FRS Radios Save The Day

Lynn & Carol Schulz linusq at
Thu Mar 7 09:31:22 PST 2002

Hi Tweets:
Yesterday FRS radios saved the day/duck! I had one day to try to get the
mega-rarity, the Falcated Duck. After that my obligations and other plans
would prevent me from driving to the Samish to see it. Charlie Wright & I
met Ilene Samowitz in Seattle VERY early on Wed, and we arrived out at the
base of Samish Is, north of the West 90 at about 6:30am. We wanted to
arrive early to observe ducks in the fields before they flew west, over to
the Padilla Bay side of the dike. As luck would have it, it was extremely
cold (27 degrees) and a wind was blowing from the north. The fields and
seasonal ponds were frozen. The only ducks in sight were on the Samish Bay
side on the east. We met Denny Granstrand there and futily scanned huge
flocks of ducks for the Falcated Duck. It was extremely cold. Denny & our
party decided to split up, and our people and Denny set our FRS radios to
universal birders' channel, CHANNEL 11, CODE 22. (This was gonna get me the
duck later in the day. Wow!) We drove up onto Samish Is, looking for the
Great Gray Owl, and trying to find areas to scope the ducks. Unfortunately,
there are lots of trees up there, and barbed wire etc. right next to the
road. And every time we tried to scope ducks, an eagle would fly by and the
flocks would go up. It was high tide. We were trying to look south, down
on Padilla Bay where thousands of ducks were apparently trying to get out of
the wind. There are about 4 beach houses below the bluff, but the path, and
road to them is marked no trespassing.
We came back down and everyone was cold. The wind chill was terrific, and I
finally put on 6!! layers of clothes, which included poly pro, fleece, a
heavy wool sweater, a heavy coat, and topped w/ my rubber rain coat. All
right, so I'm a wimp. Charlie & Ilene are saying, "Let's go out on the
dike". That's where Denny had gone. And I'm thinking, oh brother, do I
REALLY want to go? Just then Denny's voice came over the radios, "WE HAVE
THE FALCATED DUCK!" We sped to the West 90 parking lot, piled out of the
cars, and taking scopes, and cameras, practically ran the approx 2 miles out
to the viewing area on the dike. We met Denny and the guys heading back,
and were hoping that we too would be able to view the duck.
You can read Charlie's post about that. We were successful. We ended up at
least 1/3 mile north of the buildings out there, looking north toward the
beach houses over on Samish Is. That's where many of the ducks were, and
the tide was still high. (This bay really dumped out by about 3pm. You
would not want to be scanning Padilla Bay on low tide.) We watch he
Falcated Duck actively feeding, dipping it's head in the water and tipping
up. I was always very close to shore, and practically in front of the beach
houses. (Unfortunately, you can't see that area from above the beach houses
on the bluff, I don't think.)
This duck was spectacular. Even though we were probably about 1/2 mile from
it. Viewing it through our scopes, the bright sun lit up its huge head,
which usually looked bright green, but sometimes rufous, depending on the
light. Its sides are gray. Its tertials really bulge up from its back,
making it appear
sway-backed w/ a huge rump. It's undertail area was cream-colored, not
white. It was very obvious in the bright sunlight. But because it was in
the middle of a large flock, if you didn't concentrate on its position, you
could lose it in the group. We'd tell someone to come look at it in the
scope, and then we'd loose it again. As soon as it was perpendicular to us,
we could see it again. We had great looks at it through the scopes which we
had zoomed out to at least 45X. My Kowa was at 60X for some of the viewing.
What a beautiful bird.
I felt sorry for some birders who hadn't come out all the way. They did not
have radios, and even though I talked on Ch 11, Code 22 every once in
awhile, no one answered. I found out later that one of the parties decided
it was too cold, had come out part way, and then gone back. If they had
only known...
And it WAS too cold. The highest the temp got out there all day was 34
degrees, and the wind was blowing at least 10mph, sometimes more. I would
have turned back, but the
radios saved the day.
Now to say a little bit about these radios. I'm beginning to think they are
as indispensible to me as my bins and scope. I use them all the time on our
personal channel and code to alert people in the party to a bird in the
field, and for communicating between cars. And yesterday, using them on the
universal birders' channel was awesome. I own three different models of
Motorola Talkabouts. I don't like Cobra because they have the roger beep.
What an irritation in the field. I really want to thank Jack Stevens for
promoting this use of these radios. (See his msg below.) Thanks, Jack, for
Yours, Carol Schulz
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Stephens" <jstephens62 at>
To: "Tweeters" <tweeters at>
Sent: Saturday, March 02, 2002 7:22 AM
Subject: FRS radios

> I would like to reinforce Denny Granstrand's timely reminder about 2-way


> radios. With birders converging on Samish Island this weekend, anyone


> FRS radios can be in contact with anyone in a two mile radius looking for

> this bird. The ABA has established channel 11, subcode 22 as a standard


> the US and Canada for this use, for details refer to


> If you are thinking of buying a radio for this purpose, make sure that it

> does use subcodes, the cheaper models don't. It is also good to make sure

> that you can disable the "roger" tones. Many radios have a fairly loud


> at the end of each communication, which could be disturbing to the birds.


> Best of luck, and good birding!


> Jack Stephens

> Edmonds, WA

> jstephens62 at

> Use FRS 11/22 when birding the Pacific Northwest



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