Archive for January, 2010

Bryan Arnold’s Photos From Northwest Birding Trip

January 29, 2010

You can see them here. A couple examples.

Top to bottom:    Sandhill Cranes in flight over Sauvie Island, OR.

Harlequin pair at Hama Hama, WA.

Puget Sound sundown, from Deception Pass, WA.

Pictures From Puget Sound

January 29, 2010

Here are some fine pictures by Tom Bush, one of the PIB expedition members on the Northwest birding trip.  We expect to do another trip in 2011.  The next group to go will gather in Portland next week.

There could not be a more emblematic bird for our trip than the Harlequin.  This delicately marked duck goes from breeding on crashing streams to wintering on cold, open water.  Here’s a pair of males cruising off Whidbey Island.

Here’s a pair on the rugged shore at Hama Hama on the Hood Canal.

Here’s that same pair, now alerted to our staring gaze.

Top to bottom:

Barrow’s Goldeneye male on Hood Canal at Potlatch State Park.

Common Goldeneye male practices for the spring displaying competition.

Truly a golden eye.

Black Oystercatcher feeding on the beach at Sequim yacht harbor.

Young Bald Eagle at Nisqually NWR.  We probably saw four dozen different Bald Eagles on this trip.  Sightings included a copulating pair at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim.  Tow different eagles with ducks at Whidbey Island.  Most amazing was a young eagle catching, then losing, a Cackling Goose on a lake on Sauvie Island.  That action attracted three other Bald Eagles and not even the mature individual could re-capture the goose which actually dove to escape capture.

Trumpeters at Sequim.

Song Sparrow, Nisqually.

Sequim and Whidbey Island

January 29, 2010

Top to bottom:  Bewick Wren sings at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim.

A “beach wren.”  This is Winter Wren feeding among the huge driftwood logs along rocky shore on Whidbey Island.  At Fort Ebey State Park.

This looks like a very busy male Bufflehead with his harem on Admiralty Inlet off Whidbey Island.

Black Oystercatcher along the shoreline at Fort Ebey State Park.

Two Dunlins on the mudflats along Penn Cove on Whidbey Island’s east side.

Greater Yellowlegs on the same mudflats.

Yellowlegs high stepping.

Loon offshore of Whidbey Island. There were also numerous Harlequin Ducks and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks far from the beach.

Location:     Whidbey Island
This includes birds seen from ferryboat between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island.

Observation date:     1/26/10
Number of species:     46

Brant (Black)     6
Gadwall     4
American Wigeon     120
Mallard     15
Northern Pintail     150
Lesser Scaup     6
Harlequin Duck     25
Surf Scoter     10
Long-tailed Duck     3
Bufflehead     80
Common Goldeneye     45
Hooded Merganser     4
Red-breasted Merganser     50
Red-throated Loon     1
Horned Grebe     16
Red-necked Grebe     10
Eared Grebe     2
Western Grebe     3
Double-crested Cormorant     20
Pelagic Cormorant     40
Great Blue Heron     8
Bald Eagle     5
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     2
American Coot     10
Black-bellied Plover     30
Black Oystercatcher     25
Greater Yellowlegs     10
Western Sandpiper     80
Dunlin (Pacific)     200
Mew Gull     1
Western Gull     6,     Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)     100
California Gull     4
Herring Gull (American)     3
Glaucous-winged Gull     150
Common Murre     1
Pigeon Guillemot     50
Cassin’s Auklet     3
Rock Pigeon     40
Belted Kingfisher     2
Northwestern Crow     8
Winter Wren     4
Golden-crowned Kinglet     10
Song Sparrow     5
Golden-crowned Sparrow     6
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     8

Gallery of Puget Sound Birds

January 29, 2010

From top to bottom:

Black Oystercatcher works rocky shore at Seqium’s yacht harbor.

Gaggle of gulls: loafing Glaucous-winged Gulls at Hama Hama River delta along the Hood Canal.

One of a Bushtit flock feeding in an alder.

Male Belted Kingfisher at the Sequim yacht harbor.

Red-necked Grebe on Hood Canal.  We saw many on our five-day trip in Oregon and Washington.

American Wigeons on the lawn at Potlatch State Park along Hood Canal.

Pigeon Guillemot on Hood Canal.

Northwestern Crow patrolling the parking lot at Potlatch Park.

Flock of Trumpeter Swans on farm pasture in Sequim.  Olympic Mountains in the background.

Hood Canal Beauties

January 26, 2010

ONe of the Barrow’s Goldeneyes we saw today.  One on the right is making his courtship moves.  “How smooth am I?” he mutters in Barrowese.

Harlequin pair we found near the Hama Hama Estuary.  There we also found some great smoked oysters.

Long-tailed Duck female at the Sequim marina.

Monday Checklists

January 26, 2010

Here are some of the sightings from specific locations today as we moved from Lacey to Sequim, Washington:

Location:     Kennedy Creek estuary
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     13

American Wigeon     40
Northern Pintail     60
Green-winged Teal     10
Double-crested Cormorant     1
Black-bellied Plover     15
Dunlin (Pacific)     300
Glaucous-winged Gull     6
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     1
American/Northwestern Crow     12
Black-capped Chickadee     1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee     4
Golden-crowned Kinglet     6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1
Golden-crowned Sparrow     4

Location:     Potlatch State Park
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     17

American Wigeon     60
Mallard     10
Greater Scaup     25
Bufflehead     15
Common Goldeneye     15
Barrow’s Goldeneye     6
Red-breasted Merganser     12,   Harlequin  1
Common Loon     4
Horned Grebe     4
Red-necked Grebe     1
Double-crested Cormorant     16
Great Blue Heron     1
Bald Eagle     1
California Gull     2
Herring Gull     2
Glaucous-winged Gull     8
American/Northwestern Crow     30

Location:     Hama Hama River Delta
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     17

American Wigeon     50
Mallard     10
Northern Pintail     35
Greater Scaup     15
Surf Scoter     85
White-winged Scoter (North American)     15
Bufflehead     12
Common Goldeneye     40, Harlequin 2

Barrow’s Goldeneye     8,  Red-breasted Merganser   16,  Common Loon     1
Horned Grebe     5
Double-crested Cormorant     20
Great Blue Heron     1
Bald Eagle     2
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)     35
Glaucous-winged Gull     3
American/Northwestern Crow     40

Location:     Dosewallips State Park
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     18

Brant     75
American Wigeon     40
Northern Pintail     60
Green-winged Teal (American)     12
Surf Scoter     4
Bufflehead     15
Common Goldeneye     10
Common Loon     1
Horned Grebe     2
Great Blue Heron     1
Bald Eagle     1
Dunlin     25
Mew Gull     15
California Gull     12
Herring Gull     5
Glaucous-winged Gull     30
Spotted Towhee     2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     8

Location:     John Wayne Marina
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     20

American Wigeon     30
Greater Scaup     4
Surf Scoter     8
Long-tailed Duck     1
Bufflehead     25
Common Goldeneye     25
Barrow’s Goldeneye     4
Hooded Merganser     3
Red-breasted Merganser     16
Common Loon     1
Horned Grebe     4
Double-crested Cormorant     15
Pelagic Cormorant     3
Great Blue Heron     1
Black Oystercatcher     1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)     25
California Gull     2
Pigeon Guillemot     2
Belted Kingfisher     1
Bushtit (Pacific)     25
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1

Location:     Seqium and Dungeness
Observation date:     1/25/10
Number of species:     23

Trumpeter Swan     62
American Wigeon     50
Mallard     40
Northern Pintail     30
Green-winged Teal     12
Surf Scoter     16
Common Goldeneye     10
Red-breasted Merganser     4
Pelagic Cormorant     6
Great Blue Heron     1
Bald Eagle     2
Northern Harrier     1
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Black-bellied Plover     18
Marbled Godwit     1
Sanderling     15
Western Sandpiper     20
Dunlin     130
Mew Gull     10
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)     30
California Gull     6
Pigeon Guillemot     2
Mourning Dove     2

Some pictures from the Northwest trip

January 26, 2010

Dunlin, Fort Stevens Park, Oregon.

Young Red-tailed Hawk eating small rodent on Sauvie Island, Oregon.

Sandhill Cranes in flight over Sauvie Island.

Below: Barrow’s Goldeneye male in Hood Canal, Washington State.

All photos by Tom Bush.

Waterfowl and Weatherfouler

January 26, 2010

In the sky it was rain.   On my hat it was rain.  In the puddles it was…

7:15AM   Our PIB  birding group leaves Astoria.  Moderate rain, low visibility, near darkness.

8:00 AM  We cross Columbia River into Washington State, rain continues.  One of us spots a Kestrel perched on a pole.

8:45 AM  We stop at I-5 rest stop. Free coffee, heated rest rooms.  American Crows and American Robins in the parking lot.  Golden-crowned Kinglets respond to our calls and come down to eye level.  Light rain.

10:15 AM We arrive at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Lacey, WA.  Steady rain.  One Bald Eagle visible from parking lot.  Our first two Northwestern Crows* are calling yto confirm they cannot caw the way American Crows do. Pond at Visitors Center has Mallard, one Bufflehead, one Coot,concentric circles from numerous rain drops.

10:30 AM We being to walk the Nisqually trails where century-old levees have been breached to increase the area of salt water marsh in the Nisqually Delta.  Ducks now paddle over former pastures within fifty yards of the Visitors Center.  A Kestrel perches under the eave of one of the Twin Barns, out of the rain.  The rain pounds down on trees, ponds, levees, cars, birders.   Bald Eagles perch atop various cottonwoods, mostly the tallest ones.  It is hard to keep binocs or scope from clouding over with rainwater.

10:45 AM  We meet a lone birder heading back to his car, drenched and defeated by the rain and limited visibility.  Only the ducks, Canada and 3 Cackling Geese seem as ease.  Few songbirds are visible though we encounter a small gr0up of Golden-crowned Sparrows sheltered beneath large cottonwood branches.

11:15 AM  Overlooking the Nisqually River we see Common Goldeneye, the omnipresent Buffleheads, eagles perched up high.  Rain continues.  The seams in my “waterproof” jacket are starting to leak.  Both handkerchieves I use to wipe optical lenses are now soaked.

Noon    We go to lunch at the Nisqually Junction.  An NFL play-off is on the big screen TVs that line the bar walls.  Ravens are not playing, niether are the Eagles.  Rain comes in waves of hard or hardly while we eat.

1:30 PM   We begin walking the Nisqually trails again.  Did I mention the rain?  It’s cold enough that my fingers numb enough that the cold no longer hurts.  Tep somewhere in mid-forties.  More eagles.  Three or more different Harriers over the newly bulldozed shorebird scrapes.   We find a Eurasian Wigeon male among the many dabblers.  Later we see a lone Pied-billed Grebe diving among the ducks,  tightening up its plumage the grebe becomes heavier than water and slowly submarines beneath the water’s surface.

2:15 PM    Out in the sodden marsh a couple of Glaucous-winged Gulls, stand in the rain-slicked marsh.  Bald Eagles perch on the highest bare trees, sentinels of the Nisqually Basin flatlands.  Even the Blue Herons look droopy in the downpour.

3:20 PM    We’re just finishing the trail circuit, rain continues.  The boardwalks are slippery from rain.  The trees in the river bottom are furred with ferns and heavy mosses  One of our group has spotted Downy Woodpeckers.  We search.  Instead we find the a drumming Hairy Woodpecker.  Then we find the two Downys, feeding on the thinnest of limbs, dangling near the ends.  The Golden-crowned Kinglets are about the only songbirds we’ve seen feeding in the rain.

4:00 PM  We head to our last birding spot of the day. Tolmie State Park, named for Dr. Tolmie who discovered the first known specimen of the MacGillivray’s Warbler. And he collected right here on the Oympic Peninsula.  The rain continues, dusk deepens, clouds lie on Puget Sound, visibility is back to 8AM levels.  Wigeons, Bufflehead, Goldeneyes, gulls feed along the shoreline.  A female Belted Kingfisher perches above the estuary.  Slowly our wetted, dampened, washed-out birders returns to the cars and call it a day. Thanks to Kinglet curiosity insouciant woodpeckers and the newly breached dikes at Nisqually we saw a lot of birds up close.

* An excellent Sequim birder told us that the locals in the Northwest claim you have to go all the way to the Fraser River to find “Pure” Northwestern Crows.  Sort of like gulls and oaks, the crows here intermingle their genes to the point where species becomes a very vague definition.  Much like honesty in Washington D.C.

Here’s our Northwest group, in photo taken by trip host and driver Tom Bush: left to right–Mary Ellen Moore, Christie Arnold, Meredith Anderson, this blogger in back, Bryan Arnold, Jeannie Mitchell, Loran Olsen, Ron Mitchell.  In the background is the mouth of the Columbia River.  We are on viewing platform at the wind whipped South Jetty in Fort Stevens Park.

Proof that I have been to one of the few state parks in America that share a name with a bird species.  Park and MacGillivray’s Warbler binomial both honor the good Dr. Tolmie. And MacGillivray was a Scottish naturalist who wrote most of Audubon’s ORINTHOLOGY text and so got a namesake bird he had never seen.

Edge of the Continent

January 24, 2010

Today our PIB birders saw the westernmost Meadowlarks and Song Sparrow in the lower 48 states.  Both were at the South Jetty alongside the mouth of the Columbia River.  The Song Sparrow was only protected from the crashing Pacific waves by a fifteen-foot thick stone jetty.  The Meadowlarks were alongside the nearby parking lot, perhaps another fifty feet from the ocean.

Offshore: Pacific and Red-throated Loons, Western Grebes.

Also at Fort Stevens, a clearly viewed Peregrine and numerous shorebirds, mostly Dunlin.

Here’s the view we got looking north to Washington State.

From South Jetty we went to Coffeeberry Lake.  There two of the group managed to see the Wrentit that called and circled us in the dense tangle of sword ferns, salal and coffeeberry.

One bird gave us great views, Hermit Thrush:

South to Cannon Beach we went.  There was a gull convention where one creek crossed the sandy beach to join the Pacific.  There were Thayer’s in the gathering.  At Haystack Rock there was a single Harlequin, but it was a male that dove, showed his stuff, then perched in clear view on a rock.  On the rocks our first Black Oystercatchers.

At a marsh in Cannon Beach we saw a Merlin high atop an evergreen.

At an overlook south of town we found two male Black Scoters and another Oystercatcher.

Location:     Fort Stevens Park
Observation date:     1/23/10
Number of species:     32

Mallard     30
Northern Pintail     6
Surf Scoter     18
Bufflehead     25
Common Merganser     4
Red-breasted Merganser     1
Red-throated Loon     4
Pacific Loon     1
Horned Grebe     1
Western Grebe     8
Double-crested Cormorant     14
Pelagic Cormorant     6
Bald Eagle     2
Peregrine Falcon     1
Sanderling     30
Western Sandpiper     45
Least Sandpiper     6
Dunlin     300
Western Gull     45
Herring Gull     2
Glaucous-winged Gull     8
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     1
Steller’s Jay     1
American Crow     6
Black-capped Chickadee     1
Hermit Thrush     1
Varied Thrush     3
Wrentit     4,                  Spotted Towhee     1
Song Sparrow     14
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     6
Western Meadowlark     3

Location:     Cannon Beach and Ecola Park
Observation date:     1/23/10
Number of species:     18

Harlequin Duck     1
Black Scoter     2
Double-crested Cormorant     6
Pelagic Cormorant     1
Merlin     1
Black Oystercatcher     3
Sanderling     10
Ring-billed Gull     10
Western Gull     20
California Gull     30
Herring Gull     30
Thayer’s Gull     8
Glaucous-winged Gull     45
American Crow     35
Common Raven     25
Red-winged Blackbird     20
American Goldfinch     1
House Sparrow     2

Meal Time Along the Columbia

January 23, 2010

“Nature is just one big restaurant.”  –Woody Allen

Here’s a young Red-tailed Hawk eating a small brown rodent with a three-inch bare tail.  Perhaps a rat.  It was only one of the dining experiences our group of birders witnesses today on Sauvie Island.

We saw an immature Bald Eagle finishing off a luncheon of raw duck.

And we watched amazed as another young Bald Eagle soared back and forth across an arm of one lake making runs at Cackling Geese on the surface.  Eventually he landed in the water and grabbed one of the Cacklers.  Then he lifted himself and the goose off the surface and flew to a nearby post.  There he began what looked liked the process of killing and eating.   But suddently there was s flutter of wings and the goose flipped off the post, out of the eagle’s grasp and into the lake again. Three more eagles flew into the scene, including one adult.  It soon dispatched the youngsters and made a couple flights to try to recapture the goose for itself.  Failing, the adult eagle rested on the post.  The goose was clearly in shock at its near fatal experience.  But it slowly recovered from the shock of near-death and slowly, calmly paddled away.  It amazingly did not appear to be physically injured.

Adult Bald Eagle soaring down toward lake where thousands of Snow Geese and hundreds of Cackling Geese were swimming about.

And here’s the result of that assault:

We saw dozens of Sandhill Cranes flying into one section of fields to find their first meal of the day:

We saw a female Purple Finch pulling seeds off an evergreen.  Pintails, Wigeons, Green-winged Teal and other dabblers plied the muddy lakes, bottoms up and heads down for the good pond muck they prefer.  Later at Scappoose Bottoms we saw more feeding ducks.  This time there were dabblers plus Ruing-necked, Lesser Scaup and Common Mergansers diving for fresh flesh.  Then the alpha diner sped past, a Peregrine cruising for an available duck or shorebird.

One couple on this PIB trip said they got eight lifers this first day out.

Location:     Upper Sauvie’s Island
Observation date:     1/22/10
Notes:     Birds seen by some in our group: Northern Shrike, Cooper’s Hawk, House Sparrow
Number of species:     54

Snow Goose     2000
Ross’s Goose     3
Cackling Goose     4000
Canada Goose     25
Tundra Swan     40
Gadwall     2
Eurasian Wigeon     1
American Wigeon     400
Mallard     50
Northern Shoveler     8
Northern Pintail     150
Green-winged Teal     240
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)     1
Ring-necked Duck     60
Lesser Scaup     8
Bufflehead     1
Hooded Merganser     5
Common Merganser     4
Great Blue Heron     8
Great Egret     1
Bald Eagle     10
Northern Harrier     5
Red-tailed Hawk     14
Rough-legged Hawk     2
American Kestrel     10
American Coot     10
Sandhill Crane     600
Mew Gull     25
Ring-billed Gull     40, Herring Gull     1
Glaucous-winged Gull     2
Eurasian Collared-Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Short-eared Owl     1
Downy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)     3
Black-capped Chickadee     4
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
Bewick’s Wren     2
Golden-crowned Kinglet     6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
American Robin     20
European Starling     150
Spotted Towhee     2
Fox Sparrow     2
Song Sparrow     3
White-crowned Sparrow     6
Golden-crowned Sparrow     40
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)     15
Red-winged Blackbird     40
Western Meadowlark     6
Brewer’s Blackbird     25
Purple Finch     3
House Finch     4

Location:     Scappoose Bottoms
Observation date:     1/22/10
Number of species:     17

Gadwall     140
Mallard     15
Northern Shoveler     2
Northern Pintail     45
Green-winged Teal     75
Ring-necked Duck     20
Lesser Scaup     15
Common Merganser     2
Great Blue Heron     1
American Kestrel     1
Peregrine Falcon     1
Killdeer     4
Dunlin     12
Mew Gull     16
Ring-billed Gull     4
Glaucous-winged Gull     1
White-crowned Sparrow     8