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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

 

I'm ba-a-a-a-ck.† I haven't been writing lately because I haven't been birding, and I haven't been birding mostly because I already have almost all the local birds on my daily lists.† Also, I re-injured my Achilles tendon and walking has been painful for 2 or 3 weeks.† In addition to those reasons, I had a series of vertigo episodes, and that was keeping me close to home also.† Now the vertigo is gone (knock on wood), at least for now, and my heel is less painful and I can walk a little on it now.† I still don't need many of the local birds for my daily lists, but today I headed over to Whidbey Island to add to my Island county list.† Last year I brought all 39 Washington State counties up to at least 39 species, and now I'm half-heartedly working on getting them all up to at least 50 species.† Island county was at 41, and the weather looked great today, so my friend, Dan, and I headed across Puget Sound to Whidbey Island to add some winter water birds to my Island county list.† I hadn't been to Island county in the winter, and most of the ducks and other water birds are up north in the summer months, but they are here now for the winter.† I figured it would be dead easy to add the nine species I needed to bring Island county up to 50.

 

We caught the 11:00 AM ferry out of Mukilteo.† Here is a picture from the car deck of the ferry, looking north to Everett and the Cascade mountains.

 

It was a lovely blue sky day, with temperatures in the mid-30's.† A bit chilly, but it we were in the car most of the time, anyway, so it was fine.† At the ferry terminal in Clinton, on Whidbey Island, I added Pelagic Cormorant and Barrow's Goldeneye to my county list.† I didn't need Pigeon Guillemot for my county list, but I got this picture of four of them near the ferry dock.

 

In the summer they are all black on top, with white patches on their wings.† In the winter they are mostly white with some black or gray on them.† These four birds are in various stages of transitioning from summer to winter plumage.† Note that the bird on the left still has black feathers on the back of its neck, while the others have varying shades of gray or even white.

 

Our first actual birding stop was at Dave Mackie county park, located near the southern end of the island on Puget Sound.† There weren't many birds out on the water, but I managed to add Bufflehead, Western Grebe, and Common Loon there.† As we drove toward our next stop, I added Bald Eagle to my Island county list.

 

The next stop was Deer Lagoon.† We approached it from Sunlight Beach and found a place to look out over the lagoon.† There were lots of ducks there, and I soon added American Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and Common Goldeneye to my list.† There were also Mew Gulls there, and I needed that one, too.

 

From there we headed toward Langley, looking for a place to eat our Subway sandwiches that we had bought on our way to the ferry this morning.† We found our way to Lone Lake county park, on the north shore of Lone Lake.† There I added Canada Goose, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, and Ring-necked Duck to my list.† We ate lunch in the car, looking out at the lake, and while eating I spotted a Mourning Dove in a tree, another one for my county list.

 

I had all the species I needed by then, but we went on over to Langley anyway, to check it out and look for more sea birds.† We drove through the cute little town to the marina and got out and walked on the wharf.† Here is a picture of part of the wharf at Langley.

 

There were some Bonaparte's Gulls flying around, and that was an excellent one for my Island county list.† Here is a picture of a Bonaparte's Gull on a light fixture.

 

It is a small gull, much smaller than any of the other "normal" gulls.† In the summer the whole head would be black, but in the winter there is only that black spot behind the eye remaining.† Based on the wing feathers, I suspect that this was a juvenile bird.† Here is an adult Bonaparte's Gull in the water.

 

I had already seen Barrow's Goldeneyes at the ferry terminal, but there were a number of them at the Langley marina, too.† Here is a male Barrow's Goldeneye.

 

Here is a female Barrow's Goldeneye.

 

And, finally, for my last picture of the day, here is a picture of a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes.

 

After that we called it a day and caught the 2:00 PM ferry at Clinton.† From the car deck of the ferry I added my final Island county bird of the day, Red-necked Grebe.† We had been in the county for two hours and forty minutes, and I had added 19 species to my county list, to bring me a total of 60.† It was a very successful birding day, and a nice day to be out and about.

 

Next up for me is a three night trip to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.† I think I'll be leaving on Sunday, God Willing And The Creeks Don't Rise.† If the weather looks good enough, I hope to stop in southern Washington on the way home to add to a couple of my county lists.† I hope to spend Wednesday night in Cathlamet, in Wahkiakum county, a tiny county on the Columbia River, if the weather forecast looks good enough.† If it looks like solid rain, I'll skip southern Washington and just come home on Wednesday.† I won't be doing much birding in Cannon Beach, but maybe I can get some nice ocean pictures to share.† I love the ocean, and I have an oceanfront room reserved.† I planned the trip to coincide with the most extreme tides of the month, and I love to watch the tide battle with Ecola Creek, which flows into the ocean right out in front of my room.

 

 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

 

On Sunday morning I headed south, on my way to Cannon Beach.† It rained most of the way to my first stop, which was the sewage treatment ponds at Longview, WA.† I got a tuna sandwich at Subway in Longview and went on to the ponds.† I had expected to easily be able to pick up more than half a dozen species of ducks there for my Cowlitz county list, since this was my first time birding in Cowlitz county in the winter, when the ducks are there.

 

The weather cooperated and I had a break in the rain just then.† There werenít many ducks on the main pond, though, and those that were there were far on the other side.† I hadnít birded there before, so I explored the roads near the ponds and found I could only really approach one corner of the main pond.† I did see Buffleheads and Common Mergansers, anyway, both of which I needed for the county.† I stopped and got out my scope and was able to identify four more duck species in the distance Ė Ruddy Duck, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, and Gadwall.† That was what I needed.† Iím working now on bringing all my county lists up to 50 species, and that took Cowlitz from 45 to 51.† With that success, I sat in the car and enjoyed my tuna sandwich.

 

It rained some more, but when I got to Puget Island in Wahkiakum county, it again let up and I actually had sun for a short time.† I had never been to Puget Island before, and I had a half an hour or so in hand, so I drove around to scope it out.† I had birded in Wahkiakum county in the winter before, so I had most of the ducks, but I still managed to add a couple more Ė Lesser Scaup and Surf Scoter.† I also had European Starling and California Scrub-Jay while driving around.† That took me from 40 species in the county to 44.† Iíll have to go back there in the summer to get some small birds when the weather is more favorable.† I did get a couple of pictures while driving around Puget Island.† Here is a male Common Merganser.

 

Here is a Pied-billed Grebe.

 

I drove on to Warrenton, OR, where I gassed up the car at Fred Meyer.† Gas was only $2.24 a gallon, and I had $1 per gallon off with my FM card.† It was great to get 19 gallons of gas for about 24 bucks.

 

I drove on to Cannon Beach, with a stop in Seaside at Safeway to get a few provisions.† I have one of my favorite ocean-front rooms at the Landís End motel, upstairs, with a little kitchenette area, and a spectacular ocean view.

 

It was a mainly just a travel day, but in less than an hour of birding I was able to add to two county lists, so that was nice.† I saw some fairly good birds in my short time of birding, but none were new for Sunday this year.

 

 

Monday, December 12, 2016

 

It was raining Monday morning, but the weather was supposed to improve as the day went on, which it did.† Here is the view from my room looking northwest, with the tide well in.† The rain had stopped by then, and most of the rest of the day was dry.

 

Here is a closer zoom on that same view.

 

My first stop that day was at Ecola State park, at the north end of Cannon Beach.† Parts of the park were closed because of slides, but that turned out to be a good thing, because as a result, they were waiving the normal $5 admission charge.† I mainly wanted to look for birds anyway, and the closures didnít affect me.† At one point I saw a couple of birds fly up from the roadside, and eventually I was able to get good looks at a couple of Varied Thrushes, one I needed for my Monday list.† There wasnít enough light for decent pictures, unfortunately.

 

After that I drove into Seaside, which is about 7 miles north of Cannon Beach.† I stopped at the south end of the bay and with the tide high, Black Turnstones were roosting right next to the street, waiting for the tide to go out so they could feed again.† I got this picture of a Black Turnstone, another species I needed for my Monday list.

 

Next I drove north 2 or 3 miles to the little town of Gearhart.† I had driven by there many times, but I had never taken the short little road to the town center before.† I explored the town and found the access to the beach.† I drove out on to the sand and there were many dozens of Sanderlings along the surf line.† That was another one I needed for my Monday list.† Here is a picture of a couple of Sanderlings.

 

Here is a closer view of one of the Sanderlings.

 

It was getting to be time for lunch, but first I stopped at Safeway for some salad dressing, which I had forgotten to bring from home, and at Papa Murphyís to pick up the take and bake pizza I had ordered online that morning.† After that I stopped at Mickey Dís and stoked the furnace with fat, carbs, and protein.

 

After lunch I drove south of Cannon Beach to a couple of the places I always visit there.† I canít really walk much because of my torn Achilles tendon, but I stopped at Hug Point to check it out and then at Arcadia Beach and the view point south of Cannon Beach.† At Arcadia Beach I saw a Black Oystercatcher, a great bird, but one I had already seen on Monday, earlier in the year.

 

I stopped at Tolovana Beach, which is at the south end of Cannon Beach.† Here is a picture of Haystack Rock at low tide, taken from Tolovana Beach.

 

There was a Song Sparrow flitting around there, and I got these next two pictures of it.

 

 

Hereís a picture of Haystack Rock from the road, showing how it can be approached at low tide.

 

Back at the room, I took this picture looking northwest at close to low tide.

 

Thatís Ecola Creek, which I call the ďlittle riverĒ, in the foreground.† It is coming from the right and running out into the ocean to the left.† One of the things I love to do here is watch the tide battle the little river as the tide comes in.† The waves run up the creek and eventually overpower it, but several hours later the tide goes out and the little river runs again.† I love the ocean and tides fascinate me.† Itís hard to imagine that huge volume of water sloshing around, back and forth, twice a day, every single day of the year.

 

So, that was my Monday.† I got three Monday birds to bring my Monday total to 204, and I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite places around Cannon Beach.† I really love the ocean.

 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

 

It was pretty much cloudless on Tuesday morning.† One of the things I love about the ocean is its constantly changing appearance.† This morning it was blue and the surf was better organized than yesterdayís storm surf.† In the mornings the wind usually blows off the shore onto the ocean, and it catches the tops of the waves, producing spray.† Here is a picture of some waves with the spray blowing back.

 

Thatís the view straight west from my room.† Here is a closer zoom of a wave breaking.

 

I enjoyed the view for a while and then headed out to see what I could see.† My first stop was Ecola State Park, and I again saw a couple of Varied Thrushes, which I needed for Tuesday.† Next I headed up to Seaside and the Black Turnstones, which I also needed for Tuesday, were there again, waiting out the high tide.† This time there were about a dozen of them hanging out.† Here is a picture of one of them in the morning sun.

 

I didnít need Sanderling for Tuesday, so I didnít bother going up to Gearhart again, but headed back south, hoping to see Black Oystercatcher where I had seen one on Monday.† I hadnít needed that species for Monday, but I needed it for Tuesday.† The tide was in too much, though, and the rock I had seen the oystercatcher on was almost covered with water and waves were breaking over it, so no birds were there.† I went on down the road to Arch Cape and stopped at the south end of the community and looked at the rocks there, hoping to see a Black Oystercatcher there.† No oystercatchers, but there were about a dozen Surfbirds roosting above the tide line, waiting for the tide to go down again so they could look for food in the rocks below the high tide line.† Ironically, I didnít need Surfbird for Tuesday, but I had needed it for Monday, when I hadnít come to this location.† Thatís one of the interesting aspects of Day Of The Week birding Ė timing is important.

 

I headed back north, stopping a couple of places along the way.† Here is a view of Haystack Rock from the viewpoint along the highway.

 

Here is a view of Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach at high tide.

 

Back at my room, here is the familiar view to the northwest at high tide.

 

The little river is swamped out in that picture, but several hours later, it was back again.

 

Notice the difference in the colors, too, in the afternoon cloudy light.† You can still see the wet sand marking the highest point of the tide for the day.

 

Here is one last picture, looking north.† I just canít seem to get enough of this marvelous view from my room.

 

So, I only added two species to my Tuesday list, to bring it to 208 species for the year.† Tomorrow I plan to head for home.† Iíve enjoyed being at the ocean again for three nights.† Iím looking forward to 2017, when all my lists can start over again.† I plan to not only do Day Of The Week birding again, but also Bird A Day birding (BAD birding), which I did a couple of years ago.† I think it might be interesting to do both of those at once, keeping separate lists, of course, since the rules for each are different.† Meanwhile, 2016 is winding down.

 

 

Monday, December 19, 2016

 

Before I get into today, I wanted to mention that I went down to Juanita Bay Park on Saturday and Sunday and got Pacific Wren both days.† That makes Pacific Wren "complete" - that is, I saw that species on each of the 7 days of the week in 2016.

 

Today I headed up to Skagit county to look for several species for my Monday list.† Monday was the only day I hadn't gone up there in the winter this year, and there were three species I wanted to "complete", as well as some others to try for.

 

After getting a tuna sandwich at Subway (naturally), my first stop was Eide Road, just west of Stanwood.† That is actually in Snohomish county, about an hour north of home.† The rain was supposed to stop by the time I got there, but it was drizzly on my way north and it was still dripping a little when I got to Eide Road.

 

My main target there was Short-eared Owl, and I saw at least three of them.† Here is a picture of a perched Short-eared Owl.

 

That was fun, but then I saw one even closer and got this picture.

 

Here is still another picture of a Short-eared Owl, showing how flat its face is when viewed from the side.

 

Here is one final picture of Short-eared Owl, a three-quarter face look.

 

I love getting owl pictures, and it was a great Monday bird.†

 

I also saw my first RING-NECKED PHEASANT of the year there.† Some birders won't count pheasants seen in that area because they claim that they donít breed there.† They say that someone (the state, presumably) breeds pheasants for hunters to hunt and releases them in the hunting areas.† Captive-bred birds aren't considered countable by birding purists.† I counted the pheasants I saw today, though, in two different places, both of them near hunting sites.† Here is a picture of a male Ring-necked Pheasant.

 

I heard shotguns going off all day today, but I think most of the hunters were looking for ducks and geese.† I saw hunters in a number of locations, too.† Every single one of them was dressed in a camouflage outfit.† I guess that is the required dress code for bird hunters.

 

I headed north from Eide Road and the drizzle started up again, turning to light rain some of the time.† The weather people got it wrong today for that area, sorry to say.† I stopped several places to check out swans in the fields, looking for Tundra Swan, which is the one I needed still for Monday.† Trumpeter Swans are more common in that area in the winter, but I finally saw a small group of Tundra Swans, and that completed that species for the year.† Here is a poor, distant picture of a Tundra Swan, but at least it shows the yellow spot on the bill, in front of the eye, which distinguishes Tundra Swan from Trumpeter Swan.

 

Wylie Slough was my next stop.† Bohemian Waxwings have been seen there several times in the last week, and they are a rarity on this side of the Cascades.† It was raining lightly, but I got out and looked for them anyway.† No joy.† There were a lot of robins in the trees, but no waxwings.† I did pick up Cooper's Hawk for my Skagit county list, and also a Brown Creeper for that list.† For some reason I hadn't ever put Tundra Swan onto my Skagit county list, so I did that today, too.† Likewise Merlin.† I had seen both of those species before in Skagit county, but I had overlooked adding them to my county list.† I saw four male pheasants near there, too, and they weren't spooked by my car at all.† I'm sure they were captive-bred, and the hunters would get them soon.† You'd never see four pheasants together normally, unless it was a family group.

 

I stopped at Hayton Preserve, but didnít see anything good there.† There were some American Wigeons (a duck species), and I would have liked to have used my scope to look through them for a semi-rare Eurasian Wigeon, but it was raining too hard to use the scope.† There were also hundreds of Dunlins, a shorebird, there, but I didn't need that one for any list.

 

After that, I decided to head north to the West 90, up in the Skagit Flats, to eat my lunch.† I was looking for Snow Goose and Rough-legged Hawk still.† I didn't see anything en route, so I ate my tuna sandwich at the West 90 parking lot and headed back south.† By that time the rain had stopped and the sun even came out briefly once or twice.† I saw a female Northern Harrier with some prey, sitting in a field, and I got these next two pictures of her.

 

 

I saw a couple of Rough-legged Hawks for my Monday list, to complete that species for the year.† Here is a Rough-legged Hawk on the ground.

 

Here is a picture of the bird looking right at me, over its back.

 

I saw a lot of Bald Eagles today, at least 15 or 20.† Here is a picture of a mature Bald Eagle.

 

Bald Eagles take four years to completely mature and to get their white heads and tails.† Here is a picture of an immature Bald Eagle.† The two best identifiers are the massive size of the bird and the massive size of the bill.

 

Note that bird has a metal band on its right leg.† Ornithologists capture birds, band them, and then use the bands to learn about their habits.† They either have to see the band closely enough to read it or re-capture the bird, so they can tell where and when it was banded.† I don't know how one goes about capturing a full grown Bald Eagle.

 

Headed south, towards home, planning to stop again at some of the places I had gotten rained out of earlier.† On my way I saw a large flock of Snow Geese in the distance, and that was another Monday bird that completed the species for the year.† Back on Fir Island, at the Jensen Access, which I had skipped this morning because of the rain, I saw some white birds in a field.† Because of the way they were placed (not all together, but spaced out a bit), I figured they were swans, rather than geese, but I took a look.† To my surprise, they were Snow Geese, and I took a distant picture.† As I watched, though, I noticed that none of them were moving at all.† I finally realized they were decoys!† I have seen Canada Geese decoys, but I had never seen Snow Geese decoys before.† Here is a picture of the herd of goose decoys.

 

Here is a close-up that I took before I realized they were decoys.

 

I wonder if it works, and if so, how long you have to wait for some Snow Geese to fly in to check it out.† It seems like a heck of a lot of trouble, just to attract some geese to shoot.

 

I went back to the Hayton Preserve again and scoped the little flock of American Wigeons, but didn't see any Eurasian Wigeons.† The hundreds of Dunlin had moved on.† Back at Wylie Slough, I again looked for the Bohemian Waxwings, but they eluded me, too.† I did find a large flock of real Snow Geese and I took some distant pictures of some of them flying.† Here are some Snow Geese flying.

 

It was about 3 o'clock by then, so I headed for the freeway and home.† The drizzle started again at about Everett, so the weather people really blew the forecast today, since they said it would be dry all day, everywhere from home to the Skagit.

 

It was a very successful day.† I added five species to my Monday list, to bring it to 209 species.† The Ring-necked Pheasant was a year-bird, too, to bring me to 310 species for the year.† I completed three species, to make it 125 species that I've seen on all seven days of the week this year.† I was out there for about seven hours, including the driving time, and I put about 165 miles on my car.

 

At this point, I donít know if I'll add any more this year or not, to any of my lists.† I have some to look for up in Edmonds, for Wednesday, and if the weather is good, I'll probably go up there and see if I can be successful at adding one or two more to my Wednesday list.† I'm looking forward to 2017, so all my lists can start over again.

 

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

It looked to be a perfect sunny winter day today, the first day of winter, so I headed up to the Edmonds waterfront, which is about 25 minutes north of home.† I needed Rhinoceros Auklet for Wednesday, to complete the species, and there were also reports of a rarity there.† There were a couple of other possibles for Wednesday as well.

 

My first stop was Marina Park, where the rare warbler has been seen.† I saw a guy with binoculars and a camera who was just leaving, so I asked him about the rarity.† He had seen it, and he pointed out exactly where he had last seen it and gave me some tips for finding it.

 

I walked over to the area, but saw nothing.† I walked back and forth for ten or fifteen minutes, and then saw a little bird on the ground under a picnic table.† I got my binoculars on it, and it was indeed the PALM WARBLER that I was looking for, a year-bird.† It was hopping around actively, pumping its tail constantly, but I managed to get three pictures before it flew off, never to be seen again (by me, today, anyway).† Here is a frontal view of the Palm Warbler, which should be somewhere down south and east now and shouldn't ever be in Washington State at any time of the year.

 

Palm Warblers breed in northern Canada, in the middle of the continent, and they are supposed to spend the winter along the East Coast, south of about Washington DC, stretching down to Florida and around the Gulf coast through Texas into Mexico.† I don't know how one got mixed up enough to end up here in Washington State, but it is the second one I have seen here.† The other one was also in the winter and was over in Seattle, several years ago.† Here is a picture that shows the yellow feathers at the base of its tail.

 

Here is another front view that shows some of the side of the bird as well.

 

So, that was exciting, to find a rarity for my year list, my Snohomish county list, and my Wednesday list.† Next I went over to the recently renovated fishing pier to look for more birds.† There were some birds around, and also this Harbor Seal.

 

There was a kingfisher sitting at the top of the mast of a sailboat in the marina.† Here is a picture of a female Belted Kingfisher in the winter sunshine.

 

The light today was just amazing.† I think part of it was that it was clear, but I think that part of it was due to this being the winter solstice and the sun is lower in the sky than any other day of the year.† I was able to have the sun more or less at my back for most of my shots today, and that always helps.

 

Here is a picture of a couple of Red-necked Grebes in their winter plumage.

 

As you can see, the water was pretty smooth.† I like the reflections in these shots, as well as the light.† Here is a picture of one of the Red-necked Grebes.

 

That one had its neck pulled in.† Here is a shot of a Red-necked Grebe with its neck extended.

 

These birds in the water were about 30 or 40 feet away from me, and I was up on the pier, about 8 or 10 feet above the water.

 

Here is a Common Murre.

 

That one was probably about 50 feet away.† Here is one of the same Common Murre a little closer.† I like the water drops on its back.

 

Looking at my pictures now, maybe those were two different birds.† The white behind the eye seems different in each picture.† I thought there was only one murre there today, but now I think there were actually two.† All of these sea birds were constantly diving and they would be gone for a as much as a minute and would sometimes come up more than a hundred feet away from where they dove, so it was hard to keep track of them.† Each time one came to the surface, I only had a few seconds to zoom in on it and get a picture, before it dove again.

 

I also got my Rhinoceros Auklet for my Wednesday list.† Here are a couple of pictures of Rhinoceros Auklet.

 

 

So, the Palm Warbler and the Rhino Auklet brought me to 208 species for Wednesday, and completing the auklet makes 126 species I have seen this year on all seven days of the week.† The Palm Warbler also brought me to 311 species for 2016.† It's unlikely I'll get any more at this point, but that's a pretty good year, especially considering that medical issues kept me from doing much traveling for half the year.

 

Today was really fun.† Getting the warbler was exciting and satisfying, and I can't say enough about how great the light was today.† I really like the seabird pictures.† Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.† I probably won't write again until 2017, unless it is to do a 2016 retrospective and summary.