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Monday, January 1, 2018


A new year of birding begins.† This year I'm going to keep monthly lists of the species I see and hear, as well as keep track of the yearly total.


My plan to start the year was to go up to Skagit county, which is north of here about 50 miles.† There are a number of species up there that I can't see closer to home, especially in the winter.† Before I could even leave home, though, I spotted 11 species here at home, without really trying.† My fist one of the year was DARK-EYED-JUNCO.† As a reminder, when I use ALL CAPS for a species name, it indicates that was the first time this year for that bird - a year-bird, in other words.


I soon added SONG SPARROW, SPOTTED TOWHEE, EUROPEAN STARLING, AMERICAN CROW, STELLER'S JAY, HOUSE SPARROW, and RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.† There was a lot of activity at our seed feeder.† A couple of CHESNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES kept coming in for seeds, and an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD came to the sugar water feeder.† As I was driving out of the driveway, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH came in for a seed.† Interestingly, I later saw all 11 of those species up in Skagit county as I was doing my birding today.


While I was driving up the freeway I added FERAL PIGEON to my list, and along Bow Hill Road, on my way to my first real stop, I saw my first AMERICAN ROBIN of the year.† My initial destination was a house on Bow Hill Road where a rarity for Washington State has been seen lately.† I pulled in and parked, and went around the house like the sign indicated.† I immediately saw my first BLUE JAY that I have ever seen in Washington State.


That certainly is a handsome looking bird, in my opinion.† Of course, I especially like blue colored birds.† Here's another view of it.


Blue Jays aren't supposed to be west of the Rockies, but this one somehow found its way here, and it has been hanging around the feeders at this house up in Skagit county for several weeks so far.† The owners of the house are very accommodating, and this sign is at the end of their driveway.


Needless to say, many birders have visited them.† I added GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW and FOX SPARROW there, too.† Here are two views of the Fox Sparrow.



So, I had my first rarity of the day, and I moved on west.† In the little town of Edison I found the MERLIN that has been reported there this winter.



Merlin is an excellent bird that I don't see very often.


West of Edison there is a clump of trees that are referred to by birders as the Eagle Tree.† Sometimes there are a couple of dozen eagles hanging around there, and there's a large nest.† Here are my first BALD EAGLES of the year.


Here's a closer shot of a Bald Eagle.


Soon after that I added the only ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK that I saw today.


Along that stretch I also added MALLARD, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and RED-TAILED HAWK to my list.† There were also a couple of GREAT BLUE HERONS and a small flock of HOUSE FINCHES.


A female AMERICAN KESTREL posed for me at what is called the West 90.


Later I saw a male American Kestrel and got this picture:


The male has that gray-blue color on his wings.


I drove on to Samish Island, hoping to see some sea birds.† At the public access overlook, I set up my scope, but it was pretty choppy out there, and at first I didn't see any birds at all.† It was only 31 degrees and kind of breezy.† I kept looking, though, and gradually added some species.† First I saw a small group of SURF SCOTERS, and then the next thing I identified was a single COMMON LOON.† There were some BUFFLEHEADS (a duck species) and I spotted a couple of lovely male LONG-TAILED DUCKS, which was one of the species I was especially hoping to see there.† I also eventually saw a single male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, which was another species I was looking for there.† Finally I saw my third target species, a single RED-THROATED LOON, an excellent one for my January list.† I also added COMMON GOLDENEYE to my list just as I was leaving.† So, even though there weren't many birds around, I got all three of my main targets and saw four other species as well.† Not bad.


Back at the West 90, I got a good enough look at some swans to identify TRUMPETER SWAN for my list.† There was a KILLDEER with the swans, so that one went onto my list, too.†


I backtracked to the East 90 and saw a SHORT-EARED OWL flying.† It landed and I got this distant picture.


After that, I headed south, and I got this picture of a male NORTHERN HARRIER on a post.


I detoured on to Sullivan Road and added WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW to my list.


After that I headed south, back towards home.† I stopped at Bay View State Park, and saw several very large flocks of hundreds of DUNLIN (a shorebird) flying offshore.† On Dodge Valley Road I added BREWER'S BLACKBIRD to my list.


Soon after that, I stopped at the house with feeders on Valentine Road.† There was a lot of activity there, especially at the large suet feeder right in front.† I sat in my car and took pictures.† Here is a Spotted Towhee.


It's difficult to get decent pictures of Chestnut-backed Chickadee because they never stay still for long, but I got one I like today.


I added NORTHERN FLICKER there and got pictures of my first DOWNY WOODPECKER of the year, a male.



I got this picture of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which was one of the species I had seen at home this morning.


I added one more new species there, this cute little BEWICK'S WREN.


I moved on to Fir Island and there was finally a flock of swans close enough to the road that I could look them over carefully.† It took a while, but eventually I spotted this TUNDRA SWAN among a lot of Trumpeter Swans.


Tundra Swans are smaller than Trumpeter swans, their heads and bills are different shapes, and usually Tundra Swans have a yellow dash in front of each eye, as can be seen on this bird.† Here is a picture of a Trumpeter Swan.


I had been looking for them all day, and finally I saw a couple of large flocks of SNOW GEESE on Fir Island.† At Hayton Preserve, there was a PEREGRINE FALCON sitting in a tree, and I got this distant picture of it.


I was almost done then, but I had one more rarity to try for.† At Wylie Slough I pulled in and saw about a dozen birders, obviously looking for the same bird, which has been appearing there for a week or two.† I parked and immediately saw my first BLACK PHOEBE in Washington State.


I see Black Phoebes all the time in California, but this one has come north for the winter, I guess.


That was it for me today.† I headed back down the freeway to home with 46 species on my January list (and year list, of course).† My goal today had been 50 species, but I didnít quite make it.† I could have stopped somewhere and picked up some more ducks, but I just went home. †I got 46 species in about five hours of birding today, with another two hours spent driving up to Skagit county and back.† That's a good start for the month and year.


I added three species to my Skagit county list (the two rarities and Peregrine Falcon), and now I have 105 species in Skagit.† The two rarities were new for me for Washington State, and now I have 270 species on my state list.



Tuesday, January 2, 2018


I had been planning to go up to Edmonds today, to pick up some saltwater birds, but I ended up setting up an early lunch appointment in Bellevue, and I was getting a late start, so I went over to Marymoor Park instead.† As I was leaving home I picked up BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE at our seed feeder.† At Marymoor, the first thing I did was visit the pond on the west side of the slough, hoping to find one of the wintering Green Herons, but the pond was almost completely frozen over, and I didn't see anything there.


I went across to the main park and I drove around looking for geese.† I thought I had missed them, but then I finally found them on the east side of the park.† There were some CANADA GEESE spread out a bit, and a large, tightly packed flock of the smaller CACKLING GEESE.† I scanned them all carefully, looking for the single Greater White-fronted Goose that has been reported as hanging out with them recently, but couldn't find it.


I had a little more time, so I went to the compost piles and played the song of a sparrow I needed that I've seen there a couple of times this winter.† First a Song Sparrow popped up, but right after that my LINCOLN'S SPARROW flew in and took a look at me.† It flew down into the brambles before I could get a picture, though.† Next, a Fox Sparrow and a Spotted Towhee also responded briefly to the Lincoln's Sparrow song, and I got this picture of a Fox Sparrow.


That was it for Marymoor this morning, and I went to lunch.† After lunch we went over to Phantom Lake as usual, and I got some more year-birds.† There were several PIED-BILLED GREBES out on the lake, a pair of AMERICAN WIGEONS, along with three HOODED MERGANSERS.† The Hooded Mergansers were a bit far away, but I got some distant pictures.† I think the male Hooded Merganser is a very handsome fellow.


He can raise his crest and that white on the back of his head spreads out to make a full quarter circle or more, on top of his head.† The female Hooded Merganser is pretty drab compared to the male.


She can raise her crest, too.


There were 25 or 30 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS on a raft across the lake.


There were also some distant COMMON MERGANSERS on the other side of the lake, both males and females, so that one went onto my list as well.


That was it for the lake, but on my way home I swung by the fire station road at Juanita Bay Park and played some bird calls.† The only thing I could call up was a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET.† It was very responsive and flitted around all over the place as long as I played its song.† It was showing its red crown, which you don't usually see.† It was really difficult to get pictures because it never stayed in one place for more than a few seconds, but I did manage to get a couple of decent pictures.


I was looking up at the bird, so you can only see a little trace of the red crown in that picture.† In this next picture, you can't see it at all.


Still, it was a good one to get for my January list.† I ended up adding 10 species to my January and year lists, to bring them to 56 species now.† Tomorrow maybe I'll go for the Edmonds birds.



Wednesday, January 3, 2017


This morning I headed up to Edmonds, with a couple of stops along the way.† Before I even left home, though, I added YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER to my year (and January) list.† It was feeding on our suet feeder.† That's the third time I've seen it there in the last week.† I've only seen Yellow-rumped Warbler in our yard a handful of times over the years, so it was a lucky one for my January list.


My first actual stop was in Lake Forest Park, at the house with feeders that attract BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, and they were there this morning.† My next stop was Kayu Kayu Ac Park in Richmond Beach.† The first species I got was HORNED GREBE.† I was too far away for pictures then, but later I saw more of them at the Edmonds pier, and I got these next two pictures of a Horned Grebe.


I like the way you can see its feet, sticking out behind its body.† Here is another angle.


Back at Kayu Kayu, I spotted a few BARROW'S GOLDENEYES next to the pier at Point Wells.† Later more flew in and there were a couple of dozen of them eventually.† There was also a pair of HARLEQUIN DUCKS near the pier.† They were all much too far away for pictures, but I had a good view of them with my scope.† Next I spotted a group of 8 or 10 BRANT (a small goose) way out there.† It was pretty breezy and the water was choppy, but I could still see them as they bobbed up and down in the waves.† Finally, there were several RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS around.


I drove on up to Edmonds and stopped at the Edmonds Marsh and tried for Marsh Wren.† No luck with that, so I went on to Sunset Avenue.† I added MEW GULL to my list, and with my scope I could pick out all three cormorant species on the ferry dock pilings.† I had Double-crested Cormorant from yesterday, but today I added PELAGIC CORMORANT and BRANDT'S CORMORANT.† Later I went out on the Edmonds pier and got pictures of those last two.† Here is a Pelagic Cormorant.


Here are a couple of shots of a Brandt's Cormorant.



There were several RED-NECKED GREBES out there, as well as some PIGEON GUILLEMOTS.† I got pictures of those two later.† It was a beautiful day today, although pretty cold, starting in the low 30's and getting up to the high 30's.† Here is the Edmonds ferry with the Olympic Mountains in the background, taken from Sunset Avenue.


Another species I needed and found was BLACK SCOTER, too far away for pictures.† I was about ready to give it up when I spotted a distant PACIFIC LOON, which was the last of the three local loon species that I needed this month.


As I mentioned before, I then went out onto the Edmonds fishing pier.† I didn't get anything new except a common gull, but I did get some pictures, some of which I have already shown.† Here's a picture of a Pigeon Guillemot in winter plumage.


Here's a Red-necked Grebe in its winter plumage.


Here is a female Common Goldeneye.


While I was out on the pier, an American Crow posed for a picture in the sun.


It looks like something is wrong with its left foot.


The final addition to my list today was GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL.† They are common around here, but they also hybridize with Western Gulls and it's tricky to tell the hybrids from the pure Glaucous-winged Gulls.† The mark I look for is that the wing-tips (which actually look like the tail when the bird is perched) are the same color of light gray as the wings and back.† As I understand it, the hybrids usually have black or dark gray wing-tips.† Here is a picture of what looks to me like a Glaucous-winged Gull.† The wing-tips look to me like the same gray color as the wings and back.


So, that was my birding for today.† I added 15 species to my year/January list, to bring it to 71 species now.† Mostly I'm getting easy ones, but I've picked up some good ones, too, each day.† I have a list of 30 "Easy" species that are here year-round, and I hope to see each of those species in each of the 12 months this year.† So far I have seen 25 of the 30 "Easy" ones in January.



Thursday, January 4, 2018


Today I headed over to the Snoqualmie River Valley to look for birds.† I found a couple of NORTHERN PINTAILS in the oxbow lake along the west side of the valley, so that one went onto my lists.† I also saw my first AMERICAN COOTS of the year there.† There were more coots at Sikes Lake, but nothing new for my lists.† At the pond at Chinook Bend there were some GADWALLS (a duck species) in the pond along the road.


I made my way into Carnation, and I stopped at the house with feeders.† I saw both EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES and MOURNING DOVES in trees nearby.† I was looking for goldfinches, but instead of goldfinches, there were a lot of PINE SISKINS around today.† Here is a Pine Siskin at one of the finch feeders.


Here is a Pine Siskin next to the birdbath, which seems to be heated when it freezes.


Here's a Pine Siskin getting a drink of water.† It doesn't fool around, but sticks its face right into the water.


I saw my first VARIED THRUSH of the year at one of the feeding trays.† Here is a handsome male Varied Thrush.


Here's what he looks like from the front.


After a while I went on, stopping at the Tolt River crossing to look for American Dipper and Pacific Wren.† No luck with either one of those today.† I went on to Tokul Creek, hoping to find an American Dipper.† Unfortunately, it seems to be fishing season, and the fishermen along the creek made it unlikely that the dippers were around.† I hope the dippers haven't abandoned the creek completely and will be back for breeding season again, once fishing season ends.


I stopped back at the Carnation feeders, partly to get more pictures, but also hoping the goldfinches might show up.† There have been dozens of goldfinches the last several times I was there, so I kept hoping.† There were 3 or 4 Steller's Jays coming in for peanuts, and I got this picture of one.


A female Varied Thrush showed up, and I got a couple of pictures for comparison to the male.† Note that she is not as strikingly marked as the male.† Her breast band was very light.† You can barely see it in this first picture.


Here's a front view that shows the light-colored breast band of the female Varied Thrush a little better.


There were both Black-capped Chickadees and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and I got a couple of pictures of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee that I like.



It was getting late and I was about ready to leave when I finally saw a single male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH for my year list.† I got one distant picture of him, high up in a tree.


When I set out this morning, I expected to get at least four new species for my list, and I hoped for six or more.† As it turned out, I got all six I was hoping for, plus two bonus species - Varied Thrush and Pine Siskin.† The eight new species today brings me to 79 species for the year now.† I have three or four more places I want to visit for the first time this year, and I hope that will get me up in the high 80's area for my count.


Incidentally, my Achilles tendon is much better now, and I have only a little pain.† I live in fear that it will relapse and the pain will come back, but so far, so good.† Knock on wood.



Friday, January 5, 2018


It rained for most of the day today, but I decided to go over to Marymoor Park again, anyway, to try for some birds reported there yesterday.† My first stop was at the Rowing Club access on the west side of the slough, and I walked in the rain to the main pond there.† Yesterday they had seen a Green Heron there, but I didn't see it today.† I played some bird calls for other birds, but got no responses.


I went across the slough into the main part of the park and looked for geese.† I finally found a rather small flock of Cackling Geese, and among them was a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, the bird I was looking for that had been seen yesterday.† I took some pictures, but all my pictures today are blurry, and I don't know why.† Maybe it was a combination of the cold and humidity, but none of them are worthwhile.† Here is a very blurry Greater White-fronted Goose.


There were also a few gulls in the same field, and a couple of them were my first RING-BILLED GULLS of the year.† Those pictures are poor, too, but here is a Ring-billed Gull, anyway.


Next I checked out the feeders and played the call of Brown Creeper because I have seen them in that area before, but today I got no response.† I paid my one dollar parking fee and parked in the west dog park lot.† I walked in the rain again, along the slough.† I was looking for another species that had been seen there yesterday, Wilson's Snipe, and also for Green Heron.† I didn't ever find either one of those species, but I heard the call of a kingfisher.† They call when they fly from one perch to another.


I would have counted it from hearing the call, but I kept looking as I walked along the slough, and on my way back I finally spotted the BELTED KINGFISHER across the slough, perched down low.† Here is a picture, but it isn't really very good.† Something was going on with my camera today.† Belted Kingfisher:


That was three new ones for the year, and I didn't find anything else, although I did stop again at the pond near the Rowing Club to look for Green Heron.† I walked down to the slough, but all I saw were a couple of Hooded Mergansers, a single Black-capped Chickadee, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet - none of which I needed.† My 3 new ones brings my yearly and monthly total to 82 species.



Saturday, January 6, 2018


It was raining lightly again this morning, but it was supposed to stop by noon, so I headed over to Magnuson Park in North Seattle.† I was looking mainly for ducks and other water birds.† Typically, the rain had almost stopped as I drove over, but as I arrived at the park, it put on one last little shower.†


I drove around the long way, past the boat launch ramp, and was rewarded with a little group of about a dozen RING-NECKED DUCKS, my first of the year.


Next I drove over to the swimming beach with its swim platform, which was covered with gulls.† I sat in the car for a few minutes, and the final shower passed by.† It continued to drizzle, but I took my scope to the building with the rest rooms and set up under the covered walkway.


Most of the gulls were Ring-billed Gulls, with a few Mew Gulls mixed in.† I didn't need either of those, but I managed to pick out one CALIFORNIA GULL, which I did need.


Out on the water there was a raft of scaup (ducks), most of them GREATER SCAUP.† I did pick out a few LESSER SCAUP, though, so both scaup species went onto my list.† I had read that there were some CANVASBACKS there yesterday, and indeed I saw half a dozen or so, mixed in with the scaup.† A guy showed up on a bicycle and he had a scope with him.† He also set up and we compared notes as we scanned the birds.† I had read of another species I wanted to see there today, and I was the first to spot the male REDHEAD, an excellent species to get around here.† I hadn't expected to see one locally, but I expect to see them down in Texas later this month.† Now the species is on my local list for January, though.


I mentioned to the bicycle birder that I had read of another species seen at the park yesterday, and he said they were off the north beach today.† I hadn't ever been to the north beach area before, so he gave me directions.† I drove over there, and saw the 20 or so WESTERN GREBES that I was looking for.† Excellent.


There was a flock of American Wigeons on one of the playing fields, and I had scanned them when I came in, looking for a vagrant that shows up here in the winter, but I hadn't seen one.† I checked again on the way out, but again couldn't find one.† I stopped at Matthews Beach, though, and there was a small flock of wigeons there.† One of them was a male EURASIAN WIGEON, the other duck species I was looking for today.† Here is a picture of the male Eurasian Wigeon, which should be in Asia now, but it came down the wrong coast with some American Wigeons, no doubt, after breeding in Alaska this past summer.


Here's a picture of a pair of American Wigeons for comparison.† The male is the one with the green on his head.


Here's a shot of the two male wigeon species.


By that time the rain had just about completely quit, but I headed for home anyway.† It was almost lunch time.


I ended up adding 8 more species to my list today, to bring me to a total of 90 species this month.† 90 had been my goal for local species this month, when the month started, so in 6 days I met my goal.† I only have a few more easy ones to get, and it will be a challenge, but since I have done so well, I'm now shooting for 100 species locally in Western Washington in January.† I have 13 more days to get 10 more species.† I hope to add as many as 100 additional species to my January list on my 11 day trip to the Rio Grande Valley later this month.† 200 would be a nice round number to finish January with.



Sunday, January 7, 2018


I had another great day of birding today, adding more new species than I could have imagined.† It was supposed to rain, but the overnight rain stopped about the time I was heading out this morning.† My first destination was the Snoqualmie River Valley, out near Carnation.† I had seen a report from yesterday about some interesting birds.† As I arrived in the valley I saw a car stopped along the road, and it turned out to be a pair of birding acquaintances that I have seen at a number of places around the area.† Hank and Karen had seen the same report I had seen.


We joined forces and drove slowly across the valley, but I didn't see anything I needed.† At Sikes Lake I heard a COMMON RAVEN, which I counted, of course, although I never did see it.† We moved on to a road in north Carnation where some excellent sparrows were seen yesterday, but we were only able to call in one sparrow, and none of us ever even got a good enough look at it to identify it.† We might have kept trying, but about then I spotted a small raptor in a tall tree.


I set up my scope and we all took looks at it, and we took pictures.† After looking at it from a couple of different vantage points and much discussion and consulting of field guides, we all agreed it was a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, an excellent one for my year list.† Here is a distant picture of it from the side.


The shape of the head and the location of the eye indicated it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, rather than the closely related Cooper's Hawk.† Here's a view from the back.


The squared-off corners to the tail and the narrow white terminal band on the tail also indicate Sharp-shinned Hawk.† The coloration, the pattern on the breast, and the white spots on the back indicate it was a juvenile bird, hatched in 2017.


Next Hank and Karen led me up to the town of Duvall, where they took me on a snipe hunt.† This didn't involve a sack or stumbling around in the dark, but it was successful.† Just south of McCormick Park in Duvall, along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, there is a seasonal pond.† On the edges of the pond were a number of WILSON'S SNIPE, a bird I needed but didn't know where to look for.† They said they are always there in the winter, so that's great to know.† Here are some pictures of Wilson's Snipe.




They were quite active, flying from one place to another repeatedly.† I've never seen such active snipe.† Here is a picture of Hank and Karen along the trail.


The rain was still holding off, although it was getting pretty dark, and it was obvious the rain was on the way.


After that we split up, and I went over to W. Snoqualmie River Rd NE, looking for a couple of species that they had seen there yesterday.† I saw some NORTHERN SHOVELERS (ducks) on the seasonal pond where I have seen them in other years.† I thought they were fairly common around here in the winter, but these were the first I have run across this month.


I went on up the road most of the way and turned around.† It had started to rain by the time I was coming back, and I got this picture of a very wet female American Kestrel.


As I was getting back to the main road, I was watching for a particular species, and I saw one flying.† It landed on a fence and stayed there for pictures, to my surprise.† Here are a couple of pictures of the cooperative WESTERN MEADOWLARK, my fifth new year-species of the day.



It kept making a little "chuk" call, which I don't remember ever hearing before.† I checked my phone app, and sure enough, that was the usual call of Western Meadowlark.† I'm familiar with the species' song, but I hadn't ever heard this little call before that I remember.


It was getting to be past my lunch time by then, so I headed for home.† I stopped at Cottage Lake, though, because there was another duck species that I still needed this year, and I have seen them there in past years.† It was only raining lightly, so I went out on the dock and scanned around.† There were several species out on the water, and I saw one pair that looked interesting, but they were too far away to be sure with binoculars.† I got my scope and sure enough, it was a pair of RUDDY DUCKS.† They kept diving for food, so it was very difficult to focus on them and get a picture.† They were also pretty distant and the light was very low, with the rain and clouds and all.† I got one picture that is lousy, but it is good enough to identify the species, so I'll keep it, just to prove to myself that I saw them today.† Here is a distant male Ruddy Duck in low light and the rain.


So, I got home for a late lunch, after a very successful day of adding species to my list.† I ended up adding 6 more species to my year (and month) list, to bring it to 96 species now.† Northern Shoveler as the only easy species today - the others were either medium or difficult, mostly difficult.† Just last night I was hoping to make it to 100 species locally, but after today, I'm not even going to try to predict what else I might see this month in Western Washington.



Monday, January 8, 2018


The weather forecast looked good today, so I went down to Juanita Bay Park to try for some species I needed there.† Before I set out from the parking lot, I walked up the steps and played the song of a bird I have seen there in the past.† It didn't take long before a couple of BROWN CREEPERS showed up.† They would scamper up a tree trunk, stopping briefly along the way - too briefly for pictures, for the most part.† I got just one marginal picture of one of the Brown Creepers.


After that, I walked out onto the east boardwalk.† I played various bird calls and songs, but I didnít get any responses until almost at the end of the boardwalk.† It took a few times, but finally I got a loud response from a VIRGINIA RAIL. †I never saw it, but the call is unmistakable.


Out at the end of the boardwalk, I kept playing the songs of Marsh Wren, but they aren't very responsive in the winter.† I was also looking for Wood Ducks, which are usually found there.† I never saw a Wood Duck, but there were other interesting birds around.† There were 7 or 8 Wilson's Snipe across the little bay, but I had gotten that species yesterday.† A Bald Eagle flew over and perched in a tree overlooking the bay.† There were a lot of Gadwalls around, and one Ruddy Duck was hanging out with them.† Ruddy Duck is another species I got yesterday.† Here is the Ruddy Duck from today.† I like the way they hold their little tails stiffly upright.


Ruddy Ducks are small ducks, and here's a picture of the Ruddy Duck and a Gadwall for a size comparison.† Gadwalls are about the same size as Mallards.


A little family of Trumpeter Swans flew in - two adults and a youngster.† Here is one of the adult Trumpeter Swans.


There were a couple of male Hooded Mergansers around, and here's one of them.


The water looks muddy in those pictures, but it has that color because it is reflecting the brown vegetation in the unseen background.


On my way back to the car I played Marsh Wren songs some more, and eventually I was rewarded by seeing a little bird skulking in the reeds, seeming to be interested in the playback.† I thought I had my Marsh Wren, but it turned out to be a PACIFIC WREN instead, another one I needed.† It wouldn't sit still for a picture, though.† It was still new year-species number 3 for the day, though, which was great.


I had plenty of time, and it was a nice day, so I went over to the fire station road, on the east side of the park.† I played Golden-crowned Kinglet songs, but never could attract one.† I did get a couple of pictures of a perched Red-tailed Hawk, though.



I was still looking for Wood Duck, though, so I went over to Juanita Beach Park, which is across the bay from Juanita Bay Park.† There I finally saw a pair of WOOD DUCKS for my year list.† I got some pictures, but they are too distant to be worth showing.


Here's a picture of Juanita Beach.


There were a couple of hundred crows around, mostly sitting near the tops of trees.† They kept calling all the time, and they flew around from time to time.† I donít know what they were all doing there.


I went down to the west end of the parking lot and walked in the little wetlands they made at the mouth of Juanita Creek.† At first there weren't many birds around, but I got a couple of pictures of a male Northern Flicker that I like.



I walked around, and as I was going back to my car, I finally saw some little birds.† At first I thought they were Bushtits, which is a species I need still for my year list, but it turned out to be a mixed flock of Black-capped Chickadees and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS, which was the exact species I was looking for there.† They all kept flitting around, and I never could get a picture of one of the kinglets, but finally one of the chickadees posed for me in the sun.† It's difficult to get good pictures of chickadees because they rarely stay still, but this Black-capped Chickadee posed for me for a minute or two.



That was it for me today.† I added an amazing 5 more species to my year/month list today, to bring it to 101 species.† There are a few more I can go for, but it's going to be one or maybe two at a time now, for sure.† I won't get one every day, either.† I leave for south Texas (the Rio Grande Valley, along the Mexico border) in a week, and then I'll be able to add a lot of new ones.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018


I have seen (or heard) so many species this year now that it's getting pretty difficult to find more.† There are still a few I can go for specifically, but any more will depend on just getting lucky.† Today my target was Green Heron.† Most of them have migrated out the area, but there are a couple of them that seem to be spending the winter at Marymoor Park, where I have tried for them a couple of times so far this year and missed them.


Last night I noticed on eBird that a Green Heron had been seen at Log Boom Park in Kenmore on each of the last two days.† That's only about 15 minutes from home, so I started there today, figuring I would try Marymoor later if I dipped.


I had pretty explicit directions - the bird was seen in the marina adjacent to the park, which is publicly accessible.† I walked into the marina and found the bird almost right away.† Here is the Green Heron today in Kenmore.


It was quite close and it stayed in place as I took pictures and approached even closer.


At one point it flew to an adjacent boat slip and I got a picture with a light-colored background.


I had my target species, but I went out onto the pier and looked at ducks.† There were four Wood Ducks around, three males and one female.† I got that species yesterday at Juanita Beach, but if I had missed it, Log Boom Park would have been my next stop.† Here is a rather distant picture of two of the male Wood Ducks, showing off their amazing colors.


Of course, I especially like the blue on the wings, but when the bird is in the water you don't usually see that blue.


It's interesting how the feathers on the head make a kind of helmet that extends down the neck at the back.† Here is a much less gaudy female Wood Duck.


Like yesterday, the brown water color is due to the reflection of brown vegetation in the background.


That was it for me today.† The rain had held off for me, but it was starting up again, and I had a lunch appointment in Bellevue.† I added just the one species to my year/month list, and now I have 102 species.



Wednesday, January 10, 2018


We had another break from the rain this morning, and I went over to the Snoqualmie River Valley.† I met up with Hank and Karen at Sikes Lake and we caravanned around to various sites, looking for birds.† Here is a Red-tailed Hawk at Sikes Lake.


Red-tailed Hawks have extremely variable plumage, and this one is rather light-colored and reddish.


We stopped and watched some sparrows just south of Sikes Lake, up on the hill, but didn't see any interesting ones.


In the valley to the west of Sikes Lake, I spotted a raptor and we all agreed it was a COOPER'S HAWK, my first of the year.† I got some distant pictures that aren't very good, but they do show some things that I think are interesting about the bird.



I think the back part of the top of the head is flat, which is a mark of Cooper's Hawk (as opposed to its smaller cousin, Sharp-shinned Hawk).† Even more telling, though, is the back of the neck.† Note how the dark of the top of the head turns into a much lighter color as it goes down the back of the neck.† In a Sharp-shinned Hawk, the back of the neck is the same dark color as the top of the head.† Here is a picture of a Sharp-shinned Hawk that I happened to get later in the day.


Note how the back of the neck is the same dark color as the top of the head.† I hadn't ever realized that difference between the two species until today, when I researched it after seeing my pictures.† I'm always learning new things about birds.


Next we stopped at a spot just north of Carnation where a couple of interesting sparrows had been seen on the weekend.† We saw White-crowned Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, a Song Sparrow, and one Fox Sparrow - but not the interesting sparrows we were hoping for.† Here is the Fox Sparrow.


We stopped in Carnation and got sandwiches at the Carnation Market, then moved on and checked the Tolt River bridge, just south of Carnation, looking for American Dipper.† No luck, so we moved on to the Carnation Marsh.† We walked up and down the road, playing various bird calls, but never saw anything very interesting there.


Our next destination was Tokul Creek, just above where it flows into the Snoqualmie River.† There were a number of steelhead fishermen there, and we almost didn't bother even looking for our target species in the creek, but we took a look, just in case.† We didn't see anything upstream, and I hadn't seen anything downstream either and probably would have given up, but Karen first heard, then spotted our target species.† We got a few quick pictures and a fisherman approached where the bird was perched and spooked it.† That turned out fine, though, because it flew even closer to the bridge we were on.† Here is a close shot of my first AMERICAN DIPPER of the year.


To the naked eye, they appear black, but when you see them up close, you see all the shades of brown and black on the bird.


This was the closest I have ever been to a dipper, and I couldn't stop taking pictures.


Dippers have a white eyelid, which you see when the bird blinks.† It looks kind of weird when you see it blink.† Here is a shot that captured the white eyelid, which actually has small feathers on it, evidently.


The bird finally flew off down the creek, after ten or fifteen minutes of very close views.† We moved on up to the town of Snoqualmie and went to Sandy Cove Park, which I had never been to before.† The Snoqualmie River was running pretty high, and all we saw at first was a pair of Hooded Mergansers across the river.† Then Karen spotted a bird down the river, and we moved down to take a look.†


I saw it too, but it seemed to fly out over the water and dive in.† I decided it must have been a fish jumping that I saw, but it turned out to be another American Dipper.† I had never seen one in such deep water, and I had never seen one that acted like this one did.† It would fly out a few feet, right over the surface of the water, then dive right in.† We watched it do this several times, and in between it would swim and dive.† Hank got a great video of the American Dipper diving and swimming in the river.† Here is a link to his Flicker page, and I hope it works so you can see the video of this cute little bird.

Hank dubbed it a Double Dipper Day after that.† We went on to Tanner Park in North Bend, where none of us had ever been before, but we didn't see a single bird while we were there, which was pretty surprising in itself.† We walked down by the river and it looked like perfect dipper habitat.† Hank says we were trying to make it a Triple Dipper Day, but we dipped.


After that I headed for home and they headed to the North Bend Bakery.† I stopped at the feeder house in Carnation, and there were very few birds around.† The few that were there all flew off soon after I got there.† I looked around and a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew into the tree right above the feeders.† Sharp-shinned Hawks prey on small birds, so that explained why they all left.† That's where I got the picture I showed above that showed the back of the Sharp-shinned Hawk's neck.† The bird turned away from me, which messed up the shot, but it did serve to illustrate the color of the back of its neck.† It flew off before I could get a good shot showing its face.


I stopped again at the sparrow place on NE 60th St, but there wasnít anything around.† As I drove away a Red-tailed Hawk flew ahead of me and landed on a pole.† My last picture of the day is of the same species as my first picture of the day, another Red-tailed Hawk.


So, it was a long day for me; I was out for about seven hours, including a lot of driving time.† I added 2 more species to my year/month list, to bring it to 104 species now.† Tomorrow is supposed to be nasty weather, wet and windy, and I have a couple of appointments as well, so I probably won't do any birding at all tomorrow.



Friday, January 12, 2018


We had another respite from the rain this morning, so I headed up to Mukilteo, which is about a half hour north of here, on Puget Sound.† I was looking for a particular species of saltwater bird, although I had three other possibilities as well.


First I went to Edgewater Beach Park, north of the ferry terminal.† It was pretty windy and there wasn't much at all out on the water.† After scanning back and forth a few times, I did manage to get a pretty good look at a RHINOCEROS AUKLET, though, which was one of my "other possibilities" there.


Next I went over to Lighthouse Park, which is just south of the ferry terminal.† It was even windier on that side of the point, and there were some pretty good waves out there.† Again, there was very little around and I actually had gotten back in the car to leave when I saw an interesting looking gull flying over the water.† I got out of the car and took a look, and it was one of three BONAPARTE'S GULLS, a great one for my year/month list, one I hadn't expected to find, although I did have it listed among my three other possibilities.† I got my scope out and got a great look at the three gulls as they more or less hovered in the strong wind, while they were looking for fish.


I was ready to leave, but since I had come that far, I stopped first at Mukilteo Community Beach, which is just north of the ferry terminal.† It's only a small beach, but sometimes you can see other birds from there.† There was a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes pretty close to shore, and I got some pictures.† Here is a picture of the pair of them, with the female on the left.


Here is the female Barrow's Goldeneye by herself.


Here is the male on his own.


Normally when you see a male Barrow's Goldeneye, his head looks black, but when the light is right, you can see the deep blue sheen on it.


I scanned the water and was pleased and surprised to find a single COMMON MURRE out there, too far away for pictures.† That was another great bird, one I hadn't really expected, although it too was one of the possibilities I was aware of.


I chatted a minute or two with a guy who was out for a walk, and he pointed out a Belted Kingfisher on a pier.† Here is a distant shot of the Belted Kingfisher.


After that I left, having missed my main target species (Marbled Murrelet) but having gotten all three of my other possibilities.


I stopped at the Edmonds Marsh on the way home and played Marsh Wren songs for ten or fifteen minutes, walking around the marsh, but I never got any response.† Marsh Wrens are very responsive to playback in the spring, but not in the winter.† There was almost nothing there on a cold and blustery day, except a group of ten Great Blue Herons, all in one area.† Here is one of the Great Blue Herons.


That was it for today.† I had a very surprising three more species for my January/year list, to bring it to 107 species now.† There aren't very many more local species to go for, although I do have some plans for the weekend, so stay tuned.



Saturday, January 13, 2018


I had a great day of birding today, looking for particular species.† I met my birding friends, Hank and Karen, at the South Kirkland Park and Ride, and Hank drove over to Seattle.† Overnight, a birder who Hank knows posted that he had seen a Snowy Owl near the Seattle University soccer field, so we went looking for it.† We found the right place, but not the owl.† We walked around the block, looking everywhere, but we dipped.† It was a worthy venture, but sometimes things just don't work out the way you hoped.† That's birding.


After we gave up on the owl, we went back to our original plan.† A rarity for Washington has been seen at a house just south of Green Lake, coming to a feeder there.† It has been pretty reliable for several weeks, and Hank and Karen had seen it there last month.† We found our way to the house and stood just outside the gate to the back yard, looking for birds.† There weren't any birds at all coming to the feeder, which was surprising.† The owners of the house came by and said they usually saw the target bird early and late, but I suspect they aren't usually there in the middle of the day.† Another birding couple came by, too, and waited with us.† After 22 minutes of waiting, the rare bird flew in and posed for pictures, then ate some seed at the feeder.† Success!† Here is a picture of the juvenile male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK that's thousands of miles away from where he ought to be at this time of year.


Here is a picture of him at the feeder, showing us his profile..


Here is one more shot of the juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, looking at us.


That was my first sighting of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Washington State.† He should be down in Central or South America now, and in the summer he should be in southern Canada, east of the Rockies.† Heaven only knows how he got here and why he picked that back yard to spend the winter in.† I hadn't expected to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak this year, so it wasn't even in my spreadsheet calculations.


The birding couple who had shown up there had just come from Green Lake, where they had seen a flock of another species we wanted to see - another species that is normally rare in Western Washington.† We followed their directions and soon found the flock of 30 or 40 COMMON REDPOLLS in the birch trees at the edge of Green Lake.† They were feeding up near the tops of the trees, and photos were very challenging, with the bright cloudy sky as a background and the birds constantly on the move.† I had to process my pictures heavily, but I got some that I'm pleased with.


Here are two Common Redpolls, high in a tree.


Here are some more pictures of Common Redpolls.




After a while, I noticed that Hank was taking pictures of something at the edge of the lake, so I went over there.† Some of the redpolls were bathing at the edge of the lake.† Here are a couple of pictures of Common Redpolls bathing.



They were incredibly cute as they splashed around.† Hank got a wonderful video of them taking their baths.† Here's a link.

I hope the link works because the video is great.† Maybe I'm going to have to start taking videos, along with still photos.† For something like this bathing scene, a video really captures the essence of the birds much better than still shots.


So, we had our second rarity of the day, although Common Redpolls have been much more common than usual in Western Washington this year.† Normally, you would have to go over the mountains to Eastern Washington to see them.


After that success, we headed over to the north side of Portage Bay, south of the University of Washington campus.† We went to a little park called Sakuma Viewpoint.† Hank and Karen had seen our next target species there recently, so we took a look.† We ended up walking down the street a short distance, but then we found two CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAYS.† They aren't quite rare in this area, but they are uncommon and only found in a few locales.† It was the first time I had seen a California Scrub-Jay in King county.† Here is a California Scrub-Jay with some kind of nut or something.


Here is a more distant picture showing the pretty blue head, wings, and tail of the bird.


A second bird showed up, and we chased them around trying for pictures.† Here is a side view of a California Scrub-Jay.


So, we were three for three for the three species we had originally been looking for today.† We dipped on the Snowy Owl, but no one else found it today either, as far as I have heard.


We went back across Lake Washington and they showed me a nice little trail along the edge of Yarrow Bay Wetlands.† There are two sets of bird feeders on the trail, and they had seen some birds there in the past.† We were hoping for Bushtits, which we had been looking for all day, at every place we went.


I wasnít particularly expecting woodpeckers, but the place turned out to be great for woodpeckers.† Here is a female Downy Woodpecker at a suet block.


You can't see the bird's face, but the size indicates Downy Woodpecker.† I didn't need that one, and I was just saying the name of the larger cousin of the Downy Woodpecker, saying I needed it, and Hank called out that there was a HAIRY WOODPECKER on the next feeder.† Bingo!† That was one I needed for my month/year list.† We ended up seeing two Hairy Woodpeckers, a male and a female.† Here is the male Hairy Woodpecker on another suet block.


That's a different suet block than the Downy Woodpecker was on, but itís the same size, so you can see how much larger the Hairy Woodpecker is than the Downy.


Here is the female Hairy Woodpecker.


I was very pleased to see Hairy Woodpecker, so I jokingly said I was putting in my request for another woodpecker I needed.† We laughed, but within a couple of minutes we all clearly heard the loud call of a PILEATED WOODPECKER, the one I had requested.† Amazing!† We never saw it, and I couldn't entice it in with playback, but I counted it because the call is unmistakable.


We still weren't finished with woodpeckers, though, and I got this picture of a female Northern Flicker, which is a species of woodpecker.


We saw other birds at the feeders, too, and I got this picture of a male Spotted Towhee that I like.


On the way back to the car there were a couple of Steller's Jays up in a tree, and I got this interesting picture of one of them.


The line down its side, where the color goes from dark blue to light blue is due to a shadow, and I think it makes an interesting effect.


We still weren't done, though.† We went down to Bellefield Office Park, south of Belleview, in the hopes of seeing Bushtits there.† I hadn't ever birded there, and they wanted to show it to me.† There are a lot of office buildings, as the name indicates, but there are also a lot of trees and trails, and the place is surrounded by a wetlands.† We walked around a little, but I was pretty worn out by then, so we cut it short.† There were some ducks, and I took this picture of a male Northern Pintail.


That was it for today.† We weren't really out there all that long, and we didn't really walk very far, but it wore me out and my Achilles tendon was hurting a little by the time we quit.† I'll be interested to see how it feels tomorrow.


I added a whopping 5 more species to my list, and they were all excellent ones, including two rarities.† I now have 112 species on my January (and year) list.† I have a plan to try for two more tomorrow, and we'll see how my luck holds out.



Sunday, January 14, 2018


I got two more species for my list today, but they weren't the two I was hoping for.† It was a beautiful morning today, and I decided to head up north to Marysville to look for a rarity that had been reported there for the last four days.† I found Harborview Park in south Marysville and walked into the park.† I saw a guy with binoculars heading back to the parking lot, so I asked about the rarity.† He confirmed that one had been seen and directed me to some other birders who had also seen it.


When I got to the little group of birders, I got the old birding story - "you should have been here five minutes ago".† The target bird had just flown down out of the tree it had been feeding in, and was out of sight.† I stood around and swapped birding stories with the other birders and after 25 minutes, the BOHEMIAN WAXWING flew back up into the tree with the red berries.† We all got excellent looks at it, but it was a bit far away for good pictures.† Here is the best one I got of the Bohemian Waxwing.


It looks a lot like its cousin, the Cedar Waxwing, but there are several small differences.† One of the main differences is that the feathers under the tail (called the undertail coverts) are red-brown in Bohemian Waxwing and off-white in Cedar Waxwing.† This next picture is out of focus because the camera focused on some branches in front of the bird, but you can see the red-brown undertail coverts well, anyway.


In this third picture, you can see the white spots on the wings, which is also a characteristic of Bohemian Waxwing.† This one is also out of focus, for the same reason.


So, my pictures are poor, but I did see the bird and added it to my list.† Bohemian Waxwings are rare on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.† It was a first for me in Snohomish county.† There had been a small flock of them in the same tree for the last four days, with as many as 12 reported some days.† Most of them must have left, though, because no one has seen more than one in the last two days now.† It seems strange that one would stay behind, but I guess that's what happened.† I wonder where the other went, and why they left.† There are still a lot of berries on that tree.


As I was leaving the park, I walked round a little and saw a few birds, none of which I needed.† I got a couple of pictures of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, despite the fact it never sat still for more than a few seconds.



This afternoon we were going to a house warming party in West Seattle, and on the way we stopped at Alki Beach to look for a couple of shorebird species that live on the rocks there.† While looking for them, I got this picture of a White-crowned Sparrow.


There were a couple of juvenile White-crowned Sparrows as well, and here's a picture of one of them.


I found a group of about a dozen BLACK TURNSTONES at one point.† That was one of the two species I was looking for.† Here are a couple of pictures of Black Turnstones.



I never found their cousins, Surfbirds, though.† The tide was very high, and maybe that made it more difficult, although maybe I was just unlucky.† At least I found one of the two species I was looking for there.† While searching for Surfbirds, I got this picture of a Double-crested Cormorant.


It was a difficult picture, with the bright sky behind the bird and the light coming from the right.† I took another one that deliberately only shows a silhouette of the bird.


I added two more species to my lists today, to bring my January and year total to 114 species.† I leave for south Texas on Tuesday, and I don't know if I'll go birding tomorrow or not.† There might not be a report for a couple of days.



Monday, January 15, 2018


I was going to stay home today since there are so few local birds that I still need for my list, but the sun was shining and I couldn't help myself.† I went out birding, and it worked out quite nicely.


My first stop was the Edmonds Marsh, where I played the songs of Marsh Wren for ten or fifteen minutes, but never had any response.† Getting a Marsh Wren in January is turning out to be more difficult than I expected.† I'll have four more days at the end of the month, after I get back from Texas, and maybe by then they will be more responsive.† I'd like to find more places to look for Marsh Wren than the Edmonds Marsh and Juanita Bay Park, too.


Next I went out on the fishing pier at Edmonds.† I was hoping to find a shorebird I had missed yesterday at Alki in West Seattle.† They had been reported at Edmonds for the last couple of days, seen on the breakwater, from the pier.† I asked a couple of other birders who were coming in from the pier if they had seen any, and both said no.† I didn't give up, though, and went out onto the pier.


There was very little around, but I went out to the end of the pier and used my scope to look at the south breakwater, on the other side of the opening to the marina.† Lo and behold, I found my target, a fat little SURFBIRD foraging on the rocks.† Here is a much too distant picture, in which you can see the Surfbird on the rocks.


So, that felt good to find it, especially when others had missed it.† I looked around for anything else, but there was very little out there.† On my way back to the car, there was a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes in the marina, inside the breakwater.† Here is a picture of the pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes.† The male is the more colorful one in the back.


Here is another picture of the pair of them.


Here is the female Barrow's Goldeneye on her own.


I like the distorted reflection.


Here is the male Barrow's Goldeneye.


You can see the purple sheen of his head and the droplets of water on it.† For comparison, here is a picture of a male Common Goldeneye, taken a short time later from Water Street, north of the ferry terminal.


There was a pair of Black Scoters offshore at Water Street, too.† Here is the pair, the black one being the male.


I still had plenty of time, so I went on up to Mukilteo, which is north of Edmonds on the sound.† I scoped the water from Edgewater Beach Park, north of the Mukilteo ferry terminal, and found a pair of MARBLED MURRELETS, which was the very species I had gone up there to look for.† The birding gods were smiling on me today (except for the Marsh Wren).† I checked the Mukilteo Community Beach and the lighthouse park boat ramp, but didn't see anything else of interest and darn little at all.


I had 2 new species for my month/year list, though, to bring me to 116 species as I head out for the Rio Grande Valley, along the border in southeast Texas.† I'm scheduled to leave tomorrow at about noon, and I plan to be home on January 27.† I'll have eleven days to rack up some Texas birds.† I hope to get my month/year total over 200 by the time I get home, which might be a challenge.



Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Well, I was supposed to be in Texas now, finding lots of new birds for my lists.† Instead, I'm still at home in Kirkland.† On Tuesday morning I was all packed and the car was loaded to head for the airport.† I checked Alaska Airlines one last time because I knew the weather in San Antonio was bad, and my flight had been cancelled.† There I was, all packed and loaded for departure, and the flight wasn't going.† At least I found out before we drove to the airport.


I went through a long series of adventures, trying to re-plan the trip, but when it was all over, I decided to just cancel it.† Because it was a weather cancellation, I didn't have to pay any cancellation penalties, which was nice.† Now I'm stuck at home for the rest of the month, it appears.


So, today I went out looking for birds.† I had a lunch appointment in Bellevue, but I went out into the Snoqualmie River Valley this morning and stopped first at Sikes Lake.† I ran into my birding buddy, Hank, there, and we tried for sparrows in the area, but didn't see anything.† I had a little more time, so I stopped on NE 60th St and tried for sparrows there, but all I could call up was a Song Sparrow and one chickadee.


I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and afterwards we went to Phantom Lake, but I didnít see anything new there either.† On my way home I stopped at Totem Lake, which isn't a very exciting birding venue, but I walked on the boardwalks and played the songs of Marsh Wren.† At one point I got a strong response from a wren.† It flew in and perched in little trees and called back to me.† At the time I thought it was a Bewick's Wren, which would have been a bit unusual in that habitat, but it had a white "eyebrow" stripe over its eye, and I didn't remember that Marsh Wrens had that, too.† Later, when I looked at my pictures in the camera viewfinder, I decided that maybe it was a Marsh Wren, so I tried to get it to come back, but I never could.† At home, I looked at the pictures and field guides, and I ended up deciding it was indeed my first MARSH WREN of the year.† Here are a couple of pictures.



You can't see the back of the bird in the pictures, and that is the best way to tell a Bewick's Wren from a Marsh Wren.† The bill looks much more like a Marsh Wren bill, though, especially the yellow color of the lower mandible, which unfortunately is partially blocked by a branch.† There is also the evidence of the habitat (marsh) and the fact it was responding so strongly to the Marsh Wren songs I was playing.† [After further consideration, I changed the identification to Bewick's Wren, and I took it off my list on Thursday.]


So, I managed to add one more species to my January and year lists, to bring them to 117 species.† I had hoped to get January up to 200 species with the Texas trip, but now I'm going to have to settle for 117, unless I can add one or two more somehow.† There are a few species I can look for around here, but none are going to be easy.


As a reminder, my Birding Reports can be read on my website each day - .† There are many other reports and pictures there, too, including my six trips to Australia.† For the current reports, just navigate to 2018 and the appropriate month, and then scroll to the day of interest.



Thursday, January 18, 2018


After further consideration and an exchange of emails with my buddy, Hank, I'm changing my identification of yesterday's wren.† I called it a Marsh Wren, but now I think it was a Bewick's Wren.† That will take one off my lists for January and the year.


Today I went down to Juanita Bay Park and tried to find another Marsh Wren.† I walked out on both boardwalks and the old highway causeway, playing Marsh Wren songs, but I never got any response.† They just don't seem to respond in the winter.† I was watching for Bushtits, too, but never saw any.


A mature Bald Eagle was keeping watch over the bay, and here is a distant shot of it.


The American Coots on the lake had formed into rafts for protection.† Eagles catch coots regularly, and I guess that the coots figure there is safety in numbers.† Here are some of the coots hanging together.


Here is a picture of the little bay between the two boardwalks.


Male Red-winged Blackbirds were calling everywhere.† You would have thought it was spring.† Here is one of them.


Here is a picture of another one, still in transition plumage, from winter to summer.


I didn't see very many birds, but here is a picture of a male Downy Woodpecker, digging for insects.


Here is another shot of the male Downy Woodpecker, showing his whole head and bill.


There were some Wilson's Snipe in the bushes at the end of the west boardwalk.† They would fly up from time to time.† I was able to see some of them on the beach, from another vantage point.† Here are a couple of the Wilson's Snipe.


That was it for today.† After taking Marsh Wren off my list, I have 116 species for the year and month.



Friday, January 19, 2018


Today I headed over to the Lake Union Natural Area, known to birders as the Montlake Fill.† It is adjacent to the University of Washington, located on Lake Washington.† They are in the midst of "restoring" the wetlands, in a project that most birders object to, and the place has been a mess for a couple of years as a result.† Maybe it will nice when its done, but it is like a war zone now, and has been for well over a year.


It sprinkled on my way over there, about a 35 minute drive, but as I got there, the rain stopped and the sun actually came out, filtered through thin clouds.† I parked and set out on the loop trail that goes around the area.† I went to the edge of the lake, where there are a lot of cattails, and played my desired wren song.† Within a minute a MARSH WREN appeared at the edge of the cattails.† Instead of going for a picture, I took a good long look to be sure of the identification, and the bird hopped away just as I was ready to take a picture.† It was a Marsh Wren, though, and that makes up for the one the other day that I decided was a Bewick's Wren.† I had specifically gone over to "the Fill" to find a Marsh Wren, because they had been reported there, more than at other locations around here, recently.


I had the bird I wanted, but my Achilles tendon was feeling good, so I decided to walk on around the loop.† Before I left the Marsh Wren location, though, I got this picture of a Song Sparrow, which had also responded to the Marsh Wren songs.


Farther around the loop there were some ducks on one of the ponds, and I got this picture of a pair of Northern Shovelers.† Note the large bills that give them their name.† The male is the more colorful one, of course.


Here is a picture of a pair of Buffleheads.† The male is the one in front.


Here is another view of them.


Male Buffleheads appear plain black and white in most light conditions, but if the light is right, you can see the sheen of colors on their heads.† Here is a male Bufflehead, showing the iridescent colors on his head.


I continued on around the loop and came upon a small group of House Finches, singing in a tree.† Here is a female House Finch.


Here is a more colorful male House Finch.


I detoured over to the canal that runs along the west side of the Fill, but saw nothing new there and didn't get any more pictures.† Back on the main trail, there were some robins on the ground, and I got this picture of an American Robin when it flew up into a small tree.


I was basically done by then and was heading back to my car, when I saw a flock of small birds in a tree.† My first thought was that maybe they were Bushtits, which I still need this month, but they turned out to be Common Redpolls.† That's a pretty rare species on the west side of the Cascades usually, but this winter there have been quite a few around.† I saw them last weekend at Green Lake.


The Common Redpolls today hung around, feeding in the same tree, for maybe 10 minutes, while I shot pictures.† It was hard to get decent pictures because they moved around all the time and they were up in the top of a medium sized tree, with bright light behind them.† My camera kept wanting to focus behind them or in front of them, mainly because of all the small branches.† Anyway, I took a lot of pictures, and I have a number of them that I want to show.† Here are some Common Redpolls, feeding in all kinds of interesting positions.






I think that last one was a juvenile, since it doesn't have a red cap or a black chin.



That's a lot of pictures of one species, but I was very pleased to see them, since I see them so rarely.† This was only the third time I had ever seen the species on this side of the Cascade Range, and the second time was just last Saturday.† I think the pictures also show how they feed, in all kinds of different positions.


So, I added back Marsh Wren to my lists, to bring me to 117 species again.† There aren't many more I can get this month around here, but I'm thinking of maybe taking a short trip to nearby counties, to see if I can get a few more species on my list.† Whether I go or not depends on the weather, mostly.


I was pleased how my Achilles tendon held up today.† I walked maybe a mile, but more significantly, I was on my feet for about an hour and 20 minutes, and that's more significant than the distance I walked.† My heel still hurts a little, from time to time, but it is really quite minor. (knock on wood - I'm not declaring victory or anything, just reporting the current status quo).† I'm watching it closely to see if it regresses.



Saturday, January 20, 2018


They rain was letting up this morning as I left to drive over to Magnuson Park, in north Seattle.† By the time I got there it had stopped, and there was even a brief sun break eventually.† I was looking for Herring Gulls, but I didn't see anything except Ring-billed Gulls and one Glaucous-winged Gull.† I walked north from the swimming beach, to an area that has a lot of Hawthorn trees that have a lot of berries on them.† The species I was hoping for feeds on those berries.


It was very quiet, and I saw very little.† I circled around and was almost back to the car when I saw some robins down the hill.† Then another bird that was smaller and lighter colored than the robins flew up into the same tree as the robins.† I got the binoculars on it, and it was a CEDAR WAXWING, the species I was looking for there.† There were about eight or ten of them, and I hustled down the hill to get closer.† As I approached, they flew off, but then landed in a couple of trees uphill from me.† Most of them flew off, but three of them just sat at the top of a medium sized Hawthorn tree, right out in the open.† I started taking pictures and soon they started feeding.† I took pictures of them in that tree for over 20 minutes, while they chowed down on the Hawthorn berries.† Here are some pictures.


Here are two of the three Cedar Waxwings that hung around.


Here are a couple more shots of them.



You can see that there were a lot of berries on the tree, and they started eating them.† Here are some shots of Cedar Waxwings with berries.




Here is an odd pose.† I think the bird had just swallowed a berry.


Some Golden-crowned Sparrows flew in and ate some berries for a while, too.



The Cedar Waxwings just kept eating and posing for me.



A couple of American Robins flew in and ate a few, too.


That last picture was taken during the brief sun break I mentioned.† Eventually the waxwings flew off and I didn't pursue them.


On my way home I stopped at Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore, hoping to find Bushtits.† I walked around in the light rain that had started up again, but never saw much.


So, I added one more species to my January and year lists, to bring me to 118 species now.† A week and a half ago I was wondering if I would get to 100 this month, but they have just kept coming.† There are so few species left I can go for locally that I'm thinking that tomorrow I might go across Puget Sound to the Sequim/Port Angeles area in an attempt to get a few more, and stay overnight in Sequim.