[Tweeters] Rusty Blackbird, Pierce County

Charlie Wright c.wright7 at comcast.net
Thu Nov 29 18:28:37 PST 2007

Hello All
This afternoon I spent about an hour birding between Alderton and Sumner.
There were a ton of birds on the small road called Van Ogle's Ford Road.
This road is just off Riverside Rd at the base of Elhi Hill. The road ends
at some residences, so it is probably wise to turn around before then.
Parking is limited, and there can be quite a lot of cars going by, so be
sure not to park in the middle of the road. Here is a link to a map of the
spot: http://tinyurl.com/3ysrxa

I first stopped in to check for the swan flock that wintered in that field
last year. They have indeed arrived, in larger numbers. There were 36
Trumpeters (20 juv, 16 ad.) and 1 imm. Tundra Swan.

There's also a very large blackbird flock that frequents this road, and I've
been checking that flock for about 2 years for a Rusty. Well, today it
finally paid off when an adult male Rusty Blackbird landed next to my car on
the edge of the flock. Cautionary notes that go for all blackbird flocks:
These are very flighty birds. They pick up and relocate often for no
apparent reason (though, today there were plenty of reasons with a Cooper's
Hawk, 2 Kestrels, and a Merlin in the area). Also, these birds show a huge
amount of variation. When trying to find a Rusty, it's easy to be fooled by
certain plumages of Red-winged or Brewer's Blackbirds. This Rusty showed
plenty of coppery-brown mottling on the nape and back, very fine pale edges
to the tertials, and broad fringes on the flanks and undertail coverts. It
had a "staring" yellow eye and a long bill with slightly curved culmen.

This appears to be a long-overdue first county record...?

Also, there were hundreds of juncos and other sparrows along McCutcheon Road
in a raspberry field. This flock contained at least 2 White-throated
Sparrows. Also, lots of Pine Siskins around.

Charlie Wright
Bonney Lake, Washington

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