[Tweeters] Fir Island Sightings From the Weekend - Snowy Owls - YES

Wise, Cathy cathy.wise at cingular.com
Mon Dec 5 08:18:30 PST 2005

I spent the weekend trying to photograph birds on Fir Island. A lot of
good sightings, not very many photos.

Saturday - Stopped first at Hayton Preserve - the geese were pretty far
out, saw a few herons, lots and lots and lots of hunters across the
channel to the west.
Went to the North Fork Access at the end of Rawlins Road next. Short
Eared Owls were everywhere - counted a minimum of 10 on the wing at one
time, so there were probably more out there. A lot of harriers as well.
Also, song sparrows, marsh wren, bc chickadees, northern shrike, house
Stayed the afternoon on Rawlins then went back to Hayton Preserve.
Spotted a snowy owl pretty far out. Also a Sharp Tailed Sandpiper in
the mud across from the gate at the end of the "road", sandpipers, and
dowitchers. A peregrine falcon was hunting the dunlin flocks at the
edge of the water pretty far out. In the green field at the parking lot
had a single black bellied plover with a group of killdeer. As it was
getting dark the snowy owl flew out into the fields near the parking
lot. Way too dark for photos by that time.

Sunday - Again stopped first at Hayton Preserve - the tide was in - saw
a single Clark's Grebe and a few female Bufflehead in the channel. Had
great looks at a bittern in the channel to the east, it would run a few
steps and then give its best "you can't see me when I hold my head
towards the sky" pose.
Went to the end of Rawlins Road. There were no Short Eared Owls to be
seen and only a few Harriers. Had a Fox Sparrow in the tree at the
entrance to the dike. A lot of bald eagles around. An injured snow
goose was in the brambles along the channel to the east of the dike.
Some other birders came along and spotted a snowy owl further along the
dike. We took a walk down there and found 2 owls - one of them perched
in the open giving good looks through the scope - you can't walk any
closer as the area is marked "no trespassing, Skagit Gun Club" If you
scan the driftwood several hundred yards down there were there -
sometimes they were low and only looked like white bumps. I stayed for
awhile at this location, hoping the owls would move but it stayed quiet.
Snow geese were in the fields to the east. I finally decided to walk
back to my car - got to the covered "no trespassing" sign and ran into
another pair of birders. I was pointing in the direction of the snowys
when I saw an owl flying. Wouldn't you know one of the Snowys was
flying right over where I had been standing not 15 minutes earlier!
ACK! So, back I go and once again the birds are perched. Stayed
another hour, still nothing, so headed back. I didn't snap one photo
the entire time!
Headed back to Hayton Preserve and located a 3rd snowy owl directly out
from the end of the "road". It was closer than the others so I decided
to stay and see if it would move as the afternoon wore on. Had a dead
heron in the field - is there someone I should report this to? The
sharptailed sandpiper was back in the mud but was spooked away by a
harrier. Had dowitchers again. Watched two different peregrines
hunting the dunlin flocks. One came in to make a play for a small group
of sandpipers. It stooped about 20 feet in front of me and I heard it
as it went by - WHOOOSSSHHHHH! WOW! No photos as I had no light but
what an experience! The snowy owl didn't move - only teased me a little
by preening and stretching. After almost 3 hours my fingers were
getting so cold they hurt and it was getting dark, so I left.

As I said, a great weekend of sights but not many photos!

Cathy Wise
cathy.wise at cingular.com
Snohomish, WA

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