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Thursday, August 27, 2015
On Monday this week I drove up to Camano Island, which is about an hour north of where I live. Camano Island and Whidbey Island make up Island county, and I had 36 different species in Island county (all seen on Whidbey Island), so I needed 3 more to get to my targeted 39. As a reminder, my current goal is to count 39 different species in each of Washington State's 39 counties. I've been working on this project for three years now, and I have seen birds in all 39 counties, but I still needed to bring my totals up to 39 in about half of them. Monday was Island county's day.
It was the first time I had been on Camano Island in about 15 years, so it was all new to me. I visited several places on the north end of the island, and I managed to add 5 species to my list, to bring me to 41. Success. I didn't get any new year-birds that day, though.
Today I headed across Puget Sound with my cousin, Bruse, who is visiting from Hawaii, to try to "top off" Kitsap and Jefferson counties. I had 37 species in Kitsap county and 33 in Jefferson county.
We caught the ferry at Edmonds, to go over to the Kitsap Peninsula, and from the ferry, before we left Edmonds, I had a couple of brief looks at a RHINOCEROS AUKLET, a fairly common sea bird, but one I hadn't seen this year yet. So, I had a year-bird before we really got started.
The ferry crossing was beautiful, as it usually is, and I got this picture as we approached Kingston, with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
In Kitsap county, we drove north to Point No Point. There were very few birds, which was disappointing, but I did managed to see two new species for Kitsap county there, Caspian Tern and Heermann's Gull. After that we went to Norwegian Park, which is close to Point No Point. I again saw those two species, up closer, and here are pictures. First, here is a Caspian Tern.
Next, here is a Heermann's Gull. Earlier in the year it would have had a pure white head, but this is the non-breeding or "winter" plumage. It seems strange to talk about winter plumage in August, but most birds breed earlier in the year, and by August and September, they have molted to their winter, or non-breeding plumage.
There were several gull species there, and I also added Ring-billed Gull and California Gull to my county list. Here is a California Gull in non-breeding plumage.
There were also some Bonaparte's Gulls there. Here is a picture of a Bonaparte's Gull in its winter plumage. Earlier in the year, it would have had a totally black head. It's a much smaller gull than the other ones.
I know that gull pictures are very boring, but that's what today had on offer. My four species brought my total up to 41 for Kitsap county, so we headed for Port Townsend, in Jefferson county, where I needed to see six species to get to 39.
As we were approaching Port Townsend, Bruse noticed a couple of Turkey Vultures circling overhead, and that was a new one for me in Jefferson county. We found our way to Kah Tai Lagoon Nature park, which I had never been to before. It was kind of a junky park, I thought, not very developed and looking pretty trashy in this very dry drought year, but there was a good sized lake there with a fair number of waterbirds on it. The restrooms there were locked and had a sign that said they were closed for the winter (in August!). I wonder how many winters ago that sign was put up. I scoped around the lake and added Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, and American Coot to my county list. That left me just one short of what I needed for Jefferson county.
It was lunch time by then, and we had stopped at Subway in Kingston and gotten sandwiches, so we took them a little waterfront park in Port Townsend and had our lunch. No birds there, but after we ate, we moved on to Point Hudson, and there was a large mixed flock of gulls there, and other birds out on the water. I added Heermann's Gull, California Gull, and Common Murre to my county list, putting me over the top. Here is a picture of Fort Worden from Point Hudson, showing what a pretty day it was. Temperatures were in the 70's.
I had all I needed in terms of birds, but we had some extra time, so we drove on out to Fort Worden. At an overlook there, I broke out my scope and got a good view of a Rhinoceros Auklet, the year-bird I had had a brief view of in the Edmonds harbor from the ferry. It was too far away for pictures, though. It was one more for my Jefferson county list, bringing me to 42 for that county.
So, with that success, we headed back. We just made the 3:20 ferry at Kingston (they go every 40 minutes), and I got home before 5:00, after dropping Bruse off at his sister's house in Richmond Beach.
So, my one year-bird today brought me to 358 species for the year. Only 8 of those have been lifers, and one more was new for my U.S. list. After today, I still need to get my total up to 39 in 15 counties. 24 down now (three this week), and 15 to go. I hope to knock off some of those 15 counties this year still. We will see.