[Tweeters] Samish wigeon wonderland

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Fri Feb 26 16:23:53 PST 2010

Hello, tweets.

Some of you may not know of the place to the west of the road to Samish Island just before you get onto the Island where huge flocks of wigeons appear at this time of year. I have seen them there every year I've tried to do so. There are many hundreds of American Wigeons and a shockingly large number of Eurasian Wigeons with them. I estimated that there were surely over 100 male Eurasians there at midday today (26 Feb), along with probably a few thousand American Wigeons and Northern Pintails and a few Mallards. In two previous years, a male Falcated Duck was found in this flock.

I never saw more than about 35 male Eurasians in one visual sweep across the flock today (Linda Feltner and I observed them), but I couldn't distinguish gray-backed male Eurasian Wigeons from gray-backed male pintails in such a sweep. Only those wigeons that had their heads up could be counted, and the great majority of birds had their heads down. Whenever something startled the birds (usually an eagle flying nearby) that made them all raise their heads, they took to flight, with no chance of a count, but I got a quick confirmation that there were many more Eurasians than I had seen.

I saw a few of what I thought were female Eurasians, but most of the male Eurasians weren't obviously mated with any particular female. A leisurely and lengthy search by spotting scope might reveal others and might allow a better count of the males.

For some reason the wigeons stage at that spot every year at about this time. There are a few places at which you can pull off the narrow road and watch them, but don't stop on the road, and be careful of the traffic. DIgiscoping would be productive, if you can do it without leaving your car (which is guaranteed to scare them farther from the road). I got one photo with a 420 mm lens showing as many as 12 male Eurasians with heads up or in flight.

There were no Dunlins or Peregrines along the Bayview-Edison road, as there have been on so many occasions in the past two months. Other raptors were few and far between on the Skagit and Samish flats, as usual more eagles (ca 15) than everything else put together (4 harriers, 3 rough-legs, 2 red-tails, 3 kestrels).

We saw and photographed one adult "Blue Goose" with a huge flock of Snow Geese on the north end of Fir Island. Last weekend I saw two immatures, so there are at least three of this dark color morph present. Steve Mlodinow suggests they are all from the Siberian breeding grounds, where Blue Geese have begun to occur.

Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net

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