[Tweeters] White wagtails at Goat Rocks

jedunne at u.washington.edu jedunne at u.washington.edu
Thu Jul 28 22:47:11 PDT 2005

I have had several inquiries for more details about the description of these
birds and their location. I have some doubt myself about the identification.
I had a good look at only one bird and a briefer look at a second. However,
judging from the frequency of their calls there must have been between 8-10
birds scattered over an area of several football fields. The birds were not
particularly shy and one came within 10' before flittering away. The bird I
had the best look at had a long tail with clearly visable white outer tail
feathers, pale unstreaked breast, medium gray back and a noticable wing bar.
It had an upright posture and the characteristic wag. However, there was no
black breast markings such as I had seen on wagtails in Europe. I considered
the yellow wagtail as a possibility but I saw no yellow underneath and the call was wrong. The call was a two tone, two syllable song repeated after a pause. An American pipit would be a likely possibility because of the habitat but the coloring was all white through darker gray with no brown, the tail was too long, and there was no streaking on the breast.
The area was on the west slope just before reaching Packwood Pass on trail #86. It is accessed via Blakely Road just west of Packwood on Hwy 12. The road become a rather smooth gravel road that goes 11 miles to the trailhead. There is one small section of the road that is rutted and difficult but I somehow got past it in my Honda Civic with only minor scrapes. The trail head sign indicates the Lily Basin trail. It starts at 4300' and very gradually ascends for 9 miles to Packwood Pass, with one trail junction at 6 miles. The birds were seen several hundred yards short of the pass and quite near a steep
snowfield that makes the trail impassable. The 18 miles round trip is too long for a day hike but there is beautiful camping at Heart Lake, about 2 miles short of the pass.
John Dunne
Mercer Island, WA
jedunne at u.washington.edu

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