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Thursday, February 4, 2016


Here's a report that covers my last week of birding.


On Friday, January 29, it was raining and my back hurt, so I didn't really want to go out looking for birds.  I played the song of Bewick's Wren outside our back door, and both of the wrens that live in our yard flew in to check me out.   That was the first time I had seen Bewick's Wren on a Friday this year, so I didn't need to go out birding to keep my streak alive.  I have had a new bird every day this year, for that particular day of the week.


On Saturday, January 30, it wasn't raining in the morning, so I went down to Juanita Bay Park, my local park on Lake Washington.  I picked up American Robin and Gadwall (a duck) for my Saturday list, to keep the streak going.


On Sunday, January 31, I went over to Logboom Park, at the north end of Lake Washington, in Kenmore.  It was 45 degrees, but it was windy and felt a lot colder than that.  I added Canvasback and Lesser Scaup (both are duck species) to my Sunday list.  Here is a picture of a female Canvasback, which I actually took the next day at the same place.


At home I saw one of the Bewick's Wrens in our yard and got these pictures of the cute little guy.



On Monday, February 1, I again went to Log Boom Park.  It was again not raining, for the third day in a row, and it wasn't nearly as windy as Sunday had been.  So far this year, Log Boom Park is the only place I have seen Canvasbacks, and they have been there every time, so I'll just keep going back there until I have added Canvasback to each of my daily lists.  I also got this picture of a male Common Merganser on Monday.


I also saw a Horned Grebe in the distance, my first sighting of that species on Lake Washington this year.  I see them at Edmonds on Puget Sound every time I go there, but not on the lake.


On Tuesday it again wasn't raining and the sun was out most of the time, so I took a little excursion up to the Skagit flats, east of Mount Vernon.  I got a tuna sandwich at Subway in Stanwood and headed north.  I saw a flock of Snow Geese just north of Stanwood and then I went on up to Fir Island, west of Conway.  I stopped at the Skagit Wildlife Management Area (Hayton Reserve) and walked a little.  Just at the end of the parking lot I saw my first LINCOLN'S SPARROW of the year.  It was the first time I had seen that species in Washington since I started keeping state records 3 1/2 years ago.  Here are a couple of pictures of that one.



I don't see them often, and they look enough like a Song Sparrow that I'm never sure of my identification at first.  In this case, a Song Sparrow cooperatively flew in and posed for me (in response to playback on my phone), so here is a Song Sparrow for comparison.


Looking at the pictures, they don't seem particularly similar, but in the field I'm never quite sure at first when I see a Lincoln's Sparrow.


It was a beautiful winter day and I took this picture of Mount Baker to the northeast.


I made my way north, picking up more species for my Tuesday list.  I ate half my sandwich at Bay View State Park.  Before I ate, I looked around the bay and saw my first WESTERN GREBE of the year in the far distance.


A little farther north I scoped a flock of American Wigeons in a flooded field and was able to pick out a single male EURASIAN WIGEON for my year list.  I had looked at a lot of American Wigeons before that, and finally I was rewarded with a vagrant Eurasian Wigeon.  They show up on the West Coast every winter in decent numbers, but they are supposed to be on the other side of the Pacific Ocean at this time of year, after breeding in the far north in Eastern Russia.  I have read that about one percent of the wigeons here in our area are Eurasian Wigeons, so it is just a matter of looking until you find one.


At the West 90 I saw a Northern Shrike and a small group of Western Meadowlarks, good birds for my Tuesday list.  On this trip I figured out what the name West 90 refers to.  The road to Samish Island takes a 90 degree bend to the north there.  Two or three miles to the east, that same road also takes a 90 degree turn to the north (leading into the town of Edison), and that area is called the East 90.  In between, the road from the south comes into that same road that has the 90 degree turns and ends there.  That area is called the Samish Flats T-intersection.  So, I came up from the south to the T-intersection, and then it would be a right turn to the East 90 or a left turn to the West 90.  I don't know why that struck me on this trip, but it just suddenly was obvious to me what the names referred to.  I've been going there for several years and never knew what West 90 and East 90 referred to.


While I was there at the West 90, I ate the other half of my sandwich and scoped around the fields, looking for an owl that hunts in the daytime there.  I didn't see it, but when I was talking to a couple of other birders, they said they had seen that owl species that morning at Eide Road, down near Stanwood, where I had started my day.  So, I decided to swing by Eide road on my way home, since I had gotten all my main targets in the Skagit Flats, including Tundra Swan and Northern Harrier.  As I was leaving the area I got this picture of a Rough-legged Hawk, another one of my targets.


I also took this picture of a male Northern Shoveler, a duck with a very interesting bill.


At Eide Road there were a half dozen cars and a couple of photographers out in the field near the car park, with their expensive cameras with honkin' big lenses.  I looked around and almost right away saw a SHORT-EARED OWL swooping over the field.  I waited and kept looking, and a short time later it came closer and actually landed in a tree.  It was probably 100 yards away, but I had a good look with my scope and even got some very distant pictures.  Here is the Short-eared Owl looking to its right.


Here it is, looking to its left.


Here it is just as it was taking off.


It flew around, hunting, and I got this picture of it in the air.


I love getting owl pictures, since they are so hard to come by.


Here is a picture of part of the Cascade Range from Eide Road.


You can see that by that time (about 3:15 PM), some clouds had come in along the mountains.


On Wednesday, February 3, I went up to the Crescent Lake area, south of Monroe and north of Duvall.  My first stop, along the way was Cottage Lake, between Woodinville and Duvall.  There were ten species of ducks and other water birds on the lake, which was nice to see.  I added two to my Wednesday list, Hooded Merganser and Ruddy Duck.


I did well in the Crescent Lake area, adding the usual suspects to my Wednesday list.  Crescent Lake is another place I need to visit on each day of the week this year, so I can add some of the species I see there that I don't see many other places.  Today I had another thing in mind as well, though.  A rare vagrant gull has been seen there the last couple of days, and I thought I might as well look for that while I was there.  I thought it might be difficult to find, but I also thought there might be other birders there looking for it, and that often helps.


I wasn't sure which fields it had been seen in, but I stopped at the first big field, south of the lake, to check out the swans in the field to the west, to see if there were any Tundra Swans among the Trumpeter Swans.  I didn't find any Tundras today, but while I was looking a car with a couple of birders in it stopped and asked about the gull.  They told me which field it had been seen in, and I knew it was usually in with a flock of Mew Gulls, which look very similar to the vagrant gull.  At that time there weren't any gulls in that field, though, so we went our separate ways, looking around the area in other fields.  I checked out the pond at the former prison farm and got some ducks there, including a male Eurasian Wigeon, which I mentioned above in Tuesday's report.  Back at the field where the rare gull had been seen, I saw some gulls far across the fields.  I set up my scope and could barely see them well enough to look for the rarity.  They kept moving around, but generally were getting closer all the time.  After about 20 minutes of scanning the couple hundred Mew Gulls that kept flying to new locations, another birder joined me and set up his scope.  Then a third one came along, and she set up her scope as well.  By that time some of the gulls had gotten a lot closer, which made it easier to look for the vagrant.


After ten minutes or so of all three of us looking, I spotted it!  It was actually one of the closest gulls to where we were standing, which was great.  It got even closer and I took some very distant pictures, which aren't very good because of the distance, but here is the BLACK-HEADED GULL.


It had a red bill with a darker tip, red legs, and that spot behind its eye.  In the summer it would have a dark brown hood that looks black at a distance, hence the name.  Here is a picture in which you can barely make out that the legs are red.


Here is a picture of it with one of the couple of hundred Mew Gulls in the flock.


That wasn't quite a lifer for me; I had seen a lot of them in England in 2010, but it was my first sighting in the US, so now it will go onto my US list.  I guess they breed all across the north of Europe and Asia, and this bird should be somewhere in Asia at this point, presumably.  I guess it got confused and followed the wrong coast when it was time to head south.  They don't show up on the West Coast very often, I don't think.


The other two birders got onto it, too, and the woman got pictures as well.  As I was leaving, four or five other birders showed up, looking for it.  About then the birds flew off to another part of the huge field, and they were looking for it when I left.


There is a bit of a mystery about it, though.  I have seen pictures taken by two other birders (on Monday and Tuesday this week) and this bird doesn't look exactly the same as those pictures.  Those other ones have a differently shaped dark mark behind the eye, more of a crescent than a spot.  I think this might be a different bird, and maybe it isn't even a Black-headed Gull.  I haven't been able to find any other gull it could be, though, with the red bill and red legs and the size about the same as Mew Gull.  The pictures I have seen were taken two days ago, and maybe the plumage could have changed a bit in that time, but that seems unlikely to me.  I have posted links to some of my pictures of the bird on Tweeters, the local birding mailing list, and I'm hoping to get feedback from other birders about this bird.


I heard from three or four people and all confirmed it was indeed a Black-headed Gull.  The mystery continues about whether there are two of them, since the pictures from Monday and Tuesday look so different.  There has been some discussion on Tweeters, and I've gotten 2 or 3 emails as well.


Today, Thursday, February 4, I was feeling under the weather with another diverticulitis attack (I think), but I didn't want to break my streak, so I went over to Sikes Lake, near Carnation, in the Snoqualmie River Valley.  I had seen a report from a couple of days ago that listed a large number of geese and ducks, but today it was pretty much dead.  I did manage to add nine species to my Thursday list, though, which was outstanding.  Included was my first COOPER'S HAWK of the year and my third Eurasian Wigeon this week.  I looked for Eurasian Wigeon all during January and never found one, and then this week I have seen three of them.  That's birding.


So, after five weeks, here is my DOTW birding scorecard:


                        After     After     After     After     After

                        1 wk     2 wks    3 wks    4 wks    5 wks

Friday               27         40         43         51         52

Saturday           28         45         46         47         49

Sunday             10         33         42         55         57

Monday            9         34         37         50         53

Tuesday            30         39         43         44         57

Wednesday       15         37         43         55         64

Thursday           26         46         48         52         61


I didn't add very many this week to most days, which reflects a combination of the weather and my feeling a bit poorly.  I'm still getting at least one new one each day, though, and I want to keep that streak going.


For the year, I'm at 100.  One of those is new for my US list.  On two or three days in Australia, I have had over 100 species in a day, as opposed to five weeks here at home this year.  On my last Aussie trip in 2013, I got 359 species in six weeks.  In Texas in 2014, I had 260 species in three weeks.  Last year in Arizona I had 171 species in about three weeks.  From that, you can see why I have been to Australia six times - the birding is really great.  Texas in April is the second best birding I have experienced.



Thursday, February 11, 2016


Here's an update on my birding and a few pictures for the last week.


On Friday, February 5, I was feeling very poorly and went to the doctor.  He diagnosed another bout of diverticulitis  (my fourth in the last ten months) and I got some antibiotics.  I really didn't feel like going birding, but I had my streak to consider, so I drove to Costco (only about anther 7 or 8 minutes from where I had picked up the antibiotic), and was fortunate to find a little group of Brewer's Blackbirds in the parking lot, at the top of a light standard.  I don't see them around here often, but they are often at Costco, hoping to get handouts from the food court - especially when it is open in the summer.  I wasn't sure they would be around in the winter, but there they were, and I didn't even have to get out of the car.  The streak lived on, and I went home and went to bed.


On Saturday, February 6, I wasn't feeling great, but I went over to Log Boom Park in Kenmore and walked out onto the dock.  It was cold, and it probably didn't do my health any good to be out in the cold breeze, but I added five species to my Saturday list in about 20 minutes or so.


On Sunday I felt a bit better (the antibiotics were kicking in a bit), and I went up to Edmonds.  I added a number of birds to my Sunday list.  I got some pictures, too.  Here is a Brandt's Cormorant, the least common of the three cormorant species seen locally.


From Sunset Avenue, north of the ferry terminal in Edmonds, I spotted a pair of BLACK SCOTERS, an excellent one for my year list.  On the fishing pier, south of the ferry dock, I added BLACK TURNSTONE to my year list and even got pictures.


The turnstone was in with five Surfbirds, another excellent one to get, although I had seen them there once or twice before this year.  Here is a Surfbird.


Here is a picture of the two species together, with the Surfbird on our left and the Black Turnstone on our right.


Here is a Horned Grebe.


Here's a picture of a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, with the female on our left.  You can see they look quite different, but they seem to have the same hairdresser.


The final picture from Sunday is this male Common Goldeneye.


On Monday, I stopped at Marymoor Park on my way to go out to lunch with a friend in Bellevue.  I didn't see most of the birds I was hoping to see, but I did see a little flock of Western Meadowlarks, in the same area I had seen them a couple of weeks ago.  After lunch, my friend, Chris, and I went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue for a few minutes and I added Hooded Merganser to my Monday list.


On Tuesday, February 9, I was feeling poorly again (the antibiotic wiped out my gut bacteria, I think, and my digestion was messed up), and I went to the doctor again for advice.  I got a second antibiotic, and we agreed that if I didn't improve that I would add the second one.  It's a nasty one, though, and I'm trying to avoid doing that if I don’t have to.  Anyway, I played the song of Bewick's Wren in our yard and got one the second time I tried, so the streak lived on and I didn’t have to go out.  It was the first Bewick's Wren I had seen on a Tuesday this year.


On Wednesday, February 10, I went over to Sikes Lake near Carnation to look for some geese that had been seen there for several days in a row.  Each day 20 of them had been reported, and I found the group of 20 pretty much right away.  Greater White-fronted Geese aren't very common around here, and I had only seen them once before this year, way back on January 8.  Here is a Greater White-fronted Goose.


I had stopped on the road to take pictures and a pick-up truck with a couple of locals came by and asked if I was looking for birds.  I pointed out the geese (20 feet away), and they looked and said, "oh, the speckled bellies".  I hadn't ever heard them called Speckled Bellies before.  I got Golden-crowned Sparrow for Wednesday, too.


Today I thought I might as well go back over there to see if the geese had hung around for another day, but I couldn't find them anywhere in the area.  It's a big valley, and they could have been anywhere.  On the way there I had seen a Belted Kingfisher next to the road, only the second one I have seen this year, so I didn't really need anything else for my Thursday list, but since I was there and I had time, I drove around and looked.  I saw some sparrows by the road and pulled over.  Most were Golden-crowned Sparrows, but one was a first year White crowned Sparrow, only the second time I had seen that species this year, too.  Here are a couple of Golden-crowned Sparrows.


I walked around a little and found a whole group of White-crowned Sparrows feeding on the ground.  I got this picture of one.


Here is a closer view of one with a nice background.


While I was chasing the sparrows, I got this picture of a Bewick's Wren, too, another one I needed for Thursday.


I love to get pictures of birds that are singing.


Here is a male House Finch.


So, that was my week of birding.  I felt pretty lousy all week and the weather wasn't great, so I didn’t do much birding, but I managed to get a new one for my Day Of The Week list each day, so my streak goes on.  Each evening I look at my spreadsheet and make a list of likely birds I need for the next day, and based on that, the weather forecast, and how I'm feeling, I decide where to go the next day.  Here is an update of my scorecard for the days of the week.


                        After     After     After     After     After     After

                        1 wk     2 wks    3 wks    4 wks    5 wks    6 wks

Friday               27         40         43         51         52         53

Saturday           28         45         46         47         49         52

Sunday             10         33         42         55         57         71

Monday            09         34         37         50         53         55

Tuesday            30         39         43         44         57         58

Wednesday       15         37         43         55         64         66

Thursday           26         46         48         52         61         65



My totals are mostly only creeping up now, and that's because I'm not traveling and I'm not getting out birding much.


I added two species to my year list this past week, to bring me to 102 for the year so far.  I think it is interesting that I have seen 102 species this year, but the highest number I have seen on any particular day of the week is 71, on Sundays.


So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.



Thursday, February 25, 2016


Here's a report of the last couple of weeks.  I didn't do any birding from Wednesday, February 17, through Tuesday, February 23, due to my self-imposed hiatus from birding for a full week, due to my three-day hospital stay last week.  Thus, as far as my 2016 birding is concerned, Wednesday, February 24 immediately follows Tuesday, February 16.


Picking up where I left off my reports, on Friday, February 12, I went over to Sikes Lake to try to add White-crowned Sparrow to my Friday list.  Ironically, I saw the Greater White-fronted Geese again, but I had already counted that one for Friday, earlier in the year.  As I approached the sparrow site, I saw a medium-sized raptor right next to the road.  It perched on a fence post, and I got this picture of a juvenile (first year) Cooper's Hawk, an excellent one for my Friday list.


Here's another one.  I love to get pictures of raptors.


The fact that the streaks on its breast are vertical indicates it is a first year bird.  Later this year, it will develop horizontal streaks to replace them.


I did pick up White-crowned Sparrow, near where I had seen them before.  Then I saw some small birds across the road, and I chased them down.  I got these pictures of a lovely little Golden-crowned Kinglet.




Is it a cutie, or what?  Those are the best pictures I've ever gotten of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, by far.  It's golden crown was luminous, and the little darling was very responsive to its song, which I was playing on my phone.  I picked up Common Raven that day, too, to bring my Friday total to 57.


On Saturday, February 13, I again went to Sikes Lake, which is located just northwest of the little town of Carnation.  On the way there, I added Hooded Merganser and Red-tailed Hawk to my Saturday list, and I found the little flock of about 20 Greater White-fronted Geese in their usual field.  I also added Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and House Sparrow at my sparrow site there.  On my way home, I got a look at a Northern Shrike and then later same Cackling Geese.  So, it was a good day and I added 8 species to my Saturday list, to bring it to 60.


On Sunday it was drizzling, but I went over to Sikes Lake still again.  This time the Greater White-fronted Geese weren't in their usual field, but I was able to call up a couple of Bewick's Wrens at my sparrow site.  Then on my way home, the geese had returned to their field, so I got that one for Sunday, too.  My Sunday list was at 73 after that.


On Monday, February 14, I went again to Sikes Lake, again in pursuit of the geese.  As I have mentioned before, Greater White-fronted Goose is fairly uncommon in this area, so when I discovered they were pretty reliable at Sikes Lake, I kept going back, so I could add them to all seven of my Day Of The Week lists, eventually.  I missed them on Monday, though, and I had to drive up to the Duvall area, where I got Eurasian Collared-Dove, in their usual place by a dairy.  I got Northern Shoveler up there, too, to bring me to 57 species for Monday.


On Tuesday, February 16, I went up to the Edmonds waterfront.  Edmonds is reliable for 10 or 12 salt water species that I don't usually see elsewhere, so eventually I'll have to visit there on each of the days of the week.  I got this picture of a Pigeon Guillemot in breeding (summer) plumage.


Here is a female Red-breasted Merganser.


Here is a distant picture of a male Black Scoter.  It isn't much good, but I don't know if I have had a picture of a male Black Scoter before, and it does serve to identify this uncommon bird.


I ended up seeing 11 species that day to add to my Monday list, including Surfbird, Black Scoter, and Brant.  That brought me to 69 species for Tuesday.


I went into the hospital the next day, and my one week birding hiatus started.


On Wednesday, February 24, I was feeling great and I headed up to the Skagit and Samish Flats, north of home by about an hour.  I had an excellent day of birding and I got a lot of pictures to share.


At my first stop, Eide Road in Stanwood, I soon added MARSH WREN, my first of the year.  Here is a picture of that little cutie.


Here is another picture, showing the bird in an interesting pose.


I was specifically looking for Short-eared Owl, and I did get a distant view of one eventually.  There were also 2 or 3 Northern Harriers flying around, and here is a picture of a female Northern Harrier that I like.


They swoop around close to the ground, looking for little critters to pounce on, and this bird seems to see one here.  Here is a picture of her hunting.


Northern Harriers look a lot like Short-eared Owls when they are hunting, and the white rump is an immediate indication that the bird is a harrier, rather than an owl.


There were also a couple of GREATER YELLOWLEGS there, my first of the year.


I moved on north after that and added Western Meadowlark at the Big Ditch Access point.  Along the road I got Tundra Swan, one of my main targets for the day.  On Fir Island, I played the song of Lincoln's Sparrow where I had seen one a couple of weeks ago, and it again came out and showed itself for me.  Along the way, I added Green-winged Teal, Brewer's Blackbird, and Common Raven.


I stopped at Bay View State Park and ate half of my Subway tuna sandwich that I had picked up in Stanwood.  No birds for me there, though.  Up on the Samish Flats, I saw a number of raptors, as usual.  Here is a Rough-legged Hawk, one of 3 or 4 I saw that day.


Here is an immature Bald Eagle that hasn't yet gotten its white head and tail.


Check out the massive bill on that guy.


I had the second half of my sandwich at the West 90, and drove around the flats looking for the Gyrfalcon that has been seen there recently.  Gyrfalcons are rare in this area, so it would have been a great one to see, but I didn't see it.  I got these two pictures of a light colored Red-tailed Hawk, though.



You can just see a hint of its red tail in that second picture.


Here is another Rough-legged Hawk, or maybe the same one again.


I got a picture of it just as it took off, and its too bad that the bird was at the edge of the frame by the time I got it.


As I have often mentioned, I love getting pictures of raptors, especially in flight.


I saw a male Eurasian Wigeon at some point, an uncommon vagrant to our area in the winter.  It turned out I already had that one for Wednesday, but I got this distant picture of it.


Eurasian Wigeons hang out with American Wigeons, and the males look pretty different.  Here is a male American Wigeon.


You can see the differences.  That red head makes the Eurasian one pretty easy to spot.


It was time to head for home, but I went through the little town of Edison, to look for a small falcon that has been reported there in the last couple of weeks.  As I drove into town, there it was, at the top of a tree.  Here is a picture of a MERLIN, my first of the year.


Merlins are quite small, only about the size of a robin.  For years it was my nemesis bird - I just could never see one.  I didn't get my lifer Merlin until 2011, after I had been birding for more than a dozen years.  I still don't see them often, and I'm always excited to see one, let alone get a picture.  They are very fast flyers, and mostly live on small birds they catch in the air.


So, I ended up adding 13 species to my Wednesday list, and three of those were year-birds as well.  That brought me to 79 species on Wednesdays and to 105 species for the year.


Today, Thursday, February 25, I went to Log Boom Park at the north end of Lake Washington, to get at least one duck for my Thursday list.  Canvasback is an uncommon duck around here, but I've seen them at Log Boom Park every time I've been there this winter, and I did so again today.  I also added both scaup, Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup.  That brought me to 68 species for Thursdays this year.


So at the end of another week, here is my DOTW birding scorecard:


                        After     After     After     After     After     After     After

                        1 wk     2 wks    3 wks    4 wks    5 wks    6 wks    8 wks

Friday               27         40         43         51         52         53         57

Saturday           28         45         46         47         49         52         60

Sunday             10         33         42         55         57         71         73

Monday            09         34         37         50         53         55         57

Tuesday            30         39         43         44         57         58         69

Wednesday       15         37         43         55         64         66         79

Thursday           26         46         48         52         61         65         68


I've got to work on Friday and Monday, to catch them up.  I haven't been to Edmonds on either one of those days, so I'm planning on going up there tomorrow.  I have a doctors appointment on Monday morning, so I don't know what I'll do that day.


I'm looking forward to getting out on the road to do some birding outside of our immediate area.  I'm feeling good now that the infection I've had is finally gone, and I want to travel down the Oregon Coast to northern California, when I can.  I still might have to have some surgery eventually, but I should be fine for a number of weeks, and maybe from here on out, even without any surgery.  There have been some encouraging signs in the last few days that maybe I won't need surgery.  I see the surgeon on Monday, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say.


I'm enjoying this Day Of The Week birding thing.  So far, each day I have managed to add at least one species to that day's list, every day this year (the streak).  Each evening, I look at my lists and the weather and decide what to go for the next day.  It's been fun.