[Tweeters] Seattle Audubon trip to the Samish Flats 9 Feb 2010 (long)

B&PBell bellasoc at isomedia.com
Wed Feb 10 18:24:44 PST 2010

Hi Tweets

Nine of us were on a Seattle Audubon trip yesterday (9 Feb2010) to the Samish Flats and areas south. We started off under gray skies in Seattle and quickly drove into the fog and cold. It wasn't until we got near Mount Vernon that we first broke out into the sun. As we pulled off at Chuckanut Drive we could see SNOW GEESE off to the west, and so turned onto Josh Wilson Rd. As luck would have it there was a wide shoulder just where the Snow Geese were south of the road, and just north of the road were some swans. A quick look at the swans showed about 9 TRUMPETER and 2 TUNDRA SWANs, with MALLARD, NORTHERN PINTAIL and AMERICAN WIGEON. With the always nervous Pintail taking off the rest of the ducks left also. Across the road there were probably close to 1500 SNOW GEESE, including one Blue Morph. As most of the group was getting onto the Blue Morph a BALD EAGLE flew over and all the geese lifted off and gave us quite a concert. During this the fog had rolled back in. We talked a bit with the farmer living right there. He told us that the Snow Geese were around for about 7 months and spent the night on the pond behind his house. Of the five eagles in the area there is usually one that perches on the roof, at which point the whole pond of ducks and geese lifts off. Makes for exciting nights.

As we progressed back on Chuckanut Drive we were driving into the sun and spotted a very backlit ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. We turned around so the sun was at our backs, and the fog lifted giving us a nice look at the Rough-legged. Further up Chuckanut, the fog dropped in again - this was to be the pattern for part of the morning. We went up Ershig to Bow Hill Road and dropped over the ridge and down to Old 99 and the Pomona Grange Park on Friday Creek. With a little looking we were able to find the AMERICAN DIPPER, alternately taking it easy and dipping and hunting. A new bird for some of the folks.

Back down Bow Hill Road onto the flats. It was pretty quiet at the Bow Cemetary, but just across the street there were DARK-EYED JUNCOs and a couple of EURASIAN COLLARD-DOVEs. As we drove into Bow we had three RED-TAILED HAWKs and 5 BALD EAGLEs perched in trees. Back on Chuckanut Drive we saw several GREAT BLUE HERONs in the fields. One of the small ponds had a nice collection of MALLARDs, NORTHERN PINTAIL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, NORTHERN SHOVELER and a few AMERICAN WIGEON. There might have been other species of ducks but an eagle flew over and most of them left before they could be id'd. A ways up the road a large group of wigeon were grazing in the grassy field to the east. There were probably 150 or so AMERICAN WIGEON and at least 10 EURASIAN WIGEON. We got great looks at them, and again several people saw life birds. Another 4 or 5 Bald Eagles were along the road, and the area around the large barn was loaded with EURASIAN STARLINGS. When we got to the area of the Bamboo Nursery there was a female AMERICAN KESTRAL on the line to the west of the road. We turned on Blanchard Road and had Northern Pintail and Mallard on the pond. A STELLER'S JAY worked the trees over. As we cruisded slowly along Blanchard we picked up SONG SPARROW, HOUSE FINCH, HOUSE SPARROW, NORTHERN FLICKER, SPOTTED TOWHEE, a distant RED-TAILED HAWK. At the feeders at Colony Road there were more of the sparrows and at least 9 EURASIAN COLLARD-DOVES.

We returned south along Chuckanut and turned west at Bow Hill Road toward Edison. In the conifer across the stree from the Edison Cafe the resident MERLIN was perched and looking the area over. We went down to see if the Farm to Market Bakery was open (closed on Mon and Tues, open on Wed thru Sun). Up the road the BreadFarm bakery was open. As we left town and turned onto Edison Road we saw more swans, both TRUMPETER and TUNDRA. Further out near the bay there were more Bald Eagles. A single DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT took off as we crossed the Samish River. A RED-TAILED HAWK perched alongside the road where there are normally a big grouping of eagles, with a single BALD EAGLE in the large Cottonwood.

Along Samish Island Road a single RED-TAILED HAWK perched, and at the West 90 it was unbelievably quiet. Two dark SONG SPARROWs were in the grass. At least 9 BALD EAGLEs were perched out in the distance, as well as a NORTHERN HARRIER. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was perched north of the 90 and another was perched to the southeast. Unlike two weeks ago when I saw four Short-eared Owls at the 90 even with many hunters around, yesterday we saw none. As we progressed north we saw 3 more BALD EAGLES.

At the old DNR public access site (closed due to budget constraints with the toilets and picnic benches removed) we did have sunny conditions while we ate lunch and scanned Chuckanut Bay. We picked up HORNED, and REDNECKED GREBEs, RED-BREASTED and COMMON MERGANSERs, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON and BARROW'S GOLDENEYEs, DOUBLE-CRESTED and BRANDT'S CORMORANTs, SURF SCOTERs and COMMON LOONs. In the distance, across the bay we could make out BRANT thru the spotting scopes and several groups of LONG-TAILED DUCKs. Across the street at the feeder there were HOUSE SPARROWs and HOUSE FINCH.

We then made our way back down to Bayview Edison Road, and just south of Sullivan Road, we came to a flooded field containing tightly grouped DUNLIN. Two or three phone poles north there was a beautiful PEREGRINE FALCON perched, seemingly uninterested in dinner. Perched along the line just north of that was a nice ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. A couple of birder parked across the street informed us that the PRAIRIE FALCON was perched along the fence line south of the metal barn south of the house near the Bayview-Edison/Samish Island Rd T. They said that they had been up that way, but the light was very bad. Paul Bannick drove up and confirmed this. We were able to find the Prairie, although at a great distance. We could see the even color of the back, and occasionally it would turn its head and show the facial pattern with a nice mustachial mark. It then flew a bit to the east and perched with its breast toward us. We now had seen 4 falcons for the day, and several people had added more life birds.

We made a quick bathroom stop at the Padilla Bay Interpretive Center, and another BALD EAGLE came in and perched. We figured that we had seen over 25 eagles by then. Padilla Bay was devoid of bird life - really unusual. We went thru Bayview and south toward Hwy 20. At a distance in the fields were more swans.

South along Whitney-LaConner Road we saw another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, 3 more BALD EAGLES, and a RED-TAILED HAWK. On Valley Road, just east of Dodge Valley Road we had a NORTHERN HARRIER in the field and a female AMERICAN KESTREL. Around the corner was the male AMERICAN KESTREL. Our next stop was at the feeder house on Valentine Road. The owner was busy processing a lot of lamb fat for the suet feeders. While were were there we saw BLACK-CAPPED and CHESTNUT-BACK CHICKADEEs, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, PURPLE and HOUSE FINCH, PINE SISKIN, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, SPOTTED TOWHEE, GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, BEWICK'S WREN, AMERICAN ROBIN, DARK-EYED JUNCO, DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKER. The COOPERS' HAWK came blasting thru after the MOURNING DOVEs, but missed. This is consistly one of the best spots for small birds in the area, and the folks are most accommodating.

We next stopped at the end of Rawlins Road, but our timing was off for seeing the Short-eared Owls this time, although we did see MARSH WREN. We went over to the Skagit Game Range off Wylie Road. At the large parking lot we scanned the trees to the north and picked up YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, BEWICK'S WREN, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, BROWN CREEPER, another couple there also saw Bushtit, but we missed it. A SPOTTED TOWHEE lurked in the undergrowth. The owl nest in the large alder was vacant, but one of our members saw one fly by. Two GREAT HORNED OWLs then called to each other and we got a look at one perched.


After fog in the morning we had sun for most of the day, and the temperature warmed up to the low 50s. A nice day and a nice assortment of birds. We finished with 70 species for the day, and best of all we got many great looks at lots of the birds.

Brian H. Bell
Woodinville WA
mail to bell asoc at isomedia dot com
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