A Sunrise to shore birding weekend

Rob McNair-Huff rob at whiterabbits.com
Sun Sep 15 23:09:30 PDT 2002

Natalie and I stayed closer to home this weekend, making a visit to
Sunrise on Mt. Rainier in the dappled sunshine Saturday and then driving
to the Ocean Shores area Sunday.

The Mountains:
Saturday found us enjoying the raptor migration at high elevation on the
way to and around Sunrise. By far the most impressive species around
Sunrise on this day were the raptors. We saw numerous Red-tailed Hawks,
including one that stuck to its tree top like a sentinel while an
American Kestrel made numerous passes, calling out as it tried to chase
the Red-tail away so it could control that section of the meadow along
with another kestrel in a smaller nearby tree.

Since Red-tailed Hawks are so common in both Western and Eastern
Washington, it was great that the biggest highlight of our day was when
Natalie and I both watched through binoculars as a hawk that had been
hovering at a high altitude made a peregrine-like drive in a tight tuck
and at high speed toward a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree, and in the last 50
yards or so before it tapped the Red-tail in the tree it adjusted its
wings and started lowering its talons to break the speed - an amazing
sight when seen from close range through binoculars. The diving hawk was
indeed "just" another Red-tailed Hawk.

Other raptors we saw while walking the less-populated trails around noon
at Sunrise included a single Northern Goshawk and a single Golden Eagle
soaring high above the ravine that holds the White River.

Other birds at Sunrise:
- Numerous Dark-eyed Junco
- Loud and numerous Clark's Nutcracker
- Gray Jay
- American Robin
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Red-breasted Nuthatch
- Northern Flicker
- Small groups of American Pipit
- Song Sparrow
- Raven

Even at this late date there were quite a few butterflies active on a
hazy day at Sunrise. We saw and photographed a brilliant Blue (likely
Acmon Blue, but I didn't get a good view of the underside of the blue to
ensure the identification), numerous Pine White, a copper that looked a
lot like the Mariposa Copper I had photographed earlier this summer at
Conboy Lake NWR near Mt. Adams, and a number of alpine butterflies that
never landed near enough for a positive ID or photo. The breeze was
blowing during much of our visit, so IDing butterflies was tricky.

On the drive back to Tacoma we also saw five Turkey Vulture kettling
along Hwy. 410 near Buckley

The Shore:
Sunday we set out for the coast, making stops at the Hoquiam sewer
treatment ponds, the North Jetty at Ocean Shores, and at Bill's Spit in
Ocean Shores just before high tide.

Hoquiam STP:
- Northern Shoveler
- Killdeer
- Mallard
- Northern Harrier
- Brown Pelican (being hassled by gulls as it fished in the bay)
- 1 juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (feeding along with the Killdeer in the
SW corner of the STP)
- Canada Goose
- Belted Kingfisher
- Great Blue Heron
- Barn Swallow
- Northern Rough-winged Swallow
- Mew Gull
- Glaucous-winged Gull
- Western Gull
- California Gull
- 50 Heerman's Gull

Natalie also spotted and both of us chased and viewed an out-of-place
butterfly nectaring on the flowers at the south end of the Hoquiam STP -
an Orange Sulphur. I am not sure why this butterfly was here, which is
definitely out of place according to Robert Michael Pyle's latest
butterfly guide, "The Butterflies of Cascadia."

Ocean Shores North Jetty:
- 20+ Brown Pelican
- Sooty Shearwater (individuals and small groups of two or three birds
sporadically flying past the jetty)
- Pelagic Cormorant
- Brandt's Cormorant
- Glaucous-winged Gull
- Western Gull
- Common Murre (plentiful juveniles and adults)

Bill's Spit:
- 40 Long-billed Curlew
- 1 Whimbrel
- 4 Marbled Godwit
- 10+ Sanderling
- Dunlin
- White-winged Scoter
- Western Grebe
- Canada Goose
- Great Blue Heron
- 1 Northern Harrier
- 100+ Brown Pelicans
- 2 Common Loon
- Glaucous-winged Gull
- Western Gull
- California Gull
- Belted Kingfisher (heard only)
- large flock of peeps (Western Sandpipers, I would guess...) flying in
wave patterns before landing on a sandbar island far off the shore from
Bill's Spit

A great weekend for bird watching!

Rob McNair-Huff <mailto:rob at whiterabbits.com>
White Rabbit Publishing <http://www.whiterabbits.com>
Publisher of Mac Net Journal <http://www.whiterabbits.com/MacNetJournal>
The Equinox Project <http://www.whiterabbits.com/weblog.html>
Co-author of Insiders Guide to the Olympic Peninsula

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