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Thursday, March 3, 2016
Here's a report for the last week. On Friday, February 26, I went up to Edmonds and got most of the usual species up there for my Friday list. That included Surfbird, Black Turnstone, and Rhinoceros Auklet, which I don't always see there. That brought Friday up to a respectable 71 species.
On Saturday, February 27, I went up to Crescent Lake, north of Duvall. On my way up the west side of the valley, I got this picture of a female American Kestrel, a bird I don't usually see much around here.
I had seen a kestrel in that same area before, so it was nice to see it again. Little did I know that I would see it several more times this past week, on the same exact wire.
I added the usual birds I see up in that area, and one that was new for my year list, my first swallow of the year, TREE SWALLOW. Swallows migrate south in the winter, and now they are returning, somewhat early this year.
Down on W. Snoqualmie River Rd, I got this picture of an immature Bald Eagle standing in a field.
Saturday got up to 68 species that day.
On Sunday, February 28, it was raining, and before I could go out looking for a bird, I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch in our yard, coming to our feeder - the first one I have seen on a Saturday this year. So, I didn't bother going out in the rain looking for more. Saturday was at 74 species after that, and that seemed adequate.
On Monday, February 29, Leap Day, I again went up to Crescent Lake, to get the regulars up there. I guess I hadn't been there on a Monday before, because I did well On the way up there I again saw the female kestrel and got another picture of her.
The Tree Swallows were there again, and have been every time since. This DOTW birding thing is interesting, because now I can add Tree Swallow to all seven of my lists, one day at a time. There will be a number of birds coming back from down south over the next several weeks, and they can be added to all seven lists, too, as they show up. I'm hoping that will keep my streak going - the streak of adding at least one new species to my Day Of The Week list each day, for that day. I got Northern Harrier and Lincoln's Sparrow along W. Snoqualmie River Rd that day, too - both excellent birds to see.
Here is the Lincoln's Sparrow.
At that same place, I got this picture of a male Spotted Towhee.
Also at that place, there was a little flock of White-crowned Sparrows. Here is an immature (first year) White-crowned Sparrow.
Here is an adult White-crowned Sparrow, showing the white on its head that gives the species its name.
The difference in the head coloration of that species, between immature and adult birds, is interesting, I think, and new birders have to learn to recognize both. Monday was at 67 species by the end of the day.
Back at home, I got this picture of a male Dark-eyed Junco at our bird feeder.
Dark-eyed Juncos are the most common birds in our yard these days, but I rarely pay much attention to them, let alone take their pictures.
Here is a Steller's Jay at our feeder, hiding behind the branches of the bush.
On Tuesday, March 1, I was on my way to Sikes Lake to see if the little flock of Greater White-fronted Geese was still hanging around there, since I needed that species for Tuesday still. On the way there I saw a very large flock of Cackling Geese feeding at the sod farm along NE 124th St in the Sammamish Valley. I needed that one for Tuesday, so that was great. I stopped and scanned the flock with my binoculars and picked out one Greater White-fronted Goose in the midst of many hundreds of Cackling Geese, so I didn't need to go to Sikes Lake to look for that species. Instead, I changed course and went up to Crescent Lake again, hoping to see the kestrel again, as well as a couple of duck species that are usually there in the winter. The kestrel was again on the same wire as twice before, which was nice, and I got the ducks as well. The Tree Sparrows were there in even greater numbers, too.
On W. Snoqualmie River Rd, I got White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow and a bonus Fox Sparrow. I had stopped on a secluded corner and was taking a leak in the rain when I saw the little flock of sparrows, including those three species. If I hadn't stopped to pee, I never would have seen them. Tuesday was up to 78 species after that excellent day of birding in the light rain. Other than my stop to pee, I don't think I got out of the car at all.
On Wednesday, March 2, I went up to Edmonds to look for some of the species I had missed there on Wednesday so far this year. I got Brant, Brandt's Cormorant, and Black Scoter, all excellent species. Back at home I got my first American Goldfinch on a Wednesday this year, at our feeder. That brought me to 83 for the year on Wednesday, my highest day at this point.
Today, Thursday, March 3, I had a lunch date, but I headed up to Crescent Lake for a quick look to see what I could see. The American Kestrel was once again on the same wire, the ducks I still needed were still there, and in addition to the Tree Swallows, I was able to identify at least one VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, my first of the year. They look a lot like Tree Swallows, and you need a really good look at them to distinguish which species they are, when they're flying. I had a little extra time, so I stopped by Sikes Lake on the way to Bellevue for lunch, and the little flock of Greater White-fronted Geese was in the same field I have seen them in a number of times this year. It's interesting that they seem to be spending this winter in that same field. I wouldn't have expected to find them there so much of the time, but I think I've only missed them there once this year so far.
I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went over to Phantom Lake as usual. I added Northern Flicker to my Thursday list, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglet. That brought Thursday to 76 species.
So, my score now stand like this:
After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76
After adding Tree Swallow and Violet-green Swallow this week, my year list now stands at 107 species.
I'm still enjoying my Day Of The Week birding thing, and I'm feeling really good, both physically and emotionally. I'm finally kicking the infection in my bowels, after 8 or 9 months, and that really helps I think. I will most likely still require major surgery to repair the damage done, but I'll face that when I have to. Meanwhile, party on!
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Here's a report for the last week, with some pictures.
On Friday, March 4, I went up north to the Stanwood and Skagit flats area. My first stop was at Eide Rd, just west of Stanwood. I saw a couple of Northern Harriers there, but no Short-eared Owls. I also got some good looks at a dark phase Rough-legged Hawk. I had only ever seen light phase ones before, and this one was somewhat different. There was a distant flock of Snow Geese, too, as well as some Tree Swallows and a couple of Killdeer, all of which I needed for my Friday list.
From there I made my way north to Fir Island, where I stopped and looked for the Lincoln's Sparrow I had seen a couple of times before there, but it didn't respond to its call that day. I saw a couple of women birding there, and they told me there was a Eurasian Wigeon, which I needed, in the flock along the entrance road, and I picked that up on the way out. I saw a lot of swans after that, and one group was Tundra Swans, which I was looking for particularly.
After that, I proceeded to March's Point, which is just east of Anacortes. I ate my lunch in the car while I watched the water. I got this picture of a Common Loon, only my second one of the year.
Moving on from there, I went on up to the Samish Flats and ended up at the West 90. I again missed Short-eared Owl, but in a field I saw a distant perched raptor. It was hard to get a good look through my scope because the wind was gusting so much that the tripod was shaking all the time. Eventually I was able to determine that the bird was a Peregrine Falcon, only the second one I have see this year.
I drove through the little town of Edison, looking for the Merlin I had seen there a week or two ago, but the wind was blowing so hard that the bird was probably hunkered down, and I didn't find it. It was a nice day of birding, though, and I added 9 species to my Friday list, to bring me to 80 species for Friday.
On Saturday, March 5, it was a beautiful sunny day by the time I got up, and I went up to the Edmonds waterfront. I had already gotten most of the regular Edmonds birds on an earlier Saturday, but there were four species I had seen this year, but not on a Saturday. Here is a picture of the Edmonds ferry terminal from Sunset Avenue, with the Olympic Mountains in the background.
Luck was with me, and I added Brant, Harlequin Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, and Black Scoter - all excellent birds, and the four targets I had chosen ahead of time. Those four brought me to 72 species for Saturday.
On Sunday, March 6, it was showery, but in a dry interval, I went down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park. I played the call of Brown Creeper, but couldn't attract one. Out on the south boardwalk, I played Virginia Rail, and a couple of them were quite responsive, answering me back loudly. I even managed to see one of them, scurrying through the undergrowth. I went on out to the end of the boardwalk and added Killdeer and Belted Kingfisher to my Sunday list. That brought me to 77 species for Sunday.
On Monday, March 7, it was raining lightly, so I decided to go out to Sikes Lake, out near Carnation (about half an hour from home). I was looking for Greater White-fronted Geese, which I had seen in a particular field there a number of times this year. They weren't in their normal field, and I was trying to think of what else I could go for in the rain, when I saw them in the field across the road from their normal field. They have been there all year, a little flock of about 20 of them. I wonder what makes them stay in such a small area all winter, when they have lots of other places they could go. That was the only one I got that day, bringing me to 68 species for Monday, my lowest day at this point. I need to get up to Edmonds on a Monday, where I could add another 7 to 10 species. Unfortunately, the Edmonds fishing pier is going to be closed for the next three months for repairs, and some of those species would only be seen from the pier. I might have to wait until winter rolls around again to get some of them on a Monday. I should be able to get some of them from Sunset Avenue, though.
On Tuesday, March 8, it was again showery, and I again went down to Juanita Bay Park in a dry interval. I again tried for Brown Creeper, but they just haven't been responsive lately, so I dipped on it. Out on the boardwalk I saw a couple of Bushtits, which I needed for Tuesday. I tried playing their call to try to entice them in for pictures. They ignored me, but a curious Ruby-crowned Kinglet did fly in to check me out, so I added that one, too. It started to rain about then, so I headed for home. Those two species (Bushtit and Ruby-crowned Kinglet) brought me to 80 species for Tuesday.
On Wednesday, March 9, it was dry in the morning (we have had 17 rainy days in a row, as of today, so finding a dry time to bird has been a challenge for a couple of weeks.). I went over to Magnuson Park, which is located in Seattle on what was the old Sand Point Naval Air Station. That was the first time I have been there this year. There were two or three species that people had been seeing there regularly, that I needed for Wednesday. The first one I got was Western Grebe. I saw a group of about a half dozen of them out in the middle of the lake (Lake Washington). A group of wigeons came along the shore, and along with the usual American Wigeons there was a single Eurasian Wigeon. As it turned out, I had seen Eurasian Wigeon before this year on a Wednesday, but I got this picture anyway.
Here is a picture of the male Eurasian Wigeon with a male American Wigeon, showing the differences and similarities.
There was also a small group of Greater Scaup along the shore, and I did need that one for Wednesday. Here is a male Greater Scaup.
They look very much like Lesser Scaup, but the head shape is different, and the sides of the male are whiter in Greater Scaup.
I saw another bird that I was looking for, too. Here is a picture of my first CALIFORNIA GULL of the year.
The California Gull is the one on the right. It is characterized by yellow-green legs, its size (mid-sized) and the black and red marks on its bill. The gull to the right is a Ring-billed Gull. The bill is characteristic, but even without seeing the bill, the bird is smaller than the California Gull, and the legs are more yellow, rather than yellow-green.
So, that was what I had been looking for, and I went back to the car to leave. On my way out, I drove around the parking lot, looking for sparrows or other small birds in the brush, but then I saw this Cooper's Hawk in a small tree, right in front of me.
Cooper's Hawk looks very much like Sharp-shinned Hawk, but Cooper's Hawk is larger. This bird was about the size of a crow, so I knew it was a Cooper's. Sharpies are only a little bigger than a robin.
So, I added four species in Magnuson Park, which brought me to 87 for Wednesday, my highest day of the week at this point.
Today I didn’t have a lot of time in the morning, and it was very windy, with sprinkles of rain from time to time. I went down to Juanita Bay Park and tried for Brown Creeper again, but again got no response. Next I tried playing Golden-crowned Kinglet, and this time a couple of them flew right in to check me out. I was satisfied with that, and that brought me to 77 for Thursday.
So, at this point, here is my scorecard for my Day Of The Week birding.
After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77
Note that for each day, the number increases in succeeding weeks. That is another of saying that my streak is alive - I have added at least one bird to my day list, each day this year so far. It has been a lot of fun planning my birding each day to be able to keep the streak going. It's getting harder and harder all the time, and I'm eagerly waiting for the spring migrants to begin showing up, so I can add them to my lists and keep the streak going. The first two of 4 or 5 swallow species have shown up, but there are still a lot more spring birds to get, once they show up. Another way to keep the streak alive would be to do some traveling. It would be easy to keep it alive for two or three more weeks if I were in California, for example.
So, I added California Gull to my year list, to bring me to 108 species for the year. You will see from the table above that my biggest day is Wednesday, with 87 species, so there are 21 species that I have seen this year that I haven't seen on a Wednesday. Another interesting number (to me, anyway) is that I have now seen 46 of those 108 species on all seven days of the week. Part of the fun of this DOTW birding thing is trying to fill in the blanks in my spreadsheet (in addition to keeping my streak alive).
I continue to feel great, since getting out of the hospital a couple of weeks ago. I most likely will still need some major bowel surgery, although it's possible that I'll heal up without surgery. It is great to be feeling good now, anyway, whatever the future may hold. I'd really like to put this medical stuff behind me and get out on the road.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Last Friday, March 11, we had a break in all the rain we have been having, so I went over to Logboom Park, at the north end of Lake Washington, in Kenmore. I saw a few Western Grebes in the distance, a good bird to get for my Friday list. I also saw the expected Canvasbacks (a duck species), which I have seen every time I've gone to Logboom Park this year. As I was heading back to the car, I saw some scaup (duck species) in the distance. Later I looked on Google Maps, and I figure they were 400 or 500 yards away, about a quarter to a third of a mile - the length of four or five football fields. With my scope at 60X, I could see them fairly well. There are two species of scaup in our area, Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup. I had already seen Greater Scaup on a Friday this year, but I needed Lesser.
The differences are very minor, mainly the shape of the head. At this distance it was difficult to tell the difference. One other clue, not usually seen, is that in the right light, the head of the male Greater Scaup appears to have a greenish sheen and the head of a male Lesser Scaup has a purplish sheen. You can't usually see the sheen, but the light was perfect that day, and I could see it in this case. Based on that, as well as the head shapes, I decided that most of the ducks were Greater Scaup, but two or three of the males were Lesser Scaup (the one I needed on Friday). Nevermind about the females - all you can go on there is the head shape.
So, here is a very distant picture (hand-held at 50X and cropped heavily, so it is blurry) of some of the scaup.
You can clearly see the greenish sheen on the head of the lead duck (Greater Scaup) and the purplish sheen on the head of the third one (Lesser Scaup). If you know what to look for, you can also see the differences in the head shape. The greenish one has a "long" head, with the peak close behind the eye. The purplish one (Lesser Scaup) has a "tall" head, with the peak well behind the eye. I find it amazing that my little point and shoot camera can get this good a shot at 400 or 500 yards, hand held. Technology is amazing these days.
Here is another picture, with a male Lesser Scaup designated by the arrow. There are a couple of Greater Scaup, with greenish heads, on the left side. Note the "tall" head on the purplish one, and the "long" head on the greenish ones. Such subtleties are part of birding.
I used to find it very difficult to distinguish between the two scaup species, but I'm getting pretty good at it now. I have now "completed" Lesser Scaup, meaning I've seen them every day of the week now. I still need to get Greater Scaup on a Sunday, and then I can quit paying any attention to scaup for the rest of this year.
So, the Western Grebes, the Canvasbacks, and the Lesser Scaup brought me to 83 species on Fridays.
On Saturday, March 12, I went over to Magnuson Park, on the west shore of Lake Washington, in North Seattle. It was pretty windy and the lake had some good-sized waves, but I was able to see one Western Grebe a long way out, one for my Saturday list. There were also a couple of California Gulls on the swimming raft, so I got a second bird for Saturday. I saw a small grebe near shore, and I got excited, because I thought it was an Eared Grebe, a fairly uncommon bird in our area, and one I hadn't seen this year. I got some pictures and eventually decided it was only a Horned Grebe, a much more common bird here, in transition plumage, in the midst of changing from winter plumage to summer plumage. Here is one of my pictures.
With my binoculars only, I was convinced it was an Eared Grebe in transition plumage, but my pictures told the true tale. Not one for my Saturday list, but an interesting bird to see, in its transition plumage. I imagine it will soon be leaving for its breeding grounds, in inland Canada or Alaska.
I had 74 species on Saturday when I finished that day.
On Sunday, March 13 (Christina's birthday), it was raining lightly, so I headed up to the Duvall area, to try for some birds from the car. My first site was W. Snoqualmie River Rd NE, and I stopped where I had seen several sparrow species before. I played some songs and was able to add Fox Sparrow to my Sunday list. I actually got out of the car in the drizzle, but I couldn't get any pictures. After that I went over to W. Snoqualmie VALLEY Rd NE, on the other side of the valley, to look for the American Kestrel that I have seen there a number of times recently. It wasn't on its usual wire or any of the other wires in the area, so I was going to give up and head home, but as I turned around, I saw it across the road on a post. The only picture I could get was blurred, and then it flew off, but I had a second bird for my Sunday list, to bring me to 79 species for Sunday and keep my streak alive.
On Monday, March 14, I went up to the Edmonds waterfront. I hadn't been to Edmonds on a Monday yet, and there are a number of saltwater species that I see there. I did great, getting all the ones I would have hoped for, including Brant, Harlequin Duck, and Black Scoter. I added seven species to my Monday list, to bring it to 75, still my second lowest day, after Saturday. Interestingly, Monday and Saturday are the two days I haven't yet gone up to the Skagit area, where I normally add at least a half dozen species I don't see elsewhere much or at all.
On Tuesday, March 15, I went over to Marymoor Park in Redmond, to try for a rarity that had been seen there for a couple or three days. I went to where the bird had been last reported, and there it was, SAY'S PHOEBE, a flycatcher that is quite uncommon west of the Cascades. I've seen them in California a lot, and I've seen them in about half of the Washington counties east of the Cascades, but this was the first time I had seen one west of the Cascades in Washington. Here is a picture of Say's Phoebe.
And, just for good measure, here is another one.
I also got this picture of a Western Meadowlark, one I didn’t need for Tuesday, but still a good bird for the area.
A couple of Spotted Towhees flew in while I was getting pictures of the Say's Phoebe, and one of them posed for me so nicely that I'm going to show his picture. I think Spotted Towhees are very handsome birds, and I like these three pictures of a male Spotted Towhee.
We have them in our yard, so I see them all the time, but this one was just begging for pictures, so I obliged him.
Later I went to lunch with my friend Chris, and after lunch we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, as we usually do if the weather cooperates, and I picked up Greater Scaup for Tuesday, which just leaves me needing Greater Scaup for Sunday now, to complete the species for all seven days. The Say's Phoebe and the Greater Scaup brought me to 82 species for Tuesday.
On Wednesday, March 16, I went back to Marymoor Park to see if the Say's Phoebe had stuck around. It had, and I got two or three brief looks and it disappeared on me. I got Tree Swallow for Wednesday, too. As I was leaving, I stopped at the office/mansion area to try for Rufous Hummingbird, which is back in the area, after going south for the winter. I didn't see the hummer, but I did see this Red-breasted Sapsucker, which was a great one for my Wednesday list.
After that, I was at 90 species for Wednesday, my best day of the week at this point.
Today, Thursday, March 17 (Happy St Patrick's Day to all Irish and Irish wannabes), I went up north to the Skagit area. The weather was wonderful, sunny and clear. The temperature started out in the low 40's when I left at 9:30 and was in the high 50's when I got home at 4:30.
My first stop was at Subway in Stanwood to get a tuna sandwich for later. Next I went to Eide Rd, just west of Stanwood. As I turned off the main road onto Eide Rd, there was a Road Closed sign, with no indication of the reason. There was more water in the fields than usual, so maybe the water was over the road at some point. I could see one car at the distant parking area, but I obeyed the sign and didn't venture in. I did stop at the first place to turn around, though, and I got out and scoped the fields. I picked up a Rough-legged Hawk, perched in the distance, and then a Northern Harrier, also perched. No sign of any Short-eared Owls, the one I really wanted there.
So, I moved on north and soon added Snow Goose to my Thursday list. Crossing into Skagit county from Snohomish county, there was a field of swans, so I stopped to scope them. Most were Trumpeter Swans, which I didn't need, but a few were Tundra Swans, which I did need. As a bonus, I added Killdeer to my Thursday list there.
Moving on to Hayton Reserve, on Fir Island, I tried for the Lincoln's Sparrow I had seen there before, but had no luck today. After that, I checked out the Jensen Access, but didn't get anything there, either. It was getting on for lunch time, so I boogied on over to March's Point, with a quick stop at the so-called Bingo Hall Lagoon, which is adjacent to the Swinomish casino. Nothing at the lagoon, and nothing as I made my way around March's Point. I ate half my sandwich in the car. It was chilly outside and quite windy. I saw a lot of Brant and Bufflehead out on the choppy water, but nothing I needed. I did see two birds flying, though, and got my binoculars on them They were two Black Oystercatchers, great birds for my Thursday list. It was only the second time I had seen that species this year, and a first for Skagit county for me.
After I ate, I moved on around the point and spotted a Common Loon in transition plumage, meaning it was changing from its winter garb to its summer outfit. Here is a picture.
In the winter it would be gray and white with a light-colored bill, and in the summer it will have a black head and a checkered back, with a black bill. This bird is in between right now. For comparison, here is a picture of a Common Loon, in winter plumage, that I took at March's point just two weeks ago.
You can see what a difference a couple of weeks can make. Soon the Common Loons that have wintered here in Washington on salt water will be heading north to inland Canada and Alaska, to breed on lakes there.
Moving on some more, I saw a duck-like bird on the water that seemed very odd. I stopped and got the binoculars on it, and it was even odder. With the binoculars (10X magnification), it seemed to have a large white bill, and looked nothing like anything I could imagine. I took some pictures at 50X magnification, and here is one of them.
Where was its face and bill? Eventually it pulled its head out from under its wing, and revealed itself to be a male Hooded Merganser.
It was an interesting mystery there for a while.
I went on up through Bay View to the Samish Flats. Here is a picture of Mount Baker, across the flats.
As you can see, it was a spectacular day. Here is a closer view of Mount Baker.
I saw several Rough-legged Hawks there, and a lovely male Northern Harrier, swooping over the fields and across the road right in front of me. I had the second half of my sandwich at the West 90, but didn't see anything new there.
Heading for home, I took a look at the East 90 and soon after that was the "eagle house". There are always Bald Eagles in the trees around the house, and today there was an eagle sitting on the huge nest next to the house. Here is a picture of the eagle on the nest.
Eagles are huge birds, and you can see how large their nests are. I had read that eagles were now sitting on eggs, and this one seemed to be doing just that.
I went through the tiny town of Edison. I would have thought the town was named for Thomas Edison, but as I came into town, I noticed a sign that said the town was established in 1869. Thomas Edison was born in 1847, and I doubt he was famous enough by 1869 to have had a town in Washington named after him, so I suppose it was some other Edison. Ahh, I just looked it up, and Wikipedia says that Edison was settled in 1869 and later named for Thomas Edison.
Anyway, my main reason for going through Edison was to look for the Merlin I had seen there earlier this year. No sign of it today, but as I left town, I decided to explore a dead-end side road I hadn't been on before. It ran along the Edison Slough for a short distance. I saw some little birds at one point, and they looked like sparrows. I figured they would be House Sparrows or maybe White-crowned or Golden-crowned Sparrows, but I stopped and took a look, because that's what birders do. To my great surprise, they turned out to be SAVANNAH SPARROWS, a new one for my year list. I wasn't expecting that at all, as they mostly migrate south in the winter, although I guess a few do over-winter in our area. They are due back in a couple of weeks, but these were early arrivals, I guess. Savannah Sparrow was a first for me for Skagit county. Here is a picture of a Savannah Sparrow.
After that I headed for home and made it safely through the building rush hour traffic on the freeways. I got eight species for my Thursday list, to bring it to 85 species, second only to Wednesday in my Day Of The Week birding spreadsheet.
So, here is my scorecard after 11 weeks (I took one week off due to my hospitalization in February):
After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85
I have a "clean sweep" on 54 species, meaning I have counted those 54 species on each day of the week this year.
I added two more to my year list this week, so that brings me to 110 species for the year.
I'm still feeling great physically. Emotionally, I'm kind of riding a roller coaster, thinking about my upcoming bowel surgery that I'm almost certainly going to need. Sometimes it just seems terrible and I feel down, but other times I feel like it isn't so bad compared to what some people have to endure, and I feel like I can just take care of it and move on. Meanwhile, all I can say is - what a life!
Thursday, March 24, 2016
On Friday, March 18, it wasn't raining, so I went up to the Edmonds waterfront to try for several species I had missed there earlier in the year on Fridays. I went straight to Sunset Avenue, north of the ferry terminal. First off I got a pair of Harlequin Ducks sitting on a log out in the water. That was a good start, as they aren't very common and I don’t always see them at Edmonds. Next, while I was looking around with my scope, I spotted a Belted Kingfisher on the rocks at Brackett's Landing, down below me (Sunset Avenue is up on a cliff, overlooking the railroad tracks and the water). That was another good Friday bird.
I moved on up the street and was able to get the only parking place along there, and I set up my scope again. I saw a number of Black Scoters - maybe 6 or 8 of them altogether. That's probably the highest number of Black Scoters I have ever seen on one day. I was pleased with that, but then I noticed three or four birds pretty far out, and they turned out to be Pacific Loons, an even better bird. I ended up seeing 8 or 10 Pacific Loons, which surprised me. So, I added four species to my Friday list, to bring me to 87.
On Saturday, March 19, it again wasn't raining, and I headed over to Marymoor Park. On Saturdays the park is overrun with people - tons of kid's soccer games, one cricket game, and many dozens of people exercising their dogs in the off-leash dog park. There were also plenty of runners, walkers, and cyclists. Oh yes, also several people at the model airplane field, flying their planes. It is a very nice park, and heavily used on weekends.
Anyway, I walked around the East Meadow, looking for the Say's Phoebe that I had seen twice before, earlier in the week. On my way into the park I stopped at the office area and again saw a Red-breasted Sapsucker drumming on the metal top of a light pole, in the same place I had seen one earlier in the week. This time a second one flew in, and they engaged in some kind of ritual, facing each other and bowing to each other repeatedly. Then they flew off and I lost sight of them. It was a good Saturday bird, though.
Over at the East Meadow, I missed the phoebe, but I saw several Western Meadowlarks, another excellent Saturday bird. After that, I drove around to the rowing club, which is on the west side of the Sammamish Slough, to look for the Green Heron that has been reported there. I didn't see the heron, but I got this picture of a female Ring-necked Duck.
On that same pond there was a female Common Goldeneye.
With the sapsucker and the meadowlark, I was then at 76 species for Saturday.
On Sunday, March 20, it was raining lightly and threatening to do more, so I headed up to the Crescent Lake/Duvall area for some car birding. The only bird I could add to my Sunday list was Tree Swallow, at the old Monroe prison farm pond. While I was there I did get this picture of a Fox Sparrow, though - a good bird, even though I didn’t need Fox Sparrow for Sunday.
The rain had stopped for the moment, and I was actually out of the car for that one. I drove up West Snoqualmie River Road to see what I might get there, trying for Lincoln's Sparrow mainly, but dipped on that one. I did get this picture of a Great Blue Heron on a nest across the river, though.
Great Blue Herons normally nest communally, with a number of nests in adjacent trees, but this one was all on its own. I had noticed the nest a week or so earlier, and two herons were in the tree with the nest at that time. This is the first time I have seen a GBH at a nest that was on its own, rather than in a community of nests. I wonder if the birds will successfully raise young there. There are a lot of Bald Eagles in that area, and they prey on the young herons before they can leave the nest.
My Tree Swallows that day brought my Sunday total to 80.
Monday, March 21 was a fun day. It was raining lightly in the morning, but it was supposed to clear a bit, so I stopped by Marymoor Park on my way down to Bellevue to go out to lunch. I was mainly looking for the Say's Phoebe again, but another rarity had been seen the day before as well, a Burrowing Owl. I've never seen a Burrowing Owl in Washington, so that was an attractive draw, although I knew the owl was only migrating through here and had probably moved on.
As I pulled into the parking lot there were some gulls on one of the soccer fields, and a couple of them turned out to be California Gulls, which I needed for my Monday list. Great - I had my Monday bird and I hadn't even had to get out of the car in the rain.
The rain was slowing down by then, so after waiting a few minutes in the car, I joined two or three other birders who were obviously also looking for the Burrowing Owl. None of us saw it, but by then the rain had stopped, so I headed down toward the south end of the East Meadow, to look for the Say's Phoebe. Next came the fun part of the day.
As I approached the area where I had seen the phoebe before, a small bird flew across the path and into a tree next to me. I thought it might be a Yellow-rumped Warbler at first, so I took a look, as I could have used that for a Monday bird. What I saw puzzled me, though. It wasn't a warbler, and it wasn't anything else I recognized either. It was high in the trees, and the light was terrible, with a bright cloudy sky, but I got out my camera and started taking pictures.
The bird hung around, fortunately, and I kept trying to get better looks at it and better pictures. A couple of other birders came along, and they couldn't identify the bird either. After about 15 or 20 minutes, I noticed it was almost 11 o'clock and I had to leave soon for my lunch appointment in Bellevue. I quickly went a few yards down the path and managed to see the Say's Phoebe, which was very cooperatively perching and chasing bugs just beyond where I had stopped. I chalked that one up for my Monday list and stopped briefly back where I had been and got a few more pictures of the mystery bird, then I had to boogie back to my car and hustle on down to Bellevue.
By that time I had an inkling about the bird, and I checked my field guide, which I had left in my car. The bird looked just like the picture in my field guide of a first winter COMMON REDPOLL, a great bird for Western Washington. Here are three of the pictures I took of it.
I know, it doesn't look like much, but I was thrilled to have found it. When I got home, I posted to the local birding listserv, Tweeters, with a link to some of my pictures. I got several responses and other people went looking for the bird, but it seemed to have moved on. Normally redpolls would feed in a flock in the winter, and seeing one on its own is unusual. I had only seen the species before in Eastern Washington at feeders in the winter, so seeing one on its own, in Western Washington, was a true rarity. The guy who is the unofficial "bird master" of Marymoor park emailed me and asked to use some of my pictures in his Marymoor birding blog. He said I was the first person he knew of who had gotten pictures of Common Redpoll in the park, and it was only the third time they had been reported in the park, in the last 25 years. Here is a link to his blog post, which has three of my pictures in it. http://www.marymoor.org/BirdBlog/Current.htm I suspect that link will take you to the current post, and the one I'm referring to is the one labeled Special Report for Week 12, 2016.
So, as I said, that was a fun day, finding a rarity on my own, not just chasing down one that someone else had found, like usual. My three species that day brought me to 78 for Monday.
Tuesday, March 22, was not rainy at first, so I went on down to Juanita Bay Park, my local park that I like to bird at. I tried calling in a Brown Creeper from the parking lot, where I have seen them before, but had no luck. So, I walked out onto the west boardwalk. Along the boardwalk there were a couple of Black-capped Chickadees collecting fuzz or eating seeds on the cattails, and I got this picture I like.
Out at the end of the boardwalk, I saw dozens of swallows flitting around over the lake, as I expected to, and I was able to add Violet-green Swallow to my Tuesday list. I also saw a couple of Wilson's Snipe across the little bay, and that was an excellent Tuesday bird. I headed back to the car, and ironically enough, as I got to the parking lot, I saw a Brown Creeper on a branch right out in front of me, without even playing its song. I was too slow to get a picture, but I got the bird for my Tuesday list. Those three brought me to 85 species for Tuesday.
It was raining lightly on Wednesday, March 24, but I needed a bird to keep my streak alive, so I went back down to Juanita Bay Park, figuring that the Violet-green Swallows would be there for sure. I walked out to the end of the boardwalk in the rain and sure enough, there were hundreds of swallows catching bugs over the lake in the light rain. I didn't see anything else for my list that day, and that brought me to 91 species for Wednesday. As I get more and more species each day, it gets harder and harder to keep adding on to the lists. The spring birds are starting to come back now, though, and that is saving me. There weren't any swallows at all around three weeks ago, and now two of the five common swallow species we see here are back - the other three will show up in the next few weeks, and then they can go onto my various day lists. Soon the ducks will be heading north, but I have almost all the common ducks that winter here, now, on all seven of my lists, so that won't matter to me.
Today, Thursday, March 24, the weather was pretty good, so I headed back to Marymoor Park, mainly to try again for the Say's Phoebe. There were some other birds I might see there, too. On Thursdays there is a bird walk at the park, and I figured I could catch up with them part way through (they start much too early for this old rambler), and that could help me pick up something.
I saw the group as I got there, but I wanted to try for the Say's Phoebe before I joined them. I found the phoebe pretty quickly, and there were a couple of other birders there, too, watching it. One of them told me that there had been a Savannah Sparrow there, and that sounded good to me. They migrate south in the winter, and they are just now coming back. I didn't see the sparrow, and I dipped on Western Meadowlark as well, as I walked around the East Meadow.
So, I parked over by the office and joined the 8 or 10 people on the Thursday morning walk. We saw some birds, including Belted Kingfisher, Violet-green Swallow, and Golden-crowned Kinglet, but I already had those for Thursday. I joined them over at the rowing club, hoping to see Green Heron, but didn't see one. One of the women in the group spotted a Downy Woodpecker in the distance, though, and that was a good one for my Thursday list. Joining the group had paid off.
When I left them, I went back to look again for the Savannah Sparrow that I had been told about. I was alone when I got to where it had been, so I played the song on my phone. (I don't like to use playback when other birders are around. Some don't approve of it, and it can mislead birders who are birding by ear.) It worked this time, though, and a Savannah Sparrow flew up and perched on a post. I got these two pictures.
I thought I had a good one for my Thursday list, because I had seen the species only once before this year, but then I realized that it was last Thursday I had seen them, up in Skagit county, so it wasn't a Thursday bird after all. It was still fun calling it up and getting the pictures, though.
My two new species today brought me to 87 species for Thursday.
So, I continue to get a new day-bird each day this year, for my Day Of The Week birding project. It has been fun. Here is my current scorecard:
After After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83 87
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74 76
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79 80
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75 78
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82 85
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90 91
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85 87
Adding Common Redpoll to my year list brings me to 111 species for the year. I'm hoping to head over to the ocean next week for a couple of nights, and if I do that, I should add some more to my year list then.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
It's only been two days since my last report, but I took a lot of pictures today, so here is another one.
Yesterday, Friday, March 25, I went over to Marymoor Park to try for the Say's Phoebe again, for my Friday list. As long as there is a reliable rarity nearby, I figure might as well try to add it to each day's list.
I looked for other birds first, but didn't find anything new, so I went out to the East Meadow to see if the phoebe was still around. There were a couple of women walking along the trail toward the place I had seen the phoebe on Thursday, so I walked the other way around the loop that circles the East Meadow. Almost right away I saw a Savannah Sparrow sitting on a pretty bush with yellow flowers.
There was no sign of the phoebe at the south end of the meadow, where it had been a few days ago, so went on around the loop. I got this picture of a Tree Swallow along the way.
Here is another one at a nest box.
I do like those blue birds, you know. I didn't need Tree Swallow for Friday, but I did need Violet-green Swallow, and there were dozens of them flying over the meadow.
When I got around to the area where I had seen the phoebe the day before, it was there again. Here is another picture of the Say's Phoebe that has been hanging around the East Meadow for a couple of weeks now.
So, I added three more species to my Friday list, to bring me to 90 species for Friday.
Today, Saturday, March 26, the weather was great, so I headed up to Skagit county. This was the sixth time I've been up there this year, all on different days, of course. There are 5 or 6 species that I can see up there that I don't see anywhere else around here, so I like to spend a day up there when the weather is good. It takes me about an hour to get to where I start birding.
I got away at 9 AM today, which is early for me to hit the road. I picked up a tuna sandwich at Subway in Stanwood, just like I had the other five times I've been up to Skagit county this year. My first stop was Eide Road, which had a Road Closed sign on it, as it had the last time I was there. I went in a few hundred yards anyway and parked, and looked over the flooded fields. I managed to see a perched Rough-legged Hawk, the only one I saw today, as it turned out. I also saw a distant Northern Harrier. I heard a bird calling loudly from close at hand, and I tried to see it. Eventually it flew, before I could find it, and it was a Greater Yellowlegs, another good one for my Saturday list, especially since I didn’t see them anywhere else today. It turned out there were 5 or 6 more in the same field, and I spotted them just before they also flew away. So, I had three good birds for my Saturday list, right off the bat. No sign of any Short-eared Owls, which I had previously seen twice there this year. I think they have moved on north to breed now, so I won't see them again until next winter, if then. The only other place I've seen Short-eared Owl is in Hawaii, on Maui and the Big Island.
Moving north, my next stop netted me Tundra Swan, another Skagit specialty I was hoping for. I stopped at the Hayton Reserve on Fir Island to look for the Lincoln's Sparrow I had seen there once or twice before this year. On my way in to the parking area, I saw a couple of Savannah Sparrows, another good one for my Saturday list. Two weeks ago, there wasn't a Savannah Sparrow anywhere around here, but now I've seen them at three different places. Spring is here - the summer birds are coming back and the migrants are moving through.
I played the song of Lincoln's Sparrow, but I got no response. In the distance there were many hundreds of Snow Geese flying around, though, and that was another Skagit specialty I needed. Here is a picture of a large flock of Snow Geese with Mount Adams in the background.
Those white blobs near the ground are the Snow Geese.
I got a picture of a female Common Merganser there, not a bird I needed for Saturday, but I thought its pose was interesting.
I've never seen a merganser standing like that before. Later in the day I got this picture of a male Common Merganser, which has quite a different look.
Who would have thought that those last two pictures were the same species?
As I was leaving Hayton Reserve, there was a Song Sparrow singing its heart out, and I got this picture I like.
After taking several pictures of the Song Sparrow, I was getting into my car when I saw a bird flitting around a short distance away. I went back to check it out, and it was the Lincoln's Sparrow I had been looking for. I managed just one picture before it disappeared back into the blackberry bramble, but it came out okay.
I was doing well at getting the birds I was looking for. Next I went to the Jensen Access, which overlooks the bay. The tide was out and there were lots of birds feeding along the edge of the water. They were a long distance away, but I got my scope and I was able to identify my first BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS of the year. I also could barely identify some Sanderlings, but it turned out that I already had that one on a Saturday this year. The birds were far enough away that the heat haze make identifying them quite difficult. I thought I saw a Dunlin once, but I wasn't sure enough to count it.
My next birding stop was a house on Valentine Road that has a number of feeders. Most of the feeders didn't have any food in them, but there was suet, and I got this picture of a Red-breasted Nuthatch.
I moved on north and at one point there was a flock of Snow Geese right next to the road. Here is a picture showing how close to the road they were.
Here is a close up of a couple of the Snow Geese.
The rust color on their faces is due to the mud they have been grubbing around in. Their faces are pure white actually.
Just across the road and up a few hundred yards was a view of some of the tulip fields in the area. The tulips are early this year, I think. I see the Tulip Festival tours start on March 31 and run until April 21, so I guess it isn’t all that early. Here are some of the early tulips.
I was sort of on the fringes of the main tulip growing area. I had avoided the heart of the tulip fields to avoid the crowds that come out to see them.
Next it was time for lunch. I drove around March's Point and stopped several times to check out the birds in the water. I didn't need Brant today, but I got this picture of a Brant, which is a small goose.
I got another of my target birds there, a Common Loon, which was in transition plumage, almost into its summer colors.
I ate half my sandwich in the car, overlooking the water. Here is my lunch time view of Mount Adams. A gull happened to fly by just as I took the picture, so it isn't birdless. That's water in the foreground, not a field.
After I ate my half sandwich, I drove on around the point. I had been watching the shore, looking for a shorebird that is reported there, and at one stop I spotted one. There turned out to be at least eight Black Oystercatchers along the shore there. Here is a picture of one of them.
I used to see Black Oystercatchers with my friend, Ted, who lived in the Monterey area, and they were one of our special birds. Ted passed away last year, and seeing the Oystercatchers today made me think of him and all the great times we had together. I really miss him.
After lunch I drove farther north. After stopping to take a leak and eat the second half of my sandwich at Bay View State Park, I drove across the Samish Flats. Along Sullivan Road I added one more to my Saturday list, Brewer's Blackbird. Here is a picture of a male Brewer's Blackbird.
Normally they look plain black, but with the sun on this one, you could see his iridescence and the purplish sheen to his head. Female Brewer's Blackbirds are plainer and don’t have that yellow eye. Here is a female Brewer's Blackbird.
I drove around a little, but didn't see anything more of interest. I did get a picture of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, though.
You can tell it is a juvenile (meaning it was hatched last year) because its tail is barred, rather than red.
So, it was a very successful day of birding. I got home before 4 o'clock, after a ten minute delay on I-5 due to weekend construction and lane closure. I added a whopping eleven species to my Saturday list, an excellent total for this late in the year. I now have 87 species on my Saturday list.
The Black-bellied Plovers brought me to 112 species for the year. It was new for my Skagit county list, too.
I'm still hoping to head for the ocean on Tuesday for two nights, so look for more reports, God Willing And The Creeks Don't Rise.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
On Sunday, March 27, it was raining in the morning, but the weather radar showed it wasn’t raining in Redmond, so I went over to Marymoor Park, to try for some Sunday birds, including the Say’s Phoebe that had been hanging around there. When I got to Marymoor, it was right on the edge of the clouds and it was just starting to sprinkle a bit. I went to where I could see the swallows flying over the slough, and I got out and managed to identify them as Violet-green Swallows, which I needed for my Sunday list. It started to rain for real at that point, so after driving around trying to find something in the rain, I parked near the East Meadow and read my book (on my Kindle) for the next hour or so. By then I needed to pee, so I took care of that and went back and read a little more. Eventually, the rain let up somewhat, and I decided to venture out into the rain to see if the Say’s Phoebe could be found.
I thought it would be unlikely, because phoebes are flycatchers and feed on flying insects, and it seemed unlikely that insects would be flying in the rain (getting hit by a rain drop would be somewhat devastating to an insect, I would think), but I was there, so I went walking along the East Meadow. I saw some Song Sparrows, some Dark-eyed Juncos, some crows, some robins, and some Golden-crowned Sparrows, but no sign of a phoebe. Later I read a report from a guy who had looked for the phoebe for a couple of hours on Saturday, when it wasn’t raining, and he hadn’t found it, so maybe it has moved on.
As I was getting back to my car, I did see a Savannah Sparrow, though, one for my Sunday list. So, despite the rain, I was able to add two species to my Sunday list, to bring me to 82 for Sunday.
On Monday, it was threatening rain, but I went down to Juanita Bay Park to see what I could find. I played the song of Brown Creeper in the parking lot and a couple of them flew right in, so I added that one to my Monday list. My right heel has been hurting me, and walking aggravates it, so I decided to call it a day and I went home. Later I went to lunch with my friend Chris, though, and after lunch we went to Phantom Lake, in Bellevue, as usual, and I added Violet-green Swallow to my Monday list there. That brought me to 80 species for Monday.
Today, Tuesday, March 29, I headed out for the ocean, as I had been planning. The weather forecast is for sun all week, and I figured the ocean would be a great place to spend a couple of nights. I got a tuna sandwich at Subway in Lacey, and my first birding site was what is called the Brady Loop, in Gray’s Harbor county. I had several target birds there.
I did well. My first Tuesday bird was Greater Yellowlegs, and it turned out to the only one of that species I saw today. At a house with feeders that I had visited before, I picked up MOURNING DOVE for my year list. Here is a poor picture of a Mourning Dove, with its characteristic spots on its wings.
At the same stop, I saw my first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD of the year. It was a female, but the only picture I got is total crap.
A little bit farther around the loop, I spotted a bird at the top of a tree, and it was a WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, my main target for the Brady Loop. They aren’t very common in Washington State, but they are often reported on the Brady Loop. No pictures, though. I was quite happy to add three birds to my year list with that side trip, and four to my Tuesday list. I also added nine to my Gray’s Harbor county list, which was also excellent.
After that I skipped all the other places I might stop along the way and boogied on into Westport, my destination for today. I drove out to Westhaven State Park and ate my tuna sandwich in the car while looking out at the ocean. I added three species to my Gray’s Harbor county list there, but nothing new for Tuesday this year.
I drove out to Chehalis Point, which is very close to where I’m staying tonight and tomorrow night. I looked out over the channel into Gray’s Harbor and found some birds. An easy addition to my year list was WESTERN GULL, the most common gull species here, according to eBird, although I thought I saw a lot more Glaucous-winged Gulls and “Olympic Gulls”. So called Olympic Gulls are hybrids between Western Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull, and they are very common in this area. Here is a picture of a Western Gull that I got later.
I know – all gulls look alike to non-birders, but there are definite differences in the various species. The three main things a birder looks for to identify a gull are the bill colors and shape, the color of the legs, and the size.
In the Westhaven Marina area I saw a single COMMON MURRE, another good one for my lists (all three lists – year, Tuesday, and Gray’s Harbor county). Here is a picture of what is probably the same Common Murre, taken later in the afternoon.
I also got a Common Loon for my Tuesday and Gray’s Harbor county lists. It was in its summer (breeding) plumage. I later got some pictures of what is probably the same bird.
Compare that coloration to this picture of a different Common Loon in winter plumage, which I got later.
That loon is just starting to change to summer plumage. Its back has started to develop its checkerboard pattern of black and white (in mid-winter, it would be a uniform gray). Note that the bill is still light colored, though, and the summer plumaged bird has a black bill. I find the seasonal plumage changes of birds very interesting, so I’m always looking for pictures that show the differences. At this time of year, you can see birds in all the stages in between winter and summer plumages.
There is a viewing platform at the end of the road, and I saw a large number of White-winged Scoters there. I must have seen at least a couple of dozen of them, which is probably more than the total I have seen previously in my life. None were close enough for pictures, unfortunately.
By then it was after two o’clock, so I checked into my lodgings so I could put my cold food in the refrigerator. I’ve got a little cabin that overlooks the marina. It is really nice and has everything I need. The kitchenette area has a full-sized refrigerator, a dishwasher, and a two burner gas cooktop. The cabins were built just last year and they smell nicely of the knotty pine paneling. There is a small bedroom with a queen sized bed and a day bed with two mattresses in the main living area. The porch has a chair and little table and has a great view of the marina. There is a TV in the main room and another in the bedroom. Here is a picture of the main room, looking toward the front door.
Here is a view looking into the cabin from the front door.
Here is the view of the marina from the front windows and the front porch.
On the other side of the marina there is a street of shops and restaurants. I don’t go to shops or restaurants on my birding trips, but it would be nice if you liked that sort of thing.
After I got my stuff moved into the cabin, I headed out to look for more birds. I went south, looking for a place where I could access the beach in my car. The first few places I tried had parking lots, but it would have been a walk to the ocean. Not what I was looking for today. Eventually, maybe 7 miles down the road, I found a place where I could drive out onto the beach. That is more my speed – car birding.
I saw some shorebirds down the beach a bit, so I drove on down there. They turned out to be Sanderlings and Dunlin, good ones for my Tuesday list, but not year birds. I had seen both species at Edmonds, earlier this year. Sanderlings are cute little birds that run back and forth as the waves come in and go out, foraging for food in front of the waves. They look like little bugs, scurrying along the beach. Here is a picture of some Sanderlings, doing their scurrying.
Mixed in with the Sanderlings were Dunlin. The key characteristic of Dunlin is the longish bill that droops at the tip. Here is a picture illustrating that.
Dunlin are slightly larger than Sanderlings and their backs are darker as well.
I drove on farther south and went out on the beach again, but didn’t see anything new. I turned around soon after I left Gray’s Harbor county and got into Pacific county.
Back at the marina, I walked out on the docks and walls of the marina, getting some of the pictures I’ve already shown. The only new bird I got was MARBLED GODWIT, a larger shorebird with a long bill. There was a flock of maybe 12 or 15 of them that flew past, and I got good looks at them. Their long bills are pink, with dark tips, so they were easy to identify.
So, it was an excellent day. I had an easy, pleasant drive down here, the weather was wonderful, I love the ocean, and I got some birds. What more can a person ask for? I got 22 more species for my Gray’s Harbor county list, to bring it from 42 to 64; I added 11 to my Tuesday list, to bring that one to 96; and I got 6 year-birds, to bring me to 118 species so far this year.
Tomorrow I’ll work on my Wednesday list and go down to Pacific county to work on that list. I could get more year-birds, but I’ll need some luck.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
When I got up this morning, it was windy. The online weather forecasts claimed the winds in Westport were 4 or 5 mph, but the wind out on the channel was a lot stronger than that. It was also pretty darn cold – mid-40’s. Anyway, after having my humble brekkie, I ventured out to the observation platform at the end of the road. There were waves on the channel, with whitecaps, which made seeing birds difficult, since the birds kept bobbing up and down and going out of sight. On top of that, there weren’t very many birds out there. And, just to top it off, the wind shook my tripod enough that I couldn’t see the distant ones anyway. I saw a few birds, but the only two I got for a list were some distant Brant for my Gray’s Harbor county list and a single White-winged Scoter for my Wednesday list. Yesterday I had seen 25 or 30 White-winged Scoters from there, but today, just the one, and I worked to get that one.
I stopped at Half Moon Bay, at the entrance to Westhaven State Park, but got nothing new there. I went on into the park and walked out to where I could see the Westport jetty. I didn’t see any birds of any interest, though. I’m glad I checked it out, anyway. This is my first time in the area, and I wanted to see as many of the birding hotspots as I could.
Next I went south. My first birding stop, after stopping at Subway to get a ham and cheese sandwich, was the beach access at Grayland Beach State Park. The beach access road is the county line between Gray’s Harbor county and Pacific county. I thought I might drive south and look for the Sanderlings and Dunlin that seem to be all along the beach, for my Pacific county list. I looked down the beach, though, and didn’t see any birds at all along the water’s edge, so I skipped doing that. I’m a little nervous about driving in the sand, too, and I didn’t see any cars to the south.
As I was leaving the beach, I noticed some shorebirds on the edges of some tidal or rainwater ponds where the sand turns to vegetated land. I got my scope on them, and I decided they were Dunlin, LEAST SANDPIPERS, and WESTERN SANDPIPERS. Two year birds! They were too far away for pictures, but I stopped later in the day on my way back north, and they were much closer to the access road, and I got some pictures which I’ll show later in this report.
After I left the beach, I drove though Grayland Beach State Park. It is a very nice camping spot, and I figure that 30 or 40 of the 120 camping sites were occupied, which seems very high to me for the end of March, mid-week. The great weather forecast for this week might have something to do with that. I drove around through the campsites, with the vague idea of finding a bird I needed that I’ve seen in the past up in Ocean Shores (only about 20 miles north) in a very similar state park. By golly, darned it I didn’t see a VARIED THRUSH quite soon. Here is a picture of a female Varied Thrush, the only one I saw today.
Varied Thrush is a fairly common bird in Washington, but I don’t see them often at all, so I was quite pleased with the sighting.
I drove through the rest of the campsite loops, but didn’t see anything else until I was leaving. As I drove toward the exit, with my windows open (of course – to hear birds), I heard a bird singing. I stopped and soon spotted it at the top of a Douglas Fir. Here is a picture of what I saw.
Here is a picture of it singing.
It was a mystery bird to me. At the time, it appeared much yellower to me, maybe because it was in the bright sun. All I could think of was Yellow Warbler, but it was way too early for Yellow Warblers to be here, and I’m not sure they come here anyway. I listened and played the song of Yellow Warbler, but it wasn’t right. Eventually, after ten or fifteen minutes, I got the idea of another warbler. I played that song, and the bird flew right in, obviously interested in what I was playing. When it got closer and I saw it in the shade, I could see it was an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. Looking at my pictures now, it seems obvious, but it looks much less yellow in the pictures than it did at the time to me. Here is a picture of it when it was much closer – ironically, it looks more yellow in this picture, and yet it seemed more greenish when I saw it this morning.
When I got back here to my room, I did some research, and it turns out that the subspecies of Orange-crowned Warbler that lives along the Pacific Coast (lutescens) is yellower than the other subspecies. It certainly was the brightest colored Orange-crowned Warbler I’ve ever seen, but I’m convinced that is what it was. There are no other options, and it responded strongly to the song I played. The song on my phone was a bit different from the one I heard the bird sing, but I read online that the songs of male Orange-crowned Warblers vary more than any other warbler, so that explains that.
While I was trying to figure out what species the warbler was, another bird flew in, and it turned out to be a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I think it was also checking out the song I was playing. Here is a picture of the Yellow-rumped Warbler that flew in.
Yellow-rumped Warblers have a number of plumages, depending on the season, their gender, and which type (Audubon’s or Myrtle) they are. This one is a male Audubon’s type, in summer plumage. The one thing that all the plumages have in common is the yellow rump, which you can’t see in my picture, but I did see it as it flitted around. It was one for my Wednesday list, as well as my Pacific county list.
I moved on south to Tokeland, which turned out to be nothing like I expected. I expected a beach resort town, but the “town” was entirely residential. I didn’t see any stores or motels or any other businesses other than some fishing related places. It is entirely within the Shoalwater Indian reservation, which might explain part of it. There was a police department, an exercise place, and a library. The tide was pretty far out, so there was little to see. But, as I left the place, I found a spot where I could look out over the protected bay. I got several birds for my Pacific county list there, including Western and Least Sandpipers, Greater Scaup, and a single White-winged Scoter. I also saw two birds out on the water that I eventually decided were RED-THROATED LOONS in winter plumage, just starting to change to summer plumage. That was good for all my lists – year, Wednesday, and Pacific county. On my way out of “town”, I saw a single Tree Swallow on a wire, another one for my Pacific county list. I was hungry by then, and I hoped to find a park, but there were no parks on offer. I stopped at the library, which had a little covered gazebo with a couple of benches, and I ate half my ham sandwich there. I had brought some ham from home, and I augmented the Subway offering, to build up the protein.
I ate the other half of my sandwich back at Grayland Beach State Park, on my way back north. After I ate, I went back out to the beach, and the shorebirds I had seen in the morning were much closer this time. Here is a picture of a Least Sandpiper. Note the characteristic yellow legs.
I had counted both Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper in the morning there, and the biggest difference between them is that Western Sandpipers have black legs. The trouble is, if the legs are in the shade, it is hard to tell the color for sure. You can see in the picture above that the right leg look pretty black, since it is in the shade. With the closer looks in the afternoon, I started to doubt my call this morning for Western Sandpiper, as all the little peeps seemed to have yellow legs. The sun was a lot lower, so the color of the legs was more obvious. I took some pictures, hoping to be able to resolve the issue later on the computer, but I hesitated to reverse my call of the morning – I had thought I had seen black legs on some of the small birds, and I don’t like to overturn a judgment call later.
Anyway, here is a picture that I think shows both a Least and a Western Sandpiper.
Look at the two birds in the middle of the picture. The one on the left has yellow legs and it appears that the one to the right of center has black legs. More importantly, their plumages are a bit different. Western Sandpiper (6.5 in.) is supposedly a little larger than Least Sandpiper (6 in.), too, and the one on the right seems a bit larger. The larger shorebird in the background is a Dunlin (8.5 in.). So, I decided after seeing my pictures that most of the smaller shorebirds were Least Sandpipers, but there were some Westerns mixed in. Here is another picture that shows both species, I think.
I think the closer bird is a Least Sandpiper, and the one behind it is a Western Sandpiper. The plumages seem quite a bit different to me, and they match what I see in my field guides for winter plumages for the two species.
Finally, before we leave the very boring shorebirds, here is a picture of a Dunlin and a Least Sandpiper, showing the size difference.
After that, I headed for home. I stopped several places – Brady’s Oysters, John’s River, and the city park in Westport, but I didn’t see anything interesting in any of those places. I tried the observation deck at the end of my road again, too, overlooking the channel. The wind had shifted around (from the west, as opposed to from the east in the morning) and it wasn’t nearly as strong, but there still weren’t many birds, and nothing interesting to me.
Back here in my cabin, I started processing my pictures, but when it came time for my drinkies, I took my first drink out on to the porch and sat in the sun and looked at the marina. The temperature had gotten up to 67 today, which was very pleasant, and the sun felt good. Here is a picture of the marina in the late afternoon/early evening sun.
I had some bird action, too. I had a really close look a Common Loon in summer plumage, but it dove before I could get a picture. It surfaced a little way away, though, and it had some kind of prey.
I can’t tell if that is a fish or a shellfish of some kind. Next, the loon appeared to swallow the prey.
Then it seemed to be fooling around on the surface, but not diving, and the next picture I got was this one.
I don’t know if it regurgitated the prey or what, but I wonder if it is possible that it was a shellfish or mollusk and the “swallowing” in the last picture was actually the way the bird removed the shell. I don’t know, but I think it is an interesting sequence of pictures.
There was also a Horned Grebe in transitional plumage, diving right out in front of my cabin, and here is a picture of it.
So, that was my full day at the ocean. I managed to add nine species to my Wednesday list, to bring it to an even 100 – the first day to reach that level. Significantly, five of those nine species were new for my year list, to bring that one to 123. My Gray’s Harbor county list increased from 64 to 67, and my Pacific county list increased from 43 to 53. The numbers look good, but it seemed like a pretty slow day of birding to me. The highlights were the mystery Orange-crowned Warbler and the two Red-throated Loons at Tokeland.
The birding here in this area isn’t as good as I was hoping, and I could have gotten by with a little less time here. Still, it was great to see another little part of Washington, and the weather was certainly spectacular. I’ve had my little time away now, and tomorrow morning I’ll head for home, stopping along the way to add to my Thursday list. I doubt I’ll get any more year birds here at the ocean, but I could possibly find something on the way home, although it isn't really very likely.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
It was foggy when I got up this morning, but it was clearing by the time I had eaten my humble breakfast and taken care of my morning ablutions. Before I checked out, I went to the observation deck at the end of the road, to see if I could get a few birds for my Thursday list. I was able to get Western Gull, Western Grebe, and White-winged Scoter, although it took me a while to get that last one.
I checked out and headed south, to try my luck at Grayland Beach State Park again, where I had done well yesterday. I found no shorebirds at the pools at the end of the beach access road, though, so I went on in to the park. I tried to call up the Varied Thrush I had seen yesterday, but got no response. I drove around a bit, but didn't see any other Varied Thrushes, either.
I went to the place where the Orange-crowned Warbler had been singing, and I tried playing its song. I thought I heard a response a couple of times, but it never kept up long enough for me to figure where it was. I didn't feel like I was good enough with bird songs to make the call based on what I heard. As I was giving up and about to get into the car, I heard it again, a couple of times. Rather than leave, I tried playing the song in a different app, and that did the trick. The bird flew right in to check me out. I got closer pictures today, and they show all the subtle markings of Orange-crowned Warbler. I've heard it said that if you find a plain greenish-yellow warbler with no obvious markings, it is an Orange-crowned Warbler, but they do have some markings, if you see them close enough. Here are two pictures I got today.
In the first picture, the bird looks more yellow, but it is a trick of the light, I think. In both pictures, you can see the broken yellow eye ring and the darkish line through the eye. Those are two marks of Orange-crowned Warbler. As I said, they are subtle markings, hard to see unless you have pictures to study. In the second picture, you can even see a hint of the orange crown of the bird, a marking that is not often seen at all, because the tips of the orange feathers are greenish. Anyway, it was satisfying to get Orange-crowned Warbler for my Thursday list and to get some more definitive pictures.
I couldn't find anything else there, so I headed toward home, after once again checking the beach pools for shorebirds and finding none.
I stopped at Brady's Oysters, an eBird hotspot on the edge of a channel, and I picked up Greater Yellowlegs for my Thursday list. My next stop was at a Subway on the outskirts of Aberdeen, where I got a tuna sandwich for later.
My final birding destination for the day was the Brady Loop, where I had gotten some good birds on my way down to the ocean. At one stop I saw a little group of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a nice one for Thursday. At the house with the feeders where I had gotten several species, I again got Rufous Hummingbird. Then a surprise flew in to the feeders. It was really red, and I had to think about it to identify it. There were actually two of them. First they perched in a tree over the feeder, and I got a couple of pictures, which aren't very good because of the distance and the light, which was coming from in front of me.
My first thought was Cassin's Finch, since the feathers on the top of the head were a bit raised and the sun was hitting them. Then I thought more about it and realized they must be male PURPLE FINCHES. Here is a picture of both birds on the feeder.
So, that was the end of my birding for today. I added four species to my Gray's Harbor list, to bring it to 71 species. I added eight to my Thursday list, to bring that one to 95. Finally, I added Purple Finch to my year list, to bring me to 124 species for the year.
After 12 weeks, here is my DOTW scorecard:
After After After After After After After After After After After
1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks 5 wks 6 wks 8 wks 9 wks 10 wks 11 wks 12 wks
Friday 27 40 43 51 52 53 57 71 80 83 90
Saturday 28 45 46 47 49 52 60 68 72 74 87
Sunday 10 33 42 55 57 71 73 74 77 79 82
Monday 09 34 37 50 53 55 57 67 68 75 80
Tuesday 30 39 43 44 57 58 69 78 80 82 96
Wednesday 15 37 43 55 64 66 79 83 87 90 100
Thursday 26 46 48 52 61 65 68 76 77 85 95
So, Wednesday is the first day to get to 100 species and Monday is the laggard at only 80. I never thought I would still be adding at least one per day, this late into the year. Of course, I took a week off when I was in the hospital, but it still surprises me.
Now its back to home birding. We'll see if I can keep the streak going, back here at home. I read today that the Ospreys are back at Marymoor, so that one could extend things, along with the three species of swallows that are due back soon.