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I was in Australia for the first part of November 2013.  See those reports at .


Monday, November 11


Well, Iíve only been home for 4 days, but Iím back in the saddle again.† There have been reports on the local birding mailing list, Tweeters, of a sparrow that shouldnít be here in Western Washington at all.† I only saw this sparrow once, down in Arizona in 2011, so it would be a new one for my year list and my King County list.† It was seen at Marymoor Park, which is only about 20 minutes away from where I live.


So, the weather was good today Ė partly cloudy and about 50 degrees F, with no rain forecast.† I had the time, so I headed over to Marymoor Park at about 11:30 this morning.† I stopped at Costco on the way to pick up a prescription and I got to Marymoor at about 12:30.† Here is a picture of the site where the sparrow has been seen for the last week.† There was a report of a sighting this morning, so I was optimistic.



As you can see, I wasnít the only one looking for the sparrow today.


I asked the people if it had been around, and I was told it had been about 15 minutes since it had been seen.† There were other birders on the other side of that pile of brush, all looking for the sparrow.† There were 6 or 8 Golden-crowned Sparrows around, sitting up in the brush.† They were looking at the birders as if to ask, what the hell are all you people doing here?† Here is one of the Golden-crowned Sparrows (not the species I was looking for).


I wandered around the back, and soon one of the guys there said ďThere it isĒ.† We all focused on this one little bird, and it sat there in plain view for ten minutes or so, while shutters snapped continually.† Here is the CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, a bird that should be down in Mexico now, after spending the summer up in Canada.† They donít normally even migrate down the west coast, but instead go down to Mexico through the Midwest states.


It looks very much like a Brewerís Sparrow, although they shouldnít be here now either, really.† Brewerís Sparrows are in Eastern Washington during the summer, while Clay-colored Sparrows normally arenít in Washington at all.† There are some subtle differences between the two species, and the unstreaked gray collar around the back of the neck is the most obvious one.† Lots of much better birders than me have seen this bird in the last week, and they all agree that it is a Clay-colored Sparrow.† It would be interesting to know how it got here, and it will be interesting to see if it hangs around the same area for the rest of the winter.† If I had run across it on my own, I donít know what I would have made of it.† I certainly would not have correctly identified it without pictures.


Here is another picture of the little darling, showing more of its coloration.


It flew about then, and I got one picture at its next perch, and it shows the colors of the wings and back better.


So, I had successfully completed my twitch, and I had the bird.† But, there was another bird I hadnít seen this year that lives at Marymoor Park, and I decided to go looking for it.† I had tried 2 or 3 times earlier this year, but had failed each time.† The Clay-colored Sparrow site is adjacent to the off-leash dog park at Marymoor.† It is a huge fenced area and is very popular.† On this semi-holiday, I counted at least 50 people and their dogs, and I couldnít see all of it.† It must be 20 or 30 acres at least.† Here is a picture of part of it.


Beyond the deciduous trees in on the right in the distance is a river, the Sammamish Slough, and people can let their dogs swim there.† I would guess that there were maybe 70 or 80 people using the park today.


I walked on down to where my next target bird is supposed to hang out, and I played the song on my phone.† I played it as I walked down the paved path, and in a few minutes, I saw a couple of birds fly in.† Sure enough, they were a couple of female PURPLE FINCHES, the species I needed for my year list.† Here is a picture of one of them.


They look very much like House Finches, but there are some subtle differences.† For the female, the marking around the head is a little different.† The notched tail is also characteristic of the Purple Finch.† These two birds were obviously reacting to the Purple Finch song I was playing on my phone, too.†† You can see one of them answering me in this next picture.† You can see from this picture that birds have tongues.


Here is a picture of the other one.


So, having gotten both of my targets, I headed for home.† Here is another picture of that part of Marymoor Park, showing some of the dog park.


In this next picture, you can see the Great Blue Heron nests in the background, in the trees.† During the nesting season, the birds are there, right in the midst of the dog park, and adjacent to the Sammamish Slough.† It always looks very strange to me to see a huge bird like a Great Blue Heron sitting up in a tree, and the young ones sit up there until they can fly and take care of themselves.† Of course, there are leaves on the trees at that time of year.


So, that is my report for today.† As you know, I send out a report on each day that I see a new species for the year, and today I saw two more for my year list.† That brings me to 317 species for the year, here in the USA, of which 6 are lifers.† Combined with my Aussie totals, taking out the duplicates that I saw in both countries, that makes 665 for the year, of which 40 are lifers.† That is the most I have ever seen in a single year, including 2010, when I spent six weeks in Britain and also six weeks in Australia, in addition to my west coast USA birding.† I doubt I will ever match that again.



Saturday, November 23, 2013


Iím back again.† Christina and I are at Cannon Beach, Oregon, celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.† As luck would have it, I got at least one bird for my year list today, so here is my report.


Before I get into today, though, I have a picture from Thursday that I want to show.† It is a picture of downtown Seattle with the Olympic Mountains in the background.† We are having one of our rare fall/winter clear weeks here in the Pacific Northwest.


Here is a little closer view.


You can just see the Space Needle on the right hand side of the tall buildings downtown.† Back in 1962 when it was built (or maybe it was 1963, my memory isnít perfect and I donít feel like looking it up), it was the highest point on the skyline, I believe.† I have pictures of myself at the Worldís Fair that summer, but I wonít bore you with them today.


Here is our wedding picture.† Could I really have been that skinny once?


Christina looks exactly the same now, of course, with a bit more gray in her hair.† Here is a picture of us two years ago.


So, moving on to Cannon Beach, we have a 3rd floor penthouse suite with a full kitchen, and this is the view to the left in the morning light.


Here is the view straight ahead.


And finally, to the right.


Thatís Ecola Creek in front of us, and here is a close up of where it hits the ocean to the south of us.


This morning we drove up to Seaside, which is a larger town than Cannon Beach, about fifteen minutes north of here.† I was looking for some sea birds that had been reported there, that I hadnít seen yet this year.† We drove around to the south side of the cove, where we could get a view of the ocean beyond the waves.† When we parked, I spotted a couple of guys with a scope and binoculars, and thought ďAha, some local help.Ē† I took my scope and walked up the rocky beach to join them.† There were tons of sea ducks out in front of us.† Here is a picture of one small part of them.


Most of those birds are Surf Scoters, and I saw a couple of Black Scoters as well.† The one I was looking for was there, too, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER.† Later I got a distant picture of two males and a female who was preening at the time.


One of the local birders showed me a Long-tailed Duck, too.† That is an excellent bird, but I had seen one in Monterey earlier in the year, so it didnít add to my year list.


There were some Black Turnstones and Surfbirds along the shore, too, but I didnít bother to try for pictures.† Up the shoreline was a little group of another bird I had been hoping to see there, HARLEQUIN DUCK.† Here is a picture of a male.


Here is the less colorful female.


I have a picture of her with her beak closed, but I thought it was interesting to see her with her beak open.† I presume she was calling, although I didnít hear it.


Here is a picture of a male and female together.


There were other birds there, too.† Farther out, there were Western Grebes, and there were Greater Scaup, too.† Here is a picture of a couple of female Greater Scaup.


I donít know why the one on the left has so little white on its face.† It might be a juvenile.


Here is a Pelagic Cormorant, I think.


I had a hard time deciding if this was a Pelagic Cormorant or a Brandtís Cormorant, but I decided that the thin pencil-like bill made it a Pelagic.


Here is a view looking north at Seaside.† Note the surfer, in November in Oregon.† Brrr.


So, after that I dropped C off at our little home away from home and drove down the beach to get this picture of Haystack Rock and the Needles.


As you can see, it was a magnificent day today.† It had been pretty windy overnight and this morning, but the wind died down pretty much for the rest of the day.† Here is a picture of Tillamook Lighthouse, to the north.


We had lunch in, taking advantage of the excellent kitchen facilities here, and then walked through downtown Cannon Beach.† Cannon Beach is a very cute little town, very oriented toward tourists.† Today was a spectacular weather Saturday for November, and the town was full of visitors.† I like to come to Cannon Beach in the winter on weekdays, as the crowds are much smaller.


That is it for the bird action for the day, but here is a sunset picture, taken from our third floor deck.



So, I added two more species to my year list today, to bring me to 319 species here in the US for the year, of which 6 are lifers.† Worldwide for the year, Iím now at 667 species, of which 40 are lifers.† Time to go out to dinner now.† Forty years of wedded bliss.† How did I ever get so lucky?


Tonight we went out to Morrisís Fireside restaurant and had an excellent dinner.† Here is a picture of the happy couple after dinner.


What a life!