which is common in the park in July.† I just wrote an email to the guy who is the expert on Marymoor birds, to see if anyone else has reported a Veery there.
I saw another good bird, too; what I believe was a Lincolnís Sparrow.† They are normally a winter bird around here, though, and they are listed as rare at Marymoor in July, so I wonder about that one, too.† I got a picture of that one, anyway, and here it is.
It still looks like a Lincolnís Sparrow to me, but I sent the picture to the Marymoor guru, to see if he concurs.† In the meantime, until I hear back from him, Iím going to count this one as a Lincolnís Sparrow and the other one as a Swainsonís Thrush, which is pretty similar in appearance to a Veery.† The call of a Veery is quite different from the call of a Swainsonís Thrush, though, and what I heard sounded like a Veery to me.† The bird looked more like a Veery, too.† Another birding mystery.
[ The Marymoor guru convinced me that it most likely wasnít a Veery and that the sparrow was a Song Sparrow.† I wish I had a recording of that call that I thought was the Veery, though, and Iím not 100% convinced of the Song Sparrow call either, though that is certainly more likely than a Lincolnís Sparrow. ]
So, with the addition of the Willow Flycatcher to my year list, I am now at 435 for the year so far, of which 106 are lifers.
Tuesday, July 24
First, a correction (not that anyone would ever notice).† I found a mistake in my count and the correct total after the Willow Flycatcher on July 5th is 436 species for the year, of which 106 are lifers.† At the moment, I forget where the mistake was, but if you had been really paying attention and taking adequate notes, you would have noticed and told me about it.
So, today I added to my year list.† I was up this morning at 7 and was out of the house by 8:45.† I caught the 9:40 ferry out of Edmonds and crossed Puget Sound.† I mentioned a couple of times ago that I have started to keep Washington county lists.† There are 39 counties in Washington, and the idea is to get some particular number of species in each county.† The first step is to visit each county and see at least 1 species there.† Then it is 10 in each county, 25 in each county, and finally the ultimate goal of 39 different species in each of the 39 counties.† Of course, you can go on beyond that, but 39 in each county seems plenty challenging to me.
Today I added birds in four counties Ė Snohomish, Kitsap, Jefferson, and Clallam.† My destination was actually Clallam county, on the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington State from Canada.† I had to pass through parts of Kitsap county and Jefferson county, so I stopped a couple of places in each county, to start my lists there.† I got 11 in Kitsap county and 14 in Jefferson county today.† I also got 16 in my destination county, Clallam, where I am tonight and tomorrow night.† Iím staying in Port Angeles the next two nights.† My best birds were probably Osprey, in both Kitsap and Jefferson, and Belted Kingfisher in Jefferson.
Before I even left the dock in Edmonds, I added to my Snohomish county list with some Pelagic Cormorants.† Here are pictures of a couple of juvenile ones.† The adults donít have any brown on them, like these two do.
The Pelagic Cormorant is one of three West Coast species of Cormorant.
The most common sea bird I saw, other than gulls, was Pigeon Guillemot.† Here is a picture of one those guys.
I saw them in all four counties today, I think.
I stopped in Port Gamble and visited Salisbury Point County Park for the first time, in Kitsap county.† In Port Gamble, I got a great look at an osprey carrying a fish, and it flew right overhead.† A Common Loon in breeding (summer) plumage was the highlight at the county park.† I also picked up my first year bird there, some NORTHWESTERN CROWS.† Here is a picture of one of them.
They look exactly like American Crows, which are the most common crow in the country.† Northwestern Crows are somewhat controversial, because of the similarity to American Crow and the fact that the two species can interbreed, and they do so, supposedly.† Some people think they are actually only one species, but the official word at this time is that they are separate species.† Among the people who accept it as a separate species, they all agree that the ones in Southern Alaska are Northwestern Crows.† Almost all of them also accept that the ones in British Columbia are Northwestern Crows.† Most of them also accept that at least some of the crows in Clallam county and on the Washington coast are Northwest Crows, but that is where it starts to get controversial.† The Northwestern Crow has a different sounding call, they say, and they are quite small.† They also like to hang out on beaches.† I saw a number of crows today that I called Northwestern Crows, and in each case, they were small, were on beaches, and clearly sounded like Northwestern Crows to me.† I played the call on my phone a number of times, and compared it to the sound of American Crow.† Even though I am terrible at calls, I am convinced I could hear the difference.† So, that is more than you ever wanted to know about crows.
Next I visited Indian Island for the first time; that is in Jefferson county.† I had my lunch at the county park there.† (Ham and cheese sandwich and chips, of course, brought from home.)† There are some birding places around there, and Iíll have to come back and hit those sometime, but today I just picked up a few birds and moved on.
In Clallam county, I stopped at Diamond Point, to look for my main target bird of the trip, the Tufted Puffin.† I saw my lifer one last August there, so I had to try, although I knew it wasnít likely at all.† Sure enough, no puffins.† Tomorrow I make my serious try for puffins.† While at Diamond Point I did see a Bald Eagle eating something on a piling, and I got some pictures.
What magnificent looking birds they are.
By the time I left Diamond Point, I had used up most of my available time, so I had to skip some of the places in Clallam county where I wanted to stop.† I drove straight to Port Angeles from there, and out onto Ediz Hook, which is a spit that protects the harbor.† I was looking for another one for my year list, and I soon saw a number of HARLEQUIN DUCKS, as I knew I would.† I considered the Northwestern Crow and the Harlequin Duck as ďgimmeĒ year birds on the trip, and I got them both easily.†
The next easiest one for my year list was also abundant in the harbor, RHINOCEROS AUKLET.† I got good scope looks at them, but it was hard to get a picture, as they were all so far away.† Here is a very distant picture, but it shows the shape of the bird, as well as the orange bill and the white ďwhiskersĒ.
Maybe someday Iíll find one close enough for a decent picture, but they donít usually come very close to shore, it seems.
Here is another bird that I saw out on Ediz Hook.† I see them regularly in California, but I kind of have an affinity for them, so here is a Black Oystercatcher.
By the time I finished out on Ediz Hook, it was coming up on five oíclock, my usual stopping time.† I found my humble motel, and after waiting for ten or fifteen minutes while they figured out how to correct a mistake they had made, I got settled in to my room.† I ended up with a larger and more expensive room than I had booked, and they only charged me for the one I had booked.† I stayed here last year, and this room is nicer than what I remember, so I donít know if they have upgraded them all, or this one is just a nicer one.† I have my fridge and microwave, though, so Iíll be just fine here.† I had to carry all my stuff upstairs, but it was worth it for the larger room.† This one has two queen sized beds, and the one I booked has only one.† They had to displace the ownerís brother, who now will have to find somewhere else to stay, I guess.† Iím glad they were able to accommodate me, I would have hated to be looking for a place in the middle of the summer here.† I made the booking yesterday afternoon, and Iím glad I did, as there was No Vacancy when I pulled in here.
Tomorrow I plan to drive out to Cape Flattery, which is the extreme northwest tip of the state.† Iíve never been there before, and Iím looking forward to it.† As I said before, Tufted Puffin is my main target bird, but there are two or three others I could see for my year list, so we will see.† I understand there is a three-quarter mile hike to the observation decks at Cape Flattery, and Iíll have to lug my scope along, so I can see the birds when I get there.† That sounds like nothing, I know, but it will be a challenge for the fat old Rambler.† I think I can do it, though, and seeing a puffin or two will be a great reward for me.
So, now Iím at 439 species for the year, of which 106 are lifers.
Wednesday, July 25
I was up at 7:30 this morning, and I was out of here about 9.† I had some Greek yogurt and a ham and cheese sandwich for my brekkie, and I made another sandwich for my lunch.
I took the more scenic route to Cape Flattery, and it seemed like it went on forever.† It was only about 75 miles, but some of the roads were only 30 to 40 mph, so it went on and on.† I stopped a number of places along the coast, to look for birds on the water.† I picked up Belted Kingfisher, Greater Yellowlegs, Great Blue Heron, and Marbled Murrelet along the way, for my Clallam county list.† Here is a picture of a Bald Eagle.† I told you yesterday that Iím a sucker for eagles.
I finally got to the trailhead for the Cape Flattery trail about noon.† There were 10 or 15 cars there, so I knew it was a popular trail.† It is three-quarters of a mile each way, and it turned out to be mostly downhill on the way in, and so it was mostly uphill on the way back.† Here is a picture of the first part of the trail, actually taken on my way back.
Much of it was ďboardwalkĒ, and here is a picture of one of those parts.
I didnít have any problem going in, but as I took each downhill step, I thought about the uphill steps on the way out.† At the end of the trail, there are four overlooks of the ocean.† Here is a picture of a bay from one of the overlooks.
At the last overlook, you could see a lot of the ocean and Tatoosh Island in the distance.† When I got there, Tatoosh was hidden in the fog, and it sort of semi-cleared a couple of times, but mostly it was fog-shrouded.† Here is a picture when it was at its clearest.
Tons of birds nest on the island, including my target species, but there was no way to identify any birds through the fog.† I looked out over the water and saw a number of birds, but not my target one.† Here is a seal that surfaced right below the overlook.
I showed a picture of a Pigeon Guillemot yesterday, I think, but here is a picture looking right down on one.
That white splash behind him is just-ejected fecal matter, and I like the way the bird is kind of looking over its shoulder to see what it produced.† Good job, guy.
Here is a view to the west from the last lookout point, and you can see that it is foggy in the distance.
Here is a view to the east, where it was fairly clear, at that point.
I said yesterday that I would try for a better picture of a Rhinoceros Auklet, and today I got some that are a little better.
The orange bill and the white plumes are more visible in this picture than in yesterdayís.
I had been there for 30 or 40 minutes and had had no sightings of my target species, so I was reduced to taking pictures of gulls flying by.† Here is a picture of what I think is a California Gull.† Gulls are hard at the best of times, and here on the Olympic Peninsula, there are a whole lot of hybrid gulls, and they make it even tougher.† Iím calling this a California Gull, though.
I was starting to worry about seeing my target bird, and then I noticed a little group of birds out in the medium distance, in a feeding frenzy.† They were mostly gulls, but there were some Rhino Auklets and some murrelets, too, and then I saw one with a white head.† Yes!† TUFTED PUFFIN, the one I was looking specifically for!† I was satisfied with my binocular view that that was what the bird was, but I rapidly set up my scope (I should have had it set up already) and got good looks at the bird, along with a couple of other puffins, as they dove and caught fish.† They would only stay on the surface for 10 or 20 seconds, and then they would dive for a minute or more, and they could come up 100 yards from where they went down, so it was intermittent looks, but very satisfying ones.† It was too far for pictures, though.
So, having seen my bird, I stopped to eat my humble lunch.† There was a nice bench on the overlook deck, so I sat there and had my sandwich, chips, and cookies.† As I finished, I saw a bird close in, and it had a white head.† Yes, it was a puffin!† I jumped up and fired up my camera, and eventually I got some pictures of puffins that are quite satisfying.† These were taken over a period of a half hour or more, as they never stayed on the surface very long.† Here are more puffin pictures than you ever wanted to see.† I think they are very attractive little beauties.† Well, maybe not exactly attractive, but interesting for sure.
You can see the little yellowish tuft that gives them their name, behind the head.
Iím really pleased to have gotten those pictures.† They are much better than I ever expected to get of Tufted Puffins.† My long tedious drive, the hike to the point, and the time I spent at the overlook were all well worth it.† I had my puffins.† I saw three of them two different times, and single ones two or three other times, so I can say that I saw somewhere between 3 and 9 birds altogether.† Victory!
So, finally I pulled myself away from the view point and trudged back up the trail.† I stopped at the first bench and sat for five minutes, and I stopped one other time to take a picture, but otherwise I just walked.† It took me about 25 minutes to get back to the car, and I actually enjoyed the exercise.† My legs were a little shaky after that, but it was good for me, Iím sure.
The whole end of the cape is part of the Makah Indian tribal land, including the town of Neah Bay.† I hadnít ever been there before, and it was interesting to see all the tribal buildings and services.† I stopped in Neah Bay on my way back and picked up some more birds for my Clallam county list.† Here is a Western Gull, I think, although keep in mind what I said about gulls.
I think this is a Pacific Loon, although loons in their non-breeding plumage are also tough.
I counted Greater Yellowlegs this morning for Clallam county, but I got this picture of one at Neah Bay.
And, finally, here is a little shorebird that I think must be a Least Sandpiper.† I think they are the only small shorebird with yellow legs.
By that time it was getting late, so I hit the road for ďhomeĒ.† I decided take the faster route back, but it turned out to be a mistake, probably.† First I was stopped for road construction for about five minutes, while I waited for the pilot car to lead us through the one lane part.† Then there was a guy who wanted to go about 40 to 45 when the speed limit was 50, and I was forced to follow him for ten miles or so, with my teeth grinding.† I tried to be calm and just go with the flow, but I was thinking of the drinkies waiting for me back at my room, and I wanted to move along faster.† The worst delay of all came when I got into a long line of cars that were following a truck that was applying a paint stripe to the highway.† That went on for about 15 or 20 minutes, at 15 mph, with a five minute full stop thrown in for good measure.† At least it was in the stretch of highway along Crescent Lake, so I had beautiful scenery to look at while I had to go slow.
Anyway, I finally got back to Port Angeles and got gas at Safeway, and then made my way to my motel.† I got in about 5:40, which is about 40 minutes later than I like to get home.† I had lots of pictures to process tonight, and then this report to write.† As it all turned out, it was just fine, of course, and Iíll be getting this report off shortly after nine.† I had my dinner in, of course, using the microwave and fridge in my room.
So, I added one more species to my year list, but it was a great one, the Tufted Puffin, as well as a number of pictures that I like.† That puts me at 440 species for the year, of which 106 are lifers.† I have 29 species for Clallam county now, so I now need to figure out what I want to do tomorrow.† That is plenty for Clallam, so I need to decide if I want to try to add to my Jefferson county or Kitsap county lists on the way home tomorrow.† I had originally planned to drive up into the mountains tomorrow, to try to get Sooty Grouse for my year list, but the chances are pretty small that would see one, so maybe Iíll just go for some more Jefferson county or Kitsap county birds instead.† I need to do some reading tonight, and then I need to decide.† Chances are that this is the last report for quite a while, at any rate.