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Friday, July 1, 2016
The second half of the year starts today, and I'm back at home, looking for birds locally to keep my streak going. There had been some posts on Tweeters, the Western Washington birding mailing list, about a family of Merlins (Merlin is a small falcon) over in north Seattle. I sent an email asking for details about the location, and set off this morning with instructions in hand.
When I got to the site, there were no birds in sight and no calling of young Merlins to be fed. I found the nest, but the young birds have left the nest and are reported to be hanging around close by most of the time. I walked round and eventually saw one of the recently fledged Merlins high in a tree across the street from the nest tree. Here is a picture of that bird, a great one for my Friday list.
That kept my streak alive, and since there wasn't anything else going on there, I went over to Magnuson Park, which is fairly close to the Merlin site. I was mainly trying for the Caspian Tern that had been reported there yesterday, but it wasn’t around today. I went to the part of the park where I had seen a pair of Downy Woodpeckers earlier in the year, and I played their call. I got no response at first, but I got this picture of a Song Sparrow that was singing a different song than I've heard before (okay, I'm terrible at remembering bird songs, but this seemed to be something I hadn't heard before).
I was on my way back toward the car when I saw a bird fly in, and it was a male Downy Woodpecker. Here is the only picture I got of him before he left.
So, that was a second Friday bird, and I was satisfied. I did try playing the song of Warbling Vireo, but got no response. While I was doing that, I saw a couple of Northern Flickers on the ground ahead of me. It turned out to be an adult male Northern Flicker and a fledgling that also appeared to be a male. Here are the two of them, with the adult on the right.
The two of them looked pretty similar, except that the young one was darker and didn’t have the golden color on its forehead. The reason I know that the one on the left is a fledgling is that I saw the adult male feeding him. The adult was foraging in the grass in the cracks in the pavement, presumably for bugs. Now and then he would feed some to the young bird. Here is a picture of him doing that.
The young one mostly just stood around watching, but now and then would sort of have-heartedly peck at the grass, too. It didn’t appear to be begging or calling. I've read that first the adult birds bring food to the young, and later they show the young ones how to find food, and that's what seemed to be going on here.
So, that was fun, and after checking once more for the Caspian Tern, I went back to the Merlin nest site. This time there was some begging calling going on, and I located three young birds in a tree a short block away. Again they were high in the tree, with a bright sky behind them, but here are a pictures of two of the young Merlins.
So, that was enough birding fun for today, and I drove home. It's about a 22 minute drive to the Merlin site from home, and I guess I'll have to do it each day of the week, to maximize my chances of keeping my streak alive. There are fewer and fewer "easy" birds to get each week. I looked at each day of the week today, and it appears that Wednesday is going to be my biggest problem day, followed by Monday. I hope to keep the streak of seeing a new day-bird each day, until we go to California for a wedding at the end of July. I think I can cover the five day/four night trip with Brown Pelican, which I haven't seen on any of those five days. Our hotel is just a block from the ocean, and there are supposedly Brown Pelicans there all the time in the summer. So, if I can make it to July 28, I should be able to make it into August. I only have three "easy" birds left for Wednesday(not including Merlin, since Wednesday is the one day of the week I had seen Merlin previously this year), so I'll have to find a more difficult one on one of the Wednesdays in July to make it to July 28. Monday has four "easy" birds still, and all the other days have at least 5. Still, I'll have to be careful, and I'll have to get out there looking for a bird each and every day, which is the main point of doing this silly DOTW birding thing, anyway.
My two Friday birds today brings me to 141 species for Friday. I'm still at 226 species for the year.
Monday, July 4, 2016
On Saturday, July 2, I went back over to the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle to look for the Merlins again. At first I didn't see or hear them, but I did see a bird at the top of a tree. It turned out to be a Band-tailed Pigeon, a bird I needed for Saturday. Here is a picture of the Band-tailed Pigeon.
Band-tailed Pigeon is actually a good bird, one I don’t see often, but it is also one of my "easy" ones, as there is a house in Lake Forest Park with feeders, and they hang around there. I was saving that species for later, but I got it on Saturday. I have some other easy ones for Saturday, but getting Band-tailed Pigeon now might end up shortening my streak, if it ends on a Saturday.
Meanwhile, the young Merlins showed up and I got a couple more pictures.
So, that was it for Saturday - I headed for home. The pigeon and the Merlins brought me to 138 species for Saturday, my lowest day at this point.
On Sunday, July 3, I once again went for the Merlins. Why spoil a good thing? It seemed easy to see them, and they will soon disperse and Merlin will again be hard to find. I heard a lot of calling when I got there, and the birds were flying between trees in the neighborhood. At one point I saw all four young ones flying at one time. My pictures from Sunday are poor, but here is a picture of two of the young Merlins on the same branch.
They seemed to be interacting. Here is another picture of them.
Adding Merlin to my Sunday list brought it to 145 species.
Today, the Fourth of July, I went over there again. It seems like a funny kind of birding, going each day to the same place, to see the same species again, but that is part of DOTW birding. I've done it with a couple of other birds this year, including the ones in Yosemite. I'm still trying to baby my right heel, so I'm trying to minimize my walking. I've gotten really good at using cruise control in city driving, which is much easier on my heel. This morning as I drove up I saw a bird fly from a nearby tree to the nest tree, and it had something in its talons. I parked and was able to see that it was eating something, near the nest. I looked around and saw another young Merlin on a tree a block north, and it was also eating something. I figure the parents must have been there recently and brought some food for them. Merlins mostly catch small birds, taking them righ tout of the air. The parents go off and hunt, bringing home prey for the young ones. I don't know how long it takes the youngsters to learn to hunt for themselves. One day I saw a young one chasing a crow, maybe just practicing. Crows are bigger than Merlins, so I doubt the Merlin could have handled the crow if it caught it, but it chased it around a bit. I don't know where the other two young ones were this morning, and I didn't see the adults. I haven't seen an adult Merlin yet, in my four trips over there. The difference in the adults is that the streaks on the breast run horizontally, rather than vertically. My Merlins today brings Monday to 150 species.
I plan to go over there again tomorrow, but I already have Merlin for Wednesday, and I have something else planned for then. Watch for a report of my next adventure, after hopefully getting Merlin again tomorrow morning, GWATCDR.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
This morning I was up and out by about 9:15, heading over to Wedgwood, to try for Merlin again. On my way there I heard from Barb, the woman who had told me about the Merlins there, and has been posting updates on Tweeters. She met me over at what she calls Merlin Central. I got there first and saw a couple of young Merlins, so my Tuesday bird was taken care of. That made five days in a row I had gotten Merlin over there. Barb and I chatted and watched the birds move around a little. Here is a picture of two of them on a branch. The one on the right seemed to be following the other one around, and I think it is the same one I have seen before, interacting with another of the young ones.
First the one on the left flew to a tree across the street, and soon after, the one on the right followed. As the follower approached, the other one flew off, and I got this picture of that action.
After a while I had to leave, as I had a number of things I had to do today. Originally I had an MRI scheduled for this afternoon, but I had come up with a plan to help my Wednesday numbers, and it meant getting out of town ahead of the rush hour. I changed my MRI appointment to next Thursday so I could come down to Tumwater, a town just south of Olympia, this afternoon.
After I left Merlin Central, I stopped at the library to turn in a book that was due today, then went home and finished packing up and loading the car. I stopped and got gas, then went on to meet my friend, Chris, for lunch, down in Factoria. After lunch we went over to Phantom Lake, as usual, and we both heard Purple finches singing, high in the fir trees. I was ready to count Purple Finch, which I needed for Tuesday, based on hearing it, but then we saw one down lower in a tree, and I got a good binocular look at it, and it was indeed a Purple Finch.
After I dropped Chris back at work, I headed south on I-405. Traffic was pretty good at 1:00 to 2:00 PM, except for a slowdown through Tacoma, due to an accident on the other side of the freeway. I got to Tumwater about 2:15 and checked into my motel. I’m continuing to upgrade my motels, and this is a Best Western, and it’s very nice, by my standards. It has been remodeled recently, it smells clean and fresh, I have a little fridge and microwave (which I really won’t use on this particular trip), there is a free hot breakfast, and to top it off, they have an “evening reception” on Monday through Wednesday nights. The evening reception provides a quite nice salad bar, two free drinks (wine or beer, but good brands), and tonight they had baked chicken thighs, which were quite tasty. Check out time is noon, too, which means I can leave my stuff here and bird in the morning, then come back and check out, if I want to.
Anyway, this afternoon I put some of my stuff in the room and boogied over to the Capitol State Forest, which is about 20 minutes west of here. I wanted to scope out the place I want to bird tomorrow morning. I had seen a report about several good species that a guy had seen last week there, and I had emailed him and gotten explicit instructions about exactly where he had seen the good birds. He had been there at 8 or 9 in the morning, and he said the bird activity dropped off sharply after 10:20 AM, which is why I decided to stay here in Tumwater tonight, so I could be out there before 9:30 or so – maybe even 9, we shall see.
The location is on a gravel road, but less than a mile beyond the end of the pavement. The road is well graded and maintained, although dusty. I was amazed at the amount of traffic out there this afternoon. There must have been at least a couple of dozen cars and trucks that came by while I was there, which was about an hour and 15 minutes. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but it seemed to me like someone was coming along, raising a dust cloud, all the time. I would have guessed I would have had 3 or 4 cars in that time period on a Tuesday afternoon.
On my way there, I saw this raptor sitting on the far side of a field. I guess it was a Red-tailed Hawk, although it is an unusual plumage. Red-tailed Hawks have a very wide variation in plumage.
When I arrived at the location, I almost immediately saw a bird fly in, and it turned out to be a Downy Woodpecker, one I needed for Tuesday. Here is a poor distant picture of him.
Here is a picture of what the road and the Capitol State Forest looks like where I was birding.
You can see how the dust has coated the trees along the road. I don’t usually do well at all in forests, as the birds are high in the trees or deep in the undergrowth, and recognizing the calls is very important; but I had chosen to try it here, for whatever reasons. I played the songs of some of the birds the guy who told me about it had heard and seen there. I was hoping for Hermit Warbler and/or Evening Grosbeak, either of which would have been a year-bird, but got no responses to those songs. I was also hoping for another species, and I did hear a lot of responses from SWAINSON’S THRUSHES, another year-bird. I got good binocular looks a couple of times, but the birds never stayed in one place long enough for a picture. Maybe tomorrow morning. I learned to recognize the song of Swainson’s Thrush, though, and that should stand me in good stead for the other days of the week, because they supposedly aren’t that hard to hear, in a lot of places.
I did see a bird near the road, though, and it was a good Tuesday bird, Wilson’s Warbler. I even got one picture of the little cutie, showing his black cap. Here is a male Wilson’s Warbler.
I also heard the distinctive call of a Pileated Woodpecker a couple of times, so that one went on my Tuesday list as a “heard only” bird.
I drove some more on the dusty gravel roads, and I saw a few birds – Northern Flicker, Common Raven, and Cedar Waxwing – but none were new for Tuesday this year. They might help my Thurston county list, but I haven’t checked that yet. Remember my Washington county lists from the last several years? 39 in 39? I still keep adding to those 39 Washington county lists when I can.
Eventually I gave it up and came back to the motel and moved the rest of my stuff in. I did computer and picture stuff, watched the Mariners game (they lost), and had my two free drinks and some salad and chicken thighs, then finished off my dinner with some leftover steak I had brought along, with some leftover potato salad from yesterday.
I ended up getting 6 species for my Tuesday list, to bring me to 155. The Swainson’s Thrush, which has a very pretty song, brings me to 227 species for the year. Tomorrow I plan to go back to that same place in the Capitol State Forest and see what I can see and hear.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
This morning I was up just before 7, enjoyed the very nice free breakfast, took care of my morning things, and got out of my motel room by about 8:30.
I had an amusing experience on the way to the forest birding site. My plan for today was to get my Wednesday bird somewhere in the forest, but just in case I didn't get one, I had a contingency plan. Wednesday was the only day I didn't have Osprey yet, and yesterday I had checked out an Osprey nest on a cell tower along the freeway. My plan was to get off the freeway on my way home today and get the Osprey that was bound to be near that nest, but only if I didn't have a Wednesday bird yet. Wednesday is my toughest day (and also the one with the most species, which is related to it being the toughest), so I would have preferred to "save" Osprey, which I can get any day, for later in the month.
Well, on my way to the Capitol Forest birding site, I went by Black Lake, and there was an Osprey sitting right out on a snag, next to the road. Shoot! I wanted to save Osprey. So, I turned around and went back and got pictures. When handed lemons, make lemonade. Here is a picture of the Osprey by the road.
While I was taking pictures a second Osprey flew in. The first one left, and the second one took its place. Here's the second Osprey.
At least I got some pictures out of my Osprey incident. I've now completed Osprey - seen one on each of the seven days of the week this year.
I arrived at the forest birding site at about 9:00. I turned around just beyond it and stopped there and got out, because yesterday I had seen Downy Woodpecker there. No Downy Woodpecker today, but I did see several Wilson's Warblers flying around, not stopping to have their picture taken. I also saw a male Rufous Hummingbird briefly, and got a good look at an Orange-crowned Warbler. Only the Wilson's warblers were good for my Wednesday list, but I added the others to my Thurston county list. I also heard my first of many Swainson's Thrushes there, so that one went onto my Wednesday list. I never saw a Swainson's Warbler today, but I heard a lot of them. Now that I know the song, I'll be able to get them at local parks for the other days of the week. It's a very pretty, very distinctive song.
I parked and walked down the road to the exact site where the other birder had seen and heard Hermit Warbler, but it was dead quiet this morning. I couldn't even get a response from a Swainson's Thrush there, and there had been two or three very vocal ones there yesterday afternoon. I did hear a distant Pileated Woodpecker, but I didn't need it for Wednesday.
After a while I gave that up and drove farther into the forest. It was pretty much my usual forest birding experience. I heard some birds, but couldn't identify most of them, of course. I saw almost nothing in the forest itself, but I did better along the edges of a couple of clearings. Here is a picture of one of the large clearings in the Capitol Forest.
At that stop I saw a White-crowned Sparrow nearby. It was new for Thurston county, but I completed White-crowned Sparrow for my DOTW birding long ago. I got this picture of it, carrying some kind of bug in its bill.
A little alter I saw it again, and this time it seemed to have several bugs in its bill. I think it must have had a nest nearby with young, and it was reluctant to fly to the nest while I was there. Birds don’t like to give away their nest location when there are any potential predators in the area. I got this series of three pictures that I like a lot, showing the White-crowned Sparrow with the food it was carrying. I like the colors and the background blurriness, which photographers call bokeh.
There were several Cedar Waxwings flying around there, mostly chasing flying insects. I also saw both a male and a female Western Tanager, but they were much too far away for pictures. At least I was seeing some birds, unlike in the forest itself. I had Northern Flicker and Spotted Towhee there, too. I didn't need any of those for Wednesday, unfortunately.
A little later I was driving along and flushed a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons. That's an excellent bird, although I did have it already for Wednesday, thanks to a house in Lake Forest Park that has feeders that they hang out around. I got the best pictures I have ever gotten of Band-tailed Pigeon, though. Here are two of them.
Here is a Band-tailed Pigeon at the top of a tree, showing the white slash on the back of its neck, its bi-colored bill, and also the dark patch just below the white slash on the back of the neck. I like the colors of the bird, too.
So, that was pretty much it for my birding this morning. There was less traffic this morning than yesterday afternoon. This morning I only saw 8 vehicles in the two hours I was in the forest. I saw or heard only 12 species while in the Capitol Forest, which is actually pretty good for forest birding for me. If I knew all the bird calls and songs, I would have had at least a half dozen more, I'm sure. I got back to my motel about 11:35 and packed up and checked out. The drive home was very smooth, with only a couple of short slowdowns.
Overall, I'd call the mini-trip a success. I saw some new places, the motel was very nice, and I enjoyed myself. I got some good birds, although I missed a lot of them that the other birder who told me about the place had seen or heard. So, I would say the birding was maybe C+ and the trip itself was B+. I'm glad I did it. I like to get out and about. I added 3 species to my Wednesday list, to bring it to 162, the best of all seven days.
Friday, July 8, 2016
I overlooked reporting last time that I added 8 species to my Thurston county list on my overnight trip to the Capitol State Forest, earlier this week. That brought my Thurston list to 55 species.
On Thursday, July 7, I went over to Wedgwood again, to tally the Merlins for Thursday. I had to hang around awhile, but eventually I saw a couple of them and heard them calling. That completed Merlin; I've seen them on all seven days of the week now. I'll have to go back to real birding now, not simply driving for 45 minutes round trip to see a particular species at a particular place. I ended up going to the site of the Merlin nest six times, and each time I saw one to four Merlins. That brought me to 152 species for Thursday.
Thursday marked the end of my DOTW birding week, so here's my scorecard as of close of business Thursday, July 8:
After Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu
4 wks 51 47 55 53 44 55 52
8 wks 57 60 73 67 69 79 68
12 wks 90 87 82 81 96 100 95
16 wks 100 105 106 114 111 111 107
20 wks 122 114 120 125 133 140 136
21 wks 124 116 121 126 135 141 138
22 wks 127 129 132 138 144 153 149
23 wks 139 136 144 149 149 159 151
24 wks 141 138 145 150 155 162 152
Remember that I took three weeks off for medical reasons, which is why there have only been 24 official weeks so far in my DOTW birding scheme. I continue to add at least one species to each day's list, every day. My streak is alive. My year list at the end of Thursday was 227 species. I have seen 85 species on all seven days of the week.
Today, Friday, July 8, I returned to actual birding and went over to Marymoor Park. It was drizzling a little and was overcast when I got there, but the drizzle soon stopped and eventually there were patches of blue sky. I parked at the west parking lot of the dog park and walked along the slough. I had a list of 14 species that had been seen at Marymoor yesterday on the weekly bird walk, and I needed all 14 of those for Friday.
My first score was Bushtit. I ended up seeing maybe half a dozen of them, but they usually go around in flocks when it isn't breeding season, and I suspect that some of the ones I saw today were recent fledglings. They almost never stay still long enough for pictures, and today they were a long distance away.
Soon after that I saw a flycatcher, and based on what species of flycatcher lives at Marymoor in the summer and the habitat it was in, I'm calling it my first WILLOW FLYCATCHER of the year. I would have liked to play the song to see if I got a response, and maybe lured it in for a picture, but I had forgotten to bring my phone along. This was old fashioned birding, a throwback to the days before cell phones and birding apps.
I saw a Green Heron fly up the slough, and got a good binocular look at it. Later I saw a juvenile Green Heron as well, but it was through some grasses and a long distance away, so no picture. That was an excellent one for my Friday list and was my first Green Heron ever in King county, at least since I started keeping county lists about 4 years ago.
Moving on up the river, there were swallows overhead and I found a mostly dry bench to sit on while I scanned them with binoculars, looking for swifts. After a while I did indeed see a Black Swift. I got several good looks at Black Swifts as they swooped around over the meadow in the dog park. Black Swift is an uncommon bird, but they show up regularly at Marymoor, especially when it's overcast.
I walked some more, and back at the weir across the slough I saw a Spotted Sandpiper. I didn't need it for Friday, but it's a good bird. Here is a distant picture of a Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage. In the winter they lose the spots on the breast.
The image of the bird in that picture is quite small, because of the distance and the amount of cropping. Here is a more closely cropped version of that same photo.
Closer cropping, which is the same thing as "digital zoom", produces an image that is fuzzier, but larger. In this case, the more closely cropped picture is probably preferable when displayed in this size. I have to make decisions about how much to crop each picture as I process it, and I wanted to show both crops here for my future reference. Both renditions would have been sharper if I had been using a tripod or even a monopod. Hand-holding the camera at extreme 50X zoom makes for fuzzy pictures. It's the price I pay for the small size and weight of the camera and the convenience of not lugging a tripod around and getting set up each time I want to take a picture. I'd miss most pictures if I took the time to mess with a tripod or monopod. A serious photographer would certainly use a tripod for 50X zoom (equivalent to about 1200 mm, in 35 mm terms).
There was also a Great Blue Heron at the weir today.
There are nests in the trees right behind where I was standing, and they are full of squawking young herons at this point. There are lots of adults fishing in the slough, finding food for the young ones, which can't fly yet, but are about as big as their parents. There are two or three young ones in most nests, so the parents have to do a lot of fishing.
There were more swallows flying around over the slough ahead of me, and I spotted at least one swift among them. I got excellent binocular views of Vaux's Swift, several times, so that excellent bird went onto my Friday list. Seeing both local swift species in the same day was great. I don't see either one very often.
There were American Goldfinches around, and here is a distant picture of a male American Goldfinch.
As always, I had to decide how much to crop it. Here is a closer crop for comparison.
I generally prefer the sharper images, even at the cost of a smaller image of the bird, but maybe for these reports the closer crops would be better.
As I walked back to my car, I saw a male Common Yellowthroat, another Friday bird for my list. I ended up seeing six of the fourteen species that had been reported yesterday on the bird walk. There were probably 8 or 10 people on the bird walk, and most of them know all the bird calls. They also spent about four hours and went to parts of Marymoor that I didn't visit today. Taking those things into consideration, I was pleased with my 6 species. I was also quite pleased with how my heel held up to over an hour of walking. It has been a little better lately, which is encouraging. I had been scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday this week, but I re-scheduled it to go down to the Capitol Forest, and now it is scheduled for next Thursday. I'm eager to know what the problem is exactly, but I couldn't get in to see the heel doctor until July 20 anyway, so delaying the MRI for a week won't matter.
My six species today brings me to 147 species for Friday. Willow Flycatcher brings me to 228 species for the year to date.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
This morning I headed over to Marymoor Park again. It hadn't been raining at home, but when I got to Marymoor, there was a fairly heavy shower going on. I could see that there was clearing to the west, though, so I didn't think it would last long. I took the time to drive through the park to the place I've gone a few times to see Purple Martin nest boxes at the north end of Lake Sammamish. I didn't need Purple Martin for Saturday, but I still need it for Thursday and Friday, and I wondered if they were still there or if they had finished nesting for this summer. I didn't see any Purple Martins around the nest boxes, so maybe they are finished. It was still raining a bit, so maybe that had them laying low, but I suspect their young have fledged and they have dispersed.
When I got back to the park the rain had stopped, and I parked at the northwest corner of the off-leash dog park. Being Saturday, it was very busy at the dog park. I'll bet I saw well over 100 dogs and twice that many people while I was there today, and I was only along the western edge of the park. The Sammamish Slough runs along the western edge, and there are 4 or 5 places that people can access the water and let their dogs swim, so it's a popular part of the park. It's also a very large dog park, about 40 acres.
I walked along the slough, but there weren't many birds and nothing interesting. I went beyond the boundary of the dog park and played the song of Swainson's Thrush, since I have seen a lot of reports of them in the park, and I figured they would be more likely to be staying out of the dog park, since they are ground dwellers and stay pretty low in the vegetation. I eventually did hear a Swainson's Thrush singing, and I played his song on my phone. He approached and I actually got a good binocular look at him, but it was through some branches and he soon flew away. He kept singing from out of sight, which seems to be typical of Swainson's Thrush. Now I know where to go in Marymoor to hear Swainson's Thrush, anyway, although it's a fairly long walk to get there from the parking lot. I still need Swainson's Thrush on four days, so I expect I'll take that walk again a few times.
On my way back toward the car, I found a bench that had mostly dried and I sat for a while. It was across from one of the breaks in the trees along the river, at one of the water access points. I watched the dogs and their owners and also looked up at the swallows, hoping to see a swift. No swifts today, but eventually I noticed a bird across the river, blending into the vegetation. Here is a picture of a juvenile Green Heron, watching for a fish to swim into its range. It never moved while I watched it.
The streaks on the breast mark it as a first year bird, recently fledged.
On my way to the car I passed the Great Blue Heron rookery. There are probably 15 or 20 nests in a grove of trees, and the park has fenced off the area under the trees so the dogs don't get in there. I think the main idea is to protect the dogs from the heron poop that must be all over the ground there. Here is a picture of a couple of almost full grown young Great Blue Herons, sitting by their nest, waiting for their parents to bring them food. They look like they must be close to fledging.
Here's a closer view of the birds, showing that the tops of their heads are blue, not white like adults.
Here is an adult Great Blue Heron for comparison.
Here is another picture that shows the white streak down the middle of the top if its head even better.
I saw a female Belted Kingfisher across the river, so I took some pictures, although it was a long distance away. After taking several pictures, I realized it had a fish in its bill. The brown streak across the lower breast indicates a female. A male Belted Kingfisher wouldn’t have any brown on him.
The bird kept raising the fish up and hitting it against the branch. I don't know if it was trying to kill it or was just softening it up to swallow. It seems like a good-sized fish for the size of the bird.
I never saw if she managed to swallow the bird because I moved down the slough to try to get closer, but the trees blocked my view. Here is one more picture of the female Belted Kingfisher with her fish.
When I had walked past the weir on my outbound trip, there were a couple of fishermen fishing there, which meant there were no birds there. On my way back the fishers had left and I got this picture of a Spotted Sandpiper, probably the same one I saw yesterday there.
Here is another picture, more closely cropped.
To give you an idea how far away that bird was, here is a picture of the weir from where I was standing on the path along the river. The sandpiper was almost on the far side of the slough.
It isn't a very large bird, either, smaller than a robin. With the naked eye, I could just barely see that there was a bird there. I love my camera most of the time, except when it won't focus for me and focuses on the background instead. Other than that problem, it has really served me well. I have now taken over 11,000 pictures with it.
As I got back closer to the car, I saw a little bird land on the fence in front of me. I was able to get one pictures, after looking with my binoculars. I'm glad I got it because I wasn't sure what it was. With the picture, I decided it was a recently fledged Common Yellowthroat.
The yellow color under the tail, the eye ring, the raised tail, and the bill shape all say female or juvenile Common Yellowthroat, and the way the bill looks in front of the eye says recent fledgling to me. I had seen an adult male Common Yellowthroat in that same place yesterday.
I didn't get any more Saturday birds, but I took this distant picture of a recently fledged American Robin.
The spotted breast is an indication that the bird was hatched this year. It's an interesting time of the year, with recently fledged birds all over the place. They often look a bit different than their parents.
I spent over two hours at Marymoor this morning. That's starting to seem like real birding, almost. My heel held up, although it is more painful this afternoon that it was yesterday evening. I got three new birds for my Saturday list, to bring it to 141, the lowest of the week at this point. I'm thinking about a short trip next weekend to try to remedy that.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
On Sunday, July 10, I went down to Juanita Bay Park to try for several species I needed for Sunday. I walked out onto the western boardwalk but didn't see anything I needed. I did get pictures of both male and female Red-winged Blackbirds that I like, though. Here is a female Red-winged Blackbird sitting on a cattail.
Here is a male Red-winged Blackbird calling.
Here is a picture of a Great Blue Heron in the lily pads.
I walked out onto the eastern boardwalk and still couldn’t come up with a Sunday bird, not even Marsh Wren, which used to be so responsive there. I've noticed that a number of species are not as responsive to playback as they were a couple of months ago. I think it's because the breeding season is over for them now, so they aren't as interested in other birds of their species in their territory. Whatever the reason, I'm finding it harder to get responses from birds with playback of their songs and calls.
Here is a male Wood Duck in his eclipse (non-breeding) plumage.
A couple of months ago that bird would have been much more colorful.
I still hadn't seen a Sunday bird, so I went across the road to the east part of the park and played some bird songs and walked up and down what's referred to as the fire station road. Still no responses and no Sunday birds. Back at the main parking area for the park, I tried playing Golden-crowned Kinglet songs, where they had been quite responsive a couple of months ago. Nothing. I did see a Bewick's Wren that sang back to me, and I got this picture.
I was ready to give it up and go elsewhere, but tried one more place, at the north end of the parking lot. This time there were some small birds flitting around in the trees, and eventually I was able to identify a Golden-crowned Kinglet, which gave me my Sunday bird. That brought me to 146 species for Sunday. It's getting harder and harder to find a new bird each day.
On Monday, July 11, I went over to Marymoor to see what I could find. Almost right away I saw a Spotted Sandpiper, which I needed for Monday still. It was closer than the one I had seen a few days earlier, and I got better pictures. Here's a Spotted Sandpiper in summer plumage.
There were a couple of male American Goldfinches that were drinking water, and I got this picture.
I walked along the slough along the west edge of the dog park and saw a female Belted Kingfisher and got some pictures from across the slough.
There was another kingfisher around, too - the first time I had seen two of them there this year.
A little later there were some swallows flying around, so I sat on a handy bench and watched them, looking for swifts. I did see Black Swift several times, another great one for my Monday list. I also picked out Vaux's Swift several times as the birds swooped around. I never used to recognize swifts, I guess, but now I can pick them out pretty well.
Here is a picture of a recently fledged Great Blue Heron, looking for its own food. I rarely see Great Blue Herons this deep in the water, so maybe it is developing its own methods.
I keep mentioning the dog park and the slough. Here is a picture of one of the five or six access points to the slough for the dogs. This is the largest one.
The park is really a wonderful place for dogs to run free, and the owners are really very thoughtful and keep the dogs well under control. As I mentioned the other day, the off-leash dog park is about 40 acres, which is a lot of area for them to run around in. it gets a lot of use.
Later I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, as usual. There was a male Wood Duck in the lily pads, and I got this picture that shows the beautiful blue patch on his wing.
The Spotted Sandpiper and the two swift species brought me to 153 species for Monday.
On Tuesday, July 12, I went on a twitch. I had read about a rare sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, on a retention pond in an industrial park in North Bothell, so I went looking for it. It had been there the day and evening before, and it was likely migrating through the area, but there was a chance it would stay overnight. There was also a Green Heron reported there, and I could use that as well for Tuesday. I found the pond and parked in a company's parking lot, right in front of a sign that said No Trail Parking. I ignored the sign and walked up onto the trail and looked at the pond. I never saw the rare sandpiper (it must have moved on), but I did see the Green Heron, so that was my addition to my Tuesday list, to keep my streak alive. That brought me to 156 species for Tuesday. I'm still trying to stay off my sore heel as much as possible, so when I see a new bird for that day's list, I usually don't do much more birding that day.
Wednesday is my toughest day, in terms of having easy birds left to get. It's also my highest-total day, which is part of why there are so few easy ones left. So, today, Wednesday, July 13, Christina and I drove up to Bellingham to have lunch (breakfast, actually, as it turned out) with our son, Josh, who works as a nurse up there. Purely by coincidence, there is a species of crow, Northwestern Crow, that lives in that corner of Washington and nowhere else in the US. We got there a little early and went to the Fairhaven area, and stopped at Padden Lagoon. There were crows around, and I called them Northwestern Crows. Here is a picture of a couple of them - one seems to be a juvenile, since it appears to be begging food from the other one.
Northwestern Crows look just like American Crows, and its rather controversial about which species crows belong to in which areas of northwest Washington. Some birders say they can recognize Northwestern Crows by their calls, but individual crow's calls vary a lot anyway, so that seems unreliable to me. Everyone seems to agree that the crows across the border in British Columbia, Canada, are Northwestern Crows, and the ones south of Seattle are American Crows. The problem is with the ones in between. Not only do both species live in that in-between area, they interbreed and hybrids live there, too. My own approach to the problem is to count the crows in Whatcom county as Northwestern Crows, the ones in King county (where I live) as American Crows, and the ones in Snohomish county and Skagit county as Northwestern/American Crows - indeterminate, in other words. The only way to tell for sure which species a given crow is would be to do a DNA test. So, today I added Northwestern Crow to my Wednesday list.
Here is a picture of Padden Lagoon, where I saw the crows.
The tide was out and I spotted a bird by the side of the water that turned out to be a Green Heron. This was the first time I had ever seen a Green Heron around salt water. I got a number of pictures, and there turned out to be two Green Herons there. Here is one of the first pictures I took. I like it for some reason, maybe because of the flat water behind the bird.
Here is a much closer picture. The Green Heron has its neck somewhat extended, looking for food. The neck will go out a whole lot farther than that when the bird wants it to. You can see that there is a kink in the neck in this picture.
Here is what I think was the best picture I got today of Green Heron.
There were also some little "peeps" out on the mud. Birders refer to small sandpiper-type birds as peeps. There were two likely species they could be, Western Sandpiper or Least Sandpiper. The biggest difference is that Westerns have black legs and Leasts have yellow legs. It's sometimes hard to tell which is which, though, because the legs are often in the shadow of the body. Here are a couple of pictures of a couple of the peeps today.
I thought the legs looked black through my binoculars, but the pictures seem to show yellow legs, so I'm calling them Least Sandpipers. The colors and pattern of plumage indicates Least Sandpiper, too, but that's tricky because at this time of year these birds are migrating south and are in the midst of molting from their summer plumage to their winter plumage. Anyway, I didn't need either Western Sandpiper or Least Sandpiper for Wednesday, so it didn’t really matter. It will go onto my Whatcom county list as Least Sandpiper, though.
I would have rather not seen the Green Herons today, frankly, because now I won't be able to count them for a later Wednesday, and I've been seeing them around home lately. I did see them, though, so both Green Heron and Northwestern Crow go onto my Wednesday list, to bring me to 164 species.
I'm planning to take a two night trip over the mountains, leaving Friday and coming home on Sunday. Tomorrow I need to find something near home to keep the streak alive, and I won't be able to go out birding until after my appointment for an MRI of my heel.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
This is a very short report, with no pictures. Mainly I just want to post my weekly report card for my Day Of The Week birding thingie.
This morning I had an MRI on my heel and then went over to Marymoor Park. At least, I went near there and was planning to go there if my first option didn't work out. Before going into the park, I drove down to the place where I've seen Purple Martins at their nest boxes, at the north end of Lake Sammamish. I had tried there earlier this week, in the rain, and hadn't seen any Purple Martins, but it was sunny and warm today. The cluster of four nest boxes where I had seen them earlier in the year was deserted today, just like last time, but another cluster of three boxes had a couple of Purple Martins around them, so that one went on to my Thursday list, bringing it to 153 species.
Here's my report card after 25 weeks:
After Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu
4 wks 51 47 55 53 44 55 52
8 wks 57 60 73 67 69 79 68
12 wks 90 87 82 81 96 100 95
16 wks 100 105 106 114 111 111 107
20 wks 122 114 120 125 133 140 136
21 wks 124 116 121 126 135 141 138
22 wks 127 129 132 138 144 153 149
23 wks 139 136 144 149 149 159 151
24 wks 141 138 145 150 155 162 152
25 wks 147 141 146 153 156 164 153
I have continued to add at least one species to that day's list on each and every day this year so far, other than the three weeks I took off for medical reasons. The streak is alive. My total for the year is now 228 species.
My plan is to go over the Cascades and bird over there for three days, staying for two nights in Ellensburg. I'm hoping to bring up my totals for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which are lagging behind the other days, as can be seen above.
Friday, July 15, 2016
I was away this morning at about 9:15, and I had an easy drive over Snoqualmie Pass. My first stop was a fishing access point at Golf Course Road. As I drove in there was a small pond and I picked up Wood Duck for my Kittitas county list. Soon after I parked I saw a pair of Western Tanagers. Here is a picture of a male Western Tanager.
I don’t see Western Tanager very often, but I had seen one earlier this year on a Friday, so it didn’t go onto my Friday list today. I already had it for Kittitas county, too.
I walked around, but it was pretty quiet at first. I did see a flycatcher up high, and here is a picture of my first of many unidentified flycatchers for the day.
I played the song of Swainson’s Thrush, and I got several responses. I even saw one, but no picture. It went onto both my Friday list and my Kittitas county list.
I tried another song and got a brief look at a Warbling Vireo that flew in, for my Friday list. While I was trying to get a picture of the vireo, I saw my first YELLOW WARBLER of the year. No picture of the warbler, but here is a picture of that site:
On my way back to the freeway I saw some Cliff Swallows under the freeway bridge, so that one went on to my Friday list. I would rather have not seen Cliff Swallow today, since I can find them near home, and now I can’t use that one to extend my streak. I take them when I see them, though, even if I would rather not have seen them sometimes. The streak is bound to die in August anyway, assuming I can manage to keep it alive that long.
Next I drove down the road a couple of miles and birded Bullfrog Pond. I walked to the Cle Elum River, but the water was high and I didn’t see the American Dipper I had seen there earlier this year. I played various songs, but couldn’t attract anything. As I was leaving I saw another unidentified flycatcher.
I tried to make it into a Hammond’s Flycatcher, based on the small dark bill, but I ended up deciding I just didn’t know. I probably would have gone with Hammond’s Flycatcher, but I got out and walked around, and I ended up seeing a Western Wood-Pewee nearby, and I just wasn’t sure that the first one wasn’t a wood-pewee. The bill seems too small, and the lower mandible would be orange in a wood-pewee, but maybe the dark bill is a trick of the light. Anyway, I didn’t count it.
From there I drove to the small town of Roslyn, which is where they filmed the outdoor town scenes for the TV show Northern Exposure. The idea was to drive around town and look for finch feeders, where I might see either Cassin’s Finch or Purple Finch. I never found any finch feeders, but I did stop at a house that had a couple of hummingbird feeders. At first nothing was there, but then a hummer flew in and stayed for quite a while. The trouble was, it kept its back to me. I could see it wasn’t a Rufous Hummingbird because it had a green back. As it flew away, though, I could see that it was a male CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, a great one for my year list and my Kittitas county list.
I got lunch at Mickey D’s and went on to another fishing access on the Yakima River, to look for Red-eyed Vireo where I have seen them before. I played the song but saw nothing and got no response this time. There was small group of Cedar Waxwings hawking insects over the creek and the river, though. I need Cedar Waxwing for Saturday and Sunday (not for Friday), but I got some pictures. Here are two pictures of Cedar Waxwing.
Here’s a picture of the Yakima River at that point.
Next I moved on down the road to the bridge over the Teanaway River. There were a couple of cars there already, and it turned out that there were a couple of fishermen trying their luck right in the middle of the American Dipper habitat. I went down to the river anyway and played a couple of other songs of birds that could be there, but nothing responded. Then I noticed an American Dipper across the river under the railroad bridge. The light was completely wrong and my pictures are all crap, but American Dipper is such a special bird for me that I’m showing two of them anyway.
This bird seemed slimmer and lighter colored than most dippers I see, so maybe it was a juvenile one. I was moving into position to get better pictures when one of the fishermen moved down the river and flushed the dipper, which flew away upstream.
I drove to Swauk Prairie and stopped at the cemetery there to see if any birds were around. As I drove in I saw still another flycatcher, and this one perched for pictures. I decided that this one was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, good for my Friday and Kittitas county lists, and here are a couple of pictures.
While I was taking those pictures, I saw another bird. It turned out to be a fledgling Chipping Sparrow, another good one for my Friday list. I wasn’t sure what it was at first as it looked somewhat different than an adult Chipping Sparrow, but I saw the parent feeding it at one point, so then I knew. Here are a couple of pictures of the fledgling Chipping Sparrow.
Adult Chipping Sparrows don’t have any streaking on their breasts.
My next destination was the Old Blewett Pass Highway. The road is paved, but there are a lot of big potholes near the start. I found the campground I was looking for, and it was all very pretty. I guess I haven’t mentioned that it was very windy today, which had been interfering with the birding a lot. The branches are moving all around and the sound of the wind in the trees masks the sound of my phone as well as the sound of any birds. It was a bit less windy in the mountain forest, but it was the usual mountain forest birding experience for me. Very few birds and those I do see are soon lost in the high trees. I wandered around playing bird calls, but didn’t get any responses. Eventually I saw another flycatcher, and it kept landing on the very top of tall trees. That was a hint in itself, and I got this distant picture that confirms it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher.
I’ve only seen Olive-sided Flycatcher once this year before today, and wouldn’t you know it, it was on a Friday.
I left the campground and drove farther up the road. At least it was paved, and there was almost no traffic. I played various calls and songs, but the only thing I got as a result was a Hermit Thrush, which was a great bird for both my Friday and Kittitas county lists.
Here is another picture of still another unidentified flycatcher, too.
Here’s a picture of the Old Blewett Pass Highway and the mountain forest.
It was getting late by then, and I was trying to get in early tonight, so I headed back toward Ellensburg. I couldn’t resist taking Bettas Road, though, which is an alternate back road for part of the way. I was glad I did because I soon saw a little flock of birds along the road. Most of them were Chipping Sparrows, I think, but one was a lovely male Cassin’s Finch, a great one for my Friday and Kittitas county lists.
Just down the road from there I saw a whole family of Mountain Bluebirds – mom, dad, and a couple of fledglings. Here is a male Mountain Bluebird.
I love blue-colored birds, and the blue of a male Mountain Bluebird is really lovely, I think. Here are a couple of pictures of a fledgling Mountain Bluebird.
A bit farther down the road I saw my second Eastern Kingbird of the year, and this time the previous one wasn’t on a Friday , so this one went on to Friday’s list. It was my first Eastern Kingbird for Kittitas county, too. I was within half a second of getting a good picture of it on a wire and it flew. All I ended up getting was this terrible picture taken through my windshield.
I took one other side road getting back to Ellensburg, hoping to see Black-billed Magpie or Mourning Dove, but struck out on both. I have both of those on every day except Friday, and both are fairly common around here, but I missed them both today.
I got to the motel just at five o’clock, which isn’t late, but it wasn’t quite as early as I had hoped for either. As I’ve been working on this report, I’ve been going out and looking for Common Nighthawk over the little lake out back, but no luck on that one either.
So, bottom line, I got eleven species for my Friday list, to bring it to 158 species for the year to date. That’s a great result, even though it didn’t seem like I was seeing many birds today. I also added 8 species to my Kittitas county list, to bring that list to 89 species. And, last but maybe not least in importance, I added two species to my year list, to bring that one to 230.
Tomorrow I plan to go over Blewett Pass (on the new highway) to a place in Chelan county, and then come back into Kittitas county for the afternoon. I plan to spend tomorrow night in this same motel in Ellensburg. We’ll see how I can do.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
I was out of here by 8:30 this morning and stopped across the road to gas up the car and buy a tuna sandwich at Subway. I was heading for Camas Meadows, over Blewett Pass into Chelan county, but I took the detour along Bettas Road since I had done so well there yesterday. I was hoping that I’d see the Eastern Kingbird again, but no such luck. I saw the Mountain Bluebird family again, in the same place. Then I saw some sparrows land on a fence and one of them was a juvenile Chipping Sparrow, so that one went on my Saturday list.
Then I saw a flycatcher. I’ve said many times that flycatchers are easy to see but often are very difficult to identify. I got a lot of pictures of this flycatcher, and I present four of them here, mostly for my future reference. At the time, I was thinking it was a Dusky Flycatcher. This first picture didn’t seem to contradict that.
Maybe it does indeed contradict the Dusky Flycatcher label, but I’m still trying to figure out the flycatchers. When I saw this next picture, I decided I couldn’t count it as a Dusky Flycatcher. It looks like it might have a “vest”, dark shading on the sides of its breast, which would make it a Western Wood-pewee, which is the most common flycatcher over here, by far.
This next picture doesn’t seem to show the vest, though.
Or, maybe it does, but it is much lighter than the typical Western Wood-pewee’s vest, if so. Here is one final picture.
Anyway, I took Dusky Flycatcher off my lists for today, and I’m going to call it a Western Wood-pewee.
I drove on to Camas Meadows without any other diversions. I parked and walked around, and it was really quiet. I had visited there in 2014 in June, and the place was jumping with birds. Today, not so much. I noticed as I researched this trip that people don’t seem to go to any of the places I’ve been going in July, and I’m starting to understand why. Breeding season is almost over and most of the nestlings have fledged and dispersed. Birds don’t seem to respond much to their songs and calls, and maybe that also has to do with the season. In the spring they are looking for mates and defending their territories, so maybe they are more likely to respond to calls of their own species in their territory.
I wandered around and played calls, though. Eventually I saw a bird that had approached. It stayed in the bushes and didn’t respond audibly, but eventually I was able to see it was a MACGILLVRAY’S WARBLER, which is the song I had been playing. There were actually two of them, but they stayed in the bushes for the most part. I got this poor picture of one of them that at least shows the diagnostic features – dark gray head, broken eye-ring, yellow breast and underside. Here is MacGillvray’s Warbler.
I often complain about my camera when it focuses on the background instead of the bird, and here is an example, when one of the MacGillvray’s Warblers actually flew out and perched for a few seconds in the open.
In this case, it’s my own fault. The camera is supposed to focus on the center of the frame, and I took the picture so quickly that I neglected to center it on the bird. So, the background, which was in the center of the frame, is in focus. Oh well, that’s how it goes. I show the terrible picture to illustrate what I mean when I talk about the camera focusing on the background. Sometimes that happens even when I do have the bird in the center of the frame, and that really annoys me.
Here is a picture of Camas Meadows in the sunshine.
It had been cloudy when I got there, but the sun came out nicely.
I drove up the road past the parking spot for the meadow walk, and saw a pair of Cassin’s Finches on the road, a good one for my Saturday list, although I did see them a couple more times later today. A little later I saw a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers for my Saturday list.
I also saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler about then, which completed that species for me – I’ve now seen that one on each day of the week this year.
Back at my original parking spot, I walked some more and saw a bird near the ground. It turned out to be another flycatcher, but this time I got lucky. The only member of the empid flycatcher family that wags its tail downward is Gray Flycatcher, and this bird did that repeatedly. I got just one poor picture and had to process it heavily because it was so backlit.
I ended up getting five species at Camas Meadows, but I had a list of 20 potential Saturday birds that had been seen there in June, so I was disappointed despite my seeming success.
I headed back up over Blewett Pass, and I noticed there were a lot of dark clouds ahead. I stopped at the summit, at a place called the Forest Discovery Trail. I played some calls and walked a little, and eventually saw a bird and actually got a picture of a Hermit Thrush, a reclusive species that it’s hard to see, let alone get a picture of.
The bird sat there for a long time, and I took a number of pictures. The light was very low, though, and most of them are really crap. The exposure time was about 1/15 of a second, which means that the slightest hand shake on my part makes the picture blurry. This was the best of a bad lot. It was a great bird to get for my Saturday list, though.
I hadn’t eaten my lunch yet, and it was after 1:00 by then. I was going to eat it there, but it started to rain, and I decided to move on, in the hopes that the rain wouldn’t continue once I got down the other side of the pass. As I drove out of the parking area, I got this picture of a cute little chipmunk.
It sat there and posed as long as I wanted. I wish the birds would be as cooperative.
I ended up driving all the way back down to the Swauk cemetery. The sun came out before then, but I hoped I might see a bird if I sat in the cemetery and ate. I ate, but no birds. As I left I saw a flycatcher, but didn’t try to identify it – there are flycatchers all over the place, and the overwhelming majority of them are Western Wood-pewees it seems. I still need Western Wood-pewee for Sunday; it’ll be interesting to see if I see one tomorrow.
I headed on down the road and took a brief detour at Teanaway Road. I saw a group of at least nine Black-billed Magpies, which I had been expecting to see sometime today. The only day I still need Black-billed Magpie on is Friday, and all day yesterday I looked for one, but never saw one. I figured I would see plenty of them today, when I didn’t need it, and I was right. Here is a picture, though, of a black-billed Magpie.
I next stopped at the fishing access where I had seen the Cedar Waxwings yesterday. I needed that one for Saturday, too, but I didn’t really expect they would have stuck around. I was wrong, though, and 4 or 5 were there, hawking insects over the creek and the river. Score! As I was watching them I saw a flash of yellow, and it turned out to be a Yellow Warbler, one I had seen yesterday for the first time this year. Double score!
Historically, that’s supposed to be a site for Red-eyed Vireo, and I saw one there a few years ago. There aren’t any recent reports, though, and I keep missing them there, so maybe its time for me to give up on finding that one there.
As I drove out I noticed an Osprey nest on a man-made platform. I took a look and could barely see parts of two young Ospreys in the nest. As I watched an adult Osprey flew in, though, so I got out of the car to try for pictures. I got this one which shows the adult and one of the nestlings.
As I watched, the adult took off and flew around, calling repeatedly. The young ones hunkered down out of sight, and the adult just kept circling around calling loudly. I got this one picture of the adult in flight.
In that picture, the bird seems to be looking right at me, so maybe it was alarmed by my presence and the calls were keeping the young ones hiding in the nest. I was probably a couple of hundred feet away from the nest, but maybe that was too close for the Osprey. Or, maybe its behavior had nothing to do with me. Who knows? The adult ended up landing in a tree across the road, and I moved on to the Teanaway River bridge, where I had seen American Dipper yesterday. Today there were more than a dozen vehicles parked there. It is a popular place to enter the Yakima River with rafts, to float down the river. The Teanaway River flows into the Yakima River about a hundred yards from the bridge.
No one was fishing there today, but I couldn’t see any dippers, either, although I had a good view up the river from the bridge. As it turned out, when I got back to my room and checked, I had seen American Dipper on a Saturday already this year, so missing it cost me nothing. I always enjoy seeing a dipper, though.
My final birding destination of the day was Robinson Canyon. I had forgotten how rough the road in to the canyon is, and I had forgotten that I would have to get out and open a gate to get in. On the way in I saw a bird and it was a male Black-headed Grosbeak, one I still needed for Saturday. I drove up to the end of the road and walked up the trail for a hundred yards or so, playing bird songs of birds that ought to be there. I saw a few birds, but nothing new for my list.
On the way out I got this picture of a textbook Western Wood-pewee, with the “vest” showing clearly.
When I compare that picture to the ones I showed at the beginning of this report, I wonder again about the identification of that first flycatcher today.
I saw another interesting bird on the way out, and I guess it was a male Cassin’s Finch. Here is a picture.
Male Cassin’s Finches usually have more red on them, especially on their heads, but I can’t think of what else it could be. Maybe it’s a young male.
I got back to my motel about 4:45, which is what I wanted – an early night. Later I went out by the lake to enjoy a drink and some peanuts and cheese, and I saw a little flock of birds fly into a tree and land. I thought they were House Finches, but I got the binoculars on one, and it was a male Purple Finch, one I needed for both Saturday and Kittitas county.
I’ve been out a couple of times, looking for Common Nighthawks over the lake, but haven’t seen any.
So, that was my birding for today. I got 11 species for my Saturday list, to bring me to 152. My goal was to get Saturday over 150, so I succeeded at that. I added one more to my year list, to bring that one to 231 species. Tomorrow I will head for home, but only after trying to add to my Sunday list. Sunday is at 146, my lowest total, and I want to get it over 150 as well.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Today was getaway day, and I got away by about 8:30, which is quite good for me. I picked up a Subway tuna sandwich and headed east toward the Columbia river, out the Old Vantage Highway. Ironically, my first Sunday bird was Common Nighthawk, which was flying over a field right next to the road. I got a good look at it from my speeding car, including the white wing bars. It's ironic because I had been hoping to see them over the lake behind my motel the last two nights, and I never did. Then I see one at 9 in the morning from the car, without even trying.
So, that was a great start, but the birding went downhill from there. As I had headed east I had noticed big black clouds ahead. As it turned out, I went through some rain, but most of the storm was to the north, over the mountains. By the time I got to the Quilomene area, where I intended to look for sage species, the rain had stopped and it was actually dry there. I played a lot of calls at both of my usual stops, but never saw or heard any of the three sage species I was looking for. I can't even blame it on the wind, as usual, because it was pretty calm compared to how it usually is there. No sign of any of the other possible Sunday birds there, either.
I moved on to Recreation Road and I did manage to hear a Rock Wren there, although I wasn't able to bring it down from the rocks so I could see it. Rock Wrens are usually very responsive and come immediately to playback, but I think this time of year is different. At least I heard one or more of them, and I heard them before I even played their calls.
At the State Park overlook I tried for the Say's Phoebes that nest there each year, but maybe they're done and have moved on, because I didn't see any.
I went down to Wanapum State Park and saw Bank Swallows over the lake/river, so something worked out according to plan. I had 13 species on a list for that area, but I only managed to get two of them.
I headed toward home at about 11:30. I had several stops I could make, and the first one was the Teanaway River bridge to try again for American Dipper. No dipper today, and there were fisherpeople and also raft launchers today, which didn't help, I'm sure. I did see a Western Wood-Pewee there, though, so that one is almost complete now - I only need it for Monday now.
It was past 12:30 by then, and I was getting hungry, so I moved on to the fishing access where I had been seeing Cedar Waxwing each day. I needed Cedar Waxwing for Sunday, too, and I was lucky. On Friday there had been a dozen or more; on Saturday there had been 4 or 5; and today I only saw two, and those two flew off soon after I got there. Rather than eat there, I moved on to the Cle Elum Railroad Ponds.
I got delayed, though, by the Ospreys in their nest - the same ones I showed yesterday. Here is a picture of an adult and two young ones in the nest, waiting for the other adult to bring them a fish.
Here's a picture of the adult and one of the young ones, showing the different coloration of their backs.
Here's another one of the adult and the two young ones, from a different angle and farther away.
An adult Osprey always stays with the nest when there are eggs or young in it, to protect them from eagles. The other adult does the fishing, and they take it in turns.
At the Railroad Ponds, I stopped by the dead snag that had had at least two separate sets of young earlier in the year, but there didn't seem to be any around. I had half my sandwich and then played the call of Pygmy Nuthatch anyway, to see if they were still in the area. To my pleased surprise, 4 or 5 fledglings flew in pretty quickly and sat around in the branches of the nest snag, flicking their wings like they wanted to be fed. They went in and out of the nest hole and just hung around hopefully for a while. I figure they were in the stage where the parents are just starting to let them forage for themselves, and when they heard me play their calls, they came flying in for a feed. I didn't see any adults in the crowd, so maybe the parents have quit feeding them completely by now. I think I must have caught them at about the last possible time to see them before they disperse. Here's a picture of a recently fledged Pygmy Nuthatch.
Here's another one.
Finally, here's one of them next to the nest hole.
That last one might actually be an adult bird; I'm not sure.
I ate the other half of my sandwich, and I got out of the car and wandered around a little. I saw a female Cassin's Finch, which is an excellent bird, but I had seen Cassin's Finch on a Sunday back in June when we were on our way to Yosemite. There were lots of swallows around, mostly Tree Swallows and Violet-green Swallows, but I got the one I needed, Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Here is a picture of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
I had been playing the calls of House Wren and not getting any response, but a little farther down the road I tried again, and saw one pop up onto a dead snag to take a look at me. It didn't approach or call back to me, like House Wrens did earlier in the year, but I saw it well with binoculars. That was another one for my Sunday list.
I drove around a bit more and played some more calls, but got no responses. It seemed so dead that I decided to call it a day, and at about 2:00 I headed for the freeway to home. When I got there, it was backed up and we went between 10 mph and 30 mph for about fifteen minutes before it broke free. There was another slowdown a little later and another backup where I-90 merges into I-405 northbound. All in all, I figure that traffic cost me about 15 or 20 minutes, and I drove in my driveway at 3:45. The delay was minor, though, compared to the annoyance of not being able to use cruise control for much of the way. I count on cruise control to protect my poor sore heel, and today the heel got shafted.
I got 8 species today, to bring my Sunday total to 154. All the days are over 150 now, which was one of my goals for the weekend trip. Now it's back to grinding them out each day, to keep the streak alive until we go to Los Angeles for a wedding at the end of the month. If I can get through July, the streak will be pretty much over, I think, so that is my focus now - stay alive until we leave on July 28. It'll take some careful planning and some luck.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
On Monday, July 18, I went over to Marymoor Park to try for several possible Monday birds. I walked along the slough and played Common Yellowthroat songs. I knew there were yellowthroats in the area, and earlier n the year they would have immediately flown in and starting singing back to me. Not so yesterday. Eventually I did see a couple of nondescript little birds fly into the blackberry brambles in front of me from the trees down by the slough. They turned out to be young Common Yellowthroats, probably looking for a feed from the parent they thought was calling them. Anyway, I didn't get any pictures, but I did get a Monday bird. The infant Common Yellowthroats got nothing.
I could have quit at that point, if all I was doing was trying to extend my streak, saving any other Monday birds for later Mondays. I didn't, though. Having come to the park, I walked a bit more, to see what I could see. My heel was hurting a little, but not a lot. I was birding, after all, not playing some kind of streak-extending game. (Hmmm…. Speaking of games, I wonder how you could combine Pokemon Go with birding? There are probably pokemons at Marymoor Park. You could be looking for them and for birds at the same time. Last week when I was in North Bothell looking for Green Heron in an industrial park at a pond, I saw a couple of young men walk around the pond on the walking trail while looking at their phones and thumbing away. I'm sure they were looking for pokemons.)
Back at Marymoor, there were other birds around, including a Belted Kingfisher, American Goldfinches, Bushtits, and a couple of Spotted Sandpipers. All were good birds, but I already had all of them on Monday this year. I saw a flycatcher and got some pictures, as well as getting good looks at it. Based on where it was, I assumed it was a Willow Flycatcher, which I needed for Monday. My pictures seem to confirm that, although you know that I find flycatchers difficult Here are a couple of pictures of the bird I'm calling a Willow Flycatcher.
That second one is terrible, of course, but it shows the lengths of the wing feathers, which is one of the ways to identify a flycatcher in that family. At the time I thought the smudging on the breast of the bird indicated it was a Western Wood-Pewee, but after looking at many pictures of both species online, I'm calling it a Willow Flycatcher.
At bit later I saw my first Yellow Warbler of the year on this side of the mountains (I saw two of them on my recent trip over the mountains). Here is a distant picture that doesn't even show the face, but shows the distinctive color of Yellow Warbler.
I ended up adding three birds to my Monday list, to bring me to 156 for Monday.
This morning, July 19, I went over to Marymoor again (it's really a great park, with lots of great birds). This time I started by going to the viewing mound on the north edge of the East Meadow. I was specifically looking for the male Lazuli Bunting that has been hanging around there for months now. There were still reports of it being there, and Tuesday was the last day I still needed Lazuli Bunting.
I went up on the mound and got this picture of a male Spotted Towhee that was singing from the top of the fir tree that the bunting favored earlier in the year.
I played the song of Lazuli Bunting, and I did end up seeing it for quite a while, but I don't think it was paying any attention to what I was playing. Earlier in the year, during breeding season, it was constantly singing and would respond to its song being played on my phone. Today it seemed to ignore my playback, but it still hung around feeding right in front of me, and I got a number of pictures from an interesting angle - looking down on it. I don't normally show a lot of pictures of the same bird, but I love blue colored birds, of course, and these seemed too good to pass up. This first one shows him from an interesting perspective, I think.
Here are some pictures from more conventional perspectives.
He was feeding on the seeds in those grain tops.
I have more pictures, but you get the idea.
Here is a picture of a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow that flew in and checked me out.
I like the way my camera blurs the background when the bird is much closer to the camera than the background is.
I didn't go looking for any more Tuesday birds after getting the Lazuli Bunting, and that brought me to 157 species for Tuesdays this year.
That's all I've got for now. I'm thinking of going up north to Stanwood and Skagit county tomorrow, to look for shorebirds that have started their fall migration now. There aren't a whole lot of possibilities for Wednesday, but Wednesday is my toughest day, and I feel like a little excursion, at least at this point. We shall see.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
On Wednesday, July 20, I drove up to Skagit county, which is about an hour north of here. My first stop was the Wylie Slough unit of the Skagit National Wildlife Refuge. I was looking for some shorebird species that had been reported there recently. Shorebirds have started their fall migration and will be moving through our area for the next couple of months, after breeding in northern Canada and Alaska. They don't stick around long at any one spot, so it's always a gamble looking for them where they were reported a day or two ago.
I met a couple of serious looking birders (no cameras, but excellent binoculars and scopes, and they were very knowledgeable) and I tagged along with them. I hadn't ever visited the part of the refuge where the shorebirds are seen, and they knew the way. It turned out to be a longer walk that I probably should have done on my bad heel, but I stumped along with them for a while. The tide was in, which meant that the pond or slough where the shorebirds would normally be was flooded. Cattails had grown up in other ponds and places they knew of. I let them go on ahead after awhile, and I was glad I did because they didn't find any shorebirds at all. I wandered along the trail looking for a pair of Eastern Kingbirds that supposedly had a nest somewhere out there, but I never saw them. At that point I did see a male Downy Woodpecker, which I needed for Wednesday, so the pressure was off. Here is a picture of that little cutie.
Okay, that isn't a very good picture, but the bird wouldn't sit still and there were lots of branches in the way. Here is one that shows his back and the top of his head.
Here is one that at least shows his face, more or less.
The other birders came back and went out on the other dike trail, and I again tagged along for a while. I gave it up soon, though, and walked back to my car. I planned to come back in a couple of hours when the tide would be lower, hopefully.
The next place I went was Channel Drive, along the Swinomish Channel. I saw 3 or 4 Least Sandpipers there, but I didn’t need that one for Wednesday, unfortunately. I was getting hungry by then, so I moved on to March Point and ate the tuna sandwich I had picked up at Subway on my way to the freeway that morning. Then I looked across Padilla Bay, looking for the American White Pelicans that have been reported there for a week or so. American White Pelican is a rare bird in Skagit county - there were fewer than five records before this group showed up a week or so ago. To my pleased surprise, I was able to see at east four of them, far across the bay. Even with my scope, I could barely make out what they were, but knowing what I was looking for made it easier, of course. So, I had two for Wednesday and a rare species for Skagit county.
I went back to Wylie Slough, arriving about 2 PM, which was a couple of hours after I had left. I walked out to the part of the slough where the shorebirds are supposed to be, and by golly, there was now some mud showing and there were a few shorebirds there. There were about a 8 or 10 Least Sandpipers, which was the one I didn't need, of course. But, there were also two that were obviously different. They were too far away for reasonable pictures, but I took a lot of pictures anyway, hoping they might be good enough to prove the identification, if nothing else. Here is a very distant picture that shows one of the Least Sandpipers on the left and one of the different birds on the right.
I decided at the time, and I haven't changed my mind after seeing my lousy pictures, that the bird on the right is a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, which is one of the species I was hoping to see there, due to recent reports. I can't think of any other little shorebird it could be. Here is a picture of the other Semipalmated Sandpiper with a female Brewer's Blackbird in the picture.
Here is one more of one of the Semipalmated Sandpipers.
That one seems grayer than the other, which seems browner. I think the first and third pictures are of the same bird. For comparison, here is a picture of a couple of Least Sandpipers, which look quite different.
Their identification was much easier, because Least Sandpiper is the only small peep with yellow legs.
Here is a picture of Wylie Slough, showing the mud where the shorebirds were (on the other side of the water). You can see what I mean about the birds being too far away for pictures.
It was after 3:00 by then, so I headed for home, arriving just after 4. It had been a pretty successful day, although there were three other shorebird species I might have seen there. I added three species to my Wednesday list, which brings it to 167 species, the only day not in the 150's. Wednesday is my toughest day to keep my streak alive, which is why I had decided to head north for shorebirds that day. I also added 7 species to my Skagit county list, to bring that one to 87. Yes, I'm still keeping county lists, but I'm not actively pursuing Washington county birding right now, having gotten my 39 species in each of the 39 counties already (see July 2012 to November 2015 for reports on that project). That was a fun project, and maybe someday I'll try to push that to 50 species in each county, but that would mean a lot of Washington State travel and some counties would be tough. I'm thinking about it, though, and I keep my spreadsheet updated.
Semipalmated Sandpiper brought me to 232 species for the year. I'm looking forward to our trip to a family wedding in the L.A. area next week, so I can add some California birds to my year list.
Today, Thursday, July 21, I went over to a new birding place for me, the Redmond Retention Ponds. I've driven by them many times, but they are screened by trees, and I've never tried to bird there. There has been a series of reports of a single Lesser Yellowlegs there in the last week, just about every day. That's one I need for Thursday still, so I headed over there, figuring I'd go on to Marymoor if I didn’t see the Lesser Yellowlegs.
I found the ponds and first looked at them from the road to the east, which is high on the hill overlooking them. I saw some Killdeer and what I thought was a Greater Yellowlegs. I drove on around to the street to the south of the ponds and found that there is a place to park and it's only a short walk to where you can see both ponds up close. I parked and lugged my scope in to look at the ponds. There were lots of Killdeer around, and a couple of Spotted Sandpipers (a good bird, but not one I needed for Thursday), and there were at least three yellowlegs as well.
There are two species of yellowlegs, Great and Lesser. As the names imply, the Greater is larger (14 inches long - tip of bill to tail - compared to 10.5 inches long for the Lesser). When you see them together, the ID is easy, but when they are alone, it's much more difficult because they look very much the same except for their size. Of course, individual birds vary in size, just like people do, or any other animal species. The Lesser's bill is relatively shorter (compared to the length of the head), and the bill of the Greater is usually (but not always, I gather) slightly upturned. The call is also different, but of course, I'm terrible at bird calls, and they are usually silent anyway.
So, I spent at least a half hour looking at and taking pictures of the three yellowlegs around the larger pond. Two of them were close to each other and obviously about the same size, but the other one was at the far end of the pond. Here are some of my pictures, for my future reference. This first one shows an undetermined yellowlegs with a Killdeer in the same picture.
Here is another picture of what I'm sure is a Greater Yellowlegs with another Killdeer.
Could the second picture show a yellowlegs that is 14 inches long (tip of bill to tip of tail) while the first one shows one that is only 10.5 inches long? To me, the first picture seems to show a yellowlegs that is smaller than the second picture (assuming those two Killdeer are the same size, which is a pretty good assumption.) I'm not sure, though, since the perspective is different. The differences in plumage don't really mean much, as at this time of year, shorebirds are molting from their breeding plumage to their winter plumage, and they do so at different rates.
Then there is the criteria that the bill of the Lesser Yellowlegs is only a little longer than the length of the head, while the bill of the Greater Yellowlegs is about 1.5 times the length of the head. OK, so here are two pictures. The first is of the first bird above, the one that seems smaller to me, although I'm not at all sure. Oh yes, they also say that the bill of Greater Yellowlegs is "usually" upturned slightly, while the bill of Lesser Yellowlegs is always straight. Here are the two pictures.
That bill looks quite straight to me, and when I measure it on the screen, it comes out at about 1.2 to 1.3 times the length of the head (using other pictures in addition to this one). Is 1.2 to 1.3 closer to "slightly larger" or to "about 1.5"? Here is one I figure is definitely a Greater Yellowlegs (the second bird in the first set of comparison pictures to Killdeer), due to the upturned bill and the size.
Are those last two pictures of the same species or not? I don't know. I'm not willing to call the first one a Lesser Yellowlegs, although I can see why someone else might do so. (Length of bill compared to head and straight bill.) I suspect that I saw the bird that other people have identified as Lesser Yellowlegs, but I'm not willing to call it such. I notice that a birder I respect has been to that pond a couple of times in the last week, and he listed Greater Yellowlegs each time, but not Lesser. Hmmm. Greater are also more common here than Lesser. Anyway, I decided I couldn't count Lesser Yellowlegs and my pictures don’t change my mind, as they sometimes do. It was a close call, though.
So, that left me with the need to find a Thursday bird still. I went on to Marymoor Park and walked along the west side of the dog park, along the slough. I was hoping for Willow Flycatcher or Green Heron, but got neither. I notice that on the weekly Marymoor Park walk today they saw 3 Green Herons and 2 Willow Flycatchers, as well as 3 or 4 other birds I could have used for Thursday. Of course, they started at 5:30 AM and walked for 5 hours. They also had ten people to look and listen for birds. Not something this dilettante birder is willing or able to do, though.
Anyway, I played some bird songs as I walked along the slough, and got a nice Swainson's Thrush to fly in and check me out. I should have had a picture, as it posed for me several times, but it never stopped for long, and I was too slow. I did add Swainson's Thrush to my Thursday list, though, and I trudged back to the car. (The Thursday bird walk had 6 Swainson's Thrushes in their 5 hours of walking.) The thrush brought me to 154 species for Thursday.
It's time again for my weekly report card. Here is where I stand now, after 26 weeks.
After Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu
4 wks 51 47 55 53 44 55 52
8 wks 57 60 73 67 69 79 68
12 wks 90 87 82 81 96 100 95
16 wks 100 105 106 114 111 111 107
20 wks 122 114 120 125 133 140 136
24 wks 141 138 145 150 155 162 152
25 wks 147 141 146 153 156 164 153
26 wks 158 152 154 156 157 167 154
You can see how my trip over the mountains last weekend brought up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as it was designed to do. You can also see that my streak is still going on. My total for the year is now 232 species. I've completed - i.e., seen on each day of the week - 91 species. DOTW birding continues… It's been a great gig.
Monday, July 25, 2016
On Friday, July 22, I adopted different tactics. There is a gull that is in this area only in the summer and fall, and they came back to Edmonds earlier this month. They are virtually always around, so it is just about a sure thing. Since they just came back here this month, I hadn't seen one yet this year, as of last Friday. Also, I'll be in southern California this coming weekend, and I'll probably see this gull there, so I thought I might as well take it now, and save other Friday birds for after I get back from California.
So, with that tactic in mind, I spent half an hour driving up to the Edmonds waterfront and went right to Marina Beach, where I've seen these gulls roosting in the past. I pulled in and looked through the windshield at the breakwater and added HEERMANN'S GULL to my year list and, of course, my Friday list. It took about five seconds and I never turned off the engine. I turned around and drove the half hour back home. An hour of driving, 3 bucks worth of gas, and five seconds of "birding". I often think as I'm birding that it is kind of a silly or strange pastime, but never more so than on Friday. The gull brought me to 159 species for Fridays this year.
On Saturday, July 23, I did it again. This time there were more people on the beach and no gulls on the breakwater. I scanned the beach, though and saw one Heermann's Gull on the beach. It took ten seconds on Saturday. Again, I turned around and went home. That brought me to 153 species for Saturday.
On Sunday, July 24, I did it still again. Why not? Why change something that works? This time there were again a lot of people on the beach, no gulls on the breakwater, and no gulls on the beach either. I was thinking I would have to try other places on the waterfront when I noticed a Heermann's Gull flying along the beach, out over the water. Wow, it took me 15 seconds on Sunday. I again turned around and went home without ever turning off the engine. Sunday was at 155 species after that.
I've taken dilettante birding to a new level, and I don't even have to get out of my car or shut off the engine any more.
Today, Monday, July 25, I skipped the Heermann's Gull, saving it for August, since I probably won't see one in Southern California next Monday (although it's possible). Instead, I went up to the retention pond in the Bothell industrial park where I had seen a Green Heron a couple of weeks ago. Like last time, I parked in a company's parking lot, right in front of a sign that said No Trail Parking. I walked up onto the trail that goes through there and looked at the pond. At first I didn't see any Green Herons, and I thought I was going to have to resort to my backup plan, which was to go to Marymoor Park and look for Green Heron or one of 3 or 4 other species. While I was looking for the heron, I took this picture of a female Mallard with a late brood of ducklings.
Then I spotted a Green Heron across the pond in a tangle of roots and branches. I got a distant picture, but then went back to my car and drove down the parking lot a couple of hundred feet and walked out onto the path along the south edge of the pond, to see if I could get a better view of the heron. I was able to see it, and it was much closer. The light was great, too, coming from behind me. Unfortunately, the bird was partially obscured by branches. That didn't stop me from taking a bunch of pictures, though. Here is a Green Heron preening.
It kept preening all the time I was there, which didn't help my picture taking. I had to shoot in the moments when it paused briefly. Here is the Green Heron with its neck partially extended.
Here's a picture of what birders refer to as the South Pond in North Bothell.
As you can see, it was a beautiful day.
The main trail is across the pond up on that dirt dike. I saw four guys today who were walking around the pond area looking at their phones and thumbing away. Pokemon Go, I figure. Here are a couple of pokemon hunters.
The guy on the right in that picture was actually with another guy. They look like they had some success.
Later I saw a fourth guy doing the same, on the south side of the pond. It was a very nice day to be outside, but personally, I would rather look around and enjoy the scenery (and the birds) than look at my phone and play a game. I like my birding game just fine, but I'm glad that Pokemon Go gets other people out into the great outdoors.
There were some Killdeer along the shore of the pond. Here is one of them.
The Killdeer were doing a lot of calling, and I realized after I saw this next picture that at least one of them was a juvenile, not yet full grown. Here is a picture of a young Killdeer (on the left) and an adult.
There were also a couple of Pied-billed Grebes out on the pond, and I realized that one was a juvenile. Here is the juvenile Pied-billed Grebe.
The faint stripes on the head and neck and the orange color of the head mark it as a juvenile, as does the orange color of the bill. Here is a picture of the adult Pied-billed Grebe.
Meanwhile, I kept shooting pictures of the Green Heron, whenever it quit preening for a few seconds. Here's one with its neck extended a little more than in the previous picture.
And, here is one final close-up picture of the Green Heron with its wing feathers a little open, my only Monday bird of the day.
That brought me to 157 species for Monday. It was fun to be outside in the beautiful weather and get some pictures I like.
I have two more days of birding here at home, then Christina and I are flying off to Southern California for four nights, to attend a family wedding and the associated parties. I hope to see some good birds for my day lists for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and to keep my streak alive. First I need to get Tuesday and Wednesday birds here at home this week, though, and I'll need to get a Thursday bird on the day we're flying. I have a plan for that last thing, getting a Thursday bird, and we'll see if it works out. The streak is alive, and I hope to extend it at least another week. What a life!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Before I get into today's birding adventure, here's a picture from yesterday, Tuesday, July 26, of a Greater Yellowlegs. I took it at the Redmond Retention Ponds while looking for Spotted Sandpiper. This Greater Yellowlegs seems to have a straight bill, unlike most of them, and the bill length is a bit shorter than most Greater Yellowlegs, too. I saw it near some Killdeer, though, and it was significantly larger than the Killdeer, which makes it a Greater Yellowlegs rather than a Lesser.
Now that I look at it again, the bill maybe does turn upward a slight amount.
Today, Wednesday, July 27, I went down to Juanita Bay Park to try for Brown Creeper. Wednesday is my toughest day, due to both the mix and the numbers of species I have already seen on Wednesday. I had tried for Brown Creeper near the parking lot at Juanita Bay Park several times in recent weeks, but I hadn't seen one there for at least a couple of months. I needed it today, though, so I stuck with it after not seeing one at the first three or four places around the parking lot that I tried.
Finally, at the top of the steps up to a neighboring street, I saw one and even got some pictures. Pictures of Brown Creeper are tough because the bird is constantly on the move and also because they are usually in dark places on the trunks of large trees. Here is a picture of the Brown Creeper I saw today.
Another issue with getting pictures of them is that they blend in so well with the trees they are on. Here is a picture that had the additional problem of being brightly backlit.
Here is another one of the same Brown Creeper with a little less backlight.
That was it for today's birding adventures. I gave it up for the day and came home to pack and prepare for our trip to Southern California tomorrow. It'll be a challenge to get a Thursday bird tomorrow, but I have a plan. We'll see how it works out. The creeper brought my Wednesday total to 168 species, the only day that's over 160 at this point.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Christina and I flew to Los Angeles today. The flight itself was fine, just the usual hassles and discomforts of air travel these days. We waited for 35 minutes at LAX for the Budget Rental Car bus, and the traffic getting to Redondo Beach was horrible, as expected during the rush hour, and we got here to our hotel at about 5 PM (I had naively been hoping for 4 PM).
My DOTW birding plan worked out fine, though, and I saw a couple of Brown Pelicans from our balcony, so the streak is alive. I saw Western Gulls, too, which I still need for the next four days, but I had that one on Thursday. Tomorrow the real birding starts.
We met my sisters in the “club floor lounge”, where they serve appetizers and a couple of free drinks (beer or wine) on week nights, to those suckers who pay for premium rooms, like we did. We do have a very nice view of the parking lot across the street and the small boat harbor beyond that. I’ll take a picture from our balcony at some point, in the morning when the light is behind me. I ate enough appetizers that it served as my dinner.
While the others went out to actual dinner, I ventured out to see what I could see across the street on the water and the breakwater. The first new Thursday bird I saw was a Snowy Egret and I got just one picture before it flew.
I had already counted Brown Pelican, but I saw more and got a picture.
The colors aren’t very good in these pictures because it was getting late and there wasn’t much light.
I also added Heermann’s Gull to my Thursday list and got this picture of a couple of them.
I would have rather “saved” Heermann’s Gull until I got home, for future use on a Thursday, but there they were, all over the place. You might remember that last weekend I went up to Edmonds three times and got Heermann’s Gull for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – mainly because I hadn’t seen them before this year and I knew I would see them on this trip.
I also spotted a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron on the breakwater across the channel. Here is a picture of that one.
That isn’t a bird I would have expected on the ocean, but I had read that they had nested in the area and had had young ones this year. The light was really low by then, and I was bracing my camera and using a shutter speed of about 1/15 of a second, which is very slow and usually results in blurry pictures.
Even on a Thursday night there was action on the Redondo Pier. There was music blasting away and lots of people on the pier.
That’s just one part of the pier – there are restaurants and other “attractions” on other parts of it.
I mentioned earlier that I already had Western Gull for Thursday, but here’s a picture of one.
I saw a Black Oystercatcher, too, but it was too dark for a decent picture and I already had gotten that one on a Thursday earlier this year. There was another shorebird, too, and I think it was a Willet, which would be a year bird for me. It was too dark to be sure, though, and not enough light for a picture good enough to identify it, either.
So, that was four species for my Thursday list, to bring it to 158 species.
Here is my report card at the end of the 27th week (I took three weeks off for medical reasons).
After Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu
4 wks 51 47 55 53 44 55 52
8 wks 57 60 73 67 69 79 68
12 wks 90 87 82 81 96 100 95
16 wks 100 105 106 114 111 111 107
20 wks 122 114 120 125 133 140 136
24 wks 141 138 145 150 155 162 152
25 wks 147 141 146 153 156 164 153
26 wks 158 152 154 156 157 167 154
27 wks 159 153 155 157 158 168 158
Wednesday is still way ahead of all the other days, but I believe the next three days will give big boosts to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, challenging Wednesday. I expect that Friday is going to take over first place, but we will see. I’m hoping for 12 or more year-birds this weekend, too. Tomorrow morning my old buddy from high school and college days, Chris, is picking me up at 8:30 and we will do some birding and probably some pool playing as well.
My heel hurts now from my little walk this evening. I hope it is okay for tomorrow’s birding.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Wow, what a great day of birding! I woke at 5:30 and couldn’t sleep again, but I had gotten to bed before 10:30, so I had over seven hours of good sleep. Still, I like to get 8 hours, so by the end of the day today I was dragging.
I had a great breakfast in the club lounge on the 5th floor – eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, fruit, and some little tidbits that I think were mini-french toast thingies. I was set for the morning for sure.
Before breakfast, though, I got this picture of the view from our balcony in the early morning light.
My old buddy, Chris, picked me up at 8:30 and we headed east, first to the 405 freeway, then south to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. I knew there were lots of California water birds that don’t get up to Washington, and this was my chance to see them.
It took about an hour to get there, and we parked and set out walking. I picked up Snowy Egret and Great Egret right away for my Friday list. Here is a picture I took later of a Snowy Egret.
One of the features of today’s birding was always going to be terns. There are at least six tern species there that I needed for Friday, five of which that would be year birds, with an outside chance of a couple of other species of terns. There were terns all over the place, and I set out to sort them out and count the species I could identify. One of the two really easy species to ID was BLACK SKIMMER, and I got that right away. Here is a picture of a Black Skimmer flying that I took later.
None of the other terns are black, so that one was easy. The other really easy species was LEAST TERN, and I soon saw a juvenile Least Tern and got pictures.
Least Terns are much smaller than any of the other terns, making them easy to identify. I didn’t see many today, but I saw them several times.
The most common tern was ELEGANT TERN (year birds are typed in all caps the first time I report them, you will remember), and there were thousands of them. Here is a picture that shows one. It is the bird closest to the camera in the middle.
There were also ROYAL TERNS in smaller numbers, but I didn’t get a picture that I’m sure was a Royal Tern. I only saw a couple of FORSTER’S TERNS, and no pictures of that one either. They have orange legs and the second smallest species. The sixth species of tern I needed for Friday was Caspian Tern, and there were a few around. Here is a picture of a juvenile Caspian Tern.
Here is another Caspian Tern that was calling repeatedly. I’m not sure if it is a juvenile or not. The wings don’t look like a juvenile’s wings, but the black crown is either a juvenile or an early winter plumage change. Caspian Terns are the largesst of the white terns, with heavy red-orange bills. Anyway, it’s a Caspian Tern, a new bird for my Friday list, but not a new one for the year.
There were a few American White Pelicans around, one I didn’t need for Friday, but I got this picture.
I thought the bills of American White Pelicans were all yellow, so I don’t know why this one has a pink upper bill. I wonder if it’s a juvenile, since the wings have some dark spots on them, too.
Here is a WILLET in partial summer plumage.
I don’t often see them in their breeding plumage because West Coast Willets breed in a range from eastern Northern California through the Dakotas, then they winter on the California coast and south of here. At least, that’s what my field guide says. eBird says they are here on the California coast all year around, so I don’t understand. Here is a Willet in its winter plumage, anyway, which is what I’m used to seeing.
Actually, you can see a few little vestiges of the summer plumage on that bird – the brown and white spots and the barring on the tail. Soon it will be all gray and white, although they have dark brown and white wings on the undersides.
One of the birds I was especially wanting to see at Bolsa Chica was REDDISH EGRET, and I saw one today.
Here is a kind of blurry picture of that same bird flying.
Another shorebird for my Friday list was Long-billed Curlew, and here’s a picture.
I also picked up Black-bellied Plover for Friday, but no pictures.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER was another new one for the year, and here is a picture of one.
A great one for my year list was SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. I have a very similar species, Long-billed Dowitcher, on all seven days, but I hadn’t seen any short-billed ones yet this year. They are so similar I wasn’t sure if would be able to tell the difference if I saw one today, but this one’s bill is short enough that I’m calling it a Short-billed Dowitcher.
Here’s another picture of the same bird.
Another shorebird for Friday’s list was Marbled Godwit.
I also picked up Western Gull for Friday, as well as Brown Pelican.
Here is a picture of one part of Bolsa Chica.
It is salt water and is tidal. I have no idea if we were there at a good tide time or a poor one, as far as birding is concerned. I expected more birds, actually, but when I look back on it, I saw a heck of a lot in the two hours we were there. A non-water bird I picked up for my year list was HORNED LARK. Here is a picture of a juvenile Horned Lark.
Here is a picture of a male Horned Lark (on the left) and either a juvenile or an adult female Horned Lark.
I think it was a juvenile.
We left Bolsa Chica about 11:30 and next stopped at a little park called Harriet M. Wieder Regional Park. There was very little there, but I did pick up Black-necked Stilt for my Friday list, and I got this picture of one.
I also saw a couple of Mourning Doves there, which I needed for Friday. That completed Mourning Dove for me – I’ve seen them on all seven days now.
We got lunch at In-‘n’-Out Burger, a treat for me, since we don’t have them in Washington. Then we drove up to Manhattan Beach to play pool for a couple of hours. As it turned out, though, the place we went to didn’t open until 3 PM on Friday, so we gave that up and went to a couple of parks in the South Bay area, to see if I could find any more birds, and also just to enjoy the lovely day. The temperature must have been about 80, but there was a nice breeze, and it was very pleasant in the shade and not too bad in the sun.
We stopped to check out Veteran’s Park, just south of my hotel in Redondo Beach, and I took this picture of the Redondo Pier.
I also took a picture of Chris.
I had some more time, so we drove to Hopkins Wilderness Park, which was very interesting. It’s is basically a little pocket of wildness in the middle of suburbia, and it is designed as a place for kids. There are day camps and overnight camps, and it’s open to the public between 10 AM and 4:30 PM. As we got there about 3:30, there was a group of kids getting on a bus, and they had obviously been there for a day camp, or maybe they had stayed overnight the night before. We walked around the park and other kids were showing up all the time, obviously planning to spend the night at an overnight camp. Since it was Friday, maybe they were coming for the weekend. It was a pleasant park, but remarkably un-birdy. Maybe active noisy kids aren’t an attraction for birds. I did pick up Black Phoebe, a common California flycatcher, for my Friday list, though.
We gave it up after that, and I got back to my hotel at about 4:15. It seemed like a long day of birding, with lots of time on the crowded Southern California roads, but it was actually less than 8 hours door to door. The time in the car wasn’t wasted at all because Chris and I got caught up on things. I picked up a staggering 20 birds for my Friday list, to bring it to 180. I also added 10 year birds, to bring me to 243 species for the year.
It’s late now, and I need to sleep, so I’ll proof-read this in the morning and send it out then, I hope. It was a great day with an old friend and lots of birds. It was also a whole lot of walking on my poor heel. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
On Saturday I decided to go back down to Bolsa Chica wetlands again, to add to my Saturday list. Before I left Redondo Beach I saw Brown Pelicans and Western Gulls from our hotel room balcony, so I had a head start on Saturday.
I had been worried about getting a parking spot in the small parking lot at the wetlands, and when I got there the lot was indeed full. I got lucky, though, and after driving around the lot once I saw a car leaving. As it turned out, that was a handicap spot, but I pulled in anyway. Then before I could decide if I wanted to take a chance and cheat by staying there, another group of people came back, so I pulled around and waited for them to get loaded up and leave. So, I was there.
I got Snowy Egret right away, and I didn’t need Great Egret for Saturday, but I saw them too. I started in on the terns and saw Least Tern, Elegant Tern, and Black Skimmer right away. Here’s a picture of a little group of Least Terns.
Here is a closer shot of an adult Least Tern.
I showed that last picture mainly so I could show the difference between adults and the recently fledged juvenile Least Terns. Here is a juvenile.
There was a large group of Western Sandpipers for my Saturday list, and just beyond them there were a couple of RUDDY TURNSTONES, a shorebird I had missed on Friday. Here is a picture of a Ruddy Turnstone.
Next I saw five Forster’s Terns sitting on a floating yellow boom. On Friday I had only seen one Forster’s Tern, and it was a long distance away and I only had a very brief look. I had identified it by its orange legs. Here are two adult Forster’s Terns.
Here is a recently fledged young Forster’s Tern for comparison.
Here’s a picture of a group of Elegant Terns, the most common tern there by far. There is one Black Skimmer there, too, on the right.
I talked with a couple of other birders at various times, and enjoyed the interactions. At one point I was passing a family with a little girl, and they had seen a tiny lizard and were looking at it. I stopped and talked to them briefly and got this picture of the cute little 1.5 to 2 inch lizard.
I added Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover, and Willet to my Saturday list. I also got this picture of a Black-bellied Plover, although I didn’t need that one for Saturday.
Here’s a picture of an Elegant Tern with a fish. Maybe it was going to take it to a young one that hadn’t fledged yet, or maybe it was just showing off its fine catch.
On Friday I had seen one dowitcher, which I had identified as a Short-billed Dowitcher (as opposed to the very similar Long-billed Dowitcher). There were half a dozen of them on Saturday, and one of my birding acquaintances I had talked with identified them as Short-billed because he had heard one of them calling. That’s supposed to be the best way to tell the two species apart, by their voice, but I can’t really distinguish them that way, even if I listen to the recorded calls at the time I hear one. In addition, they don’t usually call. Anyway, it was nice to have the identification confirmed by a guy who seemed knowledgeable.
There weren’t many pelicans around, but I saw two or three American White Pelicans (which I didn’t need for Saturday) and one Brown Pelican flew in and posed for me.
I got this picture that I like of a Black Skimmer flying.
Note the extra-long lower half of its bill. They feed by flying low over the surface of the water and then when they see a fish ahead near the surface, they dip down and “skim” it up. I always enjoy seeing them skimming along over the water, partly because the first time I saw Black Skimmers, then were doing their skimming act. I was with my friend, Ted, who passed away last year, on the Salinas River north of Monterey. They are fairly rare in Monterey county, and we both were enchanted with the odd looking birds. Seeing them always reminds me of wonderful times with Ted.
I was headed back to my car by then. On the way I saw a couple of Horned Larks for my Saturday list. I had missed them on the way in. Here is a picture of a male Horned Lark.
For comparison, here’s a female Horned Lark.
Her colors really blend in with the ground, which is probably a good thing for a ground nesting bird.
As I was leaving I spent some time looking at the hundreds of terns on an island to the south, trying to pick out the last tern species I was looking for, Royal Tern. Eventually I did so, but there aren’t many of them at Bolsa Chica, so it took a while. I saw some Caspian Terns, too, which also aren’t real common there, but I didn’t need that one for Saturday. So, I had another six-tern day, since Black Skimmer is a member of the tern family.
It was only noon by then, so I went on around to Harriet M. Wieder Park again, like on Friday. Unfortunately, the Black-necked Stilts that Chris and I saw on Friday were not there on Saturday. There were Mourning Doves around again, but I didn’t need Mourning dove for Saturday. Here is a picture I like of three Mourning doves, though.
There were also a couple of small brown birds that flew up into a tree, and it took me a minute to identify them. They were juvenile Western Bluebirds, which I didn’t need, but it’s always nice to see birds that you don’t see often. An adult male flew in, too, and I got this distant picture of a male Western Bluebird near the top of a tree.
That was it for my birding for the day, and I headed back to Redondo Beach. Back at our hotel, I showered and dressed for the wedding that we had come to town for. A bus picked up a group of people, mostly relatives of mine, at the hotel and took us to the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, which was the venue of the wedding. I had a little time before the wedding and got this picture of a female Western Bluebird for comparison with the male shown above.
I also added a year bird, which I had been hoping to see there. There were lots of ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRDS around, and I got this picture of one sitting in a bush. The light wasn’t good so the colors aren’t really true, but here’s a male Allen’s Hummingbird.
The wedding was in a little amphitheater and the reception was in a meadow. I had intended to wander around the gardens looking for more birds, but they had three security guys to keep the wedding guests in our meadow. When I tried to wander they very nicely told me that the gardens were closed and we had to stay in our pen. I did get one picture from the meadow, though, of a Northern Mockingbird, which I didn’t actually need for Saturday.
You can tell from the color of the light that it was evening by then.
So, that was Saturday’s birding. I got 16 Saturday birds, an excellent total, although not up to Friday’s 20. That brought me to 169 species for Saturday. I only added two more year birds, to bring me to 245 for the year.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
This morning I did my birding a little bit differently. I started by going back to the South Coast Botanic Garden again, where we had attended the wedding yesterday. I would have paid my six bucks (senior rate) to get in and do some serious birding, but today they were featuring a Pokemon festival. I pictured hordes of kids rampaging around looking for pokemon, so I decided to skip it today. I still drove through the parking lot, though, because there had been so many Allen’s Hummingbirds there, and I did indeed see one in the parking lot without getting out of my car. Oh yes, I had started the day as usual, getting Brown Pelican and Western Gull from our balcony, so after the botanic garden parking lot I had three Sunday birds already.
Since the garden was out for the day, I instead found my way to the Linden H. Chandler Preserve, which is only a couple of miles from the botanical garden. I had never been there before, but the eBird reports looked good. I decided to find the “back” entrance, and wound my way through some residential streets to get there. On the way I realized I hadn’t been thinking about one species that lives in Palos Verdes, and I saw at least a dozen INDIAN (or COMMON) PEAFOWL. Here is a picture of a male, also known as a peacock.
Here’s a picture of a female with a male, to show the remarkably different plumages.
On the way out I saw a male on a fence with an incredibly long tail.
I wonder how long it takes for the tail feathers to grow that long, and what it means that some males would have such huge tails while others have more reasonably sized ones. I knew there were peafowl in Palos Verdes, but they have either increased greatly in number or this neighborhood was a hot spot for them.
Anyway, I parked at the end of the street and walked a little on the trails that led away from there into the park. I discovered I was at the highest point in the park, though, and it was going to be steep downhill from there, which meant steep uphill coming back. I didn’t go very far, but I played the calls of California Gnatcatcher, the rare bird that lives there. I never had any sniff of a gnatcatcher of any species (there are also Blue-gray Gnatcatchers that live there), but other species seemed to fly in to check me out anyway. I picked up Orange-crowned Warbler for Sunday, and here’s a picture.
I saw other species, too, but nothing for my lists until I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk calling loudly as it flew over. I only got a brief look, but the call is pretty distinctive, so I counted it, after listening to the call on my phone to be sure.
I drove around to the main entrance to the preserve, which is located behind some Little League baseball fields. I was surprise there was no one there on a Sunday, but I guess that baseball for kids is over now for the year. I suppose it would be difficult to get the kids to all their games and practices with all the vacations and other activities of the summer.
On the access road into the parking area I heard a bird call through my open window and I stopped. I thought it sounded like a gnatcatcher, so I played the calls again. I never saw any gnatcatchers and I never heard that call again, but again, other species flew in to check me out. I had another Orange-crowned Warbler and I also had a male HOODED ORIOLE, my first of the year. Here is a picture of the male Hooded Oriole.
I also had a Pacific-slope Flycatcher fly in to check me out. That one really took me by surprise, and it was a great one for Sunday.
I parked the car in some partial shade and ventured out a little way onto the trails. I soon saw a female Lesser Goldfinch for my Sunday list, only the second time this year I’ve seen that species. Here is a front view picture of the female Lesser Goldfinch.
I wasn’t 100% sure of the species, but this side view convinced me.
There was also a group of Bushtits that came through. That’s an excellent bird, but I already had it for Sunday. Bushtits are hard to get pictures of because they don’t stay still for long, but I got this picture of a female Bushtit.
Male and female Bushtits look exactly the same except that females have light colored eyes and males have dark colored eyes.
I also saw a CASSIN’S KINGBIRD, which is a southern California specialty. Here is a picture of Cassin’s Kingbird.
To finish off my good fortune in Palos Verdes I saw a pair of California Towhees, another good one for Sunday. Here is a California Towhee.
It was about 11:00 by then, or maybe a bit later, so I headed off toward Bolsa Chica again, to try to cash in on the low hanging fruit there, I knew there would be 10 or 12 species there that I needed for Sunday, and there was always the possibility of seeing something new there.
Because of where I was I took surface streets down the coast instead of heading inland to catch the 405 freeway. It was a long tedious drive, but I didn’t hit any bad traffic at all. By the time I got near to Bolsa Chica, I needed to pee and I thought I should get something to eat as well. The last beach community you go through is called Sunset Beach, but it was too upscale or too small or something to have any fast food restaurants at all. I wasn’t worried, though, because I had noticed a Jack in the Box on the last corner before the Bolsa Chica wetlands. I got there and went to turn in and discovered that they didn’t have any parking lot, only a drive-through window! So much for my plans to pee. I found a beach park nearby, but there was no parking available on a summer Sunday afternoon, of course. I parked in a no parking spot and took a quick leak and continued on my way. I went through the Jack in the Box drive-through and got a little box of chicken nuggets so I wouldn’t starve and made my way to the parking lot for the wetlands. There were lots of parking places in the early afternoon, so I gathered up my stuff and headed out onto the preserve.
I started in on the terns and got Elegant Tern and Black Skimmer quickly. Here’s a picture of two Black Skimmers.
As always, terns were swirling around and sitting on the ground to the south. Here’s a picture of one of the places they were congregating. It’s hard to see the birds, but they are all over the place.
Here’s a maximum zoom shot of one part of that swarm.
Once I got across the bridge I saw about 30 Least Terns lined up along the top of the dike. There were three Forster’s Terns on the same floating yellow boom as on Saturday – two adults and a juvenile. I saw Caspian Terns, too, although I didn’t need that one for Sunday. By carefully studying the large mass of terns on the ground I was able to pick out one that I believed was a Royal Tern, and later I got a closer view of another Royal Tern.
I looked for and found one Horned Lark in the usual area. Likewise a couple of Ruddy Turnstones, lots of Willets and lots of Marbled Godwits. All of those were good for my Sunday list.
There were still a few Short-billed Dowitchers around and some Semipalmated Plovers. I needed Western Sandpiper for Sunday, too, and there were quite of few of those around. Here’s a picture of a Western Sandpiper.
By that time I had most of the ones I had seen before, with the exception of Reddish Egret, which I only saw one of, on Friday. Before heading back, though, I sat on a bench to rest a bit.
While I was sitting there, a bird flew in just across the water from me and landed on a little sand island. It turned out to be one that I had been looking for unsuccessfully so far, and I got this picture of my first WHIMBREL of the year.
At first glance, one might think that was another Long-billed curlew, which I had seen a number of times each day. Here is a picture of a Long-billed Curlew (with a Willet in the background) for comparison to the Whimbrel.
The curlew’s bill is somewhat longer, the markings on the head are much stronger on the Whimbrel, and the curlew has a much redder look. In addition, the curlew is quite a bit larger, but that’s hard to tell from an isolated picture. Anyway, it was great to get one last year-bird for the trip.
Then, while I was still enjoying seeing the Whimbrel, three other shorebirds flew in, and they turned out to be the only three Greater Yellowlegs I saw at Bolsa Chica this weekend. Sunday was a great day to see them, too, because it was the last day of the week that I still needed Greater Yellowlegs. Here are the three Greater Yellowlegs.
Here’s a closer shot of one of them.
On the way out I got this close-up of the head of a Snowy Egret.
That was it for the birding on the trip. By stopping at the preserve in Palos Verdes and getting very lucky there, I managed to bring my total Sunday birds for the day to a whopping 25, to bring Sunday to 180 species, tying Friday. Four of those were year birds, too, to bring that total to 249. My goal for the trip was to see 12 new year-birds, and Sunday’s four brought me to 16.
Christina and I had dinner with my old friend Chris and his wife to finish off a great weekend of parties and birding.