[Tweeters] Skagit birds

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 15 21:07:05 PDT 2011

Dear Tweeters,

Today turned out to be a fine day to bird in Skagit County. Special birds included White-throated Sparrow, Red-naped Sapsucker, Swainson's Hawk, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

Up at Corkindale, about the first bird I saw on the south side was a Ruffed Grouse. Then I ran into Randy Knapp. We got good looks at an immature WHITE-THROATED SPARROW on the north side.

On my way downriver, I decided to visit my old birding patch, Everett Lake, which is north of Concrete. The place was very quiet, and I was just getting ready to leave, when I heard a woodpecker tapping.

Of course it sounds silly, but as soon as I heard the bird, I started thinking of the Great Spotted Woodpecker scene in the movie "The Big Year," which my wife and I watched last night, and found quite enjoyable. Tap-tap-tap, what could it be? So, I clambered up a steep and muddy bank, rank with devil's club and ferns. It took me a good quarter-hour to locate this woodpecker. Tap, tap, tap, right above me, but where is it? All along I kept thinking, just like Johnny Cash used to sing in his song "25 Minutes to Go"--"This ain't the movies, so forget about me!" No, Johnny, it wasn't a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was a heck of a nice substitute. Good old Everett Lake--and unlike the character in the movie, I didn't need to crash my car into a tree to find my bird.

Next I headed downriver.

At the Game Range on Fir Island, there was much waterfowl slaughter afoot, but it was still possible to bird the place. As I drove in, Josh Parrott was trying to get a photograph of a Pileated Woodpecker. I never did see this bird, but I did get to see a perfect shadow-puppet show that it was putting on. The woodpecker was perched between the sun and a plain piece of grey bark, and upon the bark was projected a negative image of a large, crested woodpecker chiseling away. Lumber scraps flew hither and thither.

Astoundingly, as we were clapping our hands and tapping sticks against tripod legs, in a vain effort to turn the woodpecker to the Dark Side of the Trunk, along the tops of the trees flew a SWAINSON'S HAWK! I know this is practically unheard of in autumn, but I got a good look at it at close range. It had all-buffy underparts, a pale tail, a dark area on the throat, pale buffy underwing coverts, and blackish primaries. The leading edge of the underwing coverts lacked any dark patagial markings; there was no dark carpal bar; there was not a hint of any breast or belly band.

After unsuccessfully chasing after this bird in my car--leaving Josh still without a satisfactory photograph of the Pileated Woodpecker--we walked out among the hunters, took a right at the big new dike, and discovered a big flock of shorebirds. Hundreds of Long-billed Dowitchers were feeding with dozens of Greater Yellowlegs, a few Lesser Yellowlegs, and a handful of Dunlin. Josh quickly got onto the SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER, which made my day more than complete.

After bidding goodbye to Josh, I ran over to Hayton Preserve. There were lots of Snow Geese flying over, a few Cacklers, and a quantity of steel shot. About 25 American Robins foraged in the dirt field along the right side of the road near the steel gate and wide pullout, just before the parking area. I searched the sparrow flocks here carefully, but came up with only Song, Lincoln's, and White-crowned. As I drove out, though, a Fox Sparrow started singing--nice way to end a great day.

Yours truly,

Gary Bletsch

Gary Bletsch Near Lyman, Washington (Skagit County), USA garybletsch at yahoo.com Mentre che li occhi per la fronda verde
ficcava ïo sì come far suole
chi dietro a li uccellin sua vita perde, lo più che padre mi dicea: «Figliuole,
vienne oramai, ché ’l tempo che n’è imposto
più utilmente compartir si vuole».  

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