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Thursday, April 7, 2016
Here's a fairly short report, with relatively few pictures, covering the last week.
On Friday, April 1, I needed Hooded Merganser (a type of duck) for my Friday list, and they aren't all that common. I saw reports that there had been one or two at Log Boom Park over the preceding few days, though, so I went over there on Friday morning. Sure enough, I soon got onto two female Hooded Mergansers. Here is a distant picture of one with a fish.
Here's a picture of both females, showing the characteristic merganser bill shape better, as well as the "hood".
I love it when a plan works out. That "completed" Hooded Merganser for me - that is, I have now seen one each of the seven days of the week. I got this picture of a male Greater Scaup there, too.
That brought me to 91 species for Friday.
On Saturday, April 2, I went down to Juanita Bay Park to try for Wilson's Snipe, another bird that is fairly uncommon. I had seen them there at the park a number of times this year, though, and I needed it still for my Saturday list. Again, the plan worked out well, and I saw a couple of them in the distance, across the bay on the muddy shore. As it turned out, there were also swallows swooping around over the lake, as usual, and I added Violet-green Swallow to my Saturday list, thus completing that species for the year.
As an added bonus, I got a year bird, too. There was a SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the little beach across the small bay. Here is a distant picture of "Spotty".
Spotted Sandpipers repeatedly dip their tails, and this bird was constantly bobbing it's hind end up and down. Spotty brought me to 90 species for Saturday.
On Sunday, April 3, I needed Greater Scaup still, and I usually see them at Log Boom Park, so I went over there, and saw a number of them. That brought me to 83 species for Sunday and completed Greater Scaup.
On Monday morning, April 4, it was raining off and on, so I went over to Lake Forest Park to see if I could get Band-tailed Pigeon at the house with feeders, where they hang out. I didn't even have to get out of the car, and I added Band-tailed Pigeon to my Monday list, bringing Monday to 81 species, my lowest day of the week. That's the neighborhood where a woman called the cops on me in January, but this time I wasn't in the neighborhood long enough to get busted.
It wasn't raining on Tuesday morning, April 5, but it is getting harder and harder to add a new species to each day, so I went back to Lake Forest Park and again got Band-tailed Pigeon, to bring Tuesday to 97 species. Again I didn't even have to get out of the car, so I didn’t need to hang around for the neighbors to object. I don't know how much longer I can go on adding a new species to each day's list, but I think I can keep it up for a few more weeks, if I'm lucky and plan well.
On Wednesday, April 6, I went down to Juanita Bay Park, to try again for Wilson's Snipe, as I hadn't seen one on a Wednesday yet this year. Interestingly, the level of the lake was up several inches, and there was a lot less mud along the edges, which is where the snipe hang out. I did see one Wilson's Snipe across the bay in the distance, though. As I was leaving I saw a small group of Bushtits, too, another one I needed for Wednesday. That brought me to 102 for Wednesday, my highest day of the week.
Today, Thursday, April 7, I went up to the Edmonds waterfront, to see if I could add Black Scoter to my Thursday list. It is not a common bird at all, but I had seen them at Edmonds on each of the other days of the week, so I thought I would try for a Thursday. Sure enough, there were a number of them out on the water and I was able to complete still another species. I have now completed 60 species this year. There were a number of Pacific Loons there, an excellent bird, but I already had that one for Thursday. I did see a new one, though, a couple of MARBLED MURRELETS, another one for my year list. I had read reports of them up there in the last several days, so I was looking for them specifically, although I didn’t expect to see one.
So, after that success on the waterfront, I decided to try for Hutton's Vireo, which would have been a year bird, at Willow Creek fish hatchery in Edmonds. I played the song there, but couldn't attract one. As I arrived this male Spotted Towhee perched up and just begged to have his picture taken, so I obliged. I think they are a very striking bird.
I wandered around, playing the Hutton's Vireo song, and I spotted a Red-breasted Sapsucker at one point. I played that call, and a couple of them flew in to check me out. I tried for pictures, but didn’t get anything any good. Here is the best of a bad lot, looking up into the bright sky background.
It was a good bird for my Thursday list, anyway, even if I couldn't get a good picture. There was also a single Bushtit flitting around, another good one for my Thursday list. My four species today brought Thursday to a total of 99 species, my second highest day total.
After 13 weeks of DOTW birding, here is my scorecard:
After After After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks 13 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83 90 91
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74 87 90
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79 82 83
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75 80 81
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82 96 97
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90 100 102
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85 95 99
My total for the year is now 126 species. That isn't a very impressive number, compared to recent years at this point, but that's because I haven't traveled to California this year, as I usually do in the first few months of the year.
You'll note that Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are the laggards, and I plan to remedy that this weekend. I plan to go over the mountains to the Eastern side and spend two nights in Ellensburg. I hope to add 15 or 20 year-birds on the trip, and I should be able to considerably increase my Saturday, Sunday, and Monday numbers. I'll visit places I have birded before and also some new places. It's only a short trip, like the one I took to the ocean in late March, but it should be nice to be on the road again, even for a couple of nights. I have major surgery on my colon scheduled for April 25, and I want to do a little traveling before that. The weather forecast for the weekend is great, so I plan to take off on Saturday morning. Today is our first 80 degree day of 2016, and the sun feels good out there. I should have sun and highs in the 70's this weekend. Perfeck!
Saturday, April 09, 2016
I’m in Eastern Washington tonight, or maybe it is more properly called Central Washington. I’m in the town of Ellensburg, and the university here is called Central Washington University, so I guess Central Washington is more appropriate. At any rate, I’m on the east side of the Cascade Mountain range. Before I get to today’s report, I need to cover yesterday, though.
On Friday, April 8, I went down to Juanita Beach Park (which is across the bay from Juanita Bay Park, where I usually go). I went to Juanita Beach Park because I was looking for Wilson’s Snipe again, having gotten that one twice this week already. The place I was seeing them is much closer to the Juanita Beach Park side of the bay, and the walk to where I could see them is a lot shorter. Part of being a dilettante birder is being a lazy birder who avoids unnecessary exercise, especially when my heel hurts as it does these days.
What I failed to consider is that in the morning, I was looking right into the sun to see the lake edge where the snipe hang out. I did manage to see a couple of them, though, despite the terrible light, so the trip was a success. That brought me to 92 for Fridays. As I was leaving, though, I first heard and then saw a White-crowned Sparrow singing away. Of course, I didn’t recognize the song, but the bird was right out in the open, advertising it’s presence. It was in good light and begged to have its picture taken, so here is a White-crowned Sparrow singing its heart out.
I see that the tip of its bill is dark. I wonder if that is normal for White-crowned Sparrows or if this one is different.
So, this morning, Saturday, April 9, I headed out across the mountains. My first stop was just across Snoqualmie Pass, on the “east side”, as we Western Washington people call it. There is a house there with hummingbird feeders, and I always stop to get Rufous Hummingbird there, and I soon saw three males today. Ka-ching! My first Saturday bird of the day.
My next stop was Bullfrog Pond, at exit 80 from I-90. I parked and walked to the old bridge over the river there. It was maybe a couple of hundred yards, which is as far away from my car as I got today. When I have all my stuff in my car, as I did today, I worry about leaving it where someone could break into it, but it was a fairly busy road.
It was pretty windy, which hurts the birding, and I didn’t see or hear anything interesting on my way to the bridge. There were four birders already there at the bridge when I got there, and I saw them a couple more times today after that. They were looking toward one side of the bridge, at a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, but I looked the other way and saw my target species, AMERICAN DIPPER, on a rock under the next bridge, which was the bridge for the main highway. It was a brief binocular look as the bird soon flew up under the bridge, to its nest, no doubt. Dippers like to nest under bridges. I mentioned it to the others, but it never came back into view while we were there. My timing turned out to be perfect, and I got the bird.
I didn’t get anything else there, and I moved on to the Ranger station in Cle Elum, where several interesting species have been seen recently. I wandered around the grounds, playing various bird calls, but I didn’t see anything there. After a quick stop at McDonald’s to take a leak, I moved on to the Railroad Ponds there in Cle Elum. I ran into the four birders again there, and they were looking at my target species for that stop – a cute little PYGMY NUTHATCH. It was at a nest hole, but soon moved to a branch nearby and posed for us. Here is a picture of the Pygmy Nuthatch, a species I didn’t really expect to see this year.
As its name implies, it is a tiny thing, about the size of a chickadee.
I didn’t see anything else there at the Railroad Ponds, so I went back to McD’s and downed a gut bomb, then headed out through town to the east. I drove the Swauk Prairie Road, looking for Vesper Sparrow mainly. No sparrows except a Savannah Sparrow, which I didn’t need for Saturday, but there were several pairs of WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, a species I figured to pick up this weekend. I hope I’ll see them each day, for that day’s list. No pictures yet; they didn’t wait for me to take a picture.
On the last part of that road, I stopped in a likely looking patch of pine forest and played the song of a bird that ought to be there. Sure enough, one flew in and sang back to me. I got out of the car and took pictures of this cute little MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE.
It looks very much like a Black-capped Chickadee, except for its white “eyebrow”. The song is somewhat different, too. It was satisfying to have recognized the habitat as the correct one for the species and to be able to attract it, even if some people consider it cheating to use playback to attract birds. I consider my phone and the app that has the songs and calls to be tools that I use, just like I use my binoculars, my scope, and my camera.
On my way to my next location, I took Bettas Road, off Highway 97, because I had seen both species of bluebirds along there in the past. There were some Western Bluebirds, but again I didn’t manage to get a picture. Then, as I was going over the pass out of the valley, I got MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD. There was a pair of them on a wire, too far away for pictures. But then, just a couple of minutes farther down the road, this male Mountain Bluebird cooperated, and I got this picture.
The light was wrong, but it does show the beautiful blue color of the bird. As I have said many times, I love blue-colored birds, and I think that male Mountain Bluebirds have about the prettiest shade of blue of any of them.
My next target species is one I had never seen in Washington before, although I see them regularly in California. I had read that they had been seen along a road north of Ellensburg, so I cruised Lower Green Valley Road slowly, looking for them in the fields. I was almost at the end of the stretch I was searching when I saw a largish bird in the field out in front on the right, and it was indeed a LONG-BILLED CURLEW, a shorebird that breeds inland, in fields. Here are a couple of pictures of that beauty.
I was looking west, into the sun, so the colors aren’t very good, but the pictures do show the bird. You can’t tell the size there, but they are larger than crows.
So, having gotten my main target for the area, I headed up into the hills. I went up Reecer Creek Road. Here is a picture of the canyon, looking up the road.
Looking back down the road toward the valley, you can see how steep the road is there. In the middle of this next picture, you can just see the top of Mount Rainier, peeking above the range.
It was windy, and it was the middle of the day, so I didn’t see anything of interest, although I went up as far as the evergreen trees in the first picture. It is still early in the year, too; there would have been a lot more birds if it had been mid to late May, or June. I hadn’t been there before, though, and it is always satisfying to visit a new place. I did see my first BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE while in that area, though. Later I got a couple of pictures of a Black-billed Magpie, from the parking lot of my motel. Here is a front view.
Here is a more “field guide” view, showing its iridescence in the sun.
It’s always a challenge to capture the eye in a bird with a black head, so I’m pleased with those two pictures.
Back to Reecer Creek Road, I picked up Common Raven for my Saturday list, on my way down to Ellensburg. I had directions to a neighborhood where Western Scrub-Jays have been seen recently, and that is a fairly rare bird in this county, so I found my way to that neighborhood of Ellensburg. I drove around for half an hour or so, but didn’t see or hear any scrub-jays. I did see two pairs of CALIFORNIA QUAIL, though. I was kind of surprised to see them in the middle of town; I had been looking for them all day, expecting I was more likely to see them out in the countryside. Here is a close-up picture of a female California Quail.
Here is one of the males.
I wonder what the function of those feathers on the top of their heads is. I call them “deely-boppers”, but maybe there is a more official name. The male’s is different from the female’s. I just looked it up in my field guide, and they call it a “head plume” or a “topknot”. I think I like deely-bopper better, but I guess that isn’t very official sounding.
Eventually I gave up on the scrub-jays and boogied on over to my humble motel. I’ve stayed here several times, and it has undergone a couple of name changes in that time. It is still comfortable enough and cheap enough for me, though, and I’ll be glad to spend two nights here. $72 plus tax for tonight, and $55 for tomorrow night. That is in the heart of my desired range for lodging these days, and this place is a little better than what I usually get for that price.
It is located right off the interstate, and there is a lake out back. There were a bunch of Common Mergansers on the lake, and I got this picture of some of them in the distance after I checked in.
Later I noticed they were closer, and the lake was calmer as the wind had died down a bit, and I got this picture of a pair of Common Mergansers. The male is the one with the dark green head.
So, that was my Saturday. I managed to add 10 species to my Saturday list, to bring it to an even 100. Of those ten, eight species were year birds, to bring me to 134 for the year. I also added 7 species to my Kittitas county list, to bring that one to 72.
So, tomorrow is another day – a Sunday, with a different list to add to. I only have 83 species on Sunday, so I hope to add a lot tomorrow. I’ll be in Yakima county for most of the day, too, so maybe I can add to that list. Who knows, maybe I can get a few more year-birds as well. We shall see.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Today was a long day of birding for this old dilettante birder. I was out of here at 8:30, helped along by not having to pack up this morning, since I’m staying in the same place for two nights. I started by going into Ellensburg (I’m staying on the outskirts) to look for a species that has been seen there recently. There was a report yesterday that gave specific directions to where these birds were seen yesterday, so I went there. It was the same neighborhood I had been in yesterday, actually, when I was looking for the Western Scrub-Jays. Yesterday I found California Quail there, but I didn’t see them today.
While looking for my target species I did see five TURKEY VULTURES in some trees, my first of this year. I was quite surprised to see them in the middle of town. Here is one of them.
I won’t refer to it as a cutie or a beauty. A couple of them were stretching their wings out, to heat up, no doubt, so they could go off soaring around looking for carrion. Here is a picture of three of them, one of them with its wings spread.
So, after that excitement, I continued my hunt. Along the way I found another good Sunday bird, a Mourning Dove.
So, while looking for one species, I had found two good Sunday birds, one of which was a year bird. It’s interesting how often I’m looking for one species, but I find another good one instead.
Back to my search, I saw some birds at the top of a fir tree. They were my target species, RED CROSSBILL. I hadn’t really expected to find them, and I hadn’t expected I would see that one this year at all. Here is a female Red Crossbill.
Check out that goofy crossed bill. It enables them to dig seeds out of pine and fir cones, I understand. I think there are actually several different types of Red Crossbills, with slightly different bill shapes, adapted to particular species of conifers. At least I think that is how it works. The different types have slightly different calls, and birders are always referring to Type III or Type IV, or something, which means nothing to me at all. I did hear these birds call today, at one point, briefly, and it did sound like my phone app. Here is a male Red Crossbill.
That one’s bill doesn’t seem quite as crossed as the female’s.
So, having gotten that one under my belt, I headed off toward Yakima and beyond. Along the freeway I saw my first OSPREY of the year, on a nest platform. I stopped at the Selah rest stop on I-82 and tried for birds in the gorge there, but couldn’t get anything I needed. Next I headed to a farm pond referred to by birders as Kerry’s pond. I had seen reports of a duck there that I probably won’t see elsewhere this year. I found the pond, and sure enough, there were 10 or 12 REDHEADS there. Here is a female and a male.
There were also BLACK-NECKED STILTS there, another good one for my year list. This was only the second time I have seen that species in Washington; I have seen them in California a lot, though.
I picked up my first Black-billed Magpie of the day there, too, for my Sunday list.
Moving on, I found Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). I hadn’t ever visited it before, although I have driven past it many times over the years. It turned out I was very lucky, as the headquarters is only open on Sunday, starting at 11, and I got there just after 11 on a Sunday, purely by accident.
As I drove up to the headquarters building, which is very new and very nice, I saw three people in the yard. They had binoculars, so I joined them. It turned out that one of them was the volunteer staffing the NWR headquarters, and he showed me his scope, which was trained on an owl nest. Here is a picture of a couple of GREAT HORNED OWL owlets, sitting in the nest.
The other birders left, and I chatted with the volunteer, getting some great info on birds to look for on the reserve. He mentioned Black-necked Stilt, and I said I had seen them already today at a place called Kerry’s Pond, if he knew where that was. His reply to that was “I’m Kerry”. I asked if he lived there, and he said no, but he was always birding there and some of the local birders started calling the pond Kerry’s Pond because of that, and that is the name of the hotspot on eBird now. I thought it was pretty funny, birding at Kerry’s Pond and then meeting Kerry a half hour later.
Kerry gave me directions to find a couple of interesting birds, so I set off to find them. First was a Black-bellied Plover, not a year bird for me, but a rare one in this county. My county spreadsheet indicates there are fewer than five records of Black-bellied Plover in this county, so it was definitely a good one. I got some pictures, but it was too far away to bother showing them. As I backed out of that spot, which was in a pullout to a road with a locked gate, I noticed I had left the rear liftgate on my car open. Oops. I got out to close it and noticed then that my scope wasn’t in the car. I had left it set up next to where the car had been before I started to back out with the liftgate open. Double oops. If had closed the liftgate when I got the scope out, I might have driven away without noticing that I was leaving my scope behind. I don’t think I used the scope again today after that, either, so it could have been a disaster.
There was one nice side-effect of my boo-boo, though. After I put the scope away, I noticed a bird on a wire, and it turned out to be my first BARN SWALLOW of the year. Here is a picture. Check out the long “swallow tail”.
Moving on, I missed a turn and it took me a little longer to find the second place he had told me about. I ended up firing up Google Maps on my phone and found it that way. On my way there, I saw a bird on a fence wire along the road and slammed on the brakes. I backed up, and when the dust settled (it was a dusty gravel road), I got several pictures, and here is one of them.
I couldn’t identify it, but back at the NWR headquarters, I consulted Kerry, and we eventually figured out it was an AMERICAN PIPIT. I see them in California all the time, but always on the ground. I don’t remember ever seeing one on a wire before. Their behavior on the ground (bobbing their tail) helps to identify them. Kerry noticed one other feature that I had overlooked. Check out the toes of the bird. There are three front toes, and one very long back toe. Here is a closeup of the toes of the bird.
That long toenail on the back toe is one of the characteristics of the American Pipit, evidently. We could see that toe in the pictures in my field guide.
So, having gotten pictures of the Pipit, I moved on down the road and saw the single AMERICAN WHITE PELEICAN that Kerry had said was there earlier this morning. It had its head tucked in so I didn’t bother with pictures, but it was an excellent one to add to my year list.
I went back to the NWR headquarters and ate my lunch at a picnic table there. I had stopped in Toppenish and gotten a tuna sandwich at Subway (what else?). While I was eating, a male American Kestrel flew in and I got this picture.
I also picked up Yellow-rumped Warbler for my Sunday list at that time.
After lunch I headed down Pumphouse Road to check out the rest of the NWR. Along Old Goldendale Road, I got my first CINNAMON TEAL of the year. Here is a distant picture of the male.
Later, along Lateral C Road, I had a chance to get a much closer picture of another pair of Cinnamon Teal, but I wasn’t quick enough, and I spooked them and they flew off. While I was out of the car trying to get that picture, I did see two YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS fly into some reeds. I got a good look at one of them, but couldn’t get a picture. If I hadn’t stopped to try to get a picture of the two Cinnamon Teal, I wouldn’t have seen the blackbirds, which were the only Yellow-headed Blackbirds I saw today. Birding is funny that way – it’s often about being in the right place at exactly the right time. In other words, there is a lot of luck to it. All you can do is maximize your chances by moving around and looking in all the right places.
So, I was finished with Toppenish NWR, and I headed back up to Yakima. I stopped at the Selah Cliffs natural area and ate the second half of my sandwich, but it was too long a walk in the sun for this Old Rambler with my sore heel, so I didn’t walk along the bottom of the cliffs. I went up the canyon of the Yakima River, which is the old highway to Ellensburg from Yakima, I think. It’s a beautiful drive and it was a beautiful day – sunny and mid 70’s for the highs. I stopped several times and played the songs of Rock Wren and Canyon Wren, but got no responses. At one stop I did see my first CLIFF SWALLOWS of the year, though.
I was back to the offramp where my motel is located by 3:30, much too early to quit. I had already figured out I would go back to a couple of places I had seen good birds yesterday, to try to get those same birds for my Sunday list. My first destination was the field where I had seen Long-billed Curlew yesterday. There was no sign of one today, and I was about ready to move on when I heard some birds calling in the distance. I’m not familiar with the call of the curlew, but this sounded like it sure could be them. I spotted them in the distance and got good binocular looks at them. They were the right size and color, and when I played the curlew call on my phone, that was what I had heard. So, I had Long-billed Curlew for my Sunday list, although they had landed just over a little rise in the field.
That had worked out well, so I went farther up the road to Bettas Road, where I had seen both species of bluebirds yesterday. I hadn’t seen any bluebirds today, so that was two more possible species for my Sunday list, and I could always see something else if I was out looking for birds.
This time I was starting at the southern end of Bettas Road, where I had seen two pairs of Mountain Bluebirds yesterday. No sign of them today, but as I was looking, I saw a sparrow type bird that posed for pictures. I had to get pictures and look in my field guide, but I think this is a picture of a VESPER SPARROW, a great one for my year list – a species I don’t see every year.
Moving north up Bettas Road, there weren’t any bluebirds, where I had seen them yesterday. I was almost to the north end of the road when I did see a pair of Western Bluebirds, though. Here is a distant picture of the male Western Bluebird.
The picture is heavily processed and not very good, but it does show the red-brown breast of the male Western Bluebird.
I turned around and was ready to give up and head for my motel when a couple of birds flew in to a wire, and they were Mountain Bluebirds, male and female. Here is a picture of the male Mountain Bluebird, and you can compare the breast color to the picture of the Western Bluebird above. No red-brown, only blue.
So, I finished on a successful note, getting all three repeat birds – Long-billed Curlew, Western Bluebird, and Mountain Bluebird – plus the bonus Vesper Sparrow year-bird.
I headed for the barn, and when I got my humble motel, it was 5:15 and I had been out birding for almost nine hours. Phew. That is a long day for me these days, especially when I’m alone.
So, at the end of the day, I had added 20 species to my Sunday list to bring it up to 103. Sunday went from the second lowest day of the week to the highest. I also added 13 species to my year list, which is absolutely outstanding. I figured I might get 5 or 6 new ones today. I now am at 147 species for the year. I had thought I might get 15 to 20 new species for my year list on this trip, and after two days I have added 21. I hope to get maybe 3 more tomorrow, but I have now gotten most of what I can possibly get.
Tomorrow I have to pack up in the morning and head for home in the early afternoon. I want to try to beat the traffic on I-405 if I can, which will mean getting home before 4 PM, I think, if not earlier. I have one new area to visit tomorrow, and then I’ll stop at some of the places I stopped on Saturday and try for repeat birds for my Monday list. What a life!
Monday, April 11, 2016
Before I get into today's report, I wanted to mention two things from yesterday. First, I did so well at Toppenish NWR that I added 26 species to my Yakima county list yesterday, to bring it to 75 total. I had birded several times in Yakima county before, but never in this season or in this kind of habitat, so I added a lot of easy ones, like Mallard for instance.
Second, while cutting across country from Toppenish NWR to get back to Yakima and points north, I stumbled on a gas station at a minor junction that had regular gas for 1.719 per gallon. I only needed about 3/4 of a tank, and I usually let it get pretty empty, but there was no way I could pass up 1.710 a gallon gas. I got 14 gallons, which was worth doing. Gas was 2.099 a gallon near my motel, and that was about the cheapest around Ellensburg.
So, this morning when I got up it was sunny again, but today was windy. Wind is bad for birding, for at least three reasons. First, the birds hunker down and don't perch up or fly around as much. Second, the sound of the wind makes it hard to hear birds and hard for them to hear my playback. Third, the wind moves all the branches and constantly gives me false visual information about movement, so I'm always twisting around to look, and it was only the wind blowing the branches or leaves.
Anyway, weather is what it is, and I set off about 9 this morning, after stopping across the road at Subway to get a tuna sandwich for later. I wanted to bird the Old Vantage Highway that runs from Ellensburg to Vantage on the Columbia River, mainly to look for three species that live in sage habitat. There are other ones in that area I could use, too.
Since I either had to go right through Ellensburg or around it, I started by going back to the neighborhood where I had looked for the Western Scrub-Jays and had found some other good stuff, including the Red Crossbills yesterday and California Quail on Saturday. Today I didn't find any of those species, but I did see a Mourning Dove for my Monday list, as a consolation prize. I saw one or two more later in the day, though, which lessened the consolation factor.
So, I moved on to my next site. I had to go right by a road that someone had reported seeing Long-billed Curlews on within the last week, so I took a one mile detour. About that time I also had a Black-billed Magpie fly across the road in front of me - the only one I saw today as it turned out, so that was a good addition to my Monday list.
I was going up Fox Road, off the Vantage Highway, and I soon saw a Red-tailed Hawk on a post. I got this picture just as it was taking off, showing it's pretty red tail.
There was a Killdeer where I stopped to get that picture, and I haven't shown any Killdeer pictures recently, so here is a picture of a Killdeer from the front.
Here is a picture from the side.
Killdeer are pretty common, but I think it is a striking looking species.
I was coming to the end of the part of Fox Road where the curlews had been reported when I heard some loud calls. It was a couple of curlews flying around putting on a show. I got good binocular looks at them and one of them landed in the field in front of me. Here is a picture as it landed, showing its wing patterns and underwing coloration.
Here it is in the field.
It was kind of a distraction, but while the curlews were flying around calling loudly, another bird flew up. Eventually I got a look at it as it landed on a post up the road. It was a Wilson's Snipe, a bird I see at my local park. It just happened that Monday was the only day of the week I hadn't yet recorded Wilson's Snipe, so now that species is complete. I don't think I have ever seen a snipe fly before, although I have seen them perched on posts, so obviously they do fly sometimes.
So, I got the curlews, which was excellent. I had that species all three days of my trip, and I wouldn't have expected to see it at all in Kittitas county. Thank you eBird - I get many many birds because of eBird. eBird for those who don’t know is a checklist program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and I use it extensively to find species of interest and birding sites to visit.
So, having gotten the curlew plus a bonus snipe, I moved on out the Old Vantage Highway to the sage habitat out there. Here is a picture showing the habitat at one of my stops.
I walked up that road, where I have seen a couple of my target birds before, playing their songs on my phone. The wind was a huge handicap, though, for the reasons already mentioned. I actually did succeed in getting brief looks at BREWER'S SPARROW, somewhat to my surprise. No signs of a Sage Thrasher, though, and they are usually easy there. Usually I visit this place in May, though, and it would be easier to get them then, no doubt.
I moved to my next major stopping point, but couldn't entice a Sagebrush Sparrow to respond to my playback. I stopped several other places, too, to play Rock Wren and Canyon Wren songs, but got nothing from that either. I'm sure the wind wasn't helping at all. I stopped at the Ginkgo State Park place, but there wasn't anything there except House Finches that I saw. Right after that a CHUKAR flew over the road in front of me. That was a major good one to get for the year. It landed and I got good naked eye views of it before it scampered off into the brush, never to be seen again (at least, not by me, today).
Soon after that, I saw Mountain Bluebirds at two places, a pair in each case, and in each case, it was near a nest box.
Recreation Road was my next destination. It runs down to the Columbia River, and various good birds are reported there. Here is a picture of the Columbia River from the start of Recreation Road.
The Columbia River at that point is more of a long lake, backed up behind one of the many dams on the river. You can just see the blue of the river, but you can't really see the bridge over the rive in that view. Here is a crop of the center of that picture, and you can sort of make out the bridge in it, I think.
I-90 is a major east-west highway, running from Seattle to Boston across the north part of the country, and that bridge carries it over the Columbia River.
I found nothing of interest on Recreation Road, so went up to the Ginkgo State Park on the bluff over the river. I used their rest room and I picked up Yellow-rumped Warbler for my Monday list, but soon moved on. I ate the first half of my lunch at Wanapum State park, but I didn't see anything there either. It was after noon by then, and I was ready to head for home. My right heel has some problem, and today it was really bad. I get sharp pains for no obvious reason, and driving aggravates it, as does walking. Using cruise control helps a lot, as resting my foot on the heel seems to be the worst thing I can do.
I planned to stop at the Railroad Ponds in Cle Elum on the way home, to eat the second half of my sandwich near the Pygmy Nuthatch nest hole, to get it for my Monday list, but there was road work, and that exit was closed, with no warning ahead of time. I got off at the next exit, which was the one for Bullfrog Pond, where I had gotten the American Dipper on Saturday. I ate the rest of sandwich there, and decided to walk the 2 or 3 hundred yards to the bridge, to see if I could see the dipper again. I didn't see the dipper today, but along the way I did spot a single male Red Crossbill at the top of a deciduous tree that didn't have any leaves yet, so that was my consolation prize, for my Monday list.
Here is a picture of the Cle Elum River there. The dipper's nest is behind me in this picture, under the next bridge, which is the main road bridge. I assume the bridge I was on is from the old highway.
There were a number of birds there, flying out over the river and catching flying bugs. They turned out to be Yellow-rumped Warblers. I got these two pictures of Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Yellow-rumped Warblers have a wide range of plumages, partly depending on season and gender. You can just make out a little yellow on the top of the head and at the throat of the bird in the lower picture. In all the various plumages, two things are constant. They have a prominent white eye ring, and they have yellow rumps. The bird in the lower picture is hiding its rump under its wings, but it is yellow, you can count on it. Some birders (all women, in my experience) call them "butter-butts".
I had seen a number of Common Ravens today, at various places, and that was another one I needed for Mondays. I wanted to beat the traffic on I-405, so I headed out over Snoqualmie Pass, back to the west side. I had been watching all day for a Turkey Vulture, and I finally saw one as I approached the mountains. I had expected to see one each day of the trip, but missed that one on Saturday.
I made my obligatory stop at Hyak, as I approached the pass, to get Rufous Hummingbird, at the house with feeders that is totally reliable. That ended my birding for the day, although as I approached home, I saw an Osprey nest on a cell tower near the NE 116th St exit, and I think there might have been an Osprey sitting in it. I couldn't see it well enough to count it, though, so I'll need to get an Osprey on a Monday at a later date.
So, it was a good trip. Sunday was exceptionally good, and I enjoyed each day of the trip. I got 12 new Monday birds today, to bring me to 93 for Monday. I added just two species to my year list today, to bring me to 149 species so far this year. I added 23 species to my year list on the trip, when I had expected 15 to 20.
Now I'll get back into my mode of trying to add a new one to each day list, each day, to keep my streak alive.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
On Tuesday, April 12, I went up to the Edmonds waterfront, to try to get one of three potential Tuesday birds. It was windy, and there weren't many birds out there. Eventually, I did see one of my three target species, Harlequin Duck. That was it for Tuesday and that brought me to 98 species for Tuesdays.
On Wednesday, April 13, I didn't have a lot of time in the morning, and my heel was hurting a lot, so I went down to Juanita Beach Park to try to see the White-crowned Sparrow I had seen there last week, since Wednesday was the last day of the week that I still needed White-crowned Sparrow. I drove around the parking lot, but I didn't see or hear anything like the sparrow I was looking for. Back near the entrance, I parked and played the song of the sparrow out of the window of the car, next to where I had seen it singing last week. In a minute or so, I saw a bird fly in, so I got out to look for it. It turned out to be a White-crowned Sparrow, no doubt the same one I had seen there last week. That "completed" White-crowned Sparrow for me - I've seen them each day of the week now. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, it was at the top of a sign singing away.
That was enough for me for Wednesday, but I went out to lunch with my friend Chris that day, and after lunch we went over to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, as we usually do if the weather is decent. As we walked toward the lake, Chris heard a Purple Finch singing. He knows that song because once we spent ten or fifteen minutes walking around that park playing it, and he can remember bird songs better than I can. I played it on my phone, and it sang back to us. Later as we were leaving, we heard it again, and this time spotted it at the top of a tall tree. I tried to entice it down closer by playing the song, but it just sat up there an sang back to us. This was only the second sighting of Purple Finch that I've had this year. The sparrow and the finch brought me to 104 species for Wednesday.
Today, Thursday, April 14, I went up to the Duvall/Monroe area to look for some species that have been reported there lately. The ones I was looking for are spring/summer birds here, and they have been coming back from their winter spent down south. It seems like all the species are early coming back this year.
My first stop was at the Monroe Prison Farm pond. The prison farm is actually long-closed now, but the pond there is called that by local birders. Here is a picture of that pond.
The main pond is the one in the medium distance, and that's where almost all the ducks were today. There were also hundreds of swallows swooping around over that pond and landing on fences that you can't make out in that picture because of the distance. My scope brought the fences in close enough to identify the birds, though, and I saw a lot of Barn Swallows, my first ones in Western Washington this year. Meanwhile, a Brewer's Blackbird landed behind me, and I needed that one for Thursday still. Actually, that completed Brewer's Blackbird for me for the year - seen each day of the week now.
There was a good variety of ducks out on the main pond, but not the one species I needed still that had been reported there. Most ducks are here in the winter and then go north to breed, but this one I was looking for spends the winter down south of here and is here in the summer only. As I was pulling out, though, I noticed a single duck on the close pond. It's shape caught my attention. I couldn't make out any color with the naked eye, but the shape seemed interesting. It turned out to be a male Cinnamon Teal, the very species I was targeting. Here is a picture of the male Cinnamon Teal. You can see where the species gets its name; it really is the color of cinnamon.
I hadn't seen it fly in, but it flew out right after I got that picture. Cinnamon Teals have a lovely light blue patch on their wings that you only see when they fly. I'd love to get a picture of that someday.
So, I not only had Cinnamon Teal, I had added Barn Swallow and Brewer's Blackbird to my day list as well. I was satisfied, but I had another place to check out that was on my way home.
I stopped at the Cherry Valley Unit of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area and walked out into the fields, looking for a pond that I had read about. There were a lot of swallows swooping around over the fields, and they were landing on some overhead wires from time to time as well. There were Tree Swallows and Violet-green Swallows. I've gotten some pictures of Tree Swallows this year, but Violet-green are harder to get close enough to get pictures when they are perched. Here is a picture of a male Violet-green Swallow.
You can see the green color of the back and sort of make out the violet color of the wings and tail. They are beautiful when the light hits them right. The key identification point usually, when you can't really see their colors, is the white on their face, which curls up and over the eye. I got some pictures of what appeared to be another swallow species as well. Here is one of those pictures.
With my binoculars at the time, I couldn't see the colors on the bird, and I thought it was a Cliff Swallow. I actually had Cliff Swallow on my list for the day until I got home, looked at my pictures, and then looked in my field guide. A Cliff Swallow should have a dark chin and throat, and this bird clearly had a white or light-colored chin and throat. Hmmm. It turns out that this was a female Violet-green Swallow. I never knew that the females had a different color pattern to their face than the males, but I learned that today. Even after 18 years of this birding wheeze, I am still learning things all the time, even about birds I have seen hundreds of times.
Here is a picture of the Cherry Valley Unit as I approached the area where the ponds are.
This whole area had been underwater in January; it's one of the lowest spots in the whole Snoqualmie River Valley, I understand. It was still pretty soggy when you got off the tracks. Here is the view looking back to the road, where I had parked my car.
I hadn't intended to do that much walking today, as my heel still is hurting quite a bit, but it was a nice day, and I wanted to see what I might see out there.
At the bridge you can see in the first picture above, I heard a rail call. There are two species of rails that could be here at this time of year, and I just can't remember bird calls, so I wasn't sure which one it was. It is complicated by the fact that each species has at least three distinctly different calls, so there are six calls to keep track of. It turned out that the one I had heard call at first was a Virginia Rail, a bird I hear and see down at my local park, Juanita Bay Park, and I already had it for Thursday. But, then I heard a loud call from the other species of rail, SORA. Soras migrate and are only here in the summer. One of the reasons I had walked out to this place was that I had seen a report of two Soras out here, from last week. It is a bit early for Sora to be back, but clearly they are back at this location. Later I heard another one from the other side of the bridge. I also heard at least two different Virginia Rails, so it is a great location for rails. I count "heard only" birds now, so Sora went onto my lists. Rails are secretive and uncommon, and they are heard much more often than they are seen. These birds today were deep in the bushes, and there was no way anyone was going to see one of them.
I walked farther on and found a point where I could observe a small pond. There were only a few ducks on it, but included was a pair of Cinnamon Teal, which was also in the report I saw from last week. I had just seen the single male at the prison farm pond, and this made two more today - male and female.
While I was trying to get pictures of the teal, I was hearing the song of a bird that I thought I recognized. I think it was a Common Yellowthroat, which is also a migrant that has just returned, and one I haven't seen yet this year. I couldn't entice it out into the open, though, and the song was just enough different from my phone that I decided not to count it yet. I'll need to see one to be sure. They are pretty common, so it shouldn't be a problem to add that one to each day's list, over the coming weeks.
I was scanning the sky from time to time, too, to look for another migrant that has recently returned. I did spot a distant Turkey Vulture eventually, so that went onto my Thursday list, too.
After walking back to my car, I drove around the back side of the wildlife area, to see if there was access there. There was a service road into the area there, but there were signs saying no entry from that side. As I left the area, I pulled into the parking lot of a church on the hill, to see what kind of view I might get of the ponds. There wasn’t a good view of the ponds, but as I was pulling out, I saw a dove, and I stopped to identify it, in case it was a Mourning Dove, which is hard to get in this area. It turned out to be a Eurasian Collared-Dove, though. Then I realized I needed Eurasian Collared-Dove for Thursday, which was actually disappointing. The reason it was disappointing is that I can get that one any time at a dairy just across the river from where I was, and I was "saving" that one for a Thursday when it was raining or I was desperate, because I can get it there anytime without getting out of the car. Oh well, now it is on my Thursday list, and Wednesday is the only day I haven't yet seen one.
The dove made it six species today for my Thursday list, which is excellent. Four of those six wouldn't be around here in the winter, so spring time is making a difference to my birding. Those four are all candidates for each of the other days of the week now, of course, which will help me extend my streak. Thursday is now at 105 species, my highest total of the week.
Here is my scorecard at this point.
After 14 weeks of DOTW birding, here is my scorecard:
After After After After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks 13 wks 14 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83 90 91 92
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74 87 90 100
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79 82 83 103
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75 80 81 93
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82 96 97 98
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90 100 102 104
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85 95 99 105
My total just keep marching along, ever increasing. I now have 150 species for the year.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Here's a midweek update. On Friday, April 15, I went up to Edmonds to try for a couple of species I hadn't caught up with yet. My first stop was Sunset Avenue, and I scoped the waters offshore. It was kind of windy, which doesn't help at all, and there wasn't much out there. Eventually I did see a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes, which was one of the species I was hoping for, south of the ferry terminal. That "completed" Barrow's Goldeneye for this year. I wanted more, though, so I went to Marina Park, south of the marina. Again, there was very little out on the water. I stopped at the fishing pier, which is closed right now for repairs, to see if I could get a closer look at the Barrow's Goldeneyes I had seen from the other side of the ferry terminal.
The first thing I saw was a male goldeneye, but it turned out to be a Common Goldeneye. Here is a picture of him.
Note that the white spot on his face is approximately round.
The Barrow's Goldeneye pair was around, too, diving and then preening. Here is the male Barrow's Goldeneye.
There are three differences between Common and Barrow's Goldeneye. First, the white spot on the face is crescent shaped in Barrow's; second, the pattern on the back and side is different; third, in the right light, the head on the Common has a greenish sheen and the head on the Barrow's has a bluish-purple sheen. I like these two pictures because they illustrate all three differences.
Here is the female Barrow's Goldeneye.
The female Common Goldeneye has a dark bill, sometimes with an orange tip, but the female Barrow's has an all-orange bill. Here is a picture of the pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes.
I made one more stop on my way home, at the Edmond's Marsh. As I arrived I saw a birder whom I have met before. He was just leaving as I arrived, and he told me what he had seen. I wanted to see two of the species, and he was able to show me a couple of Dunlin (a shorebird) out on the mud. That was one I needed for Friday. He had also seen four American Pipits, but I wasn't ever able to find them. Here is a distant picture of one of the Dunlin.
It's not a very good picture because of the distance, but it does show the black belly of the bird's summer plumage. In the winter, the belly would be all white. I wonder why that species developed a summer plumage with a black stomach; what evolutional advantage could that give the bird?
I also added Marsh Wren to my Friday list. I would just as soon have "saved" that one for a future Friday, but I heard and saw one, so it went onto my Friday list. Marsh Wrens live locally all year, but you only see them in the spring, when the males are singing, trying to attract females. Males build multiple nests and then try to attract a female to lay eggs in each one, if possible. Of course, the females are on their own to raise the youngsters. Here are a couple of pictures of the little darling, clinging to an old cattail.
One of the most common birds I see, in almost any habitat, is robin, but I rarely show pictures of robins because I tend to just ignore them, due to over-familiarity. Here is an American Robin that was singing above me.
So, with the three species added that day, Friday is now up to 95 species.
On Saturday, April 16, I went over to Magnuson Park, in north Seattle. I had seen reports of a couple of species that would be new for me for the year, and there are other possible good birds there, too. As I arrived at the park, I noticed a sign mentioning a half marathon, and sure enough, it was that day. There were tons of cars and people, of course, and the start/finish line was located right where I wanted to look for one of the species. I fought my way through the cars and people and got to a point where I could see the offshore swimming raft, and there were white birds on it. I found a place to park and went back and took a look. To my delight, two of the white birds were my first CASPIAN TERNS of the year. I walked closer and got this picture of them, despite the fact I was looking right into the sun.
So, with a year-bird under my belt, I made my way to the south end of the park, which wasn't nearly as busy, although it is a popular park and it was a beautiful spring Saturday so it wasn't exactly deserted. I walked around in the natural area and played the song of another potential year-bird, Hutton's Vireo, but never heard or saw one. I was surprised how few birds were around, and I walked in the woods quite a bit. I did get this picture of a pretty wildflower, anyway.
There were a couple of chickadees, too, and I got this picture I like of a Black-capped Chickadee. It's hard to get decent chickadee pictures because they flit around so much.
I was almost ready to leave when I spotted a Downy Woodpecker, a species I still needed for Saturday. I played the song and had both the male and the female flying around. Here is a nice close-up picture I like of the male Downy Woodpecker.
That was it for my birding on Saturday, although I did get a picture of a Pine Siskin at home, at our feeder. I didn't need it for Saturday, but I haven't seen one for a number of weeks.
I added two species to my Saturday list, to bring it to 102.
Today, Sunday, April 17, I went over to Magnuson Park again. I figured Caspian Tern would be likely, and maybe the Downy Woodpecker again. There was also Hutton's Vireo to look for again.
There wasn't any half marathon today, but there were still a fair number of people out there on another beautiful weekend day. First I tried the swimming raft, for the terns, but had no joy. Next I parked and walked in the natural area and tried to attract the Downy Woodpeckers again. No joy there, either. So, I tried playing Hutton's Vireo, Fox Sparrow, and maybe some other songs, but saw nothing. At the southeast corner of the park, I found a little path out to the edge of the lake (Lake Washington), and saw this, right at the corner of the park.
Here is a closer shot of that group of white things in the center of that picture.
I thought it was a Purple Martin (a type of swallow) nest structure, and I assumed the swallows there were Purple Martins. Here is a closer shot of one of them at a nest hole.
If I were more familiar with Purple Martins, I would have realized that they don’t have a white chin or breast, but I don't see them very often. I went home thinking I had Purple Martin for my year list, but while looking them up on eBird, I noticed a reference to the Tree Swallow nest gourds at the southeast corner of Magnuson Park. I looked at my pictures, and realized they were in fact Tree Swallows, not Purple Martins at all. They sure looked more purple in that light than the blue-green of Tree Swallow, but the white chins and undersides means they were indeed Tree Swallows. They sure looked purple to me, though.
At that point, I thought I had Purple Martin to keep my streak alive, but I wanted to get more if I could. I went back to the area where I had seen the Downy Woodpeckers yesterday, but couldn't attract them with playback. I did hear a bird singing loudly, and eventually I was able to find it in the brush, and I got this picture of a singing Bewick's Wren.
I tried once more for the woodpeckers, and this time the female flew in. Here is a picture of a female Downy Woodpecker.
This time I saw which direction she flew in from, so if I go back there again, I'll know better where to focus my attention. So, I thought I had two species for Sunday then, but it was a good thing I had gotten the woodpecker, because I "lost" Purple Martin when I got home, as I mentioned above.
I drove by the swimming raft again, but the only white bird on it was a gull, not the tern I was looking for. I had done more research and found I could drive around through a neighborhood and get into the park by a "back door" entrance that was much closer to one of the places that Hutton's Vireo was reported. I tried for it there, but again came up empty. I did get this picture of a fluffed up Spotted Towhee that was vocalizing in a bush.
A Song Sparrow was also singing away, hoping to have its picture taken, so I obliged.
The birds all seem to know that spring is here, as they are doing a lot of singing and calling. It's a great time of year for birding, as the weather is improving, the birds are singing, and the summer birds are coming back from their winter vacations down south. I drove through other parts of the park, but a Sunday isn't the best time to do that it turned out - too many people. One more pass by the swim raft turned up two gulls this time, but no terns. Magnuson Park is a wonderful park, and I wish it was closer to home for me. It takes me about 25 minutes to drive there.
So, despite spending almost a couple of hours in the park, all I had to show for it was the Downy Woodpecker and some pictures, after realizing that Purple Martin was off the table. That brought me to 104 species for Sunday. The Caspian Terns on Saturday brought me to 151 species for the year. It's getting harder and harder all the time to keep my streak alive. I now have completed 66 species - that is, I have seen those 66 species on every day of the week now, and I've seen many of the others on 5 or 6 days of the week. Fortunately, the summer birds are coming back now, and that is keeping the streak alive. The other secret to keeping the streak going this long has been to carefully plan each evening, so the next day I have a list of potential day-birds that will keep the streak alive. With that list, I can choose where to go that day.
Tomorrow I hope to head across Puget Sound to Point No Point on the Kitsap Peninsula, to try to see if I can get some more year birds and also boost up my Monday list, which is in last place now. It is supposed to be a record-breaking warm, sunny day, and that seems like a great time for a ferry ride across the sound.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Another week of DOTW birding is in the books. On Monday, April 18, I caught the 9:40 AM ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, on the Kitsap Peninsula - crossing Puget Sound. Almost as soon as we got away from the dock I spotted my first BONAPARTE'S GULL of the day and of the year. That was one of my main targets for the day, and I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to get any pictures of this small gull with a black head (in the summer). Even though I saw well over 20 of them throughout the day, they were always too far away for a picture. Also on the crossing, I saw several pairs of Rhinoceros Auklets, another target for the day. Here is a distant picture I got of a Rhino Auklet later in the day.
Those white plumes on its face are only there in the summer, as is the white "horn" at the base of the bill.
Here is a picture of Kingston as we approached the ferry terminal.
It was a beautiful day, as you can see, the second of four record-breaking high temperature days in a row here. It got to 89 at Seatac airport, which was the hottest April day on record. It smashed the old high for the day by 12 or 13 degrees, I think. It was an excellent day to be out on the water and on the shore.
I picked up a tuna sandwich at Subway in Kingston and made my way to Hansville, at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula. I added Barn Swallow to my Monday list, looked out over the water but found nothing interesting, and drove to the west end of the north shore. Nothing along the way, but I stopped at Foulweather Bluff nature preserve on he way back, mainly to take a leak in the woods, and I walked a little. I didn't see any birds, but a Purple Finch was calling loudly the whole time I was there. I couldn't lure it down into sight with playback, but I count "heard only" birds now, and there was no doubt about what it was. It was a nice Monday bird. I was trying to build up Monday, because it was the lowest day of the week - 93 species when I started the day.
Finally I was ready for my main destination for the day - Point No Point, at the eastern end of the north shore. It turned out to be a good time to arrive there, as the tide had been low about two hours earlier and it was "running" into Puget Sound again. This makes for good currents, and the birds were out in numbers to catch the fish that were moving with the current. One of the first ones I added to my Monday list there was Pacific Loon. Here is a very distant picture of a Pacific Loon in breeding plumage. I show it partly because I have so few pictures from that day and partly because it shows the breeding plumage, which we only see around here for a short time, before the Pacific Loons fly north for the breeding season.
There were quite a few Common Murres around, and later I saw a small group of Western Grebes. I even saw one Red-throated Loon. All of those were excellent Monday birds that I wouldn't normally see around home. The murre and the loon will soon be heading north, so it was good to get them both.
I walked down the trail along the wetlands to a viewing platform, but there wasn’t much of interest in the wetlands. I did add Savannah Sparrow to my Monday list, but that was one I could have seen locally. I ate my tuna sandwich on a bench overlooking the water, jumping up from time to time to look through my scope. The numbers of birds dropped after about an hour; I suppose they had moved on to richer tidal pastures by then.
I had seen reports of people seeing 20 or 30 of one species I hadn't seen yet this year, but none showed themselves to me. As I was leaving the area, I saw a couple of cows in a field and there were some birds on the ground nearby. Aha! I backed up and took a look, and sure enough, several of them were BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS, the one that others had seen so many of in the area. I don't know why they are called cowbirds, but there they were, hanging around the cows. I've heard them called shitbirds, too, so maybe that's the attraction - seeds in the cow dung. I should be able to see them locally here, but they just arrived back from their southern vacations for the winter, so I hadn't seen one yet.
Back at the Kingston ferry terminal, while waiting for them to load the cars onto the ferry, I first heard and then saw a Belted Kingfisher fly high overhead, the last one for my Monday list for the day. I ended up getting 11 species for the day, to bring Monday up to 104 species. The two year-birds, Bonaparte's Gull and Brown-headed Cowbird, brought me to 153 species for the year.
On Tuesday, April 19, I went down to Juanita Bay Park. I had an early lunch appointment, and JBP is only five minutes away, so it is a good choice when I have limited time. I had seen reports of a recent spring arrival, including multiple reports from Juanita Bay Park. First I tried for Golden-crowned Kinglet around the parking lot by using playback, but had no luck. Then I walked out onto the boardwalk and soon heard a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT singing. That was the one I was looking for. Here is a picture of a male Common Yellowthroat.
I heard another one later, but they don't show themselves very much, although they are quite vocally responsive to playback and once you get one singing, it goes on and on. Easy to hear, harder to see, and much harder yet to get a picture of one. That one was pretty far away and its head was in the shade. I had to process the picture a lot to even get it that good.
While I was trying to get a picture of the yellowthroat, a guy with a camera that had a honkin' big lens came along, and he mentioned that there was a Cinnamon Teal on the bay, and he was heading out to get pictures. I joined him and was able to add Cinnamon Teal to my Tuesday list. Here is a picture of the male Cinnamon Teal, which I have only rarely seen at that park. It was a much closer shot than the ones I showed earlier in the month.
The light was great and the bird was close, which made for a picture that I like, worthy of this colorful bird. I love the red eye. A few minutes later the teal flew to the edge of the water and hauled out on a log. It was preening, and I got this picture that shows just a hint of the beautiful light blue patch on his wing.
Here is a picture of a Pied-billed Grebe - not a bird I needed for any day list any more, but the light was great and the bird was fairly close.
Likewise this male Wood Duck. It wasn’t very close, but they are so colorful that it's hard to resist taking their picture.
I walked back to my car, after trying to get a better picture of the yellowthroat. Along the way I saw a bird flying my way, and I put my binoculars on it. I thought it would just be a crow, but it turned out to be a raptor. I got a good view of it as it flew overhead. After reviewing the possibilities in my mind, I decided it had to be a Cooper's Hawk, another good one for my Tuesday list. So, I ended up getting three species for Tuesday, to bring it to 101 species. Common Yellowthroat brought me to 154 species for the year.
On Wednesday, April 20, I went down to Juanita Bay Park again, hoping that the Cinnamon Teal had stuck around overnight. On the way out to the end of the boardwalk, I heard Common Yellowthroat again, in the same place I had gotten yesterday's picture of one. I played the song a lot, and I heard lots of responses, in at least three different locations, but never could see one of them. Still, I had heard it, so it went onto Wednesday's list. While trying to entice the yellowthroat out into the open, I attracted a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds who begged to have their pictures taken. Here is a mature male Red-winged Blackbird, showing off his wing patch.
Here is a picture of what I thought at the time was a female Red-winged Blackbird.
When I got home and looked at my pictures on the computer, I decided it was actually an immature male Red-winged Blackbird, which looks just like a female except for that reddish patch on its shoulder. Here is another picture of that same bird.
Some time later this year, or maybe over this coming winter, this bird will develop the all black plumage of a mature male, along with the red and yellow wing patch. I presume it was hatched last year. At least, that's how I understand it.
The Cinnamon Teal hadn't stuck around, I guess, but I got this picture of an American Coot, which I no longer needed for any day's list. Coots are another species that birders ignore, both because they are so common and because they are rather plain looking. I rarely bother to take a picture of a coot, so I did so yesterday, since the light was good and the bird was close.
All the same comments apply to Mallard, which is probably the most frequently seen of all our ducks, and taking advantage of the good light, I got this picture of a pair of them.
Common Yellowthroat brought my Wednesday total to 105 species and kept my streak alive.
Today, Thursday, April 21, I decided to do something a little different. I'm trying to extend this silly streak as long as I can, and my available birds for Thursday are getting low, so I wanted to try for one that is outside of my usual orbit. Since I had seen at least a half dozen Bonaparte's Gulls on Monday while on the Edmonds to Kingston ferry run, I decided I would walk onto the ferry and ride round trip, hoping to see one. The senor fare was only $4.05 round trip, and it would be a pleasant way to spend an hour and fifteen minutes. I parked near the Edmonds fishing pier because I had time and I was familiar with the parking rules there. It turned out I could have parked much closer, along Railroad Avenue or in the parking lot for Brackett's Landing; if I ever do it again, I'll know that. I didn't have enough extra time this morning to explore all the options, so I elected the safe one, which involved a walk of maybe a third of a mile each way. I'm not sure I have ever walked on to a Washington State ferry before, but it was fun today.
It was windier today than on Monday, and the wind was enough that whitecaps were starting to form on the water. Trying to find a white bird sitting on the water is made more difficult when there are whitecaps, I found out. As it turned out, I never spotted any Bonaparte's Gulls at all. That's how birding goes - some days they are there, and some days they just aren't.
I had a compensation, though. When we were a little over halfway across, they made an announcement that there were whales ahead. Here is a distant picture of an Orca, sometimes called a killer whale.
That was exciting, but it got better - a lot better.
Here is a picture that shows three fins. If you look closely, you can see a small fin on the left side of the picture.
We kept getting closer, and the captain slowed the ferry to a crawl as we approached the Orcas. I assume that was partly to give the passengers a chance to rubberneck, but also to protect the animals, just in case they turned toward the ferry. Here is a closer picture of two of the whales.
Eventually, they were only maybe 50 feet from the boat, and all the passengers were on that side of the boat to watch. It sounded like being at a fireworks show. Every time they surfaced, you heard "Oooh" and "Ahhh". Here is my best picture, showing all three of the Orcas, including the baby one on the right.
So, even though I didn't see any Bonaparte's Gulls, the Orcas more than made up for that.
When we got back to Edmonds, I still didn't have a Thursday bird, though. I could always go for one of my "sure thing" species, of which there are still two or three for Thursday, but I would rather save them if possible, since Thursday has fewer easy species than most days. So, I stopped at Edmonds Marsh to try for a little sandpiper that had been reported there yesterday. I saw a couple of them right away and I got my scope out of the car to confirm the identity. Yes, they had yellow legs, so they were Least Sandpipers (rather than Western Sandpipers, which have black legs), a species I saw one day at the ocean several weeks ago, but not one I expect to see locally. As soon as I had identified them, I got out of there, before I accidently heard or saw a Marsh Wren, which I know are there. I wanted to "save" Marsh Wren for a later Thursday. Marsh Wren should be fairly easy to see or hear in several of my local birding spots. This streak thing is distorting my birding somewhat, but that is the game I chose to play, and I'm enjoying it. Least Sandpiper brought me to 106 species for Thursday.
So, another week is done, and here is my scorecard now, after 15 weeks. As this table gets larger, it is going to be distorted on some computers, if you look at it with a smaller screen, but that's your problem. Get a larger monitor or make the window wider if you care, which I doubt that anyone does.
After After After After After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks 13 wks 14 wks 15 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83 90 91 92 95
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74 87 90 100 102
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79 82 83 103 104
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75 80 81 93 104
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82 96 97 98 101
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90 100 102 104 105
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85 95 99 105 106
As you can see, all the days are pretty close now, except for Friday. I'll see what I can do tomorrow, but short of a trip out of the area, it is going to be hard for Friday to catch up. I went east of the mountains on a Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Earlier I had gone to the ocean on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday is lagging mostly because it hasn’t yet been included on a trip out of this area. Poor Friday, so neglected.
My year list is now up to 154 species, and my streak of adding a bird to each day of the week on every day this year is alive. I have major bowel surgery scheduled for this coming Monday, so I plan to take two or three weeks off for that, until I can drive again and get out birding. Then I'll pick it up again. What a life!