[Tweeters] Coastal birding this week, Glaucous Gulls, Bewick's Swan, Mountain Quail

Michael Woodruff crazybirder98 at hotmail.com
Sat Mar 21 22:52:19 PDT 2009

Greetings all,

I've been birding western WA for the last few days, dodging rain showers and generally having good fun and birds. Wednesday afternoon I made the drive west, nabbing a few SAGE SPARROWS at MP 20 along Old Vantage Hwy en route. Over the mountains, I birded around Kent Ponds, but couldn't luck into the Red-shouldered Hawk. Otherwise just the regulars. The mouth of the Cedar River was pretty quiet as well. On my way out to the coast I owled up in Capitol State Forest (Thurston Co.) and had 1 N SAW-WHET OWL and 1 BARRED OWL.

Thursday (3/19/09), I spent the morning around Ocean Shores. Damon Point hosted a impressive tight flock of ~15,000 DUNLIN with small numbers of WESTERN SANDPIPERS mixed in. They let me walk within 20 feet or so and then would lift off momentarily -- what a sight at such close range. Rain made birding a bit tough for a portion of the morning. I also had about 15 BLACK SCOTERS viewed in the direction of Oyhut.

Around the marina and the motel I wasn't successful in pulling out any Palm Warblers, but there were large numbers of other songbirds. 10 WILSON'S SNIPES were feeding in the drenched lawn among the scotchbroom. Out in the Oyhut Area accessed from Tonquin Ave there were about 20 GADWALL, SHOVELERS, and PINTAIL. The rock shorebird flock at the Point Brown Jetty consisted of only 18 or so BLACK TURNSTONES and 1 SURFBIRD. By now the rain had stopped and I hiked almost to the end of the jetty to do a bit of seawatching, although visibility was marginable. Did have 22 MARBLED MURRELETS, 1 RHINO AUKLET, and 12 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES coming by just off the tip which meant for close viewing. Back in Oyhut from behind the sewage treatment plant, an adult PEREGRINE FALCON put on a show.

My first RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD of the day was alongside the Hoquiam STP. Lots of MEW GULLS around but nothing unusual there.

I then headed inland to Brady Loop and Wenzel Slough Rd. On Brady Loop, I had the female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD that Keith Brady reported still there today (a code 4 county bird), as well as the "BEWICK'S" SWAN with a number of TUNDRAS and TRUMPETERS. The swans were off of Willis Rd on the east side of the loop. On Keys Rd a number of BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS were in a flock of BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS. I searched through the gulls and turned up 2 GLAUCOUS GULLS on Keys Rd, and a 3rd just east on Wenzel Slough Rd. Also at that pond was a EURASIAN WIGEON.

Back to the coast, this time to Bottle Beach, where I had 4 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 80 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, 1 WESTERN SANDPIPER, and a couple thousand DUNLIN. As dusk hit I did some owling and had 1 NORTHERN PYGMY OWL and a couple responsive BARRED OWLS along Johns River Road. Ended the day with 96 species in the Grays Harbor County.

Charlie Wright met up with me on Friday (3/20/09), and we birded Pacific County all day. Rain was a pain for much of the morning. Midway Beach had such a large pond that we weren't able to search the area very well, and the Tokeland Marina wasn't very productive either.

At Potters Slough Wetland past South Bend, the marshes had 150 LEAST SANDPIPERS, 3 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 1 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and 3 SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS. We searched gull flocks and pulled out a GLAUCOUS GULL, a couple THAYER'S GULLS, and a HERRING GULL. Geese consisted of lots of DUSKY CANADA's and 45 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE.

At the North Cove Jetty, there was a nice group of gulls on the beach with several THAYER'S GULLS in a range of plumages, providing an interesting study. It cleared off and the wind nearly died just as we arrived at the lighthouse on Cape Disappointment, and seawatching conditions were actually very good. We had a nice FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL, an ANCIENT MURRELET, several BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, huge numbers of RED-THROATED LOONS, and a real quick look at a shearwater sp. way out.

Headed north again, we counted an impressive 16 RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS along a 30 yd section of willow trees in bud near South Bend. NW of Raymond near the airport 3 SNOW GEESE had joined Canada's, and a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was on a distant spruce. By now it was sunny and beautiful, and a great end to the day.

After parting ways with Charlie I spent a good deal of time owling my way up towards Kitsap County. Out of Elma on Newman Creek Rd I got 1 WESTERN SCREECH-OWL and 3 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS. Farther along in Mason County off of Krabbenhoft Rd, I got another Saw-whet. The night was perfect and it was surprising not to find anything more.

This morning (3/21/09), I started early at the quarry across from the Port Orchard Airport (Kitsap Co.). MOUNTAIN QUAILS were calling from several directions. It took a lot of effort but I finally got fleeting glimpses of one bird back in the scrubby growth. I hope Mary Ann from Bridgeport Island, whom I had been searching with, got to see them too after we parted ways. The quarry was very birdy overall and I got other species such as PURPLE FINCH, HUTTON'S VIREO, a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER, and a HERMIT THRUSH.

I hopped into Mason County to tick off a few county birds. West of Belfair I had a RED-THROATED LOON, a number of MEW GULLS, and about 30 other species in a short time.

Back up into Kitsap County, where I hit Foulweather Bluff. Nothing extraordinary out on the water, but I did get a cooperative and responsive NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL just back in the woods along the entrance road.

The weather had been mostly sunny and calm all day, and was fantastic at Point No Point as well. The water was flat and made for easy scanning. Over an hour, counts included 120 BRANT, 17 MARBLED MURRELETS, 5 RHINOCERUS AUKLETS, 1 COMMON MURRES, 7 PIGEON GUILLEMOTS, 73 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, 1 PACIFIC LOON, 1 RED-THROATED LOON, 16 HORNED GREBES, and 80 BONAPARTE'S GULLS.

Afterwards I headed across the ferry (lots of Bonaparte's Gulls) to meet up with my family to head up for spring break vacation in Canada. A side note, we had a EURASIAN WIGEON with a large flock of Americans immediately NW of the border crossing (the alternate route east of I-5).

I tallied up some 132 species on the westside for the few days -- that will give an eastsider's year list a big boost! It's been fun.

Cheers and good birding,
Michael Woodruff
Spokane, WA

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