[Tweeters] Blackpoll Warbler at Ridgefield NWR 9-17-06

Ruth and/or Patrick Sullivan godwit513 at msn.com
Sun Sep 17 23:08:39 PDT 2006

Hello Birders,

Today Jim Pruske and my and I birded the entire day at the River S Unit of the Ridgefield NWR in Clark Co. with our main efforts to locate both Ruffs and the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper previous reported by other birders. We arrived at 8am and immediately drove to the south end of Rest Lake,where we easily located first both juvenile RUFFS foraging out in the middle of the mudflat area,then the bright,crisp juvenile SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER further to the right of where we were parked,as it foraged primarily alone. It was a real treat seeing all 3 of these birds,but our interests were drawn more to the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. We watched the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper until 12pm at the southwest corner of Rest Lake,where it remained in the same immediate area by feeding most often alone on the exposed mudflats,but occasionally wandered more out into the open allowing better views. Both male and female Ruff remained very active by feeding in different areas around the western portion of the lake,as well as together on a few occasions where good comparisons could be obtained between the two birds. Throughout the entire day we ran into many birders from across Washington and Oregon in search of both Ruffs and the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper,so we did our best to help other see them as we could and both species did delight everyone.

After 12pm we decided to take a second drive around the loop,where we made a walk along a portion of the Kiwa Trail before returning back to look for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at 1:30pm. We were unable to relocate the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at this time and searched the immediate area for the bird along with other birders until we decided to make another drive around the refuge. Before making our 3rd drive around we were stopped by Bill Clemons,who kindly alerted us that the bird had been relocated along the canal closet to the main road along at the southwest corner of Rest Lake. We continued our drive around to the spot and joined other birders at 3:30pm,where we all got superb,close views of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in all it's grandeur and beauty. The bird foraged alone and very,very close range approximately 25 feet from the road and it didn't seem the slightest bit nervous by the presence of all the birders staring down at it! It was an exciting occasion for everyone,as birders and photographers took the pleasure of capturing all the brightness of this great bird!

We remained on the location for some time,then at 5pm were joined by Gary Fredricks,who in turn alerted us that he had found and lengthy watched a Blackpoll Warbler along the trail to the observation blind. We were soon joined by Bob Stites,who also indicated to us he had also viewed the bird,as spotted by Gary so off we went with their tips back around to the observation blind just east of the Kiwa Trail access. Within a very short time we located the BLACKPOLL WARBLER foraging alone high in several Oregon Ash Trees just east of the trail to the observation blind. This was a totally unexpected species for this location and one we would have more expected in eastern Washington at this time of year such as at a migrant trap! The bird was very active moving in and out of the canopy foliage giving us partial views of itself until it flew to the eastern edge of the large patch of trees. We tried our best to keep track of the bird,as it continued to forage alone and we finally obtained better views of the bird when it was located from the backside of the patch of trees giving us better views of it's pale yellow upperparts,white undertail coverts,broken eye ring(with a dark center line going through the eye),and two bold white wing bars that were contrasted well from the dark wings. This particular bird was much paler than the bird my mother and I observed recently at the Sprague Lake Resort and it also lacked any streaking on the sides,but perhaps we were unable to see that detail. The bird remained high in the Oregon Ash trees,but it would occasionally come out into view for a second or two then quickly return back into the leaves. The bird was very active and we watched it of and on for an hour until we left at 6:15pm after not being able to relocate it since light was beginning to fade and most of the other passerines at the location had moved on. As indicated we observed the bird foraging alone,but Gary indicated to us he originally observed the bird in a loose mixed flock of other passerines such as Golden-crowned Kinglet,Black-capped Chickadee,Brown Creeper and Yellow Warbler. Many of theses species were present while were watching the Blackpoll Warbler,but never with the bird and it was interesting seeing it stay so high in the trees,but we quickly figured that is was where the bugs were. Though we tried very hard we were unable to obtain any photos of the bird due to it's very active foraging,as well as being so high in the trees! We really thank Gary for telling us about this great bird,which appears to be the 1st Clark Co. record and one of very few records currently for western Washington!

Several other notable species encountered by us and other birders during the day at the River S Unit of the Ridgefield NWR included the following:

18 Great Egrets(with 5-6 birds staying regular all day at Rest Lake with the other birds being flyovers)
15 Cinnamon Teal
1 Ruddy Duck
45+ Turkey Vultures(including a group of 30 birds in a "kettle" above Lake River upon our arrival at 8am)
1 Osprey
1 juvenile WHITE-TAILED KITE(observed and present all day between the large open field immediately south of Rest Lake during the morning to a single deciduous tree near the observation blind in the afternoon.
1 Bald Eagle
3 Northern Harriers
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK(heard calling only during the mid morning by us and several other birders in the lush,dense stands of Oregon Ash trees at a distance south of Rest Lake)
3 Am.Kestrels
1 Merlin
1 Peregrine Falcon
small groups of Sandhill Cranes noted all day flying north and south past Rest Lake ranging from 3-12 birds in a single flock,so it was unclear just how many the total numbers of birds was and if these were the same birds flying back and forth.
1 Greater Yellowlegs
8 Western Sandpipers
40+ Least Sandpipers
15 Pectoral Sandpipers
5 Long-billed Dowitchers
125+ Vaux's Swifts
very large numbers of Barn Swallows gathering up for migration(including one albino bird),as well as small numbers of Violet-green Swallows present
6 White-breasted Nuthatches
3 Brown Creepers
5 Swainson's Thrushes(Kiwa Trail)
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
4 Yellow Warblers
6 Lincoln's Sparrows
1 Golden-crowned Sparrow

Our only other notable sighting of the day away from the Ridgefield NWR were 2 Great Egrets noted in a wetland area immediately east of I-5 just north of Kalama in Cowlitz Co.

Good birding,

Ruth and Patrick Sullivan
godwit513 at msn.com

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