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Monday, January 2, 2017


Here we go again, a new birding year.  Most of my lists start over now.  In addition to my year list, I plan to do both DOTW birding, like I did in 2016, and BAD birding, like I did in 2014. 


DOTW (Day Of The Week) birding involves keeping seven separate lists - one for each day of the week.  My goal will to be to add a new bird to that day's list for as long as I can (the streak).  In 2016 I kept it up until near the end of August, so my goal this year is to add a new daily bird to that day's list, all the way into September.


BAD (Bird-A-Day) birding involves choosing a new species each day from the ones I saw or heard that day.  I can only use a given species once, so every day it has to be a different species.  It doesn't matter if I have seen that species before or not, as long as I saw (or heard) it that day.  In 2014 I got close to the end of August before I had a day when I didn't see a bird I hadn't chosen before as a BAD bird, so my goal for BAD birding will also be to get into September this year.


Both of those games (DOTW and BAD birding) will mean that I have to get out birding virtually every day.  Both require strategic planning, and to make it more fun, the strategies are a little different for each one.  Both are enhanced by seeing rare or unusual birds, and both are made easier by traveling away from home, because then I see a different set of birds.  Travel days themselves are difficult because the number of hours to go birding is reduced considerably if I have a long plane flight, for example.  I need to plan my travel days carefully, to allow myself time to find appropriate birds on my travel days.


On Sunday, January 1, 2017, I went north to the Edmonds waterfront to look for a rarity that has been showing up there for the last couple of weeks.  I had seen it last week, and I was hoping that particular was still around.  Before I left home I added my first birds of 2017, though - AMERICAN CROW, STELLER'S JAY, and DARK-EYED JUNCO.  (As a reminder, when I see a species for the first time in the year, I use ALL CAPS to report it.  Those are also known as year birds.)


It was bitterly cold, but clear.  I had bundled up, which was good, because I wandered around for over an hour looking for this bird.  While doing that, I added HORNED GREBE and BUFFLEDHEAD (a duck) to my year list.  There were at least five other birders there looking for the same bird.  We kept visual contact with each other for the most part and looked in various areas, walking around all the time.  Eventually I was walking with a woman and we spotted the PALM WARBLER that everyone was looking for.  We got the attention of three other birders and pointed them in the right direction while we each got back in our cars and headed off.


So, I added 6 species to my Sunday list (and the same 6 to my year list, of course) and as my Bird-A-Day bird, I chose the Palm Warbler.


Today, Monday, January 2, it was even colder and still clear.  It was hovering around 32 degrees all day today, maybe getting up to 34 at the most.  I headed up north to Stanwood, which is about 50 miles north of home, at the northern edge of Snohomish county.  Before leaving home I added EUROPEAN STARLING to my year list, and on the freeway heading north I got my first RED-TAILED HAWK of the year.  My first destination was Eide Road, just outside of Stanwood.  As I drove into the area I got a pretty good look at a nice COOPER'S HAWK for my year list.  There were about ten cars in the parking lot, and I parked and got out.  I saw a bird in a small tree in the distance, so I got out my scope and found it was a NORTHERN HARRIER.  While I was looking at the harrier, another bird swooped through my field of view and I was able to follow it and see it was my target species for the morning, a SHORT-EARED OWL.  They winter in that area, but they will start to leave by the end of January and will all be gone by the end of February, so I wanted to see it in January.  I hope to go back six more times in January, weather permitting, to get it for each of the other days of the week.


It was still early, so I headed north toward the Wylie Slough unit of the Skagit National Wildlife Refuge, to look for a semi-rarity there.  On my way out of the Eide Road site I saw a small group of AMERICAN ROBINS for my year list.  Among them was a single VARIED THRUSH, an excellent bird that I don't see very often.  I even got a couple of pictures of the Varied Thrush.



Winter is good because the leaves are off the deciduous trees, although that means that the bare branches interfere with the pictures sometimes.  It's tricky to try to get a "window" through the bare branches, to see the bird, and the camera has a tendency to focus on the branches in the foreground.


I saw DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT along the way, and at one brief stop I added HOUSE FINCH, SONG SPARROW, and GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW to my growing year list.  There was a GREAT BLUE HERON by the road and a couple of RING-NECKED PHEASANTS as well.  I got a couple of pictures of a different male Ring-necked Pheasant later on.


This second one shows his long tail.


At the Wylie Slough Unit itself, I got out and walked around a little.  There was a BALD EAGLE in a tree and a BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE flew through.  I didn't see any sign of the species I was looking for, though, and eventually I decided to sit in my car and eat my lunch, which I had brought from home.  While I was eating I added RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, BEWICK'S WREN, and SPOTTED TOWHEE to my 2017 list.  Of course, everything I saw today added to my Monday list as well.


I was finished with my lunch when I saw my first DOWNY WOODPECKER of the year.  Originally it was across a little body of water, but it came over to my side and fed actively in some small trees along the road.  The light was great and I took over 50 pictures of the little guy.  I like the pictures so much that I'm going to show five of them.  Male Downy Woodpecker (a female wouldn’t have the red patch on the back of its head).






I like the view of the underside of the tail in that last picture.


I spent about 20 minutes chasing that woodpecker, and I had been there for about an hour and a half by then.  I was ready to give it up and head for home when I saw a bird fly into the top of a tree in the middle distance.  I got my binoculars on it, and it was a lovely BOHEMIAN WAXWING, the semi-rare species I was looking for there.  They spend most of their year up in Canada and come down to the northern US in winter, but normally they are pretty rare on the west side of the Cascades.  This year there have been a lot of sightings, though, all up and down the west coast, and I was glad to have seen one today.  Most of the reports in the last couple of weeks from Wylie Slough have been for flocks of them - 20, 60, 80, or even more.  Seeing a single one was unusual, and I only saw it at all because I had spent so much time taking pictures of the Downy Woodpecker.  Otherwise, I would have been on the road to home by the time it flew in.  I managed a couple of distant pictures before it flew off, never to be seen again (by me, today, anyway).  Here is my sole Bohemian Waxwing of the day.


It isn't a very good picture, but it does show that the underside of the tail is reddish-brown, rather than white like in Cedar Waxwings, their cousins.  I've only seen Bohemian Waxwing a couple of times before in my life, so it was especially gratifying to see one today.


After that I headed for home, and I took this picture of Mount Baker and the Cascades as I drove out of the Wylie Slough Unit.


Here is a closer shot of Mount Baker.


You can see what a clear, sunny day it was.  As I drove home I added one last species to my lists - FERAL PIGEON.


So, I counted 24 species for my Monday list today.  21 of those were new for the year, so my 2017 list now stands at 27.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Bohemian Waxwing.


I'm still keeping my Washington county lists, too, and today I added two species to my Snohomish county list, to bring it to 134 species.  I also added 5 species to my Skagit county list, to bring that one to 97.


2017 birding is underway and it promises to be a year of lots of lists.  Wait until I start traveling and keeping trip lists as well.  The first trip I have planned is eleven nights in the Rio Grande Valley of southeastern Texas, and I leave on January 31.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017


This morning I headed back up to Skagit county, to try for a particular seven species that are there in the winter.  One of them is there year round, but the other six are strictly winter species in Washington, so I want to get them all onto my daily lists in January or February, and I also want to use each of them for my BAD bird in January or February as well, since I won't see any of those six locally again until well into the fall or early winter.


Before I left home I added American Crow, Feral Pigeon, Dark-eyed Junco, and Steller's Jay to my Tuesday list, and I hit the freeway about 9:45.  It was cold and clear again today.  The temperature started out in the high 20's and peaked out at 33, according to my car thermometer.  That's pretty chilly for this neck of the woods, but I was mostly in the car today anyway.  Of the 26 species I got after I left home today, I saw 22 of them from the warmth of my car.  I saw the other four from outside the car, but within ten feet of the car.  That's my kind of winter birding, especially these days, when my torn Achilles tendon limits my walking.  Driving isn't good for it, either, but it's better than walking on it, and I've learned to use cruise control extensively, even in town.  It seems to be healing slowly - very slowly - but they told me it could take a year or more to heal completely, assuming it will actually heal by itself, not a certainty by any means.  Meanwhile, it hurts and I limp along.


Today I drove right on up I-5 to the Conway exit and headed for Wylie Slough.  On Fir Island I saw Bald Eagle and BELTED KINGFISHER for my lists.  I looked for Ring-necked Pheasant around the entrance to Wylie Slough, where I had seen a couple of them yesterday, but no luck this morning.  Driving in, I slowed where the road goes over a little slough, which turned out to be frozen over, not surprisingly.  On the ice was a little bird, and it turned out to be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  I got this picture of Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the ice.


I don't know what it was looking for on the ice, but it seemed to be foraging, so maybe there are little bugs or tiny seeds on the surface of the ice.  You can't usually see the red spot on the top of its head, so it was nice to get a picture that showed it.  There was also a Song Sparrow foraging on the surface of the ice, so there must have been some kind of food there.


I got Golden-crowned Sparrow and Spotted Towhee for my Tuesday list, but didn't see any Bohemian Waxwings, which is what I was looking for there today.  I did pick up my first COMMON RAVEN for the year as I drove out, anyway.  I also saw some TRUMPETER SWANS, a new one for my year list, and one of my seven target species for the day.


At the Hayton Preserve I saw a Great Blue Heron in a field, along with a huge flock of AMERICAN WIGEONS (a duck species).  I got out my scope and looked through the wigeons and finally picked out one EURASIAN WIGEON, a vagrant that shows up here in the winter.  It should be over in Asia, but it came down the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean this year and is spending its winter with its American cousins.  That was target number two for the day.  There were also a couple of NORTHERN PINTAILS (another duck) in the middle of the flock.  There was also a small flock of BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS there, and as I drove out, I got this picture of an immature Bald Eagle.


In addition to those species, there were some KILLDEER in the same field and I saw my first MALLARD of the year as well.


I stopped briefly at the parking lot for the Jensen Access, but I didn’t get out of the car and walk to the top of the dike to look out over the bay.  After that, I headed north for the Samish Flats.


Just across Highway 20 I stopped to scope some swans in a field and I found a TUNDRA SWAN  in with the Trumpeters.  That was target number three for the day.


Heading across the Samish Flats I saw this Red-tailed Hawk perched out in the sun.


Its head was mostly in the shade, but at least some of the head is in the sun in this picture.  Nearby is a farm where Bald Eagles seem to congregate.  Here is a picture of an eagle nest with seven Bald Eagles in the trees around it and an eighth one on the far right of the picture, if you can make it out at the top of the tree on the right.


There were a couple more flying around as well.  I don't know what the attraction is that keeps them hanging out there, but there are always a lot of eagles around that farm.


I saw several ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, target species number 4.  Here is one that posed for me alongside the road.


A little farther along I added AMERICAN KESTREL to my year list, and here is a picture of a female American Kestrel.


It was past 1 o'clock by the time I got to the West 90, so I sat in the car and started to eat my lunch, which I had brought from home.  I got out of the car from time to time to scan the fields for Short-eared Owls, but never saw one.  A WESTERN MEADLOWLARK flew in and perched at the top of a little tree, though, so that one went onto my lists.  At one point an immature eagle and a Rough-legged Hawk were flying around, interacting with each other, and I got this distant picture of a Rough-legged Hawk in the air.


While I was trying for pictures of the Rough-legged Hawk, another raptor flew through the area, interacting briefly with the hawk and the eagle.  It looked like a falcon, but it was too large to be a kestrel.  It landed on a pole about 100 or 150 yards down the road, so I grabbed my scope and stumped my way out to where I could see it.  It turned out to be a PEREGRINE FALCON, always a great bird to see, and one I don't see very often.  I had only seen three of them all last year.  I limped on down the road, carrying my scope and stopping to take pictures as I tried to get closer to the peregrine.  Here is my closest and maybe best picture of the handsome Peregrine Falcon.


Back at the car, I resumed my lunch, and I noticed that a kestrel had taken the place of the meadowlark at the top of the little tree.  The tree was directly into the sun, so pictures were out of the question.  Then the kestrel spotted something and dove down and came up with a rodent.  It landed in another tree close by, and I got some pictures.  Here is a picture of the American Kestrel with a rodent it had just caught.


I got too close, trying to get an angle for pictures through the branches, and it flew off.  I was afraid I had caused it to lose its meal, but it landed on a nearby power pole and I was glad to see it still had its lunch.


I guess it didn't like me watching, though, because it then flew off again, out of sight, still carrying its prize.


After eating about half my lunch, I packed up the rest and headed back south, to look for more birds.  At the T intersection I headed south and saw a raptor on the ground in a field.  I couldn’t identify it at first; the light color threw me.  I got a couple of pictures and realized it was a male Northern Harrier, my fifth target species for the day.  For some reason there are many more females than males and females are reddish-brown in color, so I didn't immediately recognize this handsome male Northern Harrier.


The disc-like face is almost like an owl's face and is characteristic of the species.


I was searching for my target goose.  I hadn't seen any all day, which is unusual, and I knew they had to be around somewhere.  When I got back down south of Highway 20, I decided to take the roundabout route on Dodge Valley Road, hoping to see the goose.  I hit the jackpot and found a huge flock of thousands of SNOW GEESE, my sixth target species of the day.  Here is a close up of a Snow Goose that I like.


It's hard to get pictures of white birds that show any feather definition, so I was pleased that at least it wasn’t just a white blob.  Note the black wing tips.  Here is a picture of a fraction of the huge flock of Snow Geese along Dodge Valley Road this afternoon.


That's Mount Baker in the background and it is also in this next picture showing some of the geese a little closer.


Here is a zoomed in shot of a couple of Snow Geese flying, showing off their black wing tips.


So, having found where the Snow Geese were hanging out today, I headed back to Wylie Slough to try again for the Bohemian Waxwings.  No luck with waxwings, and no luck on pheasants there either.  I ate the rest of my lunch and then I got some pictures of a lovely male Spotted Towhee, posing for me in the nice afternoon winter light.


It was eating those red berries.  Here is another picture.


I like this third picture because it shows the detail of the underside of the tail.


I had just one more target species to find, so I headed down to Eide Road, outside of Stanwood.  It was cold there and the wind had come up, so I pulled on a second pair of sweat pants, over the first pair, and got out with my scope and swept it over the fields.  It took a few minutes, but eventually I saw a Short-eared Owl swooping around in the distance, and that was my seventh target species for the day.  As a bonus, there was also a male Ring-necked Pheasant nearby in the field.  In 2016 I didn't see a Ring-necked Pheasant until December, and this year I've already seen 4 or 5 of them, on two separate days.  Birding can be funny that way.


It was an outstanding day of birding.  I added 15 species to my year list, to bring it to 42 for the year.  I saw 30 species for the day, including the four I saw at home before I left this morning, so Tuesday is off to a good start.  Yesterday I only had 24 species, but today I drove quite a bit farther north, up to the Samish Flats.  I drove about 160 miles today and I was out about 6 hours and 20 minutes, including drive time. 


For my Bird-A-Day (BAD) bird, I guess I'll take Peregrine Falcon, although I need to take Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Snow Goose, Rough-legged Hawk, Eurasian Wigeon, and Short-eared Owl sometime soon, since all of them will be gone in a couple of months.  I need to get back up to the Skagit area at least six more times this winter, so I can take each of those for a BAD bird eventually.  Peregrine Falcon is just too good a bird to pass up for today, though.  I need to add those six species to my all my daily lists if possible, too.  I'm going out to lunch tomorrow, but maybe I can get back up north later this week, to try again for those 6 target species.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017


The only birds I saw here at home this morning were Dark-eyed Juncos.  I didn't have a lot of time this morning, but I went over to Marymoor Park to look for birds.  It was the first time I've been to Marymoor for months, and it was good to be back.  My main target was an uncommon bird that has been hanging out there this winter (and the last several winters as well).  It was frosty and clear when I got there, a little under 30 degrees.  I drove around and fairly soon saw my target bird, a NORTHERN SHRIKE.  They are quite uncommon on this side of the Cascades and are somewhere up north all summer, but this bird (or another one just like it) has wintered at Marymoor for several years.  The good thing about shrikes is that they perch out in the open, looking for prey, which is mostly insects in this climate, I think.  They are light colored, and since they perch out in the open, if there is one around, you have a good chance to spot it.  I'll be back there looking for it again, for my other daily lists.


I was looking for two or three goose species, and I finally spotted a flock of geese across some soccer fields.  I drove around there and added CANADA GOOSE and CACKLING GOOSE to my year list.  Here is a picture of some Cackling Geese, which are small versions of Canada Geese.


Here is a picture that shows Cackling Geese and Canada Geese together.  The size difference is obvious.


I was surprised to see a single Snow Goose with the flock of Canada and Cackling Geese.  When I saw it I remembered that I had read reports about a Snow Goose that had been seen at Marymoor recently, hanging out with the other geese.  I think it's interesting that it must have gotten separated from its flock of Snow Geese and joined up with another goose species for the winter.  Here is a picture of an immature Snow Goose.


In their first year, Snow Geese have those dark feathers and a dark-colored bill.  Later they are all white, with black wing tips and pink bills.  Here is a closer look at the immature Snow Goose.


At the community garden there was a Cooper's Hawk sitting on a post, and I got this picture.


Here is an American Robin at the top of a tree in the morning sunshine.


There were also some sparrows foraging around on the ground, and here is a picture of a Golden-crowned Sparrow in its subdued winter plumage.


I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went over to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, to check out how much ice there was, after our little cold snap.  There was more ice than we have seen there before, I think, and also quite a few birds.  I added Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee to my Wednesday list, and then saw my first FOX SPARROW of the year.  There were some Black-capped Chickadees in a tree and a number of Bufflehead on the lake.  In addition to the Bufflehead, there was a single male COMMON GOLDENEYE, a single male RING-NECKED DUCK, and several GREATER SCAUP on the lake.


So, by the end of lunch hour, I had seen 17 species for my Wednesday list, and 7 of those were new for the year, to bring me to 49 species for the year so far.  I didn't think I was getting an especially fast start this year, but last year I didn't get to 49 species until January 8, so I guess I am doing better than I thought.  I haven't particularly been going for numbers, either, concentrating instead on my DOTW birding and my BAD birding.


For today, it was a hard decision, but I'm going to take the Fox Sparrow for my BAD bird today.  I don't see them very often, and they will all be gone by the end of April.  Northern Shrike is a much less common bird, but I'm gambling that I'll see this same one at Marymoor some more times this winter.  I expect to see Snow Goose again this winter, too, up in Skagit county.  I'm saving Cackling Goose for a rainy day (literally), since I can likely see them from the car at Marymoor, even if it is raining.  Dealing with the weather is a part of both DOTW birding and BAD birding.



Thursday, January 5, 2017


No pictures today.  This is mainly for my own records.


I got Dark-eyed Junco, American Crow, European Starling, and Spotted Towhee here at home before I left.  I headed out about 9:20 with the intention of going up to the Skagit Flats to get Rough-legged Hawk for my BAD bird, along with the other 6 or 7 target species I see in that area.  The idea was that if I got the hawk, then I wouldn't have to go that far north for the other Skagit county birds, thus saving some driving later this winter.


It was 24 degrees as I set out this morning, but the sun was shining brightly.  I stopped in Stanwood at Subway and got a tuna sandwich, then went on to Eide Road, west of Stanwood, mainly to try for the Short-eared Owl for my Thursday list.  I saw a group of four Ring-necked Pheasants before I even turned in to Eide Road.  All the pheasants I've seen this year have been males, and I'm sure they were captive-bred and released for hunters.  Technically, that would make them not countable for birders who were following the "rules" strictly, but I'm not that strict, so I have been counting them.


Driving in, I got Red-tailed Hawk, American Robin, and my first RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS of the year.  I parked and started looking out over the fields.  There were a number of Northern Harriers flying around and perched, and then I saw a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk.  Light morph Rough-legged Hawks are much more common, and I'm not sure I had ever seen a dark morph one before, but that seemed to be what it was.  I had a distant front view of the perched bird, and it was all dark brown except under the tail, which was white with a dark terminal band.  I don't think it could have been anything else.  So, seeing Rough-legged Hawk there meant I didn’t have to go the extra 15 miles or so to the north end of the Skagit Flats to get that species.


There was an American Kestrel that flew in and perched briefly, and then I finally saw my Short-eared Owl flying in the distance.  It was a very distant view, but I followed it with my scope for quite a while, and it was definitely an owl.


Having gotten my target species there (the owl), with the Rough-legged Hawk and the pheasants as nice bonuses), I headed north.


Along the way I saw some Mallards in a field, and there were several flocks of Brewer's Blackbirds.  There were also several Bald Eagles, and then there were some swans in a field.  I was able to identify Trumpeter Swan, so that was one more off my target list.  As I approached the Wiley Slough area, I found the huge flock of thousands of Snow Geese, so that was another one down.


There was a Cooper's Hawk perched in a tree as I drove into Wiley Slough, and some Song Sparrows and Golden-crowned Sparrows were foraging along the road.  Then there were three Buffleheads in a part of the slough that was free of ice, and then a Great Blue Heron.


It wasn't quite lunch time, and I had two more targets to look for - Tundra Swan and Eurasian Wigeon.  As I drove out of the Wiley Slough unit, there was a huge flock of ducks in a plowed field.  They were American Wigeons, so I stopped and got my scope out.  While searching through the hundreds of American Wigeons, looking for a Eurasian Wigeon, I noticed some little birds in front of the ducks.  They turned out to be AMERICAN PIPITS, a great one for my year list.  That was the first time I had seen American Pipit in Skagit county, and only the fifth time I've seen them in Washington.


I went back to looking at the wigeons and finally I did see a single Eurasian Wigeon among the hundreds of American Wigeons.  All I had left after that was Tundra Swan to find.  As I headed out toward the main road, I stopped to look at some swans in a field by the road and at least three of them turned out to be Tundra Swans, so I had all my targets for the day, and it was only just after noon.


I went back to Wiley Slough, which was less than a mile back, and ate my Subway tuna sandwich in the car.  While I was eating I saw a little group of Black-capped Chickadees and then a male Downy Woodpecker flew by and gave me a look.  I'm sure it was the same one I had taken pictures of earlier in the week, at that same place.


After lunch, I headed for home, picking up Feral Pigeon as I got on the freeway in Conway.  I was home before 2:00 and later saw my first NORTHERN FLICKER of the year at our feeder.  That gave me 30 species for the day, and three of those were new for my year list, to bring my year list to 52.


I had wanted to see Rough-legged Hawk for my BAD bird, so I wouldn't have to go all the way up to the Skagit Flats again for it, but the American Pipits were just too good to pass up, so I'm taking American Pipit for my Bad bird for the day.  I'll have to try again for the Rough-legged Hawk, even if it means going all the way up to the Skagit Flats.



Friday, January 6, 2017


I had a lunch appointment today, so I couldn't do a full day of birding.  After picking up American Crow, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, House Finch, Spotted Towhee, and Song Sparrow in our yard, I headed over to Magnuson Park, which is in north Seattle, about 25 minutes drive away.


It was below freezing again when I set out, but warmer than the last couple of days.  At the park I soon saw some Mallards and my first RING-BILLED GULLS of the year.  I've seen some gulls this year, but I never bothered to try to figure out what species they were until this morning.  These were being fed bread by a guy, and I had good close looks.


I saw a Common Goldeneye by the boat ramp, and then there was a Killdeer on the grass with some starlings.  I parked so I could go look at the ducks on the lake, and as I walked to the lake there were three Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting around.  At the lake I added American Wigeon and after searching through the dozens of wigeons, I found one Eurasian Wigeon.  There were also dozens of scaup there (a species of duck).  There are two species of scaup here, and I ended up deciding that I saw both Greater Scaup and also my firsts LESSER SCAUP of the year.  The differences are subtle, but I'm confident I saw both species.  I would have taken pictures of the scaup for identification purposes, and also of the Eurasian Wigeon, but the light was terrible.  I was looking into the sun and the pictures would have been crap.


On the way back to the car I saw a Bewick's Wren.  I drove over to the dog park, which is located in the northeast corner of the park, mainly looking for waxwings.  Both of our local species of waxwing, Cedar and Bohemian, have been reported there lately.  I didn't see either one, but there was a large flock of many dozens of sparrows.  Here is a picture of a Golden-crowned Sparrow.


Here's another Golden-crowned Sparrow picture, with the bird sitting in some colorful blackberry brambles.


I love the delicate little bony feet of small birds.


Amongst the sparrows there were also my first WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS of the year.  Here is a White-crowned Sparrow.


When I first started birding, I had a difficult time identifying juvenile White-crowned Sparrows.  For their first year or so, they look like this juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.


I don't know when they get their adult plumage, but that bird must have been hatched last spring (2016) and it still has the juvenile plumage.  Here is another juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.


A small group of House Finches flew into a nearby tree, and here is a picture of a male House Finch.


In with the House Finches was another bird, and I couldn't identify it at first, partly because I could only see its head and not the sides or back.  This was the view I was getting, as it foraged in the tree, eating seeds.


I went around to a vantage point to the right, and then I could see it was an American Goldfinch in winter plumage.


Seeing the black and white on the wings made all the difference.  Here is another view, as it continued to feed.


It was time for me to leave, so I headed out, and on the way home saw some Feral Pigeons for my Friday list.  Back here at home I added Black-capped Chickadee this afternoon.


That made it 22 species for the day (that is, for my Friday list).  Four of those were new for the year, to bring me to 56 for the year.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Eurasian Wigeon, since they are pretty uncommon here and will be gone in a couple of months besides.


My next "big" trip is to the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, for eleven nights, at the beginning of February.  Supposedly, the average high temperature at that time of year is about 72, which would suit me just fine.  I've been there twice before in April, and the temperatures were in the 90's, so I have been looking forward to being able to bird there more comfortably.  So, I decided to check it out, and I found that the high temperature yesterday was 51 degrees, and I can live with that just fine.  Then I noticed that in a week it is forecast to be 89!  That is not so fine!  I guess that averages out to about 70, but I'm sure hoping that it isn't in the high 80's when I'm there.  We shall see.



Saturday, January 7, 2017


This morning in the yard I got Dark-eyed Junco, American Crow, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Spotted Towhee, European Starling, and my first ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD of the year.


I headed north again today, and got Bald Eagle on the drive.  I stopped at Subway and got a tuna sandwich, then went on to Eide Road.  As I drove in to the parking area I saw a Red-tailed Hawk.  Then there was a Short-eared Owl perched on an abandoned piece of farm equipment, too far away for a picture.  That was my main target there, and I had it before I even got to the parking area.  I looked around for a Rough-legged Hawk, but couldn't find one today.  I didn't see any Northern Harriers either, which was unusual for that location.  I did see a couple more Short-eared Owls, including this one perched on a snag.


I headed up toward Wylie Slough and saw a flock of Snow Geese on the way.  That was species number 2 of my 7 target "Skagit species".  I also added American Robin at that point.  There were also some Mallards in a field and a Belted Kingfisher on a wire by the road.  On Fir Island there were several EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES in a tree, my first of the year.


I didn't find anything at Wylie Slough itself, but nearby was this Great Blue Heron in a field.


I like the details of the feathers on the heron's back.


There were more Snow Geese in a field and flying around.  Here is a picture of some in a field, with others in the air.


When they are flying up high, they form long skeins in the sky.


Here are a couple of Snow Geese right overhead.


I saw target number 3, Ring-necked Pheasant along in there, too, as well as some Killdeer in a field.


At Hayton Preserve there was a flock of American Wigeons in a field, and I looked through them but couldn't find a Eurasian Wigeon.  I parked at the end of the access road and walked out to see the water.  The tide was higher than I have ever seen it there.  There were a couple of Common Goldeneyes in a pond and among some more American Wigeons were my first two GREEN-WINGED TEAL of the year.  Looking in the other direction, there were many hundreds of DUNLIN, a little shorebird, roosting on the ice, waiting for the tide to go out so they could feed again.  Back in the car, there was a single Brewer's Blackbird in with some starlings.  I stopped to scope the American Wigeons again, and this time I found one Eurasian Wigeon (target number 4).  It was the second or third time I had looked at that batch of wigeons, but when there are many dozens of them and they are feeding and moving around, it's hard to be sure you have checked them all out.  While I was scoping the wigeons, I noticed a male Northern Harrier sitting in the field.


At that point I had three more targets to find - the two swan species and Rough-legged Hawk.  I headed up toward the Skagit flats to find the hawk and I kept my eye out for swans on the way.  I stopped where Best Road crossed highway 20 and got out my scope to look at some swans there.  They turned out to be Tundra Swans, which is the less common swan species.  Target number 5 down.


Up at the flats, there was a Rough-legged Hawk in the same tree where I had seen one earlier this week, so that was target number 6 down, and my main target for the day.


I ate my sandwich at the West 90, but I didn't see anything interesting there.  I headed back toward home, stopping at Bay View State Park to use the facilities there.  Since I was stopped anyway, I got out my scope and looked out over the water.  There was a huge raft of Northern Pintails out there, and some BRANT (a small goose) beyond them.  There were also a few Buffleheads and some Lesser Scaup.


All I still needed was Trumpeter Swan, and I took the cutoff, Dodge Valley Road, on my way back to Fir Island.  There were several dozen swans in a field, and since most swans in that area are Trumpeters, I figured I had it made.  I got out my scope and the first ten or 12 I looked at were Tundra Swans, as it turned out.  Finally I found a Trumpeter Swan, and my "Skagit targets" were complete.


It was still pretty early and I had so many species that I decided to stop at the house on Valentine Road that has a bunch of bird feeders, to add more to my list for the day.  I hadn't stopped there on any of my previous trips up there this week because I was concentrating on the Skagit specialties, and I figured I'd get the "little birds" later in the year.


As I pulled up to the house, I saw this lovely female PILEATED WOODPECKER on the suet feeder.


That is our largest woodpecker and soon I got this picture of our smallest, a male Downy Woodpecker.  Check out the size difference.  They are on the same feeder, for size comparison.


Here is a female Downy Woodpecker.


There were Golden-crowned Sparrows and House Finches around, along with several other species I had already counted earlier today.  A cute little Bewick's Wren flew in for a while, and I got this picture.


As I was leaving, I turned around down the street and stopped one more time as I went by.  From the car I saw my first HOUSE SPARROW of the year, and then in the back there was a single Fox Sparrow, always an excellent bird to get.  I saw Common Ravens two or three times today, too.


A little farther along Dodge Valley Road there is a house with a pond in front, and I got this picture of some ugly Mallard hybrids standing on the ice.  They are mixes of Mallard and some domestic duck species most likely.


When I got back to Fir Island, I saw some swans in the distance, and it looked like the road along the dike went close to them, so I went left instead of right, as usual.  I was indeed able to get close enough to get some mediocre swan pictures.  I wanted to illustrate the subtle differences between Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan.


First, here is a picture of the swans in the foreground with a flock of Snow Geese in the background.


Here is a picture of a little family of Tundra Swans.


The darker ones are the juveniles, hatched last year.  They hang around with their parents all through their first winter.  There are usually two young ones per family, if they both survive.  As everyone knows, swans mate for "life", or at least, for a long time.  Note the yellow "dash" in front of the eye on the bill of the closest bird.  Most Tundra Swans have a variably-sized yellow dash in that location, but not all of them have it.  Note that the adult bird on the right doesn't have a yellow dash, for example.


So, a yellow dash tells you it's a Tundra Swan, but if there is no yellow dash, then it could be either species.  Here is a fuzzy close up of the heads of a couple of swans.


The bird on the left is clearly a Tundra Swan, with the yellow dash.  The one in the middle, in front, has no dash, but there are several other indications that it is a Trumpeter Swan.  The easiest thing to see, maybe, is the way the black of the bill meets the eye.  In Tundra Swan, the black of the bill comes together just in front of the eye, and you can see the whole circle of the eye almost.  In Trumpeter Swan, though, the black seems to encompass the eye, and it's wider where it meets the eye.  In addition, the top of the bill is straighter in Trumpeter Swan, while the top of the Tundra Swan's bill has a curve to it.  The top of the Trumpeter swan's head is kind of flat, too, while the Tundra Swan has a rounded top on its head.  Check out the bird on the right, lower down.  There is no yellow dash, but the head is rounded, the black of the bill meets in front of the eye, and the top of the bill has a curve to it - bingo, Tundra Swan, despite the absence of the yellow dash.


OK, I know that is way way more than anyone wanted to know about swan identification, but I wanted to point out how subtle the differences are, and why I have to stop and get out my scope to tell the two species apart.  You can also tell by the sounds they make as they fly, but I don't really know the differences.  A final way to tell is size.  Trumpeter Swan is a little larger than Tundra Swan.  Here is one more comparison picture.


The swan on the right is noticeably smaller than the ones on the left.  It also has the yellow dash and other head markings of Tundra Swan.  Compare the bills of the two swans that you see in profile.  There is enough of a difference that once you get used to it, it isn't really all that hard to tell them apart, but I have to learn to recognize them again each season.


After that I headed for home for real, picking up Feral Pigeon as I got onto I-5 at Conway, like the other day.  I got home about 3:45, after a six hour and 20 minute day of birding, counting drive times.  I put about 170 miles on my car.


My total for the day was 41 species, which makes Saturday my highest total day of the week.  7 of those species today were new for the year, to bring me to 63 species for the year.  I have seen two species on all seven days of the week - Dark-eyed Junco and American Crow.  I saw three other species on six of the seven days - Spotted Towhee, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Song Sparrow.


For today I'll take Rough-legged Hawk for my BAD bird, although there are some other tempting ones, too.  I won't have to go all the way up to the Skagit Flats now, anyway, since I can get the rest of my "Skagit targets" 10 or 15 miles closer to home, in southern Skagit county and north Snohomish county.


It was a busy week of birding in the new year.  It was mostly very cold, but mostly sunny, with little rain so far.  I made the long drive up to Skagit county four times, but one of those days I cut it short and didn’t go beyond Wylie Slough, after I saw Bohemian Waxwing there. 


Week two coming up.



Sunday, January 8, 2017


It was still cold this morning, but at least it was above freezing, in the mid-30's.  I saw nothing new in our yard before leaving on a twitch.  Yesterday a local birder wrote about seeing a fairly rare sparrow over in the Snoqualmie River Valley near Carnation, and I decided to give it a go.


On the way I saw a small hawk in a tree, and I stopped to get a better look and try for pictures.  I was "sneaking" up on it when some hunter nearby let off a shot and the hawk spooked and flew away.  I had taken a couple of pictures, but in the overcast morning light, I knew they wouldn't be very good.  Based on what I saw and the size of the bird, I had an idea, but I wasn't sure enough to count it.  Later when I processed my pictures, I decided that this was indeed a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, which is a smaller cousin of Cooper's Hawk.


The real key is the size difference, but size is always tricky to judge when there aren't other birds of known size nearby.  As soon as I saw the bird, it seemed smaller than a crow, which is one thing that made it interesting and made me stop.  Cooper's Hawk is crow-sized.  I was sort of looking for Northern Shrike along that stretch, because I had seen one there a couple of years ago, and that was my fist thought when I saw this bird and it was just an outline in the distance.  Northern Shrike is about the size of Sharp-shinned Hawk. 


There are some subtle differences in the shape of the head, between Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk, and this bird seems to me to have the head shape of a Sharp-shinned Hawk, so together with that and my impression of its size, I'm willing to declare it a Sharp-shinned Hawk for my lists.  I never saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk in 2016, so getting one so early this year was great.  It was a good candidate for my BAD bird, if I didn't get the semi-rarity I was looking for.


As I approached the location of the target sparrow, I saw a guy with a scope getting out of his car.  I stopped and it turned out he was looking for the same bird.  I parked and got out near where the bird had been seen yesterday.


While I waited for the guy to join me (he had parked a little farther away), I saw a Cooper's Hawk, and that made me wonder about my possible Sharp-shinned Hawk that I had seen across a couple of fields from there, although this bird seemed clearly larger - crow-sized, in fact.  I hadn't seen my pictures yet, and I was ready to give up the Sharp-shinned call at that point.  There was also a single Wild Turkey in the area.  It seemed quite used to people and there aren't any wild Wild Turkeys in that valley, so I'm not counting it, but here is a picture anyway.


The other guy joined me, and we soon saw a small flock of sparrows; they included White-crowned Sparrows and Golden-crowned Sparrows.  Those are both in a family of sparrows called zonotrichia, and our target sparrow is in the same family.  Yesterday it had been seen feeding with other "zonos", so we were optimistic. Within five or ten minutes of observing the feeding flock, we both spotted the target sparrow at about the same time.  Here are a couple of pictures of our lovely HARRIS'S SPARROW.



The pictures are pretty poor, but there wasn't much light and the bird kept moving around.  It helped that it was so much different in appearance from the other birds in the flock, especially when seen from the front.


While we were observing the bird, which kept going into the blackberry brambles and then coming out again somewhere else, some more birders arrived, looking for the same bird.  There ended up being six of us, all observing the bird when it showed itself and trying to point it out to the others when it appeared.  Most of the rest of them seemed to know each other, at least a little, and I recognized a couple of names when I heard them.  Harris's Sparrow is quite unusual around here, so a number of birders were there looking for it.  Later on my way home I noticed there were 4 or 5 other birders there, too.


While observing, I added Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee to my Sunday list, and then there was a nice Fox Sparrow for me as well.  It was a very nice little group of sparrows, and they hung around cooperatively for us to watch them feeding.


After a while I was getting pretty cold in the windy, mid-30's conditions, so I got in my car and headed out.  One of the birders had mentioned seeing a Mountain Bluebird nearby this morning, and a couple of people mentioned a house in nearby Carnation that had bird feeders in a good place to observe them from the street.  I drove past where the Mountain Bluebird had been seen, but saw nothing at all there.  I found the house with the feeders, but there was a guy out in the yard filling the feeders, so I didn't stick around.  I'm glad to know where it is, though, and I plan to visit again, whenever I'm out there in that area.


By that time it was after 10:30 and the rain was starting, so I headed for home.  Oh yes, I did add Canada Goose and American Robin along the way, too, for my Sunday list.


Here at home, I spent more time watching our bird feeder than I have been spending this last week, and I added Black-capped Chickadee, my first CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE of the year, Northern Flicker, House Finch, House Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and European Starling to my Sunday list over the rest of the day, with off and on observations.


I ended up adding 17 species to my Sunday list, and three of those were new for my year list.  That brought Sunday to 23 species and 2017 to 66.  I "completed" three species, too - that is, I have now seen those species on all seven days of the week.  The ones I completed today were Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.  That makes five species completed at this point.


For my BAD bird today, I'll take the Harris's Sparrow, partly out of recognition of its rarity.  Sharp-shinned Hawk would be an excellent BAD bird, but I'm much more likely to see that one again later this year than the sparrow (unless I go back over to Carnation to look for the sparrow again in the next few days).  So, today was a successful "twitch" and getting a rarity will help me extend my BAD streak by one more day, because I didn't need to use some other bird that I will see later.



Monday, January 9, 2017


Today I decided to visit the Union Bay Natural Area, known to birders as the Montlake Fill, or just "The Fill".  It's located just east of the University of Washington in northeast Seattle.  I could have gone across the Evergreen Point floating bridge, but that would have cost me $3.25, I think, so I went around the north end of the lake.  It took an extra ten minutes, if there wasn't a traffic issue on the bridge, which is questionable.


Before I left home I saw a Northern Flicker at our feeder, for my Monday list.


It was overcast this morning, about 40 degrees.  I hadn't been to the Fill for a couple of years, and I knew there was work going on there, but there had been reports of a duck species that I thought would make a good BAD bird for today.


I found a free place to park in the parking lot and headed out onto the trails.  I knew I was in for a longer walk than I feel comfortable with, so I didn't carry my scope.  I also used my cane, in the hopes that would save some wear and tear on my Achilles tendon.


I'd guess it was about a half a mile of walking to get to where I could see part of Lake Washington and look for ducks.  There were some ducks there, but most of them were too far away for just binoculars.  I wished I had lugged my scope along.


I soon started adding species to my Monday list, though.  I got Mallard, Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and my first GADWALLS of the year.  There was a single female NORTHERN SHOVELER  near shore, and I saw a couple of COMMON MERGANSER males farther out.  There was also a single AMERICAN COOT, my first of the year.  Way out there were some RUDDY DUCKS, and I could identify them from their shape.  I also had my first PIED-BILLED GREBES of the year.  I was getting birds for my Monday list and my year list, but I couldn't see the target duck species I was looking for.  I assumed that if I had brought my scope out to the edge of the lake, I could have maybe found the ones reported there this past week, as there were hundreds of ducks too far away for me identify without my scope.


Eventually I gave it up and walked along the shore to get a view of another little bay to the west.  To my pleased surprise, there they were - four or five REDHEADS, the very duck I was looking for.  Here is a terrible picture of a pair of Redheads, with the male on the left.


So, having gotten my target species, I headed back.  Here are a couple of pictures of the Montlake Fill.



The state Department of Transportation is doing a lot of work right now, attempting to restore and enhance the wetlands there.  Like any public project, it is controversial, with many birders thinking that what they are doing will discourage shorebirds from stopping there on migration.  I think they are mainly removing non-native, invasive vegetation and planting native stuff.  They are probably also dredging out some ponds and maybe making new ones.  It is a mitigation project, to make up for some wetland habitat that is being destroyed by the new 520 bridge project.  I don't have an opinion about the overall project, but whatever happens, I expect it will be a lot better than what it was, which was pretty well degraded after years of nothing being done there.  It is supposed to be completed this spring.


On my way back to the car, there were some crows on the ice on one of the ponds.  It was funny to watch them, as they walked on the ice and slipped from time to time.  They seemed to be finding some kind of food on the ice surface.  Here are a couple of pictures of American Crows on ice.



Back at home there were birds coming to our feeder, and I added Red-winged Blackbird to my Monday list.  Here is a female Red-winged Blackbird.


Here's a male Dark-eyed Junco at the feeder.


I also added Anna's Hummingbird to my Monday list.  Here's a picture of a male Anna's Hummingbird at the hummingbird feeder.


Most hummingbirds migrate south in the winter, and Anna's Hummingbirds used to do so, years ago, but these days many of them over-winter here in Western Washington.  We have them coming to our feeder all year round.


I added 14 species to my Monday list today, to bring it to 38.  Seven of those fourteen species were new for the year, to bring my 2017 total to 73.  I'm still running ahead of last year.  After January 9 last year I had only 64 species.  I haven't really been going for high numbers this year, but I guess I must have gone more places this year, as that's the biggest factor in how many species one sees.


For today, I'll choose Redhead as my Bird-A-Day (BAD) bird.  They are pretty uncommon around here, and they will all be gone by the end of February, so it was great to get that species today.  I expect to see them in south Texas and later at Malheur, but there will be plenty of other species to choose for my BAD birds on those trips, so getting Redhead here at home will help me extend my streak by another day.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017


This morning I had European Starling and Black-capped Chickadee here in the yard, for my Tuesday list.  I waited a while for the rain to let up, and then headed north to the Edmonds waterfront.  There are a number of regulars that I see there, but today was windy and there wasn't much around at all.  In addition to a paucity of birds, the wind makes it hard to see what is there because of the waves caused by the wind.  I chose not to lug my scope out onto the pier, too, which limited me even more.


I did add some birds, though.  I got my first SURF SCOTERS of the year, and here is a picture of one of them.  It's a male Surf Scoter, which has to be just about the ugliest duck in the world.


There were a few RED-NECKED GREBES around, as always, and this Horned Grebe.


I saw some RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, both males and females, but the conditions weren't good enough for pictures.  I also saw a couple of Double-crested Cormorants for my Tuesday list, and my first PELAGIC CORMORANT of the year.  I added two new gulls to my year list - GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL and MEW GULL.  Here is a picture of a Mew Gull, which is one of our smaller gulls.


I saw a couple of Common Goldeneyes for my Tuesday list, and I completed Bufflehead, having now seen them on each day of the week this year.


Here's a picture of an American Crow on the beach.


Note its left foot; it seems to be deformed or injured or something.  The crow was getting around okay, though.


Here is a picture of the Edmonds ferry dock, with Mount Baker in the distant background.


The temperature was in the mid-30's, and with the breeze, it was plenty cold.  I drove up to Sunset Avenue to see what I could see there, but there was very little out on the water.  I did manage to add Brant to my Tuesday list, but that was it for the day.


I got 13 species for my Tuesday list today, and six of those were new for the year.  That brings my Tuesday total to 43, the highest day of the week at this point, and my year list to 79.  I'm still running ahead of last year in my yearly total; I was only at 67 after January 10 last year.


For my BAD bird today, I guess I'll take Brant.  I was hoping for one of about 8 other species for my BAD bird today, all of which are possible up at Edmonds, but the wind or something kept the bird count down.  I don't know where they go when its windy, but they weren't out on the water today.  I'll be going back to Edmonds a lot over the coming weeks, I'm sure, to get the rest of the winter sea birds, and to get them for as many days of the week as I can.


In addition to my two regular streaks (BAD bird and DOTW birds), I have another streak going.  So far I have seen a new year-bird each day of the year.  That won't last much longer, but so far, so good.  Last year I made it through January 15 before I missed adding a new year-bird to my list, so I have five more days to go.  I have some plans for the next three days, but it will take some luck to get a new one each day.  We shall see.  After that, I'll have to take a look at it again, to see if I can extend it farther.  First things first, though, and tomorrow is the current challenge.  I changed my plans for tomorrow, just to have a chance for a new year-bird.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017


My original intention today was to go up to Skagit county and then on to Anacortes and get some good year birds, as well as my Skagit county birds and a good BAD bird.  The weather forecast was for wind up there, though, with a small craft advisory, so I scrapped that idea.  I learned yesterday at Edmonds that birding on a large body of water in the wind wasn't a great idea.


It has been interesting doing both Bird-A-Day (BAD) birding and Day Of The Week (DOTW) birding at the same time.  I need to make plans for both schemes, and they are a bit different.  To add to the fun, I'm concentrating in the very short term on trying to see a new year-bird each day, which adds another complication to my planning.  Last year I went until January 16 before I missed getting a new year-bird, so this year I want to beat that.


With all that in mind, I decided to head over to Magnuson Park this morning.  I got European Starling, Steller's Jay, and American Goldfinch before I left home.  So, the DOTW thing was taken care of for today, and now I only needed a decent BAD bird and a new year-bird.


At Magnuson I got out my scope and walked to where some interesting birds have been seen recently.  There were several other birders there, too, and we all were looking.  We all quickly found the flock of CEDAR WAXWINGS that I wanted to see.  The others were looking for Bohemian Waxwings, which are much less common than Cedars, but I had already seen Bohemian Waxwing last week, so Cedar Waxwing was my main target, since it filled my goal of getting a new year-bird.  I would have been quite happy adding Bohemian Waxwing to my Wednesday list, but no one ever saw a Bohemian today, while I was there.  I got some pictures of Cedar Waxwings, though.


That one shows the crest quite well, and also the yellow tip to the tail.  They were feeding on Hawthorn berries, and here is a picture of a Cedar Waxwing in the midst of some Hawthorn berries.


Here's another one.


Bohemian Waxwings are slightly larger and have reddish-brown color under their tails.  The birds were swallowing the berries whole, and here's one with a berry.


There were also robins there, eating the same berries.  Here is an American Robin with a berry.


It was bloody cold out there - in the low 30's, I guess.  I was warm enough except for my hands.  I have gloves, but the heavy ones are too thick to allow me to operate my camera, and the thinner leather ones just weren't enough protection from the cold.  My hands were aching from the cold, so I moved on.  Before moving on, though, I added House Finch to my Wednesday list - they seemed to be eating the berries, too, although I don't think they could swallow them whole.


There were some ducks out on the lake.  I added Mallard to my Wednesday list, and there was a large group of scaup, both Greater Scaup (which I didn't need for Wednesday) and Lesser Scaup (which I did).  I saw a small group of gulls, and I added CALIFORNIA GULL to my year list.  Here's a picture of a California Gull preening.


The yellow legs, the black and red spots on the lower bill, and the dark eye were the things that let me know it was a California Gull.  There was a small group of Killdeer on the beach, too, so that one went on to my Wednesday list.


There was a group of wigeons out on the lake, as there had been the last time I was there.  I added American Wigeon and Eurasian Wigeon to my Wednesday list.  I've mentioned looking for Eurasian Wigeons before, in the midst of flocks of American Wigeons.  Here is a picture that shows a bunch of American Wigeons, and right in the middle of the picture is a male Eurasian Wigeon, with the red head.


They are easy to pick out, but when there are hundreds of them, and they are feeding and  moving around, it isn't quite as easy.  Here is another picture of the male Eurasian Wigeon.


Supposedly, about 1% of the wigeons in our area in the winter are Eurasian Wigeons, which is why you have to search for them.  This guy should be somewhere in Asia at this point, but he took a wrong turn somewhere way up north this fall and joined up with a flock of his American cousins.


I also saw my first YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER of the year, and here are a couple of pictures.



That was it for Magnuson today.  I headed for home, and once here, I watched birds at our feeders.  A Chestnut-backed Chickadee came to the suet feeder, so that one went on to my Wednesday list.  Then this cute little Bewick's Wren came to the suet feeder.



I had added Steller's Jay this morning, but this afternoon I got these two pictures of a Steller's Jay.



Likewise, I had added American Goldfinch this morning, and I got this picture of an American Goldfinch this afternoon.


There was a single PINE SISKIN, too, one I was glad to get for my year list.  Some winters they are very common in our yard, but this was the first one I had seen this winter.  Finally, here is a picture of a male Spotted Towhee, which I didn't need for today, but I can't pass up a good picture opportunity.


So, it was a pretty good day of birding.  I kept all three of my streaks alive and I got some pictures I like.  I added 15 species to my Wednesday list, to bring me to 32 total.  Four of those were new for the year, to bring my yearly total to 83, still nicely ahead of last year, when I had 72 after eleven days.


For my BAD bird, I had to debate quite a bit.  Either Cedar Waxwing or Pine Siskin would have been fine, and I ended up deciding to take Pine Siskin on the basis that the one today was the first one of the winter for me, and there might not be any more.  I'm sure I'll see Cedar Waxwings later in the year.  Last year I had both Cedar Waxwing and Pine Siskin on all seven days of the week, so it probably didn't really matter which one I chose.


I've got plans for the next several days, and if my luck holds and the weather cooperates, I should be able to keep my streak of getting a new year-bird every day going a little longer.



Thursday, January 12, 2017


I got House Finch for my Thursday list before I left home this morning, then I headed over to Marymoor Park to see if I could get a year-bird and a BAD bird.


My first stop in the park was the office, where they have some feeders.  There is a species that I have seen there in previous years, and I needed it for my year list still.  I parked in the last slot where I could watch the feeders and try for pictures, and almost right away a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH flew in to one of the feeders.  Success, and I had been there less than a minute and hadn't gotten out of my car.  I tried for pictures, but the light was low and the bird kept flitting in and out again without stopping.  Here is the best I could do today of a Red-breasted Nuthatch.


At least it is a good nuthatch pose, with a seed in its bill.


I drove on into the park, looking for the Northern Shrike that is wintering there.  I saw it last week, but never could find it today, despite driving back and forth repeatedly between the two places it has been seen.  I felt a little better when I saw the report this afternoon that said the regular Thursday Marymoor bird walk people hadn't seen the shrike today, either.  There were at least a half dozen of them, and they walked all over the place.  The shrike must have taken the morning off or something.


I did find a couple of goose flocks and got Canada Goose and Cackling Goose for my Thursday list.  The immature Snow Goose was still hanging out with the cacklers, but I already had that one for Thursday.  I scanned the flocks closely and found a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE among the cacklers, too, my first of the year.  I was getting in position for a picture when a woman who was walking her large dog off-leash let the dog chase the geese, and they flew to another part of the park.  I don't understand why someone would blatantly and illegally walk their dog off-leash (and let it chase birds) when the best off-leash dog park I have ever seen was only a hundred feet away.  Maybe she liked to let the dog chase birds.  Besides the geese, the dog chased the Killdeer in the field.


Later I caught up with the flock of geese again and got this picture of the Greater White-fronted Goose.


At least when the woman's dog chased the Killdeer, they flew in closer to me, and I got this picture of one of the Killdeer hunkering down in the frosty grass.


Temperatures were in the high 20's, but at least the sun was shining.


There were a couple of Great Blue Herons up in a fir tree, and I got these pictures, which aren't really very good.  I thought it was interesting to see them so far up in an evergreen tree, though.



Here is a shot of the trees they were in.  You can just barely make out the two birds, if you know where to look (center of the picture, above the halfway point)


Here are a couple of pictures of an American Crow, with the light coming from the wrong angle.



As I said, I drove back and forth, looking for the shrike.  On my last pass I saw a half dozen Western Meadowlarks, a good one for my Thursday list.  Again the light was all wrong, but here are a couple of pictures of Western Meadowlarks.



That was it for Marymoor today.  I didn't get out and walk around, partly because of the cold and partly because I was focused on getting a good Bad bird, and I wanted the shrike.


I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went over to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, as usual.  The lake was almost completely frozen over, which we had never seen before, so I didn't get any of the ducks that were there last week for my Thursday list.  We did see a VIRGINIA RAIL, though, right out in the open.  I was concentrating on getting a good look at it and it didn't hang around long, so I didn't get a picture.  It went out onto the ice and then flew a short distance across the end of a little bay, and out of sight.  It was a good Thursday bird, though.  That might have been the first time I have ever seen a Virginia Rail fly, and it only went about 10 or 15 feet and didn't get more than a foot above the ice.


So, that was it for today.  Not many birds, and my pictures are pretty mediocre today.  That's birding for you.  At least I kept all three of my streaks alive.  I've had a new bird for the year each day for the first 12 days of the year now.  I got 8 new ones for my Thursday list, to bring me to 38 for Thursdays this year.  Three of those were new for the year, so my year total is now 86, which is still well ahead of last year's total of 75 after 12 days.  For my BAD bird today I'll take Greater White-fronted Goose.  Tomorrow I plan to head up to Skagit county with my friend Dan, for a full day of birding, God Willing And The Creeks Don't Rise.  It's supposed to be cold and clear again.  My main challenge is going to be to get a new bird for my yearly lists, to keep that streak going.  I'd also like to get Short-eared Owl for my BAD bird, so that's the secondary goal for tomorrow.



Friday, January 13, 2017


Before leaving home this morning I got House Sparrow for my Friday list.  My friend, Dan, came over at 10, and we left for Skagit county.  Our first stop was the Subway in Stanwood, and then we went on to Eide Road, west of Stanwood.  My main target there was Short-eared Owl, and we saw one on the drive in to the parking lot, so that was a success.  I got out and looked around and added Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier to my Friday list.


Next we headed north to Wylie Slough.  Along the way I added Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Snow Goose, and American Kestrel to my Friday list.  There was nothing at Wylie Slough, but on the way out I got Red-winged Blackbird and Brewer's Blackbird for my list, and then stopped to scope some swans.  There were both Trumpeter Swans and at least one Tundra Swan in the group along Wylie Road, so that was two more targets down for my Friday list.


We stopped at Hayton Preserve and I added Dunlin to my list, as well as Green-winged Teal.  It was getting on for lunch time by then, so we headed for March Point, where I had several targets.  I got Northern Pintail along the bay on the way to March Point, and a Belted Kingfisher was along that stretch as well, so that was two more for Friday.


We stopped at March Point to eat our Subway sandwiches.  I got out and scoped the water for a few minutes before eating, though, and I saw a COMMON LOON, my first new year-bird of the day.  That was one of my targets at March Point.  I heard a cheeping sound, and it turned out to be an otter, of all things.  Here is an otter in the water, making its cheeping call.


It was in and out of the water, and I got this picture as it came out of the water one time.


Here it is on land.


It turned out that there were actually two of them, and here's a picture of the two of them swimming together.


We ate our sandwiches and I scoped the water some more.  I saw some more Common Loons, and two or three RED-THROATED LOONS as well.  That was another of my prime targets at March Point, so that was satisfying.  There were also a lot of Brant (a small goose) out on the water, so that one went on my Friday list.  I saw Double-crested Cormorants a couple of times, and also a few Canada Geese, so those went onto my Friday list as well.  There were also gulls around, and Glaucous-winged Gull went onto my list.


So, that was pretty good, and eventually we moved on.  A little farther along there were some birds out on the water and I stopped to take a look.  I saw a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, which was the third major target I had for March Point, based on eBird reports.  Three out of four was great; no Long-tailed Duck today, but it was never likely.


We stopped at a pullout and there were some birds there, including a single LEAST SANDPIPER, which was actually a secondary target at March Point for me.  Here is a picture of the little Least Sandpiper, which never stopped running around looking for food of some kind in the gravel.


I don't know if it was finding little bugs or what, but it just kept running around pecking at something.  It was hard to get a decent picture because it never stopped.  As we were pulling out from the pullout where the Least Sandpiper was frenetically running around, I saw a couple of Northern Flickers in a tree, and that was another one for Friday.


So, I had all my goals of the day.  I had plenty of Friday birds, I had my year-bird for that streak, and I had three excellent BAD birds to choose from - Short-eared Owl, Red-throated Loon, and White-winged Scoter.  We could have headed for home, but it wasn't even two o'clock yet, and there were more birds to see.


We headed up farther north, to the Samish Flats.  We stopped at Bay View State Park to use the facilities, but there weren't any new birds there for me.  There were a couple of Common Ravens along Bayview-Edison Road, so that one went onto my Friday list.  There were raptors on poles as well.  First there were a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, along with the ever-present Bald Eagles in that area, and then there was a Rough-legged Hawk, which was my main target in going that far north.  Here is a picture of an oddly plumaged raptor that I believe was a Rough-legged Hawk.


Later we saw at least two more Rough-legged Hawks as well.  There was also a male Northern harrier sitting in a field, and I got this picture.


We went on to the West 90, then backtracked to the East 90, where I saw a couple of American Coots in a field, another one for Friday.  There were a couple of Short-eared Owls flying around there, too, and another Rough-legged Hawk was perched on a pole.


That was it for our big day of birding, and we headed for home, arriving back here just at 4:00.  It had been a six hour birding adventure, counting drive time.


Here are the numbers - I saw 29 species for my Friday list today, to bring that to a total of 51.  Four of those species were new for the year, to bring my yearly total to 90.  All three of my streaks continued (DOTW, BAD, and new year-bird).  I didn't get many pictures, but I enjoyed seeing the otters and getting my first pictures of otters in Washington State.  All in all, it was a very successful day, especially for Friday the Thirteenth.  The dry weather is supposed to last for 2 to 3 days more, so I have hopes of keeping all three streaks alive until at lest Monday.  We shall see.


Oh yes, for my BAD bird today, I'm going to choose Red-throated Loon.  I only saw them twice last year, and I saw White-winged Scoter (my second choice) four times.  I can always see Short-eared Owl again, as long as I go back up to Stanwood, and I expect to do that 2 or 3 more times this month, weather permitting and God willing etc.



Saturday, January 14, 2017


It was still cold this morning, in the high 20's when I left home.  I went up to the Edmonds waterfront, to try my luck out on the fishing pier.  Here's a picture that shows the fishing pier at Edmonds in the clear sunny morning light.


Those are the Olympic Mountains in the background.  It's hard to tell from this picture, but the fishing pier is about 30 or 40 feet beyond that rock breakwater at the edge of the small boat harbor.


There were some fishermen out there this morning, but not many birds.  There were three or four other birders, and we all watched for interesting birds, but they were few and far between.


I did get all three local cormorants, anyway - Double-crested, Pelagic, and my first BRANDT'S CORMORANT of the year.


There were several Red-necked Grebes and a couple of Horned Grebes, for my Saturday list.  There were also some Red-breasted Mergansers for my list.


Their were two alcids, both for my year list - PIGEON GUILLEMOT and RHINOCEROS AUKLET.  At one point a small flock of Gadwalls (a duck species) flew in, so that one went on my Saturday list, too.  Finally, I added Glaucous-winged Gull to my Saturday list.


I also saw a pair of Surf Scoters I the distance at one point.


So, that was just nine species for my Saturday list, but three of them were new birds for the year, so that kept that streak alive.  That brings me to 52 species for Saturday and 93 for the year.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Brandt's Cormorant, not an uncommon bird, but the least common one I saw today.


I've seen a new year-bird each day now for the first 14 days of the year.  Last year I made it through 15 days, so tomorrow I go for the tie.  I'm thinking I'll head up to Skagit county again, to get the good birds I see up there each time.  This would be my sixth trip up there this year, which is really overdoing it, but I want to get Short-eared Owl for a BAD bird, and the weather has been most cooperative so far, so I want to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.  Five or six of the Skagit birds will be heading north in a few weeks, and I'll be gone for a couple of weeks at the start of February.  My problem tomorrow is going to be to get another hew bird for the year.  I have a plan in mind.  We'll see how it goes.



Sunday, January 15, 2017


We had another cold and dry day today, although it was only barely below freezing as I set off at 9:20 this morning.  I was headed up to the Skagit again - the sixth time this year.  That's 6 out of 15 days.  I'm getting kind of tired of the one hour drive up the freeway to get started birding.  The winter birds up there are great, though, and some of them will soon be heading north.  The weather has been very cooperative, so I've made the drive six times so far.


I got Feral Pigeon for my Sunday list on the way, and then Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.  I stopped at Subway and got a sandwich, and then stopped at QFC in Stanwood and gassed up the car.  Finally I started my birding at Eide Road.  I saw a Northern Harrier as I drove in, and then a small group of at least five Ring-necked Pheasants were crossing the road.  Up until today, I had only seen male pheasants in the area, but these five were all females.  I'm sure they have all been captive-bred birds and released for hunters to slaughter; purist birders wouldn't count them as a result, but I'm counting them.


I parked in the parking area with a half dozen other cars and got out and started looking for my owl, which is why I had come there.  I walked down the road a little because my heel was feeling a bit better today, and after a short time I saw a Short-eared Owl flying toward me.  I managed to get this picture of it while it was in the air.  Short-eared Owl.


As I watched it, it dove to the ground and didn't come up.  I assumed it had caught something, so I hustled back to the car, because the owl had gone down right in front of where I had parked.  As I got there, a Northern Harrier flew in and chased the owl away, presumably stealing the owl's catch, since the harrier stayed on the ground and the owl flew off.


The owl flew around a little, and then landed on a post, very close to the parking area.  Here is a close picture of a Short-eared Owl.


I like that picture because you can see the owl's beak sticking out of its flat face.  Here is a picture of it looking my way.


So, that was fun, but there were more birds to see, so I moved on, heading up to Wylie Slough next.  On the way I stopped to look at some swans in a field, and they were all Trumpeter Swans, as far as I could see, so that one went onto my Sunday list.  On the way to Wylie Slough, while on Fir Island, I saw a Belted Kingfisher, right where I had seen one twice before this year.


At Wylie Slough I parked and walked a little, playing the calls of a bird I had seen there in December, but not yet this year.  After a while, there it was - BROWN CREEPER.  Here is a picture of today's Brown Creeper, my first new year-bird of the day, to keep that streak alive.


I normally don't show pictures of birds that don't show their eye, but this picture of the Brown Creeper shows off its wing and tail feathers so well that I'm showing it anyway.


On my way out of there, some Snow Geese flew overhead, and as it turned out, those were the only Snow Geese I saw all day.  The huge flocks of them were hiding somewhere today, I guess - somewhere I didn't go.


I stopped on my way back to the main road and scoped a bunch of swans in a field, and this time I fund one Tundra Swan among the Trumpeters, so that one went on my Sunday list.


I saw Mallards in various fields today, and I saw Killdeer a number of times.  At Hayton Preserve I got out and walked to where I could see the edge of the bay.  I added Common Goldeneye, Green-winged Teal, and Dunlin to my Sunday list there.  As I left Hayton Preserve, I took this picture of a Bald Eagle in its nest.


It was getting to be time for lunch, so I hurried on to March Point.  On the way I saw the first of many Northern Pintails (a duck species) and this group of about a dozen Great Blue Herons.


There has been a large group of Great Blue Herons in that same field each time I've gone by there this winter.  I wonder what it is about that field that attracts them, and why they just stand around there.


Out at the tip of March Point I stopped to eat lunch, but first got out and looked around.  I saw a number of species for my Sunday list there, both before and after I ate.  There were a number of Red-breasted Mergansers, several Surf Scoters, some Double-crested Cormorants, a lot of Brant (a small goose), and a couple of Common Loons.  Then I spotted a couple of LONG-TAILED DUCKS, one I had missed on my visit there the other day.  I don’t see them very often, and I ended up seeing maybe 15 of them today, in four different places around March Point.  Very exciting.


After eating I moved on and got Red-throated Loon a little farther on, and then a few Gadwall (a duck species).  There were also some Brewer's Blackbirds in several places today.


I decided to go up to the Samish Flats to try for Rough-legged Hawk, and on the way there I added American Kestrel.  When I got there I did indeed see a couple of Rough-legged Hawks.  There were also a couple of Common Ravens in a field.


As I left the area there were at least a half dozen cars stopped along the road, and the people were out taking pictures and looking at the eagles in the trees at the "eagle house", as I think of it.  There is an eagle nest there, and there always seem to be a lot of eagles hanging around.  I counted 16 eagles in the trees in this picture, and there were at least 4 more in nearby trees on the same farm.


I headed for home, but as I was leaving the Samish Flats area, I saw a group of American Wigeons for my list.  I pulled over and scanned them with my binoculars from the car.  There were several dozen of them, and I was looking for a vagrant Eurasian Wigeon among them.  On the third scan of the flock I finally saw a male Eurasian Wigeon, with his red head, so that one went onto my list.  There were 3 or 4 American Coots in the back of the flock, too, so that was one last species for Sunday.


I got home at about 4:20, after seven hours of birding, counting my drive time.  I added 33 species to my Sunday list today, to bring it to 56.  Two of those species were new for the year, to keep that streak alive and bring me to 95 species for the year so far.  For my BAD bird today, I guess I'll take Long-tailed Duck, which is a quite uncommon species in Washington and points south of here.  I had figured I only had a 30% chance of seeing a Long-tailed Duck all year, so seeing 15 of them today was great.  I keep wanting to use Short-eared Owl for my BAD bird, but I just keep seeing better ones.  I guess I'll have to go back up to Eide Road again this month, if I'm to have Short-eared Owl for a BAD bird this year.  I'm not likely to see the species anywhere else.


Meanwhile, I now have seen a new bird for the year for the first fifteen days of the year, which ties what I did last year.  The weather should be okay tomorrow in the morning, so I ought to be able to get a year-bird tomorrow, but Tuesday and Wednesday are supposed to be quite rainy, so they will be a big challenge.  One day at a time, though; I need to decide where to go looking tomorrow morning, before the rains set in.



Monday, January 16, 2017


I had a lunch date today, so I went over to Marymoor Park to see what I could find this morning.  I wanted to see the Northern Shrike, to use it for my BAD bird for today, and I needed to find a year-bird to keep that streak going.


I drove around, but the shrike wasn't in evidence today.  I looked it up and it hasn't been reported for a week, so maybe it is gone.  I found the flock of Cackling Geese, and the Greater White-fronted Goose was with them, but not the Snow Goose, which was my second choice for a BAD bird today.  I walked a little, looking for Lincoln's Sparrows, which had been seen there last week, but had no luck.  I went over by the slough and walked a little again.  There were some Golden-crowned Sparrows, which I didn't need for Monday, but I also got a brief view of a Fox Sparrow, which I did need for Monday.


Along the slough, I ran into another birder and he pointed out some WILSON'S SNIPE, which was a surprise year-bird for me.  I hadn't ever seen snipe at Marymoor before.  Here is a picture of a Wilson's Snipe.


There were four of them, right out in the open, which is unusual for snipe.  Here is another view of one.


A couple of Killdeer flew in, too, which was another Monday bird.  I didn't need Green-winged Teal, but there were several of them feeding alongside the snipe, so I took some pictures.  Here is a male Green-winged Teal.


The female looks quite different; here is a picture of a female Green-winged Teal.


You can even see a sliver of her green wing patch, which gives the species its name.


That was it for Marymoor today.  After lunch, Chris and I went over to Phantom Lake, but there were almost no birds at all there today.  The lake is still frozen over, but there is warm rain forecast now, so that won't last long.


At home I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler in our yard, which was unusual and a good one for my Monday list.  I also got House Sparrow and American Goldfinch at our feeder.


Today I saw 8 species for my Monday list, and one of them was new for the year.  That brings me to 46 species for Monday and 96 for the year.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Wilson's Snipe, since I don’t see them very often.  I got a new year-bird today (Wilson's Snipe), so now I have a new year-bird for each of the first 16 days of this year, which surpasses last year.


In terms of totals, I'm running well ahead of last year, which isn't surprising, since I have done a lot more birding in the first couple of weeks of the year than last year.  I realized today that having higher totals is actually to my disadvantage in terms of extending my streak of day birds in my DOTW birding.  It'll make it harder later, since I'll have seen so many birds this early.  It has been interesting doing both BAD birding and DOTW birding at the same time, and I expect that to continue.


It's supped to be rainy for the next couple of days, which will make it challenging for me to find birds - especially a new year-bird each day.  The forecast has changed a little, though, and now it appears there could be some breaks in the rain tomorrow morning, which would help.  We shall see.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The forecast today was for rain all day, but it turned out to just be showers for most of the day.  I headed down to Juanita Bay Park with the intention of playing the song of Pacific Wren, which would be a year-bird for me, to keep that streak alive.  When I got to the part of the park where I've called up Pacific Wren before, I walked down the path a little distance because I heard a bird calling, and I wasn't sure what it was.  It turned out to be a Red-winged Blackbird, which I actually did need for Tuesday still.  Then I saw a couple of Downy Woodpeckers in a tree.  That made two for Tuesday, but still no year-bird.


There was another little bird there, though, and it turned out to be a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, which was a year-bird.  I didn't bother playing the Pacific Wren song; I'll save it for another day.  Back at home I saw an Anna's Hummingbird, to give me four Tuesday birds, bringing me to 47 for Tuesday now.  The kinglet brought me to 97 species for the year.  For my BAD bird I'll take Downy Woodpecker, I guess.  They are pretty common, but the others are all easier to see if I go looking for them.  It's hard to actually look for woodpeckers - you pretty much just have to be lucky, and you can possibly see them anywhere you're birding.


That makes 17 days in a row that I've found a new year-bird.  It's supposed to rain again tomorrow, and we'll see if I can continue the streak.



Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Birding in the rain.  It was raining this morning and it was supposed to rain all day, but I needed to get a new year-bird, so I went over to Log Boom Park in Kenmore, at the north end of Lake Washington.  I used my umbrella and walked out onto the dock to check out the ducks.  I soon saw some Gadwalls, American Coots, and Common Mergansers for my Wednesday list.  There were also several WOOD DUCKS there, which was new for the year for me, keeping that streak alive.  There were also a couple of Trumpeter Swans out there, so that went on my Wednesday list, too.


I gave it up after that and went back to my car and went home.  This afternoon I saw an Anna's Hummingbird at our feeder, and that was new for Wednesday, too.  That made 6 new Wednesday species today, to bring me to a total of 38 on Wednesday.  The Wood Ducks brought me to 98 for the year.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Trumpeter Swan.



Thursday, January 19, 2017


Today was rainy again, but at least there were some breaks in it.  I got Steller's Jay for my Thursday list before I left home.  There was a Cooper's Hawk out under the feeder, and it was chasing a squirrel around.  The crows and the jays were squawking all the time.  The hawk didn't catch the squirrel as far as I saw.  Too bad; we could afford to have fewer squirrels around.  Unfortunately, I already had Cooper's Hawk on a Thursday this year, but it was still fun to see it chasing the squirrel around.


When I got to Log Boom Park this morning it wasn't raining, so I took my scope out on to the dock to look for ducks.  Here is a female Common Merganser, which I needed for my Thursday list.


Also for Thursday, I got Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, and Ring-billed Gull.  There were the usual Double-crested Cormorants, sitting on pilings as always.  They sure seem to spend a lot of their time just sitting there.  Here is a picture of a couple of dozen Double-crested Cormorants.


In the distance I was able to see a single male CANVASBACK, the duck I was targeting today for my year-bird, to keep that streak alive.  Usually there are a number of them around, but today I only saw the one.  About the time I saw him, it started to sprinkle a bit, so I packed up my scope and headed back to the car.  There were remarkably few ducks around today, especially considering the lake was pretty calm.


At home this afternoon I saw a Chestnut-backed Chickadee at our feeder, for my Thursday list.  That made 11 new species today for Thursday, to bring me to 49 species on Thursday.  The Canvasback brought me to 99 species for the year to date and kept my new year-bird every day streak alive.  For 19 days in a row now, I've seen a new species for the year.  That streak won't go on for more than 2 or 3 more days at the most, I don't imagine, and I'll be glad to see it over.  I'd rather be concentrating on finding a good BAD bird and some DOTW birds, instead of looking for a new year-bird every day.  I'm a slave to streaks, though, and I want to extend it as long as I can.


For my BAD bird today, I'll choose Canvasback.  As a reminder, my Bird-A-Day (BAD) bird has to be one I saw (or heard) that day, and I can't have used that species before this year for a BAD bird.  It doesn't matter how many times I might have seen it before, only that I haven't used it as a BAD bird before.



Friday, January 20, 2017


We were getting a break in the rain, so I headed up to Edmonds this morning.  The tide was as high as I remember ever seeing it, and I walked out onto the fishing pier.  It was a little choppy out there, and there weren't many birds around.  There were a few, though, and gradually I added to my Friday list.  First was Mew Gull; there were a number of them sitting in the water, feeding on something on the surface.  I got the ever-present Red-necked Grebes and there were some Horned Grebes, too, as usual.  I added Surf Scoter, a sea duck, and then the two cormorant species I still needed for Friday - Pelagic Cormorant and Brandt's Cormorant.  That's all I saw from the pier that I needed, and none were year-birds.


Next I drove to the north side of the ferry terminal, to Sunset Avenue.  It's up on a bluff and looks out over the water.  There wasn't much on offer from that vantage point, either, but eventually I got a good, but brief, look at a PACIFIC LOON, one of the ones I needed for my year list still.  The loon dove and I never saw it again.  I watched the whole area for the next 45 minutes or so, and the bird never showed itself again.  Oddly, at one point I saw a Common Loon, again just briefly, and it also dove, never to be seen again.  I feel confidant of both identifications, although the birds are fairly similar in appearance.  It seemed really odd that both of them could disappear so effectively, when I was watching the whole area for hundreds of yards around where each of them appeared.  I suppose they must have continued to feed, and I never happened to catch a view of either of them again.  Loons can stay down for a couple of minutes and go a long distance underwater.  When they surface for air, they sometimes only stay up for a few seconds, so you have to be looking in the right place at the right time to see them.  While looking for more views of the loons, I did add a distant Pigeon Guillemot to my Friday list.


There were some Brant there, and I got this picture of some of them, although I didn't need that species for Friday.


Back at home I saw a Steller's Jay in our yard, to bring me to 9 species for my Friday list for the day.  Friday now stands at 60 species.  The Pacific Loon was species number 100 for the year.  For my BAD bird, I'll take Pacific Loon.



Saturday, January 21, 2017


This morning I decided to go on a twitch.  There has been a bird reported right here in Kirkland that's rare in Washington State, and I decided that it would make an excellent year-bird to extend my streak.  Likewise, it would be an excellent BAD bird, because I won't see that species here around home again this year.


The bird has been reported around a house in Rose Hill, east of downtown Kirkland.  It has been feeding on the berries on a holly tree, reportedly.  I found the house and could see part of the holly tree in the back yard.  No sign or sound of the bird, so I walked up and down the street a little, looking for it.


Back at the house in question, I spotted it on a wire behind the house.  Here is a distant picture of the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD that has been hanging out there for the last several days.


I took some pictures and waited, and the bird flew into the front yard of the house next door.  For the next five or ten minutes, I chased it up and down the street, trying for pictures.  Here is a closer one.


At one point it came in quite close, but this was the best picture I could get at that point.


This one is maybe the best for showing the whole bird, although the little branches are distracting.


So, that was a very successful twitch.  It was the first time I have seen a Northern Mockingbird in Washington State, which shows how rare they are up here, as I have been watching birds all around the state for almost 20 years.


Back here at home I did some experimenting with my camera.  I have always used "single shot" exposures, but my camera is capable of shooting a burst of pictures rapidly.  I did some experimenting today, both of "burst" modes and also of "bracketing".  With bracketing, the camera takes three quick pictures - one at the correct exposure, then one that is a little lighter and one that is a little darker.  You not only get three different exposures to choose from, if the bird is moving, you get three different poses.


I took a lot of pictures and learned some stuff.  I don't know how much I'll use it, but it was interesting.  Here is a female House Finch at the feeder.


Here is a squirrel in a tree.


Here's a squirrel getting a drink of water.


It really hard to get good pictures of chickadees because they dart around so quickly.  This was the best I could do today of a Black-capped Chickadee.


So, not much birding today, but I got another year-bird, to keep that streak alive.  I saw Steller's Jay's, too, for my Saturday list, so Saturday now stands at 52 species.  That completed Steller's Jay for me - I've seen them on all seven days of the week now this year.  That makes ten species that I've completed.  The Northern Mockingbird was number 101 for the year.



Sunday, January 22, 2017


It was raining this morning, but I headed up to Edmonds anyway.  The rain was supposed to turn to showers, and I was willing to walk out onto the pier in the rain, anyway, if it wasn't too heavy.


It was indeed raining lightly when I got there, so I left my scope in the car and walked out onto the fishing pier with my camera and my binoculars.  I was hoping to see the Surfbird that has been reported there, but I missed it again today.  I wanted to see a year-bird, to keep my streak going, but all I saw out there were Sunday birds.  I got Pelagic Cormorant and Mew Gull, as well as this Pigeon Guillemot.


Here is another picture where the bird has its neck pulled in, giving it a different look.


In the winter, the bird is mostly white, with some black and gray on it.  In the summer it dons its breeding plumage and it's all black, with just that white patch on the wing.  This bird is in between winter and breeding plumage.  I guess that new feathers come in and the old ones fall out, until the plumage has changed.


I also added Red-necked Grebe to my Sunday list.  Here's one with a small eel or some kind of long fish.


There was only a very light rain at that point.  Back on land, I took some crow pictures.  Today was camera experimental day for me.  I mentioned yesterday that I had tried "bracketing", where three shots are taken in quick succession, like in about a second, and they are three different exposures.  The idea is that you can choose the best one that way.  I learned more stuff today, and it was modestly successful, I'd say.  One thing I learned is that I don't hold the camera very steady.  Since three shots in a row are taken, any movement of the camera while those three shots are going off results in the subject moving within the frame.  I was disappointed to see how much I move the camera in a second.  It shows that I ought to be using a tripod more often, especially in low light situations, like today.  Camera movement causes motion blur, which is undesirable.  I have a monopod and that's a lot easier to use than a tripod, and I should be using the monopod more for my pictures.  We'll see if I actually do that or not.


Anyway, back to the crow pictures.  Black birds are a challenge at any time, and there wasn't much light today, which makes it worse.  These first two shots were taken in the rain, looking up into the cloudy sky, which really presents a challenge - a black bird against the sky.




I like the feet in that second picture.  You can see the streaks that the rain makes in the pictures.


Here's one of an American Crow on the ground in the rain.


I still needed a year-bird, so I went over to the north side of the ferry terminal, to Sunset Avenue.  The rain let up about when I got there, so I got out my scope and took a look.  Here's a view of the ferry terminal in the gloom of a cloudy, rainy day.


I've shown that view before, with the Olympic Mountains in the background, on a clear day.  Here is a closer view of the ferry coming in.


I love the zoom power of my camera.  That last picture was only about halfway zoomed.  I hope to be riding that ferry tomorrow.  I plan to go over to the Kitsap Peninsula, to Point No Point, to look for year-birds and a lot of Monday birds.


I added Glaucous-winged Gull to Sunday, and I saw a group of three Pacific Loons for my Sunday list, too.  Yesterday I had seen both a Pacific Loon and a Common Loon briefly, and then both dove and never reappeared.  Today I saw the Pacific Loons several times and there was also a Common Loon today, and I saw it several times, too.


I was still looking for a year-bird, and I finally spotted at least two HARLEQUIN DUCKS in the distance to the north.  A little later I drove up the street to look for them, but never saw them again.  They don't dive for as long as loons, so they must have flown off.


I had my year-bird, but before I left that spot I saw a pair of BLACK SCOTERS, another year-bird.  They were way too far away for pictures, unfortunately.


I moved up the street to look for the Harlequin Ducks, and while fruitlessly looking for them saw a female goldeneye fairly close to shore.  I had seen several Common Goldeneyes, but I didn't need that species for Sunday.  This female close to shore had an orange bill, though, which identified her as a BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, another year-bird.  I got one set of three pictures, and while none of them are good enough to show, they do confirm the identity by showing the orange bill.  Score!


So, with three year-birds under my belt and my streak intact, I headed for home.  On the way I stopped at the boat launch area where the Sammamish Slough runs into Lake Washington.  I discovered the place last week, after driving past it for years.  I was looking to see what ducks might be around.  There were some Mallards, and a couple of male Common Goldeneyes, but nothing I needed.  Here is a picture of a male Common Goldeneye, though.


I was still experimenting with bracketing, and I got this interesting sequence of three shots, taken in less than a second.  Here is a male Common Goldeneye diving.




There are a couple of things interesting about the sequence, I think.  First, you can see the differences in exposure.  The top one was the theoretically "correct" exposure, according to my camera.  The second one is 0.7 of a stop down (darker) and the third one is 0.7 of a stop up (lighter).  I think I can change that 0.7 increment to anything I want, so the differences would be greater.


Another interesting thing about the pictures is the rain drops hitting the water.  You can see one drop in all three pictures, sort of in the middle foreground.  In the first, it has barely hit the water, in the second, a reaction "blip" has started, and in the third, the reaction blip has reached its peak.


The sequence also demonstrates that bracketing could be interesting for birds that are moving a little or just taking off.  The shots would all be sharper and with better color if there was more light, which would help a lot.  I go on about light a lot - both the quality of the light and the amount of light are very important in photography (which I guess should be called "image capture" these days).


So, that was my camera experimental day, and I got three year-birds to extend my streak  That brings me to 104 species for the year so far, and 22 days in a row of getting a new year-bird.  I got 9 new Sunday birds today, to get me to 65 for Sunday.  For my BAD bird, I'll take Black Scoter, although Harlequin Duck or Barrow's Goldeneye would both be good BAD birds, too.


We'll see if I can keep my new year-bird streak alive tomorrow, with a trip over the water to Point No Point.



Monday, January 23, 2017


My friend Dan came over this morning, and we hit the road at about 9:45 this morning.  We caught the Edmonds ferry and rode over to Kingston.  I got Pigeon Guillemot for a Monday bird from the ferry at the Edmonds terminal.  Here's a picture taken from the ferry of a Pigeon Guillemot in transition plumage, partway between winter and breeding plumages.


It was a beautiful sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-40's.  Unfortunately, it was pretty windy, which affect the birding a lot.  Here's a picture of the Kitsap Peninsula (across Puget Sound from north Seattle) with the snow-topped Olympic Mountains in the background.


Here's a picture of the town of Kingston, where the ferry docks.


I picked up Barrow's Goldeneye, Pelagic Cormorant, and Brandt's Cormorant at the ferry terminal in Kingston, before we got off.  All were new for Monday.


We stopped at Subway and got sandwiches, then we drove on up to Point No Point, at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula.  On the approach road to the lighthouse park there, I got my year-bird, CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY.  Scrub-Jays aren't common in Washington, but the reports I had checked out for Point No Point all mentioned them, so they must breed locally there, with a resident population.  I ended up seeing them several times today.  Here is a picture of a California Scrub-Jay (formerly called Western Scrub-Jay).


We parked at the end of the road and went out in the wind to see what we could see.  Here's a picture of the Point No Point lighthouse.


There were very few birds around.  The combination of high tide and the wind kept them away, I suppose.  I saw all three of the expected loon species eventually - Common, Pacific, and Red-throated.  I needed all of those for Monday.  I also added Horned Grebe and Red-necked Grebe to my Monday list.  The few birds present were all feeding, which meant they only surfaced for a few seconds, and while they were on the surface, the waves lifted them up and down, hiding them half the time.  It was not a good photo op, to say the least.


We ate our lunch in the car, out of the wind.  Once in a while a bird would show up, and I'd get out to try for a picture, but it was hopeless.  Here was our view at lunch - the south end of Whidbey Island, across the strait, with a container ship going by.


Eventually we gave it up.  I was very pleased we had seen the Western Scrub-Jays on the way in, because I had my year-bird, which was my number one goal for the day.  We drove back to Norwegian Point and got out again.  Again there were a very few birds around.  I did manage to get this distant picture of a Common Loon at that stop.


A male Red-breasted Merganser flew by, so that one went onto my Monday list, too.  Here's a picture of Point No Point from Norwegian Point.


While we were standing on the shelf above the beach, a couple of little shorebirds came by, running up the beach.  I managed two quick photos and they were gone.  Here are two pictures of my second year-bird of the day, SANDERLING.



A couple of crows, presumably American Crows, were making their way up the beach toward where I was standing.  As they approached me, they flew a bit, passing me by, then landed on the beach again.  That was perfect because now the light was right for pictures.  Here is maybe the best shot of a crow I have ever had.


Here's another one I like.


I like the way the bird is obviously keeping an eye on me.


We drove across the top of the peninsula to Foulweather Bluff, but didn't see anything interesting.  After another quick trip out to the lighthouse, we threw in the towel and headed for the ferry.  At various points during the day I added Surf Scoter and Common Goldeneye to my Monday list, too.  We caught the 2:30 ferry and were back to my house shortly after 3:30.


My species count was much lower than I had expected, and the numbers of each species I saw was also way down from expectations, but it was a great day outdoors, with spectacular scenery and two great ferry rides, so it was still an excellent day.  I did get two year-birds, to bring me to 106 species for the year now, and it extended my streak of getting a new year-bird every day to 23 days.  I got 14 birds for Monday, too, to bring Monday to 60 species.  It was also great to have company on one of my adventures.


For my BAD bird, I debated it, but I'm taking California Scrub-Jay for today.  The other candidate was Sanderling.


I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning, but there are a couple of easy year-birds I can go after in the afternoon, so I hope to extend that streak another day at least.  The weather is supposed to be dry again, with some clouds.  I'm just one week away from my south Texas trip.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I had a doctor's appointment this morning, but I went out birding first, hoping to get Band-tailed Pigeon for a year-bird.  There is a house over in Lake Forest Park that has feeders, and the pigeons are usually hanging around there.  This morning there was no sign of any pigeons, though, so I gave it up and went to my doctor's appointment.  I wonder if the people are still putting out food for the birds.  This is the first time I've been over there for several months.  That's my "go to" place for Band-tailed Pigeon, so I hope they are still hanging around over there.


I took care of the doctor's appointment (I had a cortisone injection for what the doctor diagnosed as trigger finger) and came home and changed clothes.  My plan was to head over to Marymoor Park to try to get a good BAD bird, and later I would go back for the Band-tailed Pigeon, if I didn't get anything new for my year-list at Marymoor.


As it turned out, when I was pulling out of our driveway, I saw a large flock of BUSHTITS.  There must have been over two dozen of them.  I had my year-bird, but I still wanted to try to get a good BAD bird, so I still wanted to drive over to Marymoor.  Before I could get out of our driveway, I added Northern Flicker to my Tuesday list.


No luck at Marymoor finding the Northern Shrike or a Western Meadowlark or the Snow Goose that had been hanging out there earlier this year.  I added Cackling Goose and Canada Goose to my Tuesday list, and also Ring-billed Gull.  That was it for my birding today.  "Some days are diamonds, and some days are stones", you know.  Thank you John Denver.  I did get a year-bird, though, to extend my streak of getting a new year-bird every day to 24 days, which was my main goal for the day.  That brings me to 107 species for the year.  I had five species for my Tuesday list, to bring Tuesday to 52.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Bushtit.


I'm thinking of heading up to Skagit county tomorrow, to try to get Short-eared Owl, to complete that species and get a good BAD bird.  I have a couple of possible year-birds I can look for up there, and if I don’t get one, I plan to stop in Lake Forest Park and try again for Band-tailed Pigeon.  That's the plan, Stan, and we'll see how it goes.  Tomorrow could be the day my streak gets broken.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Before I get into today's adventures, I want to show a picture that my friend, Dan, took on Monday.  This was on the ferry going over to Kitsap county, to Point No Point.  Here's the Old Rambler with the Olympic mountain range in the background.


My hair and beard are both overdue for a trim, but I kind of like the wild old man look.  Thanks, Dan.


This morning my plan was to go up to Skagit county and get Short-eared Owl for my BAD bird.  There were two or three possible year-birds I could see up there, but nothing very likely.  If I didn't find a year-bird, then my plan was to stop in Lake Forest Park on the way home and try again for Band-tailed Pigeon.


I got out of here about 9:20 and headed up the freeways.  It was overcast with low clouds, and there were very occasional sprinkles of rain, but not enough to even run the wipers.  The temperature was low 40's and rising, and there was very little wind.  Good birding conditions.  It sprinkled a little all day, until I was on the freeway coming home, when I finally had to use my wipers.


I picked up Red-tailed Hawk for Wednesday, along the freeway.  As I was going through Everett, I remembered that a week or so ago I had stopped in Marysville to look for an egret that had been reported there, one that was pretty rare for this neck of the woods, although very common in California and other places.  I decided to take the five minute detour through downtown Marysville to take a look.  To my huge surprise, there it was, in same park it had been reported in before, very close to the road - GREAT EGRET.  It is considered rare in Snohomish county.  So, I had my year-bird, completely out of the blue, and I drove back to the freeway and continued north, after only an 8 or 10 minute delay.  Amazing.  I could have gotten pictures, but I would have had to park a block away and walked back, and that might have spooked the bird anyway.  I have plenty of pictures of Great Egrets from other places, too.


I stopped in Stanwood and got a tuna sandwich at Subway, as usual.  At Eide Road there were Feral Pigeons, to complete that species for me.  Today was "completion day" - I completed 7 species today, meaning I have now seen those seven species on each of the seven days of the week this year.


As I approached the parking area at Eide Road, I spotted my owl on a pole, right where he had been last week.  Here is a picture of a Short-eared Owl, to complete that species.


Because I like owls, and because it was posing so nicely, here's a second picture.


There was a Rough-legged Hawk perched nearby, too, which was a nice surprise.


The owl was harassing the hawk, flying at it from time to time and hissing like a cat.  The hawk, which was larger, didn’t pay much attention to the owl.  Some people spooked the hawk, though, and it flew to another perch.  Here is another picture of the Rough-legged Hawk, showing its front.


It flew again, and here is a third picture of Rough-legged Hawk, from straight in front.


I also completed Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle there.  On the way out I added Red-winged Blackbird to my Wednesday list, too.


That much was actually in Snohomish county, but I proceeded up to Skagit county, and at about the county line I saw some swans in a field, fairly close to the road.  I pulled off as best I could (I was off the pavement, but it was a narrow shoulder and 55 mph traffic going by) and took a look through the passenger side window.  Both swan species were there, so I added Tundra Swan to Wednesday, having already gotten Trumpeter Swan on an earlier Wednesday this year, down south. 


I got some comparison pictures of the two swan species that I like.  In this first one, notice that the bird on the left is significantly larger than the one on the right.  The one on the left is a Trumpeter Swan, and the one on the right is a Tundra Swan.


Unless you see them right next to each other, it's very hard to judge the size of a bird, though, so that isn't all that useful.  Here is a picture of the heads of those same two swans.  This time the Tundra Swan is on the left and the Trumpeter Swan is on the right.  The bill shape, the head shape, and the way the black of the bill meets the eye are all different.  This particular Tundra Swan has a yellow dash in front of its eye, too, which most of them do, but not all of them.


The differences are obvious once you get used to looking for them, assuming you have a close enough view, but each year I have to relearn the differences and I struggle at the start of the year.


At Wylie Slough I added Belted Kingfisher to my Wednesday list, but nothing else.  There was a field of swans just north of the reserve.  This was one of about a dozen such groups of swans I saw today, at various points all over the place.  There were lots of smaller groups, too.


Here's a closer zoom of those swans in the water channel.  I don't see swans in water very often; usually they are feeding in fields.


I stopped at Hayton Preserve, but I didn’t get out of the car to walk to where I could see the bay.  My heel was feeling great today, actually, but I didn't want to walk any farther than I had to.  On my way out of there I saw the usual two eagles in the trees where the nest is, but there was another large bird up there, too.  From the shape, I actually guessed what it was, before I put the binoculars on it.  It was a lovely Peregrine Falcon, an excellent bird.  My pictures are very disappointing, and I think it's because I didn't turn the car off.  The vibration of the engine adds to the motion blur that a hand held zoomed picture already has.  Anyway, here is a poor picture of my Peregrine Falcon this morning.


Here's a picture of the falcon and one of the eagles, for a size comparison.


Next I stopped at what's referred to as the Jensen Access.  I went up on the dike and looked out over Skagit Bay.  I saw a distant flock of shorebirds wheeling around, and I got this very distant picture of them.


You can see swans and ducks in the water, and a couple of gulls in the air.  To give you an idea how far away they were, here is an unzoomed shot of Skagit Bay.  The shorebirds were off the point that is just to the right of the middle of the picture, just in front of the expanse of water.  My camera is amazing, I think.  They might have been a mile away.


Some swans took off from the bay, and I could hear the sounds of their wings hitting the water on takeoff.  Here they are, just as they got airborne.  The picture was distant, the light was poor, and I was hand-holding the camera at full zoom, trying to get a picture of a moving target, so it isn't very sharp, but I like the feel of it anyway.


After that, I ate the first half of my sandwich there in the parking lot for Jensen Access.  Then I drove to March Point, to see what I could see there.  I added Glaucous-winged Gull, Brant, Red-breasted Merganser, Double-crested Cormorant (completed) and Surf Scoter to my Wednesday list, then I ate the rest of my sandwich.  Moving along and stopping several more places, I got Common Loon several times, a half dozen very distant Long-tailed Ducks, and then 6 or 8 distant White-winged Scoters - all excellent birds for my Wednesday list.  Nothing was close enough for a picture, though.  I also saw Great Blue Herons many places today, and that completed that species.


On my way back to the highway I added Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal, too, at the end of the bay to the west of March Point.


I was headed for home by that time.  There really wasn't much else to look for up there today, because I had been so successful.  I drove by the house with the feeders on Valentine Road, but the feeders were empty and there were no birds at all around.  The last time I was there, there were at least a dozen species, and lots of them.


I drove by Wylie Slough again, mostly looking for pheasants or pipits, which I had seen there a week or two ago.  No luck on that.  The swans were still there, but I noticed some smaller white birds, too.  There were Snow Geese mixed in with the swans, which surprised me.  I don't recall ever seeing a mixed flock of swans and Snow Geese before.  Here is a picture of a few of them.


At the Wylie Slough preserve itself, there were a couple of eagles flying around and one of them landed in a tree near the road.  I took a look, and it turned out that it had a bird of some kind, or at least, part of a bird (probably a duck), and it was chowing down.  Here is a juvenile Bald Eagle with prey.


It didn't seem bothered by me watching (from my car), and it was tearing right into its meal.


Again I headed toward home, but there was one more picture to take, it turned out.  There was a female Northern Harrier standing in a field not too far from the road for a picture.


So, that really was it for today.  I got on the freeway and was home by about 2:50, after 5 1/2 hours of birding, including drive times.  It was a excellent day.


I got 22 new Wednesday species today, to bring me to 60 for Wednesday.  The Great Egret brought me to 103 species for the year and kept my New year-bird every day streak alive for another day.  I have some ideas for tomorrow, but we will see.  I completed seven more species today, to bring my total of completed species to 18.


For my BAD bird today, I'll take Short-eared Owl.  The Great Egret is arguably a better choice, but I won't be going back up to Eide Road this month, and the Short-eared Owls will mostly be gone up north by the time I get back from Texas in mid-February.  I've been wanting to use Short-eared Owl, and I finally am using it today.  What a life!



Thursday, January 26, 2017


I had a lunch appointment today, so I went over to Marymoor Park, planning to go on from there to lunch.  I was hoping to see the Northern Shrike over there, for my BAD bird for the day.  One part of the BAD bird strategy is to use as many "difficult" birds as possible, keeping the easier ones for later in the year.  So, each day I try to find at least one difficult bird to use for my BAD bird.  It isn't always possible, but I try.


Today the Northern Shrike was a no-show.  After trying for the shrike, I parked near the slough, next to the dog park, and I walked along the slough.  My first Thursday bird was Bewick's Wren.  I had a good close view, but it didn’t stick around for pictures.


A little farther along the trail, I spotted some ducks in the slough, and two of them turned out to be HOODED MERGANSERS, a year-bird.  I had a list of seven possible year-birds at Marymoor today (most of them pretty unlikely, but you never know), and Hooded Merganser wasn’t even on the list.  There have been reports of them there, but I figured that was out on Lake Sammamish, and I wasn't about to walk that far, to see the lake.  It turned out that these two were on the slough, not too far from parking.  Here is a picture of a female Hooded Merganser.


That was the first time I had seen Hooded Merganser at Marymoor, I think, which is why it had surprised me.


There was a male Common Goldeneye there, too, not one I needed for Thursday.


A Belted Kingfisher flew across the river, giving its chattering call.  That was another Thursday bird.


There was a pair of Gadwalls there, and here's a picture of the male Gadwall, with his interesting feather patterns.


I didn't need them for Thursday, but there were also a couple of female Ring-necked Ducks diving for food.


Here's a picture of that side of the off-leash dog park, showing the trail along the slough and the trees with the Great Blue Heron nests.


Here's a closer view of the heron nests.


The herons seem to be hanging out on the nests, which is interesting.  I don't think that they have laid any eggs yet, and I would guess that they are just staking a claim to a particular nest at this point.  Here are a couple of Great Blue Herons at one of the nests.


There were some Golden-crowned Sparrows feeding along the path.


One of the Golden-crowned Sparrows flew up into the blackberry brambles and looked at me over its shoulder.


A little farther along, I got this picture of a Song Sparrow.  It was kind of puffed up from preening.


It was a slow day at Marymoor, but I had somehow managed to get another year-bird, to keep that streak alive.  I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went over to Phantom Lake, as usual.  The lake had been frozen over the last couple of times we had been there, but today it was all thawed out and was very calm.


There were some ducks around, but nothing I needed for any lists.  Here is a Pied-billed Grebe, which was actually one I had seen at Marymoor this morning, for my Thursday list, but I forgot to mention.


Interestingly, there were a couple of female Hooded Mergansers there today, too.  That was my year-bird at Marymoor this morning.  I don’t recall ever seeing that species at either Marymoor or Phantom Lake before, and then today I saw it both places when I needed a year-bird.  Obviously it isn't a real common species, since I hadn't seen one this year until today, and I've been out birding every day.


Here is a picture of a male Bufflehead.  Normally it appears black and white, but the light was right today to see the greenish iridescent sheen of the feathers on its forehead.


I think that all the various colors and textures of the water in today's pictures are interesting.  Water is an amazing substance.


When all was said and done, I had only four new Thursday birds today, to bring me to 53 for Thursday for the year.  The Hooded Merganser brought me to 109 for the year so far, and it kept my streak of a new year-bird every day intact.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Hooded Merganser, I guess.  It isn't a particularly uncommon bird, but I hadn't seen one yet this year, so it must not be all that common either.


I leave for Texas on Tuesday morning, just five days away.



Friday, January 27, 2017


This morning it was clear and sunny again, and I headed up to Edmonds to try for a year-bird.  On my way out of the driveway I added Anna's Hummingbird to my Friday list, and I took off.  Because of the tides, my first stop today was on Sunset Avenue, north of the ferry dock.  There wasn't much around at all, but I used my scope to search in the distance.  There had been a report yesterday of a flock of a grebe that would be a year-bird for me, and I scanned the water, looking for the flock.  Finally I found it, really far out there to the north and west.  It was a group of roughly 100 WESTERN GREBES.  Success!  I thought I might get a better view of them from Ocean Avenue, which is north of where I was.  I stopped at the edge of the bluff at Ocean Avenue and Water Street and got out my scope again.  I didn't see the grebes at first, but I finally found them, more to the west than I expected.  They were still very far away, but the identification was definite at this range.  I was pretty sure from Sunset, but this made it a certainty.


There were two or three male Black Scoters offshore, too, for my Friday list.  Here are a couple of pictures of a male Black Scoter.



The pictures are mediocre, but that is probably the closest I have ever been to a male Black Scoter, so I'm glad to have them.  Here is a male Surf Scoter, which I didn't need for Friday.


There were a pair of Harlequin Ducks, too, another Friday bird.  Here's a fairly distant picture of male and female Harlequin Ducks.


The male is the more colorful one, of course.


There was also a female goldeneye napping, with her head tucked in, but eventually she showed her orange bill, which made her a Barrow's Goldeneye, a species I needed for Friday.  Here is a distant picture of a female Barrow's Goldeneye with her orange bill. A female Common Goldeneye would look pretty much the same but would have a dark bill, sometimes with an orange tip.


The female Barrow's Goldeneye took off as I watched, and I got this distant picture of her flying.


Considering how far away she was, I'm pleased with the picture.  Of course, it was pure luck to catch her with her wings in the best position.


Having exhausted the possibilities there, I went back to the Edmonds fishing pier.  I had looked last week for a shorebird that hangs out on rocks, but the tide had been too high every time I was there.  Today the tide was lower, so I thought I'd try again.  On the way out to the pier, I took this picture of a couple of Feral Pigeons.


If they weren't so common and such pests, we would probably think that pigeons were attractive.  As it is, birders ignore them.


Out on the fishing pier, I saw a couple of people with scopes and cameras, looking back at the breakwater.  That was very encouraging, and I hustled out there.  It turned out that they were not only looking at the SURFBIRD that I had looked for 2 or 3 times this month, but a BLACK TURNSTONE as well.  Double score!


I took some pictures, but the light was as bad as possible, and the sun flare really ruined all my attempts.  With heavy processing, I managed to get the following pictures, which are good enough for identification purposes, but really lousy pictures.  Here is the Black Turnstone.


Here is the Surfbird.


Here is a picture of both of them together.


Disappointing pictures, but at least I had seen the two year-birds.  Along with Western Grebe, that made three year-birds today, to bring me to 112 species for the year.  I had 7 Friday birds today, to bring Friday to 67 species.  It was hard to decide on a BAD bird, but I'm taking Surfbird today.


I'm entering the final countdown to my south Texas trip, which is now just four days away.  This afternoon I sprayed my clothes with Permethrin, which will ward off mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers.  I'll spray my bare skin with Picaridin as needed, for complete protection.  Here are my Texas clothes on the line, after spraying.


I want to point out that the clothes are "on the line", as opposed to "online", although I actually bought almost all of them online.


After today, I have started thinking maybe I could keep the "new year-bird every day" streak alive until I leave for Texas.  If I could then get a new year-bird Tuesday morning on my way to the airport (quite possible, but maybe not likely), I could easily keep that streak alive for another 11 days, on the trip.  I have a plan to do that, but it will involve some luck and some driving this weekend.  The weather has to cooperate, too, but it looks pretty good right now.  One day at a time.  We'll see how it goes.



Saturday, January 28, 2017


This morning I headed up to Skagit county again, in search of a year-bird.  There has been a rare loon seen at Rosario Head, on the north side of Deception Pass, which goes between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island.  It is about an hour and twenty minutes north of home, about 75 miles.  In addition to the rare loon, there were three or four other species I could see that would be new for the year.  This was the 8th time I had made the drive up to Skagit county this year.  I'm getting kind of tired of that freeway.


When I got there, it turned out that the park, which is part of Deception Pass State Park, was closed for the winter.  That meant I had to park outside the gate and walk an extra couple of hundred yards.  I parked along the road, along with a couple of dozen other cars, and walked to the bluff overlooking the bay where the rare loon has been seen.  There were three birders already there, but no one had seen the loon.  I set up my scope and soon saw a few birds.  I quickly added Common Loon and Red-throated Loon to my Saturday list.  There were other birds that I didn't need, like Surf Scoter, Pigeon Guillemot, and Common Goldeneye.  I spotted some Western Grebes out a ways, and that was one for Saturday.  My first Western Grebes of the year had been just yesterday, up at Edmonds.


Here is the view from where I was standing.


I saw three COMMON MURRES out there, beyond the far island - one was in its summer breeding plumage and the other two were still in winter plumage.  I had my year-bird, though, so I could relax.  I soon had a second year-bird, BLACK OYSTERCATCHER.  Here is that beauty.



Here's a picture of a Glaucous-winged Gull and the oystercatcher.


There were a couple of male Harlequin Ducks swimming around and that was one for Saturday.  They got out of the water for a while, and I got this picture of a male Harlequin Duck.


Later I noticed a female Harlequin Duck, and I got this picture of her.


There were some Red-breasted Mergansers, which I didn't need, but I got pictures anyway.  Here is a male Red-breasted Merganser


Here are a couple of female Red-breasted Mergansers.


After over an hour of standing there looking for the rare Yellow-billed Loon, I gave it up.  I walked up over the point and circled around back to my car.  I must have walked over a mile today, with some climbing and rough ground.  My heel held up great (knock on wood).  Here is a picture looking south across Deception Pass at the state park beach.


The temperature was about 50 degrees, which is balmy for this area in January, so a lot of people were out and about today.  When I got back to my car, I noticed that there were about 40 cars parked outside the gates of the closed part of the park where I had been.  I'd say maybe ten or fifteen of those cars belonged to birders who were looking for the rare loon.  There was also a college geology class on a field trip and lots of walkers and general sightseers there today.


On my way home I stopped at March Point and ate the Subway sandwich I had gotten this morning right after I left home.  After that I set up my scope and looked around for birds.  I added Long-tailed Duck and White-winged Scoter to my Saturday list - both are excellent birds.


My next stop was the little lagoon next to the Swinomish Indian Casino.  I saw a few ducks, but nothing I needed.  Here is a male Northern Pintail.


Here is what a female Northern Pintail looks like, for comparison.


From there I went to the house on Valentine Road that has feeders.  When I was there earlier this week, the feeders were empty and there weren't any birds at all around.  Today the feeders were filled and there were lots of birds.  Mostly they were birds I had already seen on a Saturday this year, including this male Downy Woodpecker.


I got a good look at a Brown Creeper, for my Saturday list, but it was too quick for me to get a decent picture.  I also added Pine Siskin to my Saturday list there.  Here are two pictures of a Pine Siskin.



That was it for the day, for me.  I headed south and got home about 3:15, about six hours after I left this morning.


I added 10 species to my Saturday list, to bring it to 64.  Two of those were new for the year, thus bring my yearly total to 114 and keeping my year-bird streak alive for one more day.  I'm still hoping to keep that streak going until I leave for Texas, but it will be a bit tricky.  I have a plan, we'll see how it goes.  For my BAD bird today I'll take White-winged Scoter.


Here is how each day of the week is doing after the first four weeks of the year.



                        4 wks

Sunday             65

Monday            60

Tuesday           52

Wednesday       60

Thursday          53

Friday               67

Saturday           64


The average is 60.1


Last year after four weeks, I had the following totals for each day.


Sunday             55

Monday            50

Tuesday           44

Wednesday       55

Thursday          52

Friday               51

Saturday           47


The average last year was only 50.6


So, I'm running 20% ahead of last year.  That sounds great, but it means that it is going to be tougher later on to keep adding new birds to each day, since I'm using up so many species so early.  It's ironic that doing more birding makes it harder to keep the DOTW birding streak going as long.  I hadn't thought of that ahead of time.  It's possibly a fatal flaw to the idea of trying to keep a DOTW streak going as long as possible.  We'll see how it goes.  The whole DOTW thing was a crazy idea in the first place, and maybe turning it into a streak wasn't a good idea.


Tomorrow I plan to head over to Seattle to chase a rare (for this area) sparrow that has been seen regularly for the last week.



Sunday, January 29, 2017


Per my plan, I headed out just after 9:00 for South Lake Union, just north of downtown Seattle.  I don't get over to Seattle very often, and I hadn't been in the South Lake Union area for years.  I was looking for a fairly rare sparrow (for this area) that has been reported there for about the last week.  I had excellent instructions, and a lot of people had seen it and photographed it, so I was optimistic.  I found some parking and found the location, near the Center for Wooden Boats.


I expected to see other birders there looking for it, but when I arrived at about 9:30, I was alone.  There were no signs of any birds in the area, other than coots and geese and Mallards.  A woman showed up soon, also looking for the sparrow.  She gave up after about a half hour, but I stayed on.  Other birders arrived, and the usual birding stories were exchanged.  One guy told me that another well-known local birder had been there 12 times in the last week or so, and he had only seen the sparrow 4 of those times.  That was somewhat discouraging.


While we were waiting, and walking around a little, exploring nearby places, I got this picture of a female Common Merganser that swam in for a visit.  It was a Sunday bird.


A juvenile Double-crested Cormorant made an appearance, too.


There were some crows around, as there usually are, and I got a couple of pictures of an American Crow on the little beach.



There were American Coots around, but I don't normally bother with pictures of them.  I was bored, though, so I took this picture of an American Coot.


By that time it was about 11:00, and I was cold and ready to throw in the towel.  My hopes of keeping my new year-bird every day streak alive until I got to Texas were dimming, but I had some ideas still.  I could have made it much more likely if I wanted to drive the three-hour round trip to Bellingham to get Northwestern Crow, but I didn’t want to do that.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention, at one point earlier, I had gone back to my car and run the heater for ten minutes or so, so warm up.  I should have worn more layers, as it turned out.  The temperature was low 40's and there was a bit of a breeze.


I said my good-byes to the two birders who happened to be there still, and I headed for my car by a roundabout route, to take one last look.  I didn't see anything, but on my way back past where we had been watching from, the other two birders called out and said maybe they had it.  As I hurried back as fast I could with my poor torn Achilles tendon, they called out that it was definitely the sparrow, and I could see that they were taking pictures.  By the time I got back, the bird had gone back into the grass.  I had left about three or four minutes too soon.


We watched some more, but at least we knew the bird was in there now.  Presumably it had been in there for the whole hour and a half I had stood there and watched.  One of the birders went over to the grassy bank where the bird was skulking and flushed it.  I saw it fly, but it was really a quick look, and I was debating with myself if I could count the bird.  I didn't really think so, even though I was sure it was indeed the right bird.  My look wasn't nearly good enough to identify the bird.


Here is a picture of the area.  The bird had flown into the dark bush to the right of the pilings, in the middle of my picture.  The guy on the beach on the right and the two people up on the bank on the left were other birders, looking for the bird.


After a few minutes, the bird flew again, and everyone chased it.  Two or three other birders who had been nearby joined the hunt.  I ended up over on the beach, where the guy on the right is in that picture, and I finally got a good look at the bird.  Yes!!!  SWAMP SPARROW (year-bird), I owned you!  You were mine!


Now the challenge was to get a decent picture.  Here is one I call "Peek-a-boo Swamp Sparrow".


It flew a couple more times, tantalizing us with brief views each time.  Here is another peek-a-boo shot of the Swamp Sparrow.


Finally I got a clear picture of the Swamp Sparrow.


I finally gave it up and headed for home, victorious.  I needed a rest room, and there wasn't one around.  I got home at about 12:20.  I had spent about 3 1/2 hours on the quest, including an hour of driving time.  Here at home I added Anna's Hummingbird to my Sunday list.


So, now I have a good shot at keeping the new year-bird streak alive until Texas.  I have some ideas for tomorrow, and I have a plan for my travel day, on Tuesday.  It will still require some luck, but I have a good shot, I think.


Today I got three species for my Sunday list, to bring me to 68.  The Swamp Sparrow got me to 115 for the year.  I have seen a new year-bird every day for the first 29 days of this year.  For my BAD bird today, I'll take Swamp Sparrow.



Monday, January 30, 2017


My plan for today was to get the native pigeons in Lake Forest Park, at the house with feeders.  I got there about 9:20, and I didn't see anything at first.  I got out of the car, and that flushed about a half dozen BAND-TAILED PIGEONS had been in trees nearby.  They circled around a couple of times, and I got good looks at them; then they flew off to the north.  I had my year-bird, though, and the year-bird streak was alive.


On my way home I stopped at the boat launch where the Sammamish Slough runs into Lake Washington.  There were some Canada Geese there, which was a new species for Monday.  On the other side of the bridge were a couple of Hooded Mergansers, a good one for Monday.  Here is a picture of the male Hooded Merganser.


Here is the one it was with, which I assumed was a female Hooded Merganser at first.


It was odd, though, because the bird had some characteristics of males and some characteristics of females.  Here is a normal female Hooded Merganser, taken by me at Marymoor last week.


I don't know what the story is on the bird in the second picture.


I wanted to get a good BAD bird for the day, and I preferred to "save" Band-tailed Pigeon for later in the year, since I can often get them at the house in Lake Forest Park.  I was going out to lunch, but on the way I went by Marymoor Park to look for the Northern Shrike that has been hanging out there.  I saw it once this year, but missed it 4 or 5 other times.  Today I got lucky again, and I saw it, so it will be my BAD bird for today.  I also picked up Ring-billed Gull and Red-breasted Nuthatch for my Monday list.


So, that was 6 Monday birds today, to bring me to 66 species on Monday.  The Band-tailed Pigeons brought my yearly total up to 116.


Tomorrow morning I head for south Texas, and I hope to get a year-bird on the way to the airport, to keep that streak alive.  I have eleven nights in Texas planned.



Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Finally, my first Texas trip of the year is here.  I’m just south of San Antonio, and tomorrow I plan to drive down to the Rio Grande Valley for some fun birding.


I was up this morning before 7, which is good for me.  While finishing my packing and running around getting things ready, I saw a Bewick’s Wren on the walkway outside the back door, where I had spread some seed.  That took care of a Tuesday bird, so then all I had to do was get a new year-bird, to keep that silly streak going for another day.


I got breakfast out of the way and I was all packed by 8:30.  We didn’t have to leave for the airport until 9 or shortly thereafter, so I headed down to Juanita Bay Park, to see if I could call up a Pacific Wren by playing its calls.  I tried for ten minutes or so, in the spot where they usually respond, but this morning – nada.  Skunk City.


So, that killed my streak, but it was fun while it lasted, and it had to end some time.  It would have been nice to add one more day, though, because now that I’m in Texas, I should be able to get a new year-bird every day for at least the next week, maybe through the whole trip (11 nights here).  Oh well.


Christina drove me to the airport (well, I drove, but she came along to take my car home afterwards), and I played the airport game for the rest of the day.  The flight was fine (first class, using Frequent Flyer miles that I get by using my credit card), and we landed in San Antonio at 5:30 their time, which is two hours later than home.  I got my baggage and my rental car, and I hit the freeway for my hotel, which is about a half hour south of the airport, on the other side of San Antonio.


It was 6:20 when I hit the freeway, which was about 5 or 10 minutes after sundown.  It was still somewhat light, of course, and I kept my eyes peeled for birds.  The traffic backed up right away, and it was stop and go for ten minutes or so.  It turned out to be an accident that was blocking one lane.


That accident turned out to be very lucky for me.  As we crawled along, I saw some birds up on the light standards along the freeway.  They looked interesting, and I actually managed a quick look with binoculars while driving at about 5 mph.  GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE!!!  Bingo!  Score!  We don’t have Great-tailed Grackles in Washington, so it was a year-bird.  The streak was alive, against all odds.


My two Tuesday birds today brought me to 54 species for Tuesday, and the grackles brought me to 117 for the year.  I’ll take Great-tailed Grackle (my new favorite bird!) for my BAD bird for today.  I’ll make a point of showing some pictures of Great-tailed Grackles in the next few days.  They are quite common down here, and that was the main species I was looking for when I got here at about sundown.  They are also easy to identify and a good size (between pigeon size and crow size, I’d say.  They are all black, but the males have very large tails, so they are conspicuous.


Tomorrow I head south, and I have about a three or four hour drive to get to Brownsville, where I plan to stay for three nights.