[Tweeters] Raptors in Skagit County

Michelle Johnson asmalllife at gmail.com
Sun Dec 7 16:26:54 PST 2008

After having a "What the heck is that?" moment while driving I-5 yesterday,
I retraced my route today in an attempt to find what I saw and get a good
look at it. Here is the brief synopsis of a great morning.

On road at 9:30 with two eleven-year-olds in tow. Well, ok, they were in
the backseat. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone wishing to spend an
enjoyable time birdwatching. Spotted male AMERICAN KESTREL on power line
just off freeway across from Josh-Wilson Rd. Got it in scope long enough
for both boys to see it (yay!). Started spotting swans at this point,
also. Several hundred, possibly more, by end of day. Continued south along
side roads, trying to stay as near as possible to freeway (where mystery
bird was seen yesterday). Saw many, many RED-TAILED HAWKS. Several close
enough to pull over and allow eleven-year-olds to look at with binoculars.
Boys starting to get interested at this point (cool!). Continuing south,
just past Mt. Vernon pulled over to shouts of "Stop! Stop! HUGE bird!!"
GREAT BLUE HERON. Another 500 yards, more shouts about big birds, this time
in a field with swans. GBH's. 10 minutes spent with Sibley's, pointing out
what we are *really* looking for. Stopped for male and female NORTHERN
HARRIERS kiting and cruising over field. Turned northbound around mile 220
and continued up, this time on east side of freeway. By this point I was
seriously looking, boys were entertaining themselves looking through
Sibley's and convincing themselves that they saw a penguin on telephone
pole. Again, recommend not taking eleven-year-old boys with you on birding
trips. Finally spotted strange-looking bird on power line. FOUND IT!!
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Red-Tailed but fortunately it had VERY
unusual markings so I didn't feel too bad. Adult with red tail, very dark
back, WHITE feathers on leading edge and outside wing feathers (sorry, mind
just went blank on technical terms). Dark patagium observed while flying.
Spent fifteen minutes watching it sit and then rising with another
Red-Tailed with thermals. Very cool.

Have crappy picture - need better lens for my camera.

Michelle Johnson
Ferndale, WA

asmalllife at gmail dot com

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