[Tweeters] Shorebirds at Bowerman Basin, Bottle Beach, etc. (maybe too long)

Byers byers345 at comcast.net
Sat May 15 10:06:43 PDT 2010

Hello fellow Tweeters,

Bill and I wanted to watch shorebirds on incoming tides at both
Bowerman Basin and Bottle Beach, so we planned a two-day trip over May 13
and 14 to achieve this aim. Unlike some of you have reported on your
shorebirding experiences this year, we had beautiful weather-sun both
afternoons. Our high tide on Thursday was around 2 pm, so we stopped
briefly at Nisqually NWR on our way down from Seattle, drove through parts
of the Brady Loop Road area, stopped by the Hoquiam Sewage Ponds, and still
had plenty of time to amble out the boardwalk to watch the tide come in at
Bowerman Basin.

In the Brady Loop area we got our first shorebird, Killdeer, and
also noted two Ospreys, two Pintails, and a Scrub Jay to get the day
started. The Hoquiam SP were kind of empty, though there were a good number
of Scaup (round-headed, does that make them Greater?) and a few gulls. We
became part of the scenery as we sat and the tide slowly, but inexorably
advanced, pushing the shorebirds closer to us. There was never a carpet of
birds, that someone described a week or so ago during the shorebird
festival, but there were probably thousands over the whole area from the
circular boardwalk back to the airport buildings. We noted Western
Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, Red Knot, and a few Black-bellied
Plover. To amuse us when we weren't looking at shorebirds were Caspian
Terns and lots of Wilson's Warblers. No Warbling Vireos, though, which we
heard lots of last year.

After the Bowerman Basin experience, we headed out to Ocean
Shores. By now the wind had picked up, and we thought maybe, since it was
also now high tide, there would be something in the sewage treatment ponds
there. There were a few gulls and some Mallards. The lagoon behind the
sewage treatment facility was also almost devoid of birds-Surf Scoter being
the main bird. The Point Brown Jetty was birdless, except for two Brown
Pelicans, the only ones we saw Thursday. I mention all this birdlessness
because it's slowly dawning on me that all these areas are probably better
in the morning.

Before we packed it in for the day, we drove north to Damon
Road-the beach access by the Best Western hotel in Ocean Shores. This beach
is always a madhouse with cars, dogs, etc., but we almost always find a few
shore birds here. The tide had peaked and had begun to recede and on the
glassy shores in the later afternoon sun there were thousands of shorebirds
stretching both directions, but particularly northward. Here the birds
appeared to be entirely a mixture of Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated
Plover, Dunlin, and Sanderling. All these birds were actively feeding and
everywhere all over the wet sand and into the water. They didn't seem to
mind us walking down to almost the water's edge as they fed around our feet.
The largest number were Western Sandpiper, maybe 50%, followed by 25%
plovers-the most of these plovers that I've ever seen at one time, then a
mixture of Dunlins and a few Sandlerlings. Also interesting to me was that
the plovers were all mixed in with the other shorebirds, not higher up the
beach as we usually see them.

On day two of our May shorebird experience we got up early to
head down to Tokland and gradually worked our way back up to Bottle Beach
for high tide at 2:40 pm. We knew this meant we would arrive at Tokeland at
low tide, but we went ahead anyway. We arrived there about 8 am. We
checked Graveyard Spit and found several Whimbrels and surprisingly one
Long-billed Curlew. We observed a few Brant, but then noticed that across
the way (south) were thousands of Brant. I can't remember ever seeing Brant
at Tokeland before, so this was another pleasant surprise, and must be a big
part of their migrating flock. We continued to the dock area. There were
no "big" shorebirds at all, but here too were hundreds more Brant all
gulping down the eel grass that is exposed at low tide in the marina area.
We took pictures as fast as we could, then those close by flew back to the
main group. Also in the area were a few Vaux's Swifts, many Common Loons
and one Pigeon Guillemot.

Returning to the outer coast, we paused at the Shoalwater Bay
overlook just south of North Cove. There we spotted one Marbled Godwit. I
wonder where the rest of them go to feed at low tide? Also notable at this
location was a sand island just offshore. I was amazed to see maybe 50
people out there surrounded by water all digging clams as fast as they
could. They had all arrived on this ephemeral spot in little power boats.
I wondered how long this little shoal would be exposed at low tide-surely
not long.

We proceeded to Midway Beach, where, as others have commented,
you can stand at the end of the road and look at the lake that now blocks
access to the beach. We have seen shorebirds here in the past, but today
only heard a Sora and a Pheasant.

At Westport we found two Wandering Tattlers and a tasty cod
sandwich. Now it was time to head out to Bottle Beach and again watch the
tide come in. We arrived well ahead of high tide and again there were
thousands of shorebirds. Many hundred Red Knots, Dunlins, Western
Sandpipers, and new for the trip, Short-billed Dowitchers. Also present in
smaller numbers were Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, and one
breeding-plumaged Ruddy Turnstone, which was the object of great interest
from one other shorebird viewer down from Vancouver. One shorebird we
didn't see was Least Sandpiper. There were probably some there, but I
couldn't find them! Again, the experience of watching these thousands of
birds gradually gather at our feet on the rising tide was very moving and we
felt truly privileged to have witnessed one of nature's great spectacles.

Charlotte Byers, Seattle

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