[Tweeters] Skagit Blue Jay, White-throated Sparrow

B&PBell bellasoc at isomedia.com
Wed Dec 3 09:35:12 PST 2008


Hi Tweets

Yesterday, Seattle Audubon took a trip to the Skagit and Samish Flats. The day started out overcast but dry. As we dropped down into the Skagit Valley there were scattered groups of swans visible. Two good size groups were in the fields south of the Conway turnoff, but unfortunately with no safe place to park. About twenty five were in the field behind the church north of Fir Island Road just after dropping down off the South Fork Skagit River bridge. Excellent scope views of TRUMPETER SWANs were had, and at least two TUNDRA SWANs were in the group allowing for nice comparisons of size and differences - both species called enabling definite confirmation. We took Mann Road around toward the Skagit Wildlife Area, and had MARSH WREN calling where the canal crosses under the road.

As we entered the wildlife area we had a MERLIN perched in the top of a spruce, and it stayed so we could get great scope views. A RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET sounded off in the tangle next to us, and a COOPER'S HAWK was perched on the edge of the field. A flock of PINE SISKINs flew over and circled around, a couple of SONG SPARROWs flitted about down near the boat launch, a WINTER WREN zoomed across a gap in the vegetation, a pair of RED-TAILED HAWKs sounded off and gave us looks. Unfortunately the Northern Waterthrush wasn't so obliging. It started misting partway thru our visit here. As we drove out Wylie Road there were at least three BALD EAGLEs perched in the area. We next went down the road to the Hayton Preserve. By now it was definitely raining - so much for the predicted 20% chance of showers. A single female BUFFLEHEAD was on the water, a RED-TAILED HAWK was way out on the dike. As we looked back toward Fir Island Road we could see several thousand SNOW GEESE flying around.

We drove many of the roads on Fir Island as one of the Fish & Wildlife personnel said that they had reports of a Gyrfalcon on the island. We never found it, but continued to collect more Red-tails and eagles. Two nice ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKs were perched, including an absolutely gorgeous dark morph. A large flock of SNOW GEESE was south of Moore Road, another large flock was west of Polson Road - we probably had a total of 12-15 thousand geese in the area. Scattered groups of swans were on the island.

We left Fir Island, with the rain diminishing and only light showers. We turned on Dodge Valley Road and went to Valentine Road and up to 18319 Valentine Rd to look for the BLUE JAY. By now the rain/mist had stopped. When we arrived the suet feeders had two HAIRY WOODPECKERs on them, three DOWNY WOODPECKERs were in nearby bushes, a NORTHERN FLICKER in the tree overhead, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH made many trip to the feeder, and the ground was covered with sparrows. We quickly saw SONG SPARROW, FOX SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO, SPOTTED TOWHEE, GOLDEN-CROWNED & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, CHESTNUT-BACKED and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. Then a faint, somewhat distorted red-tail call was heard, and the BLUE JAY dropped down from a tree across the road. It perched for a while in a Birch tree giving adequate looks, went into the yard and eventually vanished. In scanning the flocks on the ground a nice bright white-striped WHITE-THROATED SPARROW showed up, very noticeable because of it richly colored back with more definite streaks than the other sparrows. A STELLER'S JAY was just south of the property. This was a highlight of the day, with many birds in one location. As we progressed up Dodge Valley Rd we had a pair of AMERICAN KESTRELs on the wires just north of the big bends in the road.

We drove up past LaConner and on toward Bayview. Three more RED-TAILED HAWKs a couple of BALD EAGLES and another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK were seen along the way. We stopped at the waterside area at Bayview State Park and scanned Padilla Bay. We had several gulls picking small crabs out of the shallow water, giving them a good shake before swallowing them whole. There were GLAUCOUS-WINGED, CALIFORNIA and a single gorgeous WESTERN GULL there. Further out we saw several COMMON LOONs, a WESTERN GREBE, a RED-NECKED GREBE, a large flock of AMERICAN WIGEON some MALLARDS, a group of NORTHERN PINTAIL flew over. There were a few BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON GOLDENEYE. As we continued up toward the Samish Flats we spotted a falcon-like profile in the top of a tall narrow snag. It turned out to be an immature PEREGRINE FALCON. We got nice scope looks at it before it made an attack at a group of EUROPEAN STARLINGs, and perched on another tree. About a quarter mile north there was another falcon on a snag - this one turned out to be an adult PEREGRINE FALCON. While we watched it left the tree and flew toward a second Peregrine, they interacted rather violently, chased each other, and the adult returned to its tree.

Down on the flats we found a huge flock of EUROPEAN STARLINGs with many RED-WINGED and BREWER's BLACKBIRDs. A NORTHERN HARRIER crossed the road, made a pass at a BALD EAGLE and was chased in turn by the eagle. A RED-TAILED HAWK came in after the eagle. Further down the Bayview-Edison Rd a dark morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was perched. At the T-90 intersection there were two RED-TAILED HAWKs and a light morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. At the east 90 a good sized flock of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERs was out in the fields, accompanied by DUNLIN. A NORTHERN HARRIER buzzed them and the flock took off. It circled and juked for a couple minutes before settling back down. We scanned the flock, but could not find any other species.

The raptor parade continued along the power poles along Samish Island Rd. At the West 90 we could see at least two dozen NORTHERN HARRIERs, including males, females and immature birds with a nice female perched on a post rather close to us - the owl-like eye discs evident. Three SHORT-EARED OWLs cruised back and forth to the south, occasionally chasing the harriers. Two other Short-eareds were to the northwest. About 15 WESTERN MEADOWLARKs flew out of the fields. Alice Bay contained absolutely no ducks, but over the dikes out on Padilla Bay there were huge flocks of ducks.

Up at the Dike Rd. access point on Samish Island we could see SURF and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERs, BUFFLEHEAD, HARLEQUIN DUCKs, a couple of LONG-TAILED DUCKs, HORNED, RED-NECKED and WESTERN GREBEs, a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, COMMON LOON, PACIFIC LOON, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT and in the far distance BRANT.

At other places along our route during the day we saw GREAT BLUE HERON, KILLDEER, ROCK PIGEON, MOURNING DOVE, BELTED KINGFISHER, AMERICAN CROW, COMMON RAVEN, BUSHTIT, AMERICAN ROBIN, HOUSE FINCH, and HOUSE SPARROW.

It was a good day, with lots of excellent sightings and in particular many times to watch interactions between the birds and their surroundings and between species.

Good Birding!

Brian H. Bell
Birding & Natural History Guide
Woodinville WA
mail to bell asoc at isomedia dot com
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