[Tweeters] Snow Bunting near Nisqually 11-24-05

Ruth and/or Patrick Sullivan godwit at worldnet.att.net
Thu Nov 24 14:04:47 PST 2005

Hello Tweets,

Today we spent a few hours this Thanksgiving Day birding a few Thurston Co. locations primarily at Luhr Beach and a few stops made on our way home at the Nisqally NWR and along Nisqually Cut-Off Rd. Our main highlight of the day was a single Snow Bunting observed at 12:15pm amongst a scattered flock of Am.Pipits,Starlings and Western Meadowlarks at the base of Nisqually Cut-Off Rd. near Nisqually. This bird was a total surprise for us for this location not only being a quality Thurston Co. species. The bird did not show especially distinctive white areas on the wings,so we highly suspect the bird was a female,but nonetheless very brilliant on a cold,cloudy gloomy day. The habitat in the immediate area consisted of plowed corn stubble fields with pumpkin fields and thicker,grassier areas nearby. This location can be viewed from a shoulder pull-off immediately east of the Nisqually Cut-Off Rd.-Martin Way intersection. A single adult Peregrine Falcon and a male Am.Kestrel were also both noted from this same location.

Earlier in the day between 11am-12pm we observed 3 Snowy Owls from Luhr Beach,where up to 2 birds were previously reported yesterday by Keith Brady. All 3 birds appeared to be immature birds with the closest bird observed from 2 separate driftwood obstructions near the second channel if you look straight east from the large wooden dock at Luhr Beach. We also noticed that the closest bird would most often fly down to the ground and quickly return to the driftwood and presumably consume a  small rodent. The bird did this at least 5 times during our 1 hour visit,so perhaps thee is a plentiful supply of rodents. There was active hunting going on at the Nisqually Delta,but the occasional shooting didn't seem to spook the Snowy Owls.The other 2 birds were observed much further east and just below the forested hillside on the Pierce Co. side of the Nisqually Delta. When we arrived 2 of the bird flew around for quite awhile before resettling with one lone bird remaining resting on a distant obstruction. On one occasion one Snowy Owl was observed perched atop a deciduous tree just west of the Nisqually Observation Platform,but then soon flew after being flushed by a Northern Harrier. It is very possible here could be more than 3 birds,but that is what wee saw and a few other birders were also able to see the birds too during our visit. If you do look for the Snowy Owls keep in mid that a spotting scope is well recommended at this location due to the distance,as mentioned by other birders. 

Water viewing from Luhr Beach was quite difficult today due to lighting and "shimmer"on the water,but good numbers of both White-winged and Surf Scoters,Common Goldeneyes and Buffleheads were amongst the most abundant waterfowl species. In addition a single Red-throated Loon,2 Eared Grebes and a Merlin were observed,as well as several distant scattered groups of Dunlin. 

A quick check along the McAllister Creek trail at the Nisqually NWR produced the lingering Eared Grebe in the flooded area just past the 1st patch of willow trees on the south side of the trail as you walk west from the main parking lot. This is a noteworthy species for this location,but more than likely a bird from the Nisqually Reach.

Happy Thanksgiving and good birding,

Ruth and Patrick Sullivan
godwit at worldnet.att.net

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