[Tweeters] Good but frigid birding and a fond farewell

Rob Conway robin_birder at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 21 22:52:05 PST 2008


I braved the weather today and did some birding around Issaquah and close to home in Preston. The extreme cold and snow have put birds in rather strange places. Today at Lake Sammamish State Park and in the large open fields on the west side of Issaquah (which has "only" 6-8 inches of snow) there were about 1000 Cackling Geese, 100 "Regular" Canada Geese, 50 Snow Geese (in the big field just SOUTH of I90 and West of Issaquah and 27 Trumpeter Swans (on Lake Sammamish). These were the first Snow Geese I have seen in this locale in 20 years of birding here. I also had 3 Bonaparte's Gulls hunkered down on the edge of the soccer fields near the Arco Station just off of the I90/SR900 ramp.

Like everyone else I was surprised by the large numbers of Red Breasted Sapsuckers seeing at least 20 today in various spots - I had 5 together right in "downtown" Preston. There was a Ruffed Grouse perched on the guardrail about 1.2 miles below Preston on Preston-Fall City Road. I found a Great Horned Owl perched on the leeward side of a big cottonwood just above the house, a Barred Owl in a big cedar tree in the front yard and a Northern Pygmy Owl taking a dive at a group of Fox and Song Sparrows and Dark Eyed Juncoes that were feeding on seed that someone had spread on the Preston Snoqualmie trail. I saw two huge groups of Pine Siskins - maybe 250 in each group - swirling up and down the Raging River - they never settled so I didn't get a chance to check for a Redpoll in the Siskin stack. My heart was racing when I found 6 Waxwings in an apple tree in Fall City, but alas they were all Cedars - no Bohemian. I again saw 3 Eurasian Collared Doves where the old Wells nursery used to be on the SW corner of town...I think they are here to stay. The three Winter Wrens who have made their home under my front deck have been darting about all day - picking up "frozen insect treats" on the snow under the porch light.

As a weather watcher I have really enjoyed the week - we had a low of 1 degree on Thursday and 5 consecutive days of lows in the single digits. I actually drove just up the road to Snoqualmie last night just to experience the blizzard (well, and get Chinese Food) - it was scary and beautiful. The car thermometer indicated 16 degrees and the wind was at full storm force - 60 mph or so. The drifting snow was impressive and so unlike Puget Sound - it looked more like the suburbs of Calgary.

As for a farewell... I am leaving Seattle after 20 years to take a C-Level leadership role with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland - The prospect is both frightening and thrilling at the same time. I'll certainly miss the community of friends I have here in Seattle, but a return to healthcare in these times of great need and change and the attraction of being nearer to our families made the decision to leave the beautiful NW easier than I thought it would be. I hope to make one final field trip to bird with the Marymoor Park group on Wednesday morning before I leave for good on January 7. I'll still be watching Tweeters - and if someone spots a Bullfinch or a Rubythroat or a Wryneck that decides to be the next stray from Asia I'll be on a plane in a flash to come have a look see.

Good Birding to you always!

Rob Conway Preston / Fall City, WA47.53N 121.92Wrobin_birder at hotmail.com
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