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Sunday, June 01, 2014
I havenít seen a new year bird in the last couple of days, but Iíve been using my new camera, and I have pictures I want to share, so Iíll do an update on my BAD birding.
Yesterday, I had planned to go up to the Edmonds pier, but then I saw an ad for the Edmonds Waterfront Festival.† It would not have been a good idea to go to Edmonds, so I had another think.† My second idea was to go out to the Snoqualmie River Valley, somewhere between Carnation and Monroe.† But then I remembered the signs out there saying that there was going to be a big bike ride all morning and into the afternoon out there, on Saturday.† Finally, I decided to just go down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† Saturday isnít the best time to go there either, as it is more crowded than on weekdays, but I went on down.
It was a beautiful sunny day but it wasnít all that crowded.† There was one group of about 8 people with binoculars who had been on a bird walk, but they were just finishing as I arrived.† Out on the first boardwalk, I saw a couple of eagles in an evergreen tree across the little bay.† Here is a picture of the little bay, with the two eagles in the tall evergreen tree in the middle of the picture.
Canít see them?† Here is a partially zoomed-in view of the top of that tree.
And here is the upper eagle at full 50X zoom.
Itís sure nice to have my 50X zoom back again.† I was hand-holding that shot, and it is pretty sharp for so much zoom.† Itís a little blurry, but for a picture taken hand-held at the equivalent of 1200mm focal length, I think it is darn good.† My camera is a great tool to help me with my birding.
There was a Great Blue Heron on the platform out in the bay, and it was posing so nicely that I had to take a picture.
On the post holding up the platform there are a couple of hollowed out gourds that Purple Martins are nesting in, and I got this picture of three of them† The male is sitting up on top, the female is flying in, and a youngster is peeking out of the nest.
The female landed on the gourd, the youngster popped out, and I took this picture of the three of them.
In case you canít tell, Purple Martins are members of the swallow family.
I walked over to the other boardwalk and while I was out there, the eagles left their tree and went hunting.† One of them snatched up a bird from the water, and I got this poor picture of the eagle with its prey.
I donít know if it was a coot or a grebe, or maybe even a young duck, but it took it to the platform and proceeded to eat it.† The other eagle swooped down and caught a fish, and they both perched on the platform and had their meals.† I walked back to the other boardwalk, to get a closer view, and they were still there.† The one on the left had finished its fish, but the other one was still working on its bird.
Iím really pleased at how sharp and clear the pictures are from this new camera.† That platform is probably 40 or 50 yards away from where I was standing.
As for a BAD bird, when I got there, I had played the song of Brown Creeper, and one flew in right away.† Iíve been able to attract one every time Iíve tried so far this year, though, so I decided to ďsaveĒ that one for another day.† I heard a Virginia Rail call, but that is another one that is very responsive to playback, so I saved that one, too.† A Black-headed Grosbeak flew over my head at one point, but Iíve seen them a lot of places, so I decided to save that one as well.† I ended up taking Red-breasted Sapsucker.† Iíve seen them a lot, too, but I have to take it sometime, so I took it yesterday.
At home in the afternoon I was reading in my room and I heard a bird singing outside.† I knew it was something different, and it sounded familiar, but I couldnít place it.† So, I went out and found it.† It was a female Purple Finch, the first time Iíve had Purple Finch in our yard.† The song was familiar because Iíve played the song so many times, in several different places, trying to attract one.† My first-of-year Purple Finch was at Marymoor Park a couple of months ago, and I used it as my BAD bird that day.† Back then, it was singing at the top of some tall trees, and despite looking for it for 15 or 20 minutes, all I ever saw was a glimpse of what I figured must be the bird.† It was nice to see one well enough to identify it visually.† They look very much like House Finches, and the only way I could tell this one in the yard was a Purple Finch, rather than a House Finch, was by the song.† I played it on my phone, just to be sure, since Iím so lousy at remembering birdsong.
This morning, Sunday, I went out to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, near the town of Snoqualmie.† It is about 35 minutes away by freeway most of the way.† I was looking for a Least Flycatcher that had been reported there yesterday.† It is a rarity here in our area, so I decided to check out the Three Forks Wildlife Area, where it was seen.† I hadnít ever been there, and Iíve been enjoying seeing new birding sites around home.† It was overcast, but not raining, and I walked through the off-leash dog park to the wildlife area.† I think I found the place where the bird was seen, but I dipped on it.† I did see a Common Yellowthroat, and that would have been a good BAD bird, but I saw a better one later.† I also saw a distant Western Wood Pewee at the top of a tree.† As I keep saying, flycatchers are tough to identify, and it wasnít until I got home and saw my poor pictures that I was able to positively identify it as a pewee.† That would have been a good BAD bird, too, but I should see more of them in the coming weeks.
I had a good walk around at Three Forks, and on my way home, I stopped at Snoqualmie Falls.† There are Peregrine Falcons that nest there, and I thought Iíd take a shot at seeing one for my BAD bird for the day.† I didnít see a falcon, but I got this picture of Snoqualmie Falls.
I would have stuck around longer to look for the peregrines, but the spray was getting me wet, as if it were drizzling.
Next I stopped at Tokul Creek, between the falls and Fall City.† I had seen a report of American Dipper there, and that would have been an outstanding BAD bird.† The creek was the perfect habitat for dipper.† They like to nest under bridges, and the creek was perfect for them.† Here is a picture looking downstream from the bridge.
The creek runs into the Snoqualmie River right around that bend you see, so I went down near the confluence.† The habitat looked good for another bird I would have liked to see, so I made my way down the rough path to the river bank.† To my pleased surprise, I did indeed spot a Spotted Sandpiper along the river.† Here are a couple of pictures of that little cutie.
One thinks of sandpipers as ocean beach birds, but Spotted Sandpipers spend their summers along the shores of freshwater rivers and lakes.† I hadnít expected to see one in the area around home, so I took that as my BAD bird for today.† It wasnít even on my BAD bird spreadsheet; in fact, it was my first Spotted Sandpiper here in my home county of King since I started keeping county lists two years ago.† So, even though I dipped on Least Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, and American Dipper, I still got an excellent BAD bird for the day.
Here is a picture of the Snoqualmie River where Tokul Creek runs into it.
Rocky beaches like that are perfect Spotted Sandpiper habitat, which is why I was looking for it there.
So, thereís a little update.† More to follow soon, God Willing And The Creeks Donít Rise.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Yesterday I went up to Edmonds and visited Yost Park, a place I first went to earlier this year.† I was looking for a particular flycatcher that has been reported there recently.† I planned to go on to the Edmonds waterfront if I didnít get a good enough BAD bird there, to pick up one of the ones Iím ďsavingĒ.† Iím rapidly running out of ďgoodĒ BAD birds to get, and soon will have to start taking my ďsafetiesĒ, the common birds I can get easily.
I walked in some parts of the park I hadnít been in before, and I played the flycatcherís song.† By golly, one flew in to check me out, and I got Pacific-slope Flycatcher, the one I was looking for.† It was my first one ever in the state of Washington, although I have seen them a few times in California and once in Arizona.† I got a good look at it, but no pictures.† It made an excellent BAD bird for Tuesday.
I met a woman who was walking her dog (off leash, of course, in violation of the rules.† Dog owners donít pay much attention to leash laws and rules in parks, at least here in this area.), and she told me about a Hairy Woodpecker nest hole with young in it.† She showed me where it was, and I sat on the nearby bench for a while and watched the parents come in to feed the chick or chicks in the nest hole.† Most of the time a young woodpecker was sticking its head out of the hole and usually it was calling to be fed.† Here is a picture of a Hairy Woodpecker nestling.
Here is the male parent at the nest hole.
Here is the female near the nest hole.
Sometimes the youngster came almost out of the hole.
There wasnít much light as we were deep in the forest, so it was a good test for my new camera.† Iím pleased with the pictures, given the conditions.
I didnít bother going down to the waterfront because the Pacific-slope Flycatcher was a good enough BAD bird that I didnít need to get anything else.
Today I went over to Marymoor Park, which I have written about a number of times.† I had a list of BAD birds I wanted, and it included a couple of year birds as well, although those seemed unlikely.† Almost as soon as I left the car and started walking along the river, I spotted a bird halfway across the river in some trees, and it turned out to be a Yellow Warbler, one of the ones I have been looking for for the last few weeks.† I saw a lot of them down in Oregon, but this was the first one I saw here at home this year.
I continued my walk, and soon saw a Spotted Sandpiper, of all things.† That is the one I was so happy to get two days ago for my BAD bird Ė that one on Sunday was the first time I had seen one in King County in the two years that Iíve been keeping county lists.† It often seems to happen like that Ė you look for a bird for a long time, and when you finally see one, they seem to be everywhere after that.
There were a couple of Killdeer near the sandpiper.† They are pretty common, but I think they are a striking bird, so here is a picture of one of them.
Here is a picture of both of them.
I walked along the river and back for an hour or so, but I didnít see anything else worth mentioning until, just as I got back near the parking lot, I saw a VAUXíS SWIFT flying overhead, higher than the many swallows.† Swifts look kind of like swallows, but the wing shape is different, and they fly a bit differently, too, with very stiff wingbeats.† Swifts canít perch Ė their feet arenít strong enough to hold them on a perch.† They fly around all day, never landing, and then they find a place to roost at night where they can hang from a rock wall or in a hollow tree.† They can hang from their feet, but not perch on a branch.† They like to roost in chimneys and do so in large numbers when they find a suitable roost.† There is a Vauxís Swift roost in Monroe, a town about half an hour north of here, and they fly in each night (during the summer; they migrate somewhere south of the US in the winter) to an old unused chimney at a school there.†† A couple of years ago, Christina and I went up there to see them come into roost as it got dark.† It was a festive occasion, with people on lawn chairs and socializing with one another as they waited for the swifts.† A couple of thousand Vauxís Swifts flew in as it got dark, swirling around and flying into the chimney for the night.† They usually fly out at about 8 or 9 in the morning, I understand, depending on the weather.† If this interests you, you can read more about it and see a video of swifts coming into a chimney farther north of here, at this website: http://monroeswifts.org/ .† Scroll to the bottom of that page for the video.† Vauxís is pronounced to rhyme with boxes, by the way.
This morning, I later saw one swift a couple more times and once saw two of them at once, interacting in the air.† I donít know what they were doing, but they were together for several seconds, as they fell.† I had thought I might go up to Monroe to see them this year, since two years ago was the only time I have ever seen the species, but now I wonít have to.† Last year I never did take the time to go up to Monroe to see them.† Now they are on my year list for 2014.
A park employee driving a truck stopped and chatted with me at one point, and he mentioned the Osprey nest in the park and told me where it was located.† I knew there were Ospreys around there, but I didnít know where the nest was.† Osprey is one of my ďsavedĒ BAD birds that I plan to take eventually, when I donít find anything better that day.† Now that I know where the nest is, it will be even easier to get it, at least until the young ones fledge.† Here is a picture of the nest on a man-made platform, located near the velodrome in Marymoor Park.† If you donít know what a velodrome is, Google it.
There is an Osprey in the nest, but I canít tell if it is an adult or a young one almost fully grown and ready to fledge.† I suspect the latter, so maybe I should take Osprey for a BAD bird soon, while it is still easy to find.
When I got home there were some starlings and a male Northern Flicker feeding on our lawn.† I assume they are eating bugs when they do that.† Here is the flicker.
My grass looks pretty long there, but it isnít really all that long.† I do plan to mow tomorrow, though.
Later I was sitting on my porch and took some more pictures of birds at the feeder, to test my new camera more.† Here is a male House Finch.
Here is a female House Finch in the lilac next to the feeder.
There is a quince mixed in with that lilac, and you can see parts of both of them in that picture.
Here is a Bewickís Wren at the feeder.† It was moving its head, so the head and bill are blurry, but it was still a good test of the camera at that distance and in that light.
Finally, here is a Black-capped Chickadee that looks very scruffy.† I have been seeing this particular bird for several days, and I have thought it was probably a juvenile one, recently fledged, but I donít really know.† It sure is scruffy looking, though.
For my BAD bird today, Iím torn.† Either Yellow Warbler or Vauxís Swift would be excellent.† Iíve only seen Yellow Warbler one or two times around here in the past, and the swift is reported by other people pretty regularly at Marymoor and at other places around home.† Also, if I really care, I can be 100% sure of getting the swift if I drive a half hour north at sunset.† Based on all that, I will take Yellow Warbler today and hope to see Vauxís Swift another time in the next six weeks.
So, getting the swift today for my year list brings me to a total of 421 species for the year so far, and 15 of those have been lifers.† One was new for my US list, too.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
I havenít gotten another year bird, but Iím planning on leaving on a short trip tomorrow, so I want to do a ketchup entry for my BAD birds and my pictures.† I continue to really like my new camera.
On Wednesday, I went over to Marymoor Park.† I walked through the Community Gardens there, looking for Rufous Hummingbird, mainly.† There are a number of hummingbird feeders, but I never saw a bird at one.† I did see one Annaís Hummingbird, but no Rufous.† Here is a picture of the Community Gardens there.
I saw several White-crowned Sparrows in the gardens.† That is one that I still need for a BAD bird, but Iím saving it until I donít see a better bird one day.† Here are a couple of pictures of a White-crowned Sparrow.
There were a lot of American Goldfinches around the gardens, too.† Thatís another one Iím still saving.† Here is a male American Goldfinch.
Iím still testing my new camera, and I was pleased to get this picture of a Song Sparrow across part of the river.† It must have been 75 or 80 feet away.
I was pleased that the camera would auto-focus on the bird, and not on the background.† I had a lot of problems with my last two cameras in that regard, but this one seems much better.
Here is a picture of a male Brown-headed Cowbird.† You can see how it got its name.
Here is a close-up that is too close to be aesthetically pleasing, but it is still a good test of the new camera, in terms of detail and sharpness.
I ended up taking Common Yellowthroat for my BAD bird on Wednesday.† I only got a fleeting glimpse of it, but I heard one singing for ten minutes or so, while I tried to lure it out with playback on my phone.† I looked in vain for Vauxís Swift again, as I would like to use that one for a BAD bird.
On Thursday, June 5, I went up to Edmonds to look for several good BAD bird candidates and also Marbled Murrelet, which would be a year bird.† I dipped on the murrelet, seeing only distant Rhinoceros Auklets from the pier.
At Edmonds Marsh I got this picture of a Marsh Wren singing.
The blurry background is what photographers call ďbokehĒ.† This new camera seems to produce very nice bokeh.† This shot of the Marsh Wren was another example of the camera focusing on the bird, not on the background.† There were a couple of male Blue-winged Teal at the marsh.† I had read about them because they are quite uncommon in Snohomish County and even less common in Edmonds.
Here is a perched Violet-green Swallow.
The picture captures the pretty green color, but you canít see the deep violet color of the lower back and upper tail.† When they are swooping around in the sun, they can be quite beautiful when the light hits them right.
From the marsh, I moved just north past the ferry terminal to a small park called Brackettís Landing.† I was looking for Glaucous-winged Gull, a bird that is very common in the winter, but not so common in the summer.† I found some, but I also found a lone Heermannís Gull, one I wasnít expecting.† I knew they were at Edmonds sometimes, but I didnít know when.† It turns out they usually show up in late June or early July and hang around for two or three months.† I didnít even have that one in my local BAD bird spreadsheet because I never expected I would still be ďaliveĒ by July.† Iíve done exceptionally well, though, mainly because of all my trips this year, so now it is back in the frame.† I would have gladly taken it for my BAD bird on Thursday, but I saw something even better, a single Ring-billed Gull flying around.† I had seen tons of them in the winter, but I never took it as a BAD bird, because I thought they would be around all year.† I hadnít seen one for several months, though, and I had pretty much given up on it, until Thursdayís sighting.† I took Ring-billed Gull as my BAD bird on Thursday, and Iíll have to go back up there to get Heermannís Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull later.† The Heermannís on Thursday was very early, but they should be showing up in numbers in a few weeks.
On Friday, June 6, I was back at Marymoor.† I wanted the Vauxís Swift, but there are other good birds there, too.† I walked around more than usual, and I did see a couple of Vauxís Swifts flying overhead.† I walked through the Community Gardens twice, and saw the usual suspects, but no hummingbirds.† I got some pictures I like, though.† Here is a male American Goldfinch.
And another one.
Here is a female American Goldfinch, much less colorful.
And another shot of her.
Finally, to conclude the goldfinch series, here is another male with some purple flowers.
Earlier in this report, I showed a picture of a male Brown-headed Cowbird.† Here is a picture of a female Brown-headed Cowbird.
I know I keep repeating it, but Iím very pleased with this new camera.† Here is a picture of a singing Marsh Wren.† It was a difficult shot because the sun was behind the bird, but with some processing, it looks pretty good, I think, considering the lighting challenge.
Again the bokeh is nice, I think.
Here is a White-crowned Sparrow back in the gardens again.
I was thinking I would take the Vauxís Swifts I saw on my walk for my BAD bird, but then on my way out, I stopped at the office, where there are feeders.† Almost right away I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch coming to one of the feeders.† There turned out to be a pair of them.† The pictures arenít great, but here is the male Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Here is the female.† The male has a black crown and is reddish underneath, while the female has a blue-gray crown and is less reddish underneath.† I hadnít realized those differences until I saw these pictures and looked them up.
We had Red-breasted Nuthatches coming to our feeder at home all winter, and I thought they would stick around, so I never used it as a BAD bird.† Then they stopped coming in the spring, and I hadnít seen one for several months, so I had a second candidate for BAD bird for Friday.
There is a hummingbird feeder there, too, and hummers came in a few times.† I thought they were just Annaís Hummingbirds, which we have in our yard at home, but I got this picture of a female.
It wasnít until I saw the picture that I realized it was actually a female Rufous Hummingbird, the species I have been looking for everywhere.† The only way to tell, really, is the brownish color on her side.† An Annaís would not have any brown on her side at all.† I donít know if I have ever actually identified a female Rufous Hummingbird before.† I have seen males, which are very obvious, but after seeing this picture, I suspect I have overlooked female Rufous Hummingbirds in the past.† I see that there is brown on the wing, too, mixed in with the green.
So, I had three ďgoodĒ species to choose from Ė Vauxís Swift, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Rufous Hummingbird.† I ended up choosing the Rufous Hummingbird, in the hopes I could return to see the nuthatch and that I would see swifts again sometime in the coming weeks.† If worse comes to worst, I know I can see the swift at any time by driving a half hour north of here to Monroe to where they roost.† Itís just that I have to be there early in the morning or as the sun goes down, and neither of those times is exactly convenient for me.† Iím hoping I will see them at Marymoor again, now that Iíve seen them twice in the last few days.
This morning, Saturday, June 7, I went back to Marymoor and got the Red-breasted Nuthatch again, and Iím using that for my BAD bird today.
Tomorrow I plan to head over the Cascade mountain range for three days, possibly four.† I plan to stay two or three nights in Ellensburg, and I plan to visit several places I havenít been to before.† One of them involves going up a steep unpaved road to higher elevations, and Iím a little nervous about doing that alone, but Iíll see how the road looks when I get there and turn back if it is too daunting.† I hope to pick up 4 or 5 year birds on the trip, so I should be sending reports in the next few days, God Willing And The Creeks Donít Rise.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Iím in Ellensburg tonight, and I had an excellent birding day today.
I got away a little later than I had planned, about 9:20.† I had been hoping for 9.† My first stop was at Stevenís Pass, on Highway 2.† I was hoping to see Gray Jay, which I have seen there before, but I dipped on it.† All I saw were some robins, some Violet-green Swallows, and some birds at the top of a tree that were too far away to identify.
My first real birding stop was Camas Meadows Natural Area, which is 5.2 miles up US 97 from US 2, then up Camas Creek Road for several miles.† I hadnít been there before, but I had read about all the great birds that people see there.
It was pretty slow at first.† It was typical mountain forest birding, which means not much action at all.† There was actually a fair bit of birdsong, and if I knew the songs and calls of birds better, I might have picked up some birds.† I walked around a little, not getting too far from the car, which had all my stuff in it, because Iím paranoid about leaving it unattended in remote areas.† I was in Chelan county, so I was thinking in terms of my county list while I was also looking for a good BAD bird and hopefully, year birds.
When I first got there, there was a woodpecker drumming at the top of a snag, but it turned out to be a Hairy Woodpecker, not one I needed, except for my Chelan county list.† Next I picked up Lazuli Bunting for my Chelan list, which was a good one.† I then saw a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers.† I had gotten that one in Malheur last month, but I got some more pictures today.† Here is the female of the pair.
I can tell it is a female because she has a white chin.† Here is another picture of her, out in the sun.† If you look closely, it looks like she has an ant in her bill.
The white on the chin is very small, but that is the difference between the male and the female in that species.† Here is the male, with his red chin.
Pretty small difference, huh?† Such are the joys of birding, looking for tiny differences like that.
I spotted a Northern Flicker for my Chelan county list, and then a little way up the road, where I had been playing the song of a bird I wanted to see there, I got a good look at a MACGILLVRAYíS WARBLER.† Later I saw another one without playing its song.† No pictures, sad to say. †It flew into check me out and when I wasnít what it was looking for, it flew off.
After walking around some more, I drove up the road very slowly, watching for birds.† I saw a couple of flycatchers, but they turned out to be Western Wood Pewees, a good species for my Chelan county list, but no help for my year list.† On my way back, I saw another flycatcher, and this one turned out to be a DUSKY FLYCATCHER.† I got pictures of that one, which was great, because identifying flycatchers is very difficult.† The pictures confirm what I thought at the time.
Rounded head, lower bill orange, white throat tinged grayish, medium length bill.† Bingo, Dusky Flycatcher.† I used to think I would never be able to tell the various flycatchers apart, but Iím learning the differences now.† Here is another picture of the same bird.
I drove on and there was another flycatcher along the road.† I only saw it through the windshield, so my pictures are not great, but I believe that this one was a HAMMONDíS FLYCATCHER, another one I never thought I would learn to identify.† Here are the pictures, taken through the windshield of my car.
Short bill, lower part of bill dark, prominent eye ring, which is wider in the back.† The wings are right for Hammondís, too.
Here is a picture of the area where I was birding, Camas Meadows Natural Area.
I drove on a little farther up NF-7200 and picked up Chipping Sparrow for my Chelan county list.† Instead of just leaving, though, I parked again at the junction and walked some more. †This time I saw a male CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, a great one for my year list.† Here are a couple of pictures of him.
Note the way his gorget is kind of streaky.† That is a characteristic of male Calliope Hummingbirds.† I got Song Sparrow for my Chelan county list while looking at him, too.
Back at the car, as I was getting ready to leave, I saw a couple of birds fly in.† It turned out to be a little family of GRAY JAYS, another bird I was hoping to see at Camas Meadows.† There seemed to be two juvenile birds and two adults.† Here is a picture of a juvenile Gray Jay.
I hadnít ever seen a juvenile Gray Jay before, but I thought that was what it was, from the size, shape, and color.† Here is one of the adult birds.
So, although I only saw about a dozen species there, five of them were ones I needed for my year list, which is outstanding and also amazing, I think.† Iíve been very lucky this year with my birding.
I retraced my steps back to US 97, and continued on up to Blewett Pass.† I stopped at the trailhead for the Discovery Forest Trail, but the only thing I saw there was this Yellow-rumped Warbler.† It is the subspecies that used to be called Audubonís Warbler.† In this first picture, the bird is mostly obscured, but I still like it.
This next picture shows a more complete view of the bird, from underneath.
My last birding location of the day was Mill Creek Road, also known as NF-115.† I was looking for a particular species that had been reported there in abundance a week ago.† Supposedly, the birds were calling everywhere along the road.† Of course, I am somewhat challenged in the area of recognizing birdsong, but eventually I came to recognize the calls, and indeed, there were a lot of birds along the road.† Eventually I got good looks at some EVENING GROSBEAKS, the bird I was looking for there.†† Here is a picture of a pair of them that flew in when I played their call on my phone.
The male was doing some kind of display thing, flapping his wings and prancing around in front of the female.† The male is the more colorful one on the left, of course.† Is it my imagination, or does the female have a smug look on her face?† Here is the female alone.
She looks pretty smug to me, as she ignores the male.† Here is the male, with his crest still somewhat erect.
While I was looking for the grosbeaks on that road, I got this picture of a Warbling Vireo, another good one for my Kittitas county list, along with the grosbeak.
It was getting on toward five oíclock by then, and I had a lot of pictures to sort through, so I boogied on down to my humble motel on the outskirts of Ellensburg.
I added six species to my year list today, to my amazement.† I had said last night that I hoped to add 4 or 5 species on this trip, and now Iíve already exceeded that, with two more birding days to go.† Maybe I wonít see any more, having gotten them all today.† Iím now at 427 species for the year, of which 15 are lifers and one is new for my US list.† I added 13 to my Chelan county list and two to my Kittitas county list.
I have a lot of great choices for a BAD bird today, and Iíll choose Gray Jay for no particular reason other than the fact I like jays.
Tomorrow I plan to head up toward White Pass, which is on US 12 between Yakima and Mount Rainier.† Iím planning to drive up Bethel Ridge Road, which I havenít ever done before.† The main attraction there is woodpeckers, but there are other mountain species I could see on that road, too, although I saw a number of those species today.† It will be interesting to explore another new area, though, whatever I see.† The road is unpaved and steep, and Iíll turn back if it seems too rough for me.† I plan to return to Ellensburg via the Wenas area, over Umtanum Road.
What a life!
Monday, June 09, 2014
I was up and away by 8:20 this morning, having eaten my breakfast, made my lunch, and gassed up the car.† I stopped at the Selah rest area on I-82 and tried for Canyon Wren, but dipped on it.† My next stop was at Oak Creek Wildlife Area on US 12, and I again tried for Canyon Wren, but again dipped.† I took a back country road up into the hills a little way, but it was too rough for me, and I soon turned around.
I got to my destination, which was Bethel Ridge Road (aka NF-1500) and I drove on up.† I was worried it would be too steep for me, but the road was great, just washboarded badly in places.† My first bird was a male Cassinís Finch.† It was all puffed up for some reason, maybe to keep warm, and here is a picture of it.
It was high at the top of a tree, and Iím pleased I could get that good a picture of it.† Iím still loving my new camera.
Here is a meadow along the way, to give you an idea of the habitat I was driving through.
I saw several Western Tanagers, and here is a male.† The colors are a little off because I used fill flash because the bird was in the deep shade.
I drove right on up to the summit, which was about 7 miles.† I had stopped a number of times and played calls for three woodpecker family species I was looking for, but never got any kind of response.† I decided to give up on mountain birding and head on back down.† I stopped on the way to get this picture of Mount Rainier in the distance.
While I was stopped there, another birder who was going up the road stopped and we talked.† I had seen him earlier, and he had noticed me driving by.† He was scouting for a trip he is leading on Saturday, so he is a much more advanced birder than I am.† We talked about what we had seen and what we were looking for, and he told me he could tell me where I could see one of the woodpecker family species I was looking for.† I got detailed directions, and we talked some more.† It turned out he had seen a pair of another woodpecker species I needed, and he gave me directions to that one, too.
Armed with these directions, I continued on down, and he went on up.† I found the first spot, where a power line crossed the road.† I walked down the hill to the second pole, as instructed, and played the call of the target species.† I got an immediate response and had views of both male and female WILLIAMSONíS SAPSUCKERS that were tending a nest hole in a snag.† Most of my pictures are pretty poor, but it was such a great bird to get that Iíll show some anyway.† Here are two pictures of the male Williamsonís Sapsucker.
This was only the second or maybe third time Iíve seen this species, so it was special.† Here is a poor picture of the female, who looks somewhat different from the male.
They had at least one nestling in their nest, and I have a very poor picture of it looking out of the hole, but it is so poor that Iím not even going to show it.† I should have been more patient and stuck around for more and better pictures, but it was after noon by then, and I was hungry.† On my way back to the car I saw a flycatcher, and although I had a good look at it and have some good pictures, Iím still not sure of the identification.† I would guess Western Wood Pewee, but Iím not sure.† Here is a picture.
It was lunch time, but before I took time for lunch, I continued on down the mountain and took a side road to the second spot I had been told about.† I got out of the car and played the call of another woodpecker, and in a minute or so, one came flying straight in, right over my head.† It flew from tree to tree and I got some pictures, but again they arenít very good.† It was only the second time in my life I had seen BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER, though, so Iíll show a couple of them in celebration of that.
It is the only woodpecker with a solid black back in our area, so the pictures are good enough to document my sighting.
I was pretty hungry by then so I drove on down to the highway and stopped at a picnic area just a little way down the road and had my humble lunch Ė ham and pepper jack cheese rolled in flour tortillas, mini peppers, and sugar snap peas.† Thus fortified, I motored on down US 12 to Naches and took the cutoff to the Wenas area.
When I got to the junction of North Wenas Rd and Audubon Rd, I headed up North Wenas Rd back toward Ellensburg.† As I approached Ellensburg Pass, I took an unmarked forest road on the left.† I had been there before, looking for Cassinís Vireo, and I had found it then, so I decided to try again.† There is a barbed wire gate to open and close, and it is a hassle, but I made it through ok.† I drove up the road, stopping frequently to play the calls of both Cassinís Vireo and Gray Flycatcher, but I never got any response and I didnít see anything of much interest.† I did get this picture of a Western Meadowlark, though, which I like.
Coming back, as I approached the gate to the main road, I saw a chicken-like bird in the road ahead.† I could see it was a grouse of some kind, and I got a couple of really poor pictures through my dusty windshield with the sun shining on it, which made it almost opaque.† The bird had seen my car and was standing there looking at me, but I slowly opened my door and got out enough to get a few pictures before it scuttled off.† The lighting was terrible, since I was looking right into the sun and the bird was in the shade, but here is a picture of a RUFFED GROUSE (lifer).
Here is another one, taken as it hustled away.
I had to look in my field guide to see what species of grouse it was, since it was the first time I had seen Ruffed Grouse.† I never imagined I would get another lifer this year, let alone on this trip.† I was pretty jazzed.† I understand the crest (ruff) can be raised or lowered, and in these pictures, it is raised.† It was lowered in the initial pictures taken through my dusty windshield.† Here is one of those pictures.
That picture is processed to make it as good as possible, and it would have been good enough to identify the species which was my main goal in taking it, since I didnít know what grouse species it was.
So, with that excitement under my belt, I headed back to my motel.† On the way, I stopped several times to play the song of a bird that is supposed to live along there, and at one point I actually got a response.† I heard the response several times and I would have counted it as a ďheard onlyĒ bird, but then a couple of them finally flew in close to check me out, and I added BREWERíS SPARROW to my year list.† I had been thinking I might go back up there on Umtanum Rd tomorrow morning to try to get that one, but now I donít need to.
There were a lot of bluebirds along the road, mostly Western Bluebirds, but some Mountain Bluebirds as well.† There are a ton of nest boxes for bluebirds, along many of the roads out here.† Here is a picture of a male Mountain Bluebird, one of my favorite birds because of its powder blue color.
On my way back to my motel I had a great view of a male Northern Harrier flying along the road with me for a half mile or so, and I saw California Quail in several places.† That was all along Umtanum Rd. Once I got down to the valley, I saw a Black-billed Magpie being harassed by a crow.† I wanted a picture of the magpie and it perched, so I stopped.† Before I could get a picture, it flew across the road and landed near what looked like a dead magpie in the grass.† I thought how sad it was, that this magpieís partner had died, maybe hit by a car or something, and I got this picture of the live one and what appeared to be the dead one.
To my surprise, though, the one on the ground revived and they both flew away.† I wonder what the story was.† Maybe the crow had attacked the one on the ground and the other one had driven the crow away, giving the injured one time to recover.† I donít know.† Anyway, they both were flying around after that, and they both appeared unhurt.† Here is one of them through my still dusty windshield.
The birding still wasnít over, though, and I got this picture of an Osprey with a fish, again taken through my dusty windshield.† My car is very dusty now both inside and out, because of all the unpaved roads I drove on today.
So, that was my day of birding today.† I was out for about eight and a half hours, which is a short day for a dedicated serious birder, but it is plenty long enough for this fat old dilettante birder.† I got four more species for my year list, and one of those was a lifer.† That brings me to a total of 431 species so far this year, of which 16 are lifers and one other one is new for my US list.† I would have been very pleased to have taken Black-backed Woodpecker for my BAD bird today but I will take Ruffed Grouse, since it was a lifer and I doubt Iíll ever see another one.
It was crazy windy here in Ellensburg this morning, and it is still crazy windy here tonight.† Tomorrow is supposed to be the same, I understand, so I donít know what I will do tomorrow.† Birding in the wind is difficult and unproductive.† I had wanted to go east of here on the Old Vantage Highway, to look for four species out there, but they had a fire out that way last week, and I suspect that the road is closed, and if it is open I suspect the places I had planned to look for my birds were burned.† I need to decide whether to take the time to drive out there to see or not.† If I canít bird out there, it will be very hard to get another year bird tomorrow, and I probably wonít, after all the success I have had in the last two days.† I had expected 4 or 5 year birds on this trip, and I have ten so far.† That doesnít leave much to look for.† Iíll do some more research online tonight and see if there is something I can go for tomorrow, although the wind will be a factor.† Maybe the fire missed the places where I wanted to look for birds, and maybe Iíll drive out there tomorrow to find out.† We will see.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
It wasnít as windy this morning as it was yesterday, which was great, and I drove on out the Old Vantage Highway, to see if the fire they had out there last week had destroyed the birding habitat where I had found several sage species in the past. My first priority, as always this year, was to find a good candidate for my BAD bird, and before I even got to the area I was going to, I saw a Sage Thrasher fly across the road and perch on a post. I turned around to try for pictures, and it flew down, but I played its song on my phone, and it returned to the post and sang back to me. Here is a picture of that cutie.
So, no matter what else happened, I had a good BAD bird if I wanted it. Driving on, I was pleased to find that the fire had started about a hundred yards beyond the first place I wanted to stop, and it had burned in the other direction, to the east. So, I had at least one place to look for the sparrow species that I needed for a year bird. As it turned out, I saw the other sparrow species that lives in that habitat, Brewerís Sparrow, which I had seen yesterday up on Umtanum Rd, but not the one I needed. There were several Sage Thrashers around, too, but no sign of the sparrow I still needed.
I went on to the other place where I have stopped before, and the fire had been contained about two hundred yards before it got there. In other words, the fire burned along the road for several miles, but only between the two spots I was interested in, and both spots were unaffected. Amazing.
So, I again got out and started using playback. I got another Brewerís Sparrow and more Sage Thrashers, and finally I had some sparrow-like birds that seemed to be showing an interest in my playback song. They didnít stay still long, and they didnít come out into the open much, but I kept getting brief looks at them. The trouble was, they didnít look like my target species. They had streaky breasts, for one thing, and their head pattern was wrong. They really showed an interest in the song I was playing, though. I got this picture of what I eventually figured out was a juvenile SAGEBRUSH SPARROW, which is what I was looking for.
Here is another picture that looks more like an adult bird, but the breast still seems to have streaks.
Finally I got a good look at an adult bird, which confirmed the identification. Here is a blurry distant picture of an adult Sagebrush Sparrow.
I was looking for that gray colored head, with the prominent eye ring and the white dot in front of the eye, and the juveniles looked different. Eventually I had four or five of them flitting around, but never very close to me. Sagebrush Sparrow is a new species, just split off last year. In 2013 they split Sage Sparrow into two new species, Sagebrush Sparrow and Bellís Sparrow. Bellís Sparrows only live in California, as far as I can tell, and Iíve only ever seen the species in Washington (at this particular site, actually), so Sagebrush Sparrow replaces Sage Sparrow on my US list. You could say I got a lifer, I guess, but I also lost one, so I just consider it another year bird.
I stopped several places and played the call for Chukar, which I have seen along there a couple of times, but today I had no luck. At one stop I did notice a Common Raven nest on a cliff face just above the road, though. Here is a picture of the nest with some young ravens in it.
You can easily see three ravens in that picture, but there is another one back in the shade. While I was there, an adult raven landed on a rock across the valley and started calling. I presumed it was waiting for me to leave the area before bringing the young ones some food. When the calling started, the young ravens opened their mouths to be fed, even though the adult was a quarter of a mile away. You can see all four of the nestlings in this next picture, including the one in the back in the shade.
They look pretty big to me, and I assume they must be about ready to fledge. Maybe the adult across the valley was encouraging them to fly, by not bringing food. I waited a while to see what would happen, but the adult raven had more patience than I did, and when I left, it was still calling from across the valley.
Next, I stopped at Recreation Dr and tried for Black-throated Sparrow where I had seen one last year, but I came up empty on that. I stopped at the park that overlooks the Columbia River there, and I noticed that the river was very low. I sort of had a dim memory of a problem with a dam on the river, so I looked it up when I got home. They found a crack in a spillway for the Wanapum Dam in February, and the reservoir behind the dam was lowered by 26 feet to relieve the pressure on the dam while they do repairs. The river is closed to all access while the water is lowered, to protect public safety (some places that were underwater before are quicksand now, and you canít access the water at the boat ramps anyway). Here is a picture of the lowered river.
With that, I headed back west toward home. I stopped in Cle Elum and got a Subway tuna sandwich for my lunch. I took it to Bullfrog Pond and ate in the car. I had planned to look for Cassinís Vireo there, although it would have been a longshot. As I was getting ready to get out of the car, my phone gave off a tone that said it was shutting down because the battery was dead. I had played too many bird songs that morning, and I hadnít plugged it in to the car charger. There wasnít much point in looking for the vireo without being able to play its song, so I gave it up and headed for home. It made me realize how dependent on playback I have become for certain birds. It has really been a huge help to me in looking for some kinds of birds. Some people think it is cheating to use playback, but I like it because I can see a lot more birds if I use it, and seeing birds is the whole point of birding, as far as Iím concerned.
That was it for my birding for the day. I was quite happy to get another bird for my year list, considering how many I had already gotten the last couple of days. I ended up getting 11 species for my year list on the trip, when I had expected 4 or 5 and hoped for 7 or 8 at the most. The Sagebrush Sparrow puts me at 432 species for the year so far, and 16 of those are lifers. One other one is new for my US list as well.
For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Sagebrush Sparrow, although Sage Thrasher or Brewerís Sparrow would have been equally good. Now I will go back to looking for the best BAD bird I can find each day around home. I still have a list of over 50 species to choose from, some of which will be difficult and I wonít get, but most of which are pretty common. The next five weeks will be interesting because it will be a whole new phase of the BAD birding thing Ė taking the more common birds while trying to pick up a few of the difficult ones that are left. Each day Iíll try for one or more difficult ones, and take an easy one if I donít get it.
So, thatís my story and Iím sticking to it.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I hadnít expected to be writing a report today, but here I am.† I headed up to Edmonds this morning, to try to pick up a good BAD bird.† I lugged my scope out onto the fishing pier and did a sweep of the water.† I saw 4 or 5 Rhinoceros Auklets and two Pigeon Guillemots, but not the species I had been looking for all year there.† I was ready to leave, but I did another quick sweep, and this time I picked up something different.† It was a long way away, but I was able to identify it as a MARBLED MURRELET.† I have probably visited the Edmonds pier 15 or 20 times this year, always looking for that species, and today was finally my lucky day.† After a while another one flew in and I watched them both for several minutes.† One flew away then, and I followed it with my scope, familiarizing myself with what it looked like as it flew.† When it got too far away, I looked back and the other one was gone, too.† I guess my timing was just right to catch them while they were close enough to identify.† My perseverance in looking for that species had finally paid off.
That pretty much settled my BAD bird problem for the day, but I went up to Brackettís Landing, just north of the ferry terminal to scout it out.† I had seen a Heermanís Gull there last week, which is a few weeks early for that species in Edmonds.† I didnít see one today, but they should be coming back in a few weeks.† The tide was very low today, and I got this picture of the ferry coming into the terminal.
Here is a closer view, as the ferry was about to dock.
I needed some more pictures for my report, so I stopped at Juanita Bay Park on the way home to see what was around.† Here is a cute little duckling.† I think itís a Wood Duck.
It just sat there in the sun while I was there, with no sign of any siblings or parent around.
Here is a Great Blue Heron in the lily pads.
I saw a male Northern Flicker feeding a recently fledged young one, and got this picture of the adult.
There are lots of young birds around at this time of year.† Here is a picture of a juvenile American Robin.† You can tell it is a juvenile because of its speckled breast and belly.
Thatís all Iíve got today.† A short report with only a few pictures.† Marbled Murrelet brings me to 433 species for the year, of which 16 are lifers and one is new for my US list.† For my BAD bird, Iíll take Marbled Murrelet, of course.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for me.† Before I get to Friday, though, I need to cover Thursdayís BAD bird.† I went over to Marymoor Park to try for a couple of flycatchers that have been seen there recently.† The first place I went was to the velodrome area, though, to check out the Osprey nest.† There was an Osprey in the nest, so I had that as a back up for a BAD bird if I struck out on everything else.
I walked along the river mostly, with the people walking their dogs off leash.† I didnít see much, but I did get this picture of a Bewickís Wren singing his heart out.
I havenít used that one yet for a BAD bird, but we have them in our yard, so I wanted to save it for later.† I saw 2 or 3 Bullockís Orioles, but I had used that one already.† It was getting to be time for me to be leaving when I saw a Black-headed Grosbeak, so that became my best candidate for BAD bird.† Then, just as I was about to leave I spotted the bird whose song I had been playing for the last hour, and I got Willow Flycatcher for my BAD bird for the day.† I even got this picture of it.
Iím always saying how difficult it is to identify flycatchers, but this one sang his song for me a number of times, so I was sure of my identification.
So, that was it for the day.† Just two pictures and a short report, but a good BAD bird.
This morning, Friday, it was raining, but it seemed to be letting up so I drove on up to Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore.† I had seen a report that listed four species that would make good BAD birds, and one of them would even be a year bird.† It was still raining lightly when I got there, so I sat in the car for 25 minutes, hoping it would quit.† It didnít, so I put on my light jacket and my hat, and took my binoculars and walked in the rain.† I played the song of the year-bird that had been reported there, but it wasnít until I was about to leave, after about 40 minutes of walking around in the light rain, that I heard what sounded like a response to my song.† It was a ďchipĒ type call, not the song, so I wasnít at all sure it was my bird, because lots of birds make little chip calls like that.† I kept playing the song, though, and in a couple of minutes a little bird flew in, and it was a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER.† I had just about given up on seeing one this year, as most of them pass through in migration and donít stay here all summer, and they arenít all that common, in my experience.† In fact, this was only the third time I have even seen a Black-throated Gray Warbler, and the first time in Washington State.† So, it was not only a great surprise to see a bird for my year list, it was an excellent BAD bird for today.† It brings me to 434 species for the year, of which 16 are lifers and one is new for my US list.
It is very unlikely that Iíll get any more year-birds now, unless I do some traveling, and even then there are very darn few that I could see here in Washington State.† Iíll continue to take pictures and send out reports every 5 to 7 days, to report my BAD birds and show my pictures.† I hope to reach the last week in July with my BAD birds before I finally run out, and this final stage will be interesting to manage, as I take the common local birds and try to miss getting as few as possible.† There is always the chance of a rarity showing up somewhere, too, and I could chase after that.† Mostly my reports will consist of pictures and the story of where I look for my BAD bird each day.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I realize that I keep saying that I wonít get anything else for my year list, but then in a few days, here I am again.† I have been incredibly lucky this year.
On Saturday I went over to Magnuson Park in north Seattle, stopping there on my way to the Union Bay Wildlife Area (aka Montlake Fill), in an attempt to get Caspian Tern for my BAD bird.† No terns at Magnuson, but I got this picture of a male Spotted Towhee that I rather like.† Have I mentioned lately that I really like this new camera?
I see Spotted Towhees pretty often, but Iím saving them for later, as a BAD bird.† We have them in the yard frequently.
Then I saw a flycatcher, and it turned out to be an Eastern Kingbird, a bird that is pretty scarce here in Western Washington, but I saw a lot of them down in Texas in April, so it was no problem identifying it.† Later I looked it up, and there had been two reports of Eastern Kingbird at Magnuson a week or two earlier, on the same day.† They are pretty scarce west of the Cascade Mountains, though, so it was a great BAD bird.† I didnít even have it on my spreadsheet, and it was my first in Western Washington and only my second sighting of the species in the state.† Here are a couple of pictures of Eastern Kingbird, a true surprise bird.
I guess I have three pictures.† I figured it was unusual enough to deserve three pictures.† This last one is an oddball one, with the bird looking straight at me.
So, Eastern Kingbird was my BAD bird for Saturday, June 14.† I didnít bother looking for Caspian Tern after that.
On Sunday I went up to Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore, looking for a flycatcher that had been reported there.† I walked around and eventually I thought I heard the bird I was looking for, but it was very difficult to locate it.† It seemed to move around, but I think the nature of the call was such that it made it difficult to pinpoint a location.† Sort of a ventriloquist bird, a thing I have run into before.† I played the call back to it, and eventually I did get a good look at a Western Wood-Pewee, and I took that as my BAD bird on Sunday.
On Monday I went back down to Juanita Bay Park, my local park.† I had had several things to do in the morning, and it was mid-afternoon by the time I got there.† I was planning on getting Brown Creeper, which I had seen there 3 times before.† It had always come right in, in response to my playback of its call.† This time it didnít.† Instead, a strange bird flew in Ė one I couldnít immediately identify.† Here are a couple of pictures of it.
It seemed to be a member of the woodpecker family, and I thought it must be a juvenile bird, recently fledged.† I soon figured out it was a juvenile Red-breasted Sapsucker, looking somewhat different from its parents.
I continued to play the Brown Creeper song, but couldnít ever get a response.† I have been counting on being able to get that one there, and now Iím wondering about it.† I did see a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a related bird that also creeps up the trunks of trees, but no creeper.† Iíll try again.
Out on one of the boardwalks, I played the calls of Virginia Rail, another one I have been counting on finding there, and I did get several responses.† On the other boardwalk, I got this picture of a Cedar Waxwing that I like.
I like my brotherís comment about the bird Ė that it looks like it dipped its tail in a bucket of yellow paint.† I always say that they are sleek looking.
I played the call of a woodpecker I wanted to see, and a little while later I saw a lovely little male Downy Woodpecker.† I donít know if it was there in response to my playback or not, but it was one I wanted for a BAD bird, and I got it on Sunday.† I later saw a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers, the Downy Woodpeckerís larger cousin.† Here is a picture of one of the Hairy Woodpeckers.
That was a very difficult picture to get, and the fact I got a recognizable picture with my new camera speaks well of it.† Hairy Woodpeckers are less common than Downy Woodpeckers around here, but I had already taken Hairy Woodpecker as a BAD bird earlier in the year.
Out at the end of that boardwalk, I noticed that there werenít any Purple Martins around the nest gourds out there.† I have been counting on being able to pick that one up as a BAD bird at any time, but if the young have fledged, they might not be around any more.† Iíll continue to look for them whenever I go to the park, and it is possible I could see them somewhere else.
So, that brings us to today.† I went on over to Marymoor Park, with a list of several good BAD birds to look for.† First I drove by the Osprey nest, partly to see if they were still there, and partly so I would have that as a backup if I didnít see anything else I wanted to take for a BAD bird.† Iíve been trying to figure out where the Ospreyís are in their nesting cycle.† There has always been an adult bird at the nest, which indicates to me that there are either eggs or young in the nest.† When there are eggs or young in the nest, an adult Osprey sticks around all the time, to protect the eggs or young from Bald Eagles, who would gladly take whatever was on offer.† Iíve seen Ospreys fighting off Bald Eagles at their nests in the past.† Since the adult hasnít seemed to be sitting on the nest, Iím assuming there are small chicks in the nest, although I havenít seen one yet.† Before they fledge, they will be big enough to see, so Iím assuming I have plenty of time still, to take Osprey as a BAD bird.
Next I went to the observation mound, where a number of sparrow species have been seen in the past.† I was looking for Savannah Sparrow, which is supposed to be common there, but I havenít seen one for several weeks, so I was going to take it as my BAD bird today if I could see one.† I played the song of the Savannah Sparrow, but sparrows are not generally very responsive to playback, so I wasnít expecting much.† In this case, though, one did fly in, and I got these two pictures.
So, that was going to be my BAD bird, subject to seeing something better.
I walked down the trail toward the lake and almost right away I saw a dove.† It turned out to be a Mourning Dove, one I donít even have on my BAD bird spreadsheet, since there really arenít many of them around this area.† Here is a picture.
So, Mourning Dove clearly trumped the Savannah Sparrow as a BAD bird candidate for the day.† Iíll have to try again for Savannah Sparrow.
A little farther along the trail, I saw some birds flying around up high, and I hustled down the trail to check them out.† They were gone when I got to where they had been, but they came back.† To my amazement and satisfaction, it was a group of ten or twelve BLACK SWIFTS (lifer)!† I knew that they were a possibility there.† They are seen every year at Marymoor, but in dozens of trips to Marymoor I had never seen any.† There was a report yesterday of 15 of them, so I was definitely looking for them.† The odds were more in my favor because it was overcast today.† When it is clear, Black Swifts feed very high, too high to see them in fact.† But, when the weather is overcast with low clouds, they come down from the mountains and feed over Lake Sammamish and the fields of Marymoor.† Sometimes.† Today was one of those days, and I got a number of great looks at them, so I could positively identify the species.† They are somewhat different from the Vauxís Swifts I have seen twice at Marymoor this year. †The wings are longer and slimmer, they are all black, and they are somewhat larger.† Here are a couple of pictures of Black Swifts taken today.† They are basically just silhouettes, but that is all you can see when a small bird is flying high above you under bright clouds.
I was quite pleased to be able to get even those pictures.† I had to set my camera to manual focus, as there was no way to do auto focus on a fast moving bird while I was moving the camera to follow it.† The second picture really shows the long, slender wings and short head extension.
So, now I have to decide what to use as my BAD bird for the day.† Neither the Mourning Dove nor the Black Swift is even in my BAD bird spreadsheet.† Black Swift is a far ďbetterĒ bird, so it seems crazy not to take that as my BAD bird.† But, on the other hand, it might be easier to see Black Swift again in the next month than Mourning Dove.† How can I pass up taking a lifer as my BAD bird, though?† I guess Iíll take the swift today, mainly† because when I post it on the BAD bird website, it will make me feel prouder for having seen them, as opposed to the much more common Mourning Dove (but not around here).† I suspect that Mourning Dove is actually a smarter choice, but Iíll take the lifer, Black Swift, as my BAD bird for today,anyway.† It is a close choice, though.
So, Black Swift brings me to a total of 435 species for the year, of which 17 are lifers and another one is new for my US list.
Iím still waiting for the time when I have to start taking the common birds of the area as my BAD birds, but my luck has continued almost unbelievably.† Iím now figuring that I have 35 to 40 days more before I finally go down in flames and donít see a species that I have not used as a BAD bird already.† That is assuming I donít do any other trips around Washington, and I donít have any planned at this point.
Monday, June 23, 2014
No new year-birds for me, but I have pictures to show and an update on my Bird-A-Day project.
On Wednesday, June 18, I went over to Marymoor Park, mainly looking for the Mourning Dove I had seen there the day before.† I didnít find it, but I walked around and enjoyed the park.† I saw an Eastern Kingbird, which is a species I had seen the week before at Magnuson Park in Seattle.† They are quite uncommon on this side of the Cascades, so it was interesting to see a second one within the space of a week, after never having seen one in Western Washington before.† Here is a picture of the Marymoor Eastern Kingbird.
You got two for the price of one there, since I couldnít decide which one I liked better.† Neither is a great picture, but it is an excellent bird, so I will show the pictures.† Some pictures I use because I like the photo and some because I like the bird or the sighting.† In this case, it was the sighting of an uncommon bird that I liked.
Here is a picture of a Savannah Sparrow.
I havenít used Savannah Sparrow for a BAD bird yet, but I like that picture so Iím including it.† I sure like this new camera.† I ended up taking Marsh Wren for my Bird-A-Day bird for June 18.
On Thursday, June 19, I went to the Stillwater unit of the Snoqualmie Valley Wildlife Area, to try again for Bank Swallow.† It is about a mile walk, each way, to get to the river where the swallows nest.† I had to push through the long, wet grass and dodge blackberry canes that have grown across the path, but it was a very pleasant walk in the cool morning sunshine.† I tried for Red-eyed Vireo along the way, having read reports, but saw and heard nothing like that.† At the river there were swallows flying around and going to their nest holes in the river bank.† Like last time I went there, it was easy to see Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and here are a couple of pictures of one.
Bank Swallows look very much like that, too, but they have a dark band across their upper breast and maybe are a bit darker on their backs and whiter underneath.† I saw several that I thought were Bank Swallows and finally got a really good look at one as it flew by, and I was convinced, so I took Bank Swallow for my BAD bird on Thursday.† Here is the Snoqualmie River where the swallow colony was located.
The walk back seemed shorter, as it always does when I have seen my target species.† I also saw a couple of Spotted Sandpipers there.
On Friday, June 20, I went down to Juanita Bay Park to try for Brown Creeper.† I had seen Brown Creeper there several times earlier in the year; they seemed to be quite responsive to playback of their song on my phone.† Then I hadnít seen one the last couple of times I had tried, so I was worried they had moved away or perhaps werenít inclined to be as responsive when it wasnít breeding season.† Anyway, I again didnít see one on Friday.† I had missed Purple Martin (a member of the swallow family) the last time I was there, and I was afraid they had finished their nesting and had moved on.† I did see some around the nest gourds on Friday, though, so I took that for my BAD bird.† I heard Virginia Rail as well, but I have always gotten a response from them when I play their calls, so Iím ďsavingĒ that one until a day I need it.
I got a couple of pictures of a female Wood Duck that day that I like a lot.† In this first one, you can see the water droplets dripping off her bill, as she had just pulled her head up out of the water.
Here is a close-up of the head, showing the water drops better.
Those were both the same picture.† Here is the second picture, showing her blue speculum on her wing.
Male Wood Ducks are very colorful, but in some ways, I like the more subtle coloration of the female better.† Note the blue tinge to the feathers on her back and tail.
On Saturday, June 21, I went up to Edmonds again, to again look for Caspian Tern.† I didnít see any, and I ended up taking Pigeon Guillemot, a sea bird I usually see there.† There were a couple of dozen Heermannís Gulls there, loafing on the breakwater, and Iíll go back and get that one someday soon.
On Sunday, June 22, I again went looking for Caspian Terns.† This time I drove around the north end of Lake Washington and stopped several places.† My first stop was at Matthews Beach, which I had never been to before.† There werenít any terns around, but I got this picture of an early returning Horned Grebe, still partially in breeding plumage.† In a month it will be all light gray and white.
Next I stopped at Magnuson Park and went to a part of it I hadnít visited before.† Again, no terns, but I did see some Cliff Swallows swooping over the lake, and I ended up taking Cliff Swallow for my BAD bird that day.† No terns in the other parts of the park either, nor at Union Bay, which was my last stop that day.
So, this morning, Monday, I put Caspian Tern on the back burner for the time being and went down to Juanita Bay Park and tried for Brown Creeper again.† This time I got one to fly in, and I even got a picture as it worked its way up the trunk of a tree, foraging for insects.
They are hard to get a decent picture of, because they keep moving all the time and there isnít much light under the canopy of the large trees they favor.† I had to shoot this one through a hole in the leaves of a closer branch, too, but it came out pretty good, considering the low light and everything else.† That picture was taken at ISO 400 and 1/25 of a second.† Considering the amount of zoom I was using and the slow shutter speed, it is obvious that the image stabilization in this new camera is excellent, for the picture to be as sharp as it is.† I didnít have any time to get set, either.† I just had to point and get focused and shoot, while hand-holding the camera.† I was probably about 30 feet away from the bird.
So, I had my good bird for the day, but I had time and it was an incredibly beautiful early summer morning, so I walked on down to the lake, to try for pictures.† I got this picture of a honey bee at a water lily.
That was taken from about 20 feet away, Iíd say.† I like the way you can see the nectar on the beeís legs.† She had been very actively collecting pollen this morning, evidently.† I just looked them up, and there are over 20,000 species of bees, but only 7 of those are in the honey bee family.† The ones you find here in the US are from Europe, imported to pollinate our crops.† Without honey bees, agriculture would be much more difficult for most crops.
I was enjoying the lake and the sunshine when I noticed a couple of white birds swooping around across the bay.† Could it be?† Yes, it was a couple of Caspian Terns, the bird I had been looking for lately all over the place.† That was a better BAD bird than the creeper, as I hope I can attract a Brown Creeper again with playback, so Iím taking Caspian Tern for my BAD bird for today.† I got this distant picture of one of them.† The bird had to have been well over a hundred yards away.† Think of a football field, which is 100 yards long.† You could see the birds with the naked eye, but just barely and you had to be looking for them.
I was hand holding the camera at full zoom, moving it as I tried to keep it on the bird, and the bird was moving, too, of course.† I think it is amazing that I can get that kind of picture at that distance.† I didnít try to focus on the bird, as it was much too far away.† The camera would have focused on the trees in the background, if I had tried.† Instead, I had pre-focused on a piling at water level which was about the same distance away, then I found the bird I the view finder and snapped the picture.† It came out better than I could have hoped.
So, that was it for my actual official birding today, but I went out to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue to enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes, before he had to go back to work.† I got this picture of a male Black-headed Grosbeak there.† I havenít used that one for a BAD bird yet, but I see them quite a bit, so Iím saving it.
We had quite a few birds today on our short walk.† There was at least one Red-breasted Nuthatch, a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, a hummingbird, some ducks on the lake, the usual Red-winged Blackbirds, lots of robins as always, and several Cedar Waxwings flying around hawking insects.† Here is a picture of a Cedar Waxwing from the back.
Note the tail that looks like it had been dipped in yellow paint and also the red waxy substance on the wings, which gives the species its name.† I love the black mask and the sleek look of this species, too.† Here is a view from the front.
There were a lot of dragonflies flying around over the water, and I got some pictures.† Here is one with little color in the wings.
Here is another type, presumably another species.
Here is one that looks like that last one except for the light blue patches on the wings.† We speculated that perhaps the one with more color was a male and the other a female, especially since the blue-winged one seemed to chase after the other one a lot, and they appeared to couple once or twice.
I thought the blue colored one appeared more blue when we saw it, compared to how the picture came out.† Anyway, Iím quite pleased with my dragonfly pictures.† Have I mentioned how much I like this new camera?
So, that brings me up to date with my BAD birds.† Iíve been so lucky in finding good birds that now I think I might be able to make it all the way through July before I run out of birds to add to the list.† That is my new challenge, anyway.
What a life!
I belatedly realized that the Wood Duck I showed above is actually a male in eclipse (non-breeding season) plumage.† Other male Wood Ducks at the park are still in their full breeding plumage, but this one seems to have changed somewhat early this year.† Here is a picture of a male Wood Duck in breeding plumage, which I took in March of 2011.
Compare that to todayís picture:
Itís hard to believe that the colors could change so much in a few weeks.† When a duck molts to a different plumage, the old feathers are replaced with new ones with the new colors.† I should have realized that the red eye and the red bill marked this duck as a male Wood Duck, but I was fooled.† I donít think it is a juvenile bird, based on what I have found; I think it is a male that changed his plumage early this year.† Not only did his colors change, he lost his ďhelmetĒ, which you can see in the first picture.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Nothing new this last week, but I have pictures and BAD bird reports, so here goes.
On Tuesday, June 24, I went over to Marymoor Park to see if I could get something good for a BAD bird.† I saw Osprey, Savannah Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow, all of which are "easy", but I took another "easy" one, Brown-headed Cowbird, for my Bird-A-Day bird.† Cowbirds lay their eggs in other species nests, and I saw a poor little Song Sparrow feeding a fledgling cowbird that was almost twice the size of the poor little sparrow.† It fascinates me that the host species doesn't seem to notice that the chick looks completely different and it much larger than the host parent when it grows up.† Maybe they are just being very kind, feeding the cowbirds out of the goodness of their little hearts, though.† I would rather think they were kind than that they were so stupid.
On Wednesday last week I went out to a new place (for me), the Carnation Marsh, near Carnation in the Snoqualmie River valley, in search of Red-eyed Vireo or Mourning Dove, both of which had been reported there in the week before.† I stopped at the Stillwater unit of the Snoqualmie Valley Wildlife Area on the way, and saw a couple of Red-tailed Hawks perched in a dead tree at some distance.† They were calling loudly, and I think they were young ones, still hoping to be fed by their parents.† Here is a picture of one of them, calling.
Here is a picture of the other hawk.† Look for the second bird in the picture.
I didn't see the Rufous Hummingbird on the right until I processed my pictures.† A bonus bird.
There were a couple of juvenile Pied-billed Grebes in the pond there, too.
I was prepared to take the Red-tailed Hawk for my BAD bird, but I moved on to the Carnation Marsh to try for a better one.† The marsh was disappointing, but I don't think I ever found where you are supposed to bird.† While walking up and down the road there, I did see a raptor overhead, though.† I thought it was probably a Red-tailed Hawk, but when I got my binoculars on it, I could see it wasn't, and I thought it might be a Cooper's Hawk.† Then it turned and I could see the "hood" on its head, and I realized it was a Peregrine Falcon, a bird I hadn't hoped to see, so it wasn't even on my BAD bird spreadsheet.† Score!† Here is a very distant picture that is good enough to identify the species.
On the way home I stopped at Chinook Bend, also on the Snoqualmie River near Carnation.† I had driven by a lot, but never stopped.† I played the song of Red-eyed Vireo and immediately got responses from at least two birds.† I never saw one, but you can count "heard only" birds for Bird-A-Day, so then I had a choice between two excellent species - Peregrine Falcon or Red-eyed Vireo.† I had never seen Red-eyed Vireo on this side of the Cascade Mountains, and Peregrines are pretty uncommon anywhere.† I ended up taking the falcon for my BAD bird for Wednesday, and resolved to go back to Chinook Bend to try for the vireo.
On Thursday it was raining lightly, but I went back out to the Snoqualmie River valley again anyway.† I stopped at the Stillwater unit and again saw one of the Red-tailed Hawks, but then went on to Chinook Bend.† I again heard Red-eyed Vireos there, and managed to actually see one of them.† They would sing loudly and obviously, but normally wouldn't come to the outside edges of the trees they were in.† The rain had stopped by then, and I walked around a little there.† I got this peek-a-boo picutre of a male Common Yellowthroat that I like.
The next day, Friday, June 27, I went back to Marymoor Park.† There was an adult Osprey on the nest, as usual, and this time I saw that there were at least two young ones in the nest.† Here is a picture of an adult and two of the chicks.
The chicks look small enough to me that I think they will be there for another two or three weeks, so I can "save" that one to take as a BAD bird when I don't see something better.† At one point the other adult bird flew back to the nest, and I got this picture as it came in for a landing on the perch over the nest.
On Saturday it was showery again, but so I went out to the Stillwater unit to get Red-tailed Hawk out there.† Here is a picture taken that day.
I went on to Chinook Bend to explore ti more, since the rain had stopped by then.† I heard a Willow Flycatcher singing, and I was proud that I actually recognized the song, which birders refer to as its "fitz-bew" song.† I got this heavily processed picture in poor light.
Here is a picture of the Snoqualmie River at Chinook Bend.
There was a Spotted Sandpiper that gave me good views and this picture.
I also got this close-up picture of a Song Sparrow.
There were some Cedar Waxwings around, and I got this picture I like.
I took the Red-tailed Hawk for my BAD bird that day.
On Sunday I went up to Edmonds, expecting to take Heermann's Gull for my BAD bird.† There weren't any where I had seen them the last time I was there, but when I went out on the pier I saw they were roosting farther along the breakwater that day.† I was able to drive to the end of the marina and walk out on the beach, getting very close to them for this picture of a Heermann's Gull.
With their smoky gray coloration and their bright red bill, they are easy to identify.† They breed in Mexico, but come up the west coast after that, and are in this area from late June into October, when they go south again.† There were none at all at Edmonds three weeks ago, and yesterday there were well over 100 of them around the south end of the breakwater.† There were also over a dozen gulls that I think were immature Ring-billed Gulls.† Here is a picture of two gulls.
I think the one on the right is an immature Ring-billed Gull, and I think the one on the left is an immature California Gull, but gulls are hard, and I'm not sure.† I did manage to pick out one mature California Gull, though, and here is its picture.
The yellow-green legs, dark eye, size, and red spot on the bill are what tell me it is a California Gull.† I've seen reports of California Gull at Edmonds, but this was the first time I had actually been able to identify one there.† I took it for my BAD bird for the day, planning to go back for Heermann's Gull later.† I hadn't had California Gull in my spreadsheet because I didn't expect I would see one in the next month.
So, finally we are up to today.† I had planned to go down to Juanita Bay Park this morning, to try again for Brown Creeper, but there was a post this morning on Tweeters about some Merlins that had just fledged, over in north Seattle.† Merlin is a small falcon that I rarely see, so it is another one that I didn't even have in my BAD bird spreadsheet.† I emailed for directions and got over to the right neighborhood about 10:15 or so.† Even before I got out of the car, I could hear them calling, but it took me bout ten minutes before I actually saw one.† A couple of them then flew in and landed at the very top of a couple of trees, a few houses away from where the nest supposedly is.† Here is a picture of one of them with its bill open, calling.
I guess it is hard to tell in that little version of the picture.† Here is a closer view of its head.
I assume they were the fledglings, calling to be fed, but young ones look just like mature Merlins, as far as I can tell.† Here is another picture of one of them.
And still another one.
And one last one.
So, I'm taking Merlin for my BAD bird for today.
I went to lunch with my buddy Chris today, and afterwards we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue.† We saw Cedar Waxing and Black-headed Grosbeak, and this mama Mallard with her recently hatched brood of seven ducklings.
It was interesting to see how closely all the young ones stuck to mom.† They looked like one long duck from a distance, as they never let any spaces develop between them.† It's kind of late in the season for ducklings, and I wonder if this was her second brood.
So, it is the end of June now, and I'm still alive in my BAD bird project.† I have been birding every single day so far this year, which is something really different for me.† I've gone to a number of birding sites around here that I had never visited before.† When I started the project in January, I didn't think I would make into June, and here it is the end of June. I still have 35 easy birds on my spreadsheet, too, so I'll get into August if I can continue to get out birding every day.† Here is a link to the Bird-A-Day website.† You can see me and my list there.†† http://www.birdaday.net/BirdADay2012/default.aspx .† It looks like there are still 13 to 15 people who are still "alive" - that is, they have been able to add a new species to their BAD list each day of the year so far.
That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.