Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012 at home

Just stayed home today. Rudy was spending some time working with the new camera looking out our front window. We had lots of the normal birds like junco, chickadees, northern flickers and he even saw a number of eagles flying around over the house. Then he called me to the window saying I needed to hurry before he flew away. It was a hawk in one of the alders. He took some photos and got the scope on it and it was a sharp-shinned hawk (#179) hanging out up there. Thanks for coming to call Mr. Hawk.

Friday, December 21, 2012 Anniversary

It's our 38th wedding anniversary today. What better way to celebrate than to go birding? First stop was Gog-le-hi-te Wetlands to try to see the slaty-backed gull again. It was cold but and there was broken ice on the trail, but it wasn't raining. We scouted the tops of the buildings and the gulls were nicely lined up but not a dark one in the bunch. We walked over to the pond area and there were some mallards, green-winged teals and some gulls. Still none that looked different. We walked around to the west side so we'd have views of both the pond and the river as there were more gulls in the river. This was actually prime viewing time for finding him as the gulls were down in the water for baths and feedings. They kept landing so we were hoping he might come by. Another couple showed up and just as we were talking the lady noticed our bird on the pond. Definitely darker than the others. Could it be? He kept moving to areas behind the brush that was next to the pond so we'd only get on and off views of him. All pointers were looking good but the final kicker is the lighter eye. We needed to get a good scope view on him to verify. Rudy got him in his sights and confirmed. After keeping an eye on him for a while we all felt confident in saying we had finally seen the rare bird sighting of a slaty-backed gull (#177)!

From the tide flats we tried to go to Brown't Point park but the gate was closed so we couldn't get in. That was a bugger as it's always a good location. We proceeded down the road to Dash point and the pier. There we saw some horned grebes and surf scoters. They were both very cute and we were able to get some nice video of them. There were squid fishermen there and the pier held their Christmas tree and the sun was starting to come out.

surf scoter
horned grebe

We continued down the road to Dash Point State Park but nothing there so we proceeded to Salt Water State Park. This was nostagic as this was where our wedding had taken place 38 years before-to the day. Actually, today the weather was better. It was cold but the sun was starting to break through every now and then. On our wedding day the blizzard of the decade was just arriving and though the snow held off until after the wedding and reception it was still cold and windy. Our wedding was outside on the bluff above the beach so there was no protection from the weather. I hadn't wanted a normal wedding and I certainly go that in fact I believe it was a wedding no one forgot. Enought reflection, what birds would we find. There were gulls and crows all around. In the water were some Barrow's goldeneyes and surf scoters. We moved on to our last stop at the Des Moines marina. We got some nice views of western grebes (#178) from the pier. There were also horned and red -necked grebes, double-crested cormorants and many gulls. By this time I was getting warn out and hungry so we had a nice lunch at Red Robin in Des Moines. It was a nice way to finish birding for the day and our anniversary. 
western grebe

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012 Flaming Geyser

Miserable day today, wet and cold, and I don't feel very well. Nice way to spend your day off from work. We had bought a new point and shoot camera that arrived on Friday and we wanted to try it out so I pulled myself together and we took a short trip down to Flaming Geyser State Park to try out  the camera. The weather was so bad we knew there wouldn't be much activity but it's usually good for a few ducks on the ponds. There were a few people down there, a number of kayakers on the river and a few fishermen. Other than that we only saw some park rangers. Not much of a day for a picnic. We pulled up to our regular spot by the pond and I spotted what I thought was a bufflehead but Rudy got his binocs on it and it was a male hooded merganser. He scooted away quickly when he spotted us so I didn't get a good look at him but we had seen a female with babies there earlier in the year so this must be a home for them. We walked over to the elevated trail that travels between two ponds and noticed some mallards lazily floating around in the falling rain. Rudy spotted something else further away. It was a very nondescript bird but as soon as I got my binocs on it I was sure it was an American dipper (#175). The antics of those birds are very hard to miss. They love, love, love the water and this bird was having the time of his life. As if he wouldn't have been getting wet enough in the pouring rain, he was flipping up the water over his back with his wings and then playing around like a kid in a puddle. We got closer and got a much better view to verify our sighting. Rudy tried to take a picture with our new camera but he couldn't get it to focus on the bird. We just have some blurred views. It was raining even harder and only 37 degrees so we called it quits. Driving out of the park we stopped at another spot where we could see the pond from the road. There were some mallards and then we saw 3 more hooded mergansers. They looked young, just the brown color like a female. These may have been the babies we had seen earlier in the year. We tried the camera out again but had the same problem. So, we have some work to do on learning the camera but we did add one more to our list. I had so wanted to see an American dipper this year and so happy it happened.

Saturday, December 1, 2012 Nisqually NWR

One more week under my belt. Feeling stronger and I'm going back to work on Monday so I thought I'd see how well I do with real birding-away from the car and walking about 4 miles. I'd been looking at the posts for Nisqually NWR and saw a few birds we hadn't seen yet so we decided to head there. We woke up and the day didn't look too bad, it was supposed to rain quite a bit, and it was cloudy but not foggy, no rain and not too cold. First thing first, we needed to go into the visitors center to buy Rudy's new senior pass. He plopped down his $10 and now is the proud owner of a lifetime senior pass to all national parks, monuments and refuges. This is the best part of getting older. Only 1 1/2 years for me. Now lets look for birds. Viewing at the pond area produced a bufflehead, pie-billed grebe some mallards and such. We headed out to the west side of the Twin Barns loop and spied a merlin sitting atop a tree. Lots of geese in the fields to the east. It was so windy that they would all face the wind and hover like copters and then gradually lower to the ground and set down. It was quite a sight. There were a few more ducks; mallard, coot and ring necked, in the pond but nothing much else. Down by the barns we started looking for a new bird for our list that had been reported there. Sure enough we saw it right off, a northern shrike (#174). He was beautiful and we got some nice views of him.

Walking further were more mallards, American wigeons, northern pintails, coots and quite a few great blue herons in the fresh water side of the wetlands. There were lots of eagles flying about too. On the salt water side were some gulls and we could see small flocks of shore birds coming and going, probably sandpipers or such. It was quite windy out on the boardwalk but we were dressed for it and no rain yet so we headed out. The tide was just going out and we thought we might get some nice action. We saw what looked like a couple of loons in the estuary but couldn't tell for sure, more gulls and shorebirds. We walked to the end--well almost to the end as the last bit was closed for hunting season. We put the scope up and tried looking for snowy owls. There had been many reports of them out at the end of the reserve but we never saw any. I was looking at a nice flock of American wigeons when I noticed one with a brown head in the midst. The last report I had read said they had seen one Eurasion wigeon in the midst of a lot of American wigeons. I always wondered how anyone could spot one different kind amidst a bunch of other birds but there he was, the lone Eurasion wigeon (#175)!

The weather looked like it was going to turn ugly so we headed back and sure enough it started to rain-big drops. We were prepared so it wasn't too bad, it's just a long walk back in the strong wind and rain. At the dike it let up a bit so we spent the last part of our walk going on the east side of the Twin Barn loop through the woods. We were really hoping for a trifecta with the great-horned owl but no luck. We did see red bellied sapsuckers and some chickadees but no owls. There were a couple of black-tailed deers that were kind of cute. We were out about 5 hours and I was ready for the car by the time we were done but I felt good I had been able to be out that long and we added two new birds. We followed it by dinner at Azteca in Tacoma and headed home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 Valley Birding

I'm still getting my strength back from my surgery but I wanted to get out a bit so we decided to try some local birding in the Auburn/Kent Valley. We started out spying some wood ducks in the creek that runs right beside Auburn-Black Diamond Road. We drive on this road everyday and have never seen wood ducks out here before. It's crazy how many times we're seeing wood ducks now. I'll never tire-they are so gorgeous. Then we went down to the fields between Hwy 167 and Emerald Downs. We saw quite a few birds of prey like red-tailed hawk and a peregrine falcon along with 2 trumpeter swans flying over. Then plenty of waterfowl like northern pintails, American wigeon, green-winged teals and mallards along with a great blue heron. Also caught sight of a towhee and song sparrow. Our last stop was the Green River Natural Resources Area where we saw some coots, cormorants, wigeons and ring-necked ducks. Also flying around was a northern harrier and a beautiful pair of bald eagles in the power tower and a kestrel in a tree. We didn't see anything new but it was a big day for me to get out after taking it easy for a month.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012 Gog-le-hi-tee

We had to make another run to the doctors in Tacoma again today. This time for Rudy. He had taken the morning off for the early appointment so we thought after seeing the doctor we'd take a quick detour over to gog-le-hi-tee wetlands in the Tacoma tide flats before he dropped me off home and he continued on to work. Why go-le-hi-tee? There's been a rare bird alert there. We get so few in Washington that we can't pass up trying to see one so close to us. We keep reading about a lone slaty-backed seagull being seen in the area, hanging around with other seagulls. We'd stopped by before but couldn't get a definite ID as we didn't have the scope. We came prepared today with scope and binocs. We started looking right off as he'd been seen on the top of some of the warehouses. There were seagulls there alright. The slaty-backed is supposed to be a bit darker, pink legs a yellow eye. Well there were plenty of pink-legs gulls but we never did see any with a yellow eye so for now no rare bird. But I did get a good ID on a thayer's gull (#173). Maybe not a rare bird but one more for the list.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012 Home

There has been a lot of bird activity at our house. Of course I've been able to see it since I've been home recuperating all the time. First the birds were after the fall seeds and apples in the trees. This brought a bunch of woodpeckers and flickers including a really nice view of a pileated working on an apple in the tree right in front of the house. Most of the apples are gone now but there is still a lot of "normals" that drop by each day. Today was no different with the northern flickers, steller jays, junco and chickadees and currently the red-bellied sapsuckers are here for awhile. The other residents are the Anna's hummingbirds. I think they might stay all winter, if I can keep their feeders from freezing. But we did have one new friend flitting around in the birch. It was a Hutton's vireo (#172). I'm pretty sure we had seen them before but we'd never been able to really get a 100% verification on it. They are very fast and small. But this time I'm sure. They are really cute and still very fast. It's nice one again when the birds come to you. Keep coming, I'm watching.

Saturday, November 10, 2012 Auburn Environmental Park

I had my oncology visit yesterday. Great news, margins clear, nothing in the lymph nodes and I won't have to do chemo or radiation! Music to my ears. The double mastectomy went well and my recovery was coming along fine. I was actually having a bit more pain now in my chest, felt a bit like it was on fire, but that is just all those nerve endings that had been cut coming back to life and trying to figure out what they should be doing. I needed to get out of the house for something other than a doctors visit so we started easy and just went to the Auburn Environmental Park to see what we could see. We really didn't expect anything new but I was anxious to try out my new pair of glasses. I had received them just before my surgery. So now I could actually use both my eyes through the binocs. We didn't see much down there but there were some robins, a red-tailed hawk a wren and overhead we saw some geese and then a couple of trumpeter swans. That made my day. They are so beautiful and it was nice to know they were back in our area. We also heard what could have been the Virginia rail but it was too far off to get any view. It was a good start to getting back on my feet. Onward and upward!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 Tennessee birds

Rudy barely made it home in time for my surgery, flights delayed, missed connections and such. But he pulled it off getting in after 1am. We only had to be at the hospital in 6 hours. Anyway, here's the deal. He was able to see some of the same birds I saw while out in Tennessee so now we get to add them to the list. Here goes: turkey vulture (#159), black vulture (#160), wild turkey (#161), tufted titmouse (#162), Carolina chickadee (#163), northern mockingbird (#164), eastern bluebird (#165), northern cardinal (#166), blue jay (#167), black-throated green warbler (#168), Carolina wren (#169), red-bellied woodpecker (#170) and a white-breasted nuthatch (#171). There were 8 other birds I saw and Rudy didn't and he got to see a barred owl and I didn't but it's fun to finally add some nice birds to our list.
Rudy also saw a beautiful butterfly

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012 - Juanita Bay Park

Rudy's been on the road since October 13 and not due back until late on October 23 which will be about 12 hours before my double mastectomy surgery. I needed to get out for one last taste of freedom. I'd been wanting to get up and see my son Flynn and his wife Anna's apartment up in Kirkland, WA. They had been doing some decorating that I hadn't seen yet and they liked to bird. Hey, that's two birds with one stone right? So I got up there around 9:30am before the traffic was too bad. Their apartment looked terrific. They've been working hard to get everything in shape since they moved in earlier this year and it really has come together nicely. It's a small apartment so it didn't take too long to look over so we headed out for birding at Juanita Bay Park. I'd never been there but they were very familiar with it. The weather was cool but it wasn't raining. We took the central boardwalk first that extended into the wetland beside the bay. Guess what we saw...wood ducks! We got a great view of them. We went out to the west boardwalk and saw a great blue heron right by the trail. There were some mallards, green-winged teals and grebes on this side of the wetlands. On the bay we could see a bald eagle sitting on a piling. There were hundreds of American coots and Canadian or cackling geese on the bay along with a double-crested cormorants. We also saw a red-tailed hawk. We went out and walked along the east boardwalk and saw a towhee in the thickets. The wind was really coming up and my knee was acting up so we headed back to the car. We went over to Juanita Beach Park, but it was really windy.There were some ducks there that might have been gadwalls. We also saw a white duck that I couldn't identify. It might have been a cross between a wild and a domestic white duck. Since the wind was so bad we decided to call it a birding day and get some lunch. We ended up at a hole in the wall sandwich shop that was really good and fun. After that it was time for me to head home. Nice day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Saturday October 6, 2012 Ridgefield NWR +

There would only be one more weekend that Rudy and I could share together before his trip and my surgery so we had to make the most of it. Ever since we had been to Ridgefield NWR earlier in the year I had wanted to go back to see the sandhill cranes. I'd been watching the reported sightings and I had a good feeling that this time we'd get to see them. It's about 2 1/2 hours down there so we got a somewhat early start. We checked in at the "S" unit for the driving tour-no getting out of your vehicle once you start except for one spot. While we were there we heard a very unusual sound coming from a short distance away. It was kind of a rattling squawk. We looked over and got a very brief glimpse of what we were sure were a couple of sandhill cranes (#158). Quickly into the car to try to see them as they had vanished behind a grove of firs but we didn't find them. What we did see was very different than the last time we had been to the area. Where once there had been water on both sides of the road filled with all manner of fowl was either dry or muddy ground. There were a few small pools that had coots and mallards and in the muddier section it looked like a yellowlegs, great blue herons and such. We continued on hoping for a better view of the cranes. We got out at the one spot allowed and went to the blind with our scope. There were some back-capped chickadees, cedar waxwings, starlings, and northern flickers in the area along with some coyotes. We set up the scope in the blind and were able to get a better view of some sandhill cranes across the field. Huge birds with that distinctive red on the top of their head. We thought we might get even closer to them when we came around the other side of the drive but before we even left the blind a fast moving pickup-going the wrong way-cruised by them and scared them off. Nuts. Back in the car we saw pied-billed grebes, cinnamon teals, northern pintails, killdeer, red tailed hawks and some really nice views of wood ducks. Yes, more wood ducks-we were seeing them everywhere!

When we came around to a more open field we saw more cranes and this time we got to see some of them "dance". Here's a video to show-they were a ways off so it's not too crisp but you'll get the drift.

Over the field we also saw 18 American white pelicans flying over in formation-that was quite rare and oh so beautiful. Before we left we also saw a peregrine falcon, kingfisher and a great egret and about a thousand cackling geese. Only one new species to add to the list but it was a very good bird day.

We also went further south to try some new areas like Vancouver Lake Park, Columbia River Lowlands and quite a few other places listed in the Audubon guide but it had gotten very windy and we really didn't see anything else except a pond by the road that was sheltered and there were 17 great blue herons and 13 great egrets hunkered down to get away from the wind. We did stop at an overlook at Franz Lake and saw some river otters. We came back home via the back side of Mt. St. Helens but it was getting dark so not much to see. We would have done better just coming back up I-5 but it was good to check out the new areas. In better weather they might be good to go back to.

Sept. 29-30, 2012-Weekend Trip East of the Mountains

Finding out you have cancer does a number of things to you. One is that time means more to you. With that in mind I felt like we needed to get in one more trip across the mountains before the snows came. Available weekend time was getting severely limited between my trip to Nashville, Rudy's work trip to North Carolina with stopover in Nashville and then my surgery and subsequent recovery. So carpe diem or at least carpe weekend. Early start over I-90 to Ellensburg. Our first birding stop was a short trail at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park. The weather was very nice-much better than it would have been at home, but not much bird activity. We did see an active hairy woodpecker boring and chipping a large hole on a dead tree trunk and then some nice butterflies sipping sap from a live tree trunk.  Continuing on Umptanum Road out of Ellensberg we had our first sighting of a western bluebird (#151). Not uncommon for this area but the first for us this year. We took a short hike in the Wenas Wildlife Area at Umtanum Falls and saw some kinglets and warblers in the thickets. We also got a nice view of a chipping sparrow (#152).
Back out on the road we saw a sage thrasher (#153) in the sage alongside the road. By this time the road was gravel and not very used. We continued on and then out to Wenas Creek where we got a very brief sighting of a sooty grouse (#154). Would have liked to see more of that but they are pretty quick. There really weren't many birds anywhere around the creek so back on the road. After Wenas Creek the road was paved again and headed down into the Yakima Valley where we saw some kestrels and a gorgeous Swainson's hawk (#155) on the telephone poles/wires.
We had some lunch once we got into Yakima and then went out to the Yakima Greenway and took the Poppoff Trail around a small lake. What did we see on the lake??? Wood ducks (#156)--finally, we saw them together so we could add them to our count. There were a bunch of them too. We also saw a merlin, quail and kestrel. We left at twilight with a lovely full moon guiding our path. 

We needed to find a hotel. This proved a bit harder than I had anticipated as the fair was in full swing along with some sort of convention. Finally found a good deal at the Red Lion.
Next morning we went back to the same place and took the hiking/biking trail for a short ways along the river. Lots of yellow-rumped warblers, peewees and flycatchers, robins, a very cool kingfisher chattering along the river and a quick look at a Cooper's Hawk (#157). We decided to go back home via the Yakima Canyon Road-one of our favorite drives. We saw what looked like a flock of swifts flying over the river in the canyon but I couldn't identify what kind so I can't list them. We ate lunch/dinner at a taqueria in Ellensburg and then headed home. It was a nice weekend, the weather was so perfect and warm. Even though we didn't see gobs of birds we took some nice hikes and getting away was just what the doctor ordered-so to speak.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

September 22-25, 2012 - Nashville

Before knowing about my cancer I had planned a trip back to Nashville to visit Libby, Eric and grandson Liam. There was no reason to cancel this as my surgery would not be until later. Really, it seemed like more of a reason to go then ever. Seeing all of them was the main purpose for visiting but birding, during migration, in decent weather, was another highlight. I wouldn't be able to add any new birds to our count because Rudy wasn't with me, but he was going to be in Nashville a few weeks after me. If we got to see the same type of birds during our two visits, we were going to add them.

We hit the ground running. I had a night flight that arrived on the morning of September 22, was picked up from the airport by the gang, and we headed straight out to Shilo National Historical Park. It was a beautiful day. Libby and I got another stamp in our National Park Passport. There was a cannon firing demonstration so we watched that. Liam loved running around the grounds and the recreated Civil War campsite. We took the driving tour around the monument following the interpretive markers. What could be better? We came back via the Natchez Trace Parkway--got another passport stamp there too--and even though we weren't really birding we saw turkey vultures and wild turkeys. Liam did great the whole time with the long car ride. It was a wonderful day.

Sunday was church, great worship and word and a very tasty lunch in Franklin. Back at their home I checked off a tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, black vulture, northern mockingbird, one ruby throated hummingbird at their honeysuckle and an eastern bluebird. BBQ for dinner and more great weather. This is a good vacation.

Monday we all went to the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro. It's a kids museum that Liam loved. Libby and I left Eric and Liam to continue playing inside while we went out to take their nature trail. We were on the hunt for wood ducks. There had been numerous reports of them being seen there and all year I'd been trying to find them. Well success, we found them in their pond. They are an amazing bird-colors are crazy and so distinct. We also saw a blue jay along with turtles and frogs. We ate at Chick-Fil-a for lunch and then back home for Liam's nap. I got to finally see a cardinal in their back yard..

My last day was Tuesday-I was flying home that afternoon-so Libby and I got up very early to be at Radnor Lake just after dawn. Eric and Liam stayed home. Here is where fortune smiled on us. We were at the spillway observing what I thought were swifts soaring overhead. There was a nice man with binoculars there and I asked him what birds those were and he said, without hesitation, chimney swifts. Bingo! We let him know we weren't really familiar with the birds in the area and he pointed out a few others. He was meeting another birder friend and they let us tag along with them. With their help we saw a black-throated green warbler, Carolina wren, rose-breasted grosbeak-that was a big deal for me, Tennessee warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, Coopers hawk, magnolia warbler, white breasted nuthatch, black and white warbler-another one I had hoped to see, gray catbird and some amazing Carolina redstarts. We saw many other birds too, these were just new ones for me. It was fall migration and we were in heaven. We would have never been able to add these to our list without these birdmates. They had to go off to work but we were so fortunate to have the time we did with them. Libby and I finished off with continuing the trail around the lake. We had hoped to see the barred owl but didn't but we did see wood ducks again. It was one of the best birding days ever. After that, back to the house where we picked up Liam and Eric and headed for the local park for one last romp with Liam, then to the airport for the farewell to a short but very sweet visit.

Thusday, September 13, 2012 - Change of plans

It's funny, but looking back I didn't have in mind for me the year as it's worked out so far. I was turning 60, I knew that. It was the year of the Dragon and when you turn 60 in the year of the Dragon it's supposed to be a really good year for you. We started out great with our Big Year. We were having terrific fun learning about and finding so many incredible birds and they were all around us. I could see us having a great time all year pursueing our feathered buddies. But things don't always go as planned. It started out slowly in January when I had to have a root canal and crown. Normally that's not such a big deal but there were problems and it lasted much longer than it should have. From that I got a sinus infection that has not gone away to date and then because that wore me down I went through a series of urinary tract infections. Those first few months were not going well. I was also having considerable pain in my knee from my arthritis and it had kept me from doing as much hiking and birding as I would have liked, but I was pushing through it. Just before my trip to Peru I lost a tooth and had another crown put on-that went fine and my trip to Peru in April was a great time. But upon my return after checking out the fuzziness in my right eye I find out I had a hole in my retina that was definitely affecting my sight. Not what I had planned for a birding year! I had the surgery to correct this done at the end of June and it took a couple months of recovery before I could really use both eyes through my binocs. I was just about ready to see if I could possibly go in for knee replacement when I got sidelined by other news. On this day in September I got the news that I had breast cancer. Out of the blue, yes, very unexpected. OK another bump in the road of life. I will deal with it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 Mt. Rainier NP

We really needed some mountain birds. In particular ones like Clark's nutcracker and gray jays. Where to go? Mt. Rainier National Park before the weather changed was the answer. I'd been wanting to go all summer but the weekends and even the weekdays were so crowded. So I'd waited until after Labor Day and Rudy and I took Wednesday off from work to find at least a Clark's nutcracker. I mean when have you even been to Mt. Rainier without seeing one? It was a lock. All right I should have known better than that but really, could my luck be that bad?

It started out with a beautiful day, blue sky, hot and the mountain standing out like a painted backdrop. Our first stop was Longmire and the Trail of Shadows. Unlikely but we saw a group of band-tailed pigeons claiming an area. We did see a few other smaller birds in the trees near the trail. I got one good look at them and saw a mountain chickadee (#150). They are a bit scruffier than our regular chickadees. I suspect a harder life. Well, we'll take any new bird. The only other birds we heard and saw were Stellar blue jays.

Next stop was Paradise, a stamp in my National Park passport and take a short trail at the base of the mountain. We decided to head over to Myrtle Falls. There were still amazing wildflowers and the sky was a brilliant blue behind the mountain. It could not have been better for a lovely day hike but we did not see many birds. We did see a bird of prey flying around-not sure which--and Rudy saw something unusual in a fir tree but we couldn't put a name to it. So a very nice hike but no new birds.

We headed to the picnic area. There are always those camp robber nutcrackers there and we had packed a lunch so now we'd have it. At the picnic area we chose a site near some trees and before we could get out of the car there were definitely some good size birds in the tree. I'm pretty sure it was our bird but I didn't get a good enough look. We got out to eat at the picnic table and took our time enjoying the meal, but nothing. What a beautiful day and what a view. Just no more bird activity. None. Are you kidding me? They were there. After this my confidence was waning. We checked out some other parts of the picnic area and saw a large hawk and off in the distance we could see some birds that could have been gray jays in the tops of some trees but again, we couldn't verify.

We decided to continue around the mountain and go to Sunrise. We headed down out of Paradise and along the road Rudy spied a cute black bear walking beside the road. All we wanted to see were a few birds and we saw a bear. Isn't it usually the other way around? Well, it was a thrill anyway.

All the best laid plans of mice and men....who knew...after Labor Day they closed the road that continues around the mountain. Our only option was to return the way we came or backtrack out of the park, head south, and then back up north. This was a lot longer but we decided to try it. It took a long time to do this, slow roads, way out of the way and such so we had to forget Sunrise. We did stop at Ohanapecosh campground but didn't see much. Then we took the Grove of the Patriarchs but no birds. By this time it was getting close to being dark so we just headed home. We took a full day off of work and only one new bird for the day. I was disappointed but really, could I complain when I got to see one of my favorite places on a such a gorgeous day? No I can't.

Monday, December 3, 2012

August 17-19, 2012 Long Beach Pennisula

It has been a very nice August with lots of sun and warm temperature. I am loving it but some friends asked us over for the weekend at a place they were staying on the Long Beach Penninsula for the weekend so we decided to join them. I was hoping for great weather there too but driving over after work on Friday afternoon, the closer we got to the ocean, the more clouds and the rapid decline in temperature. It was going to be in the 90's at home at it was in the 60's at the ocean. This was almost too much for me and Rudy and we almost turned around but couldn't really call that a legitimate reason for not showing up for such a wonderful invitation. So we kept to our plans. Our friends were waiting and we had a lovely dinner that night in town. We got up the next morning and had a good breakfast and went around Long Beach and Ilwaco a bit. We saw a nice museum and hit a weekend fair and visited a lighthouse and such. There were some good shore birds out on the ocean- terns, auklets and such but nothing new. The weather wasn't hot but it was nice so I felt better about that. It was a very nice day with our lovely friends, great food and fun.

The next day I was intent on getting in some birding so we headed way up to the end of the pennisula to Leadbetter Point and took the green trail (1.1 mile) along the beach and back through the woods. We saw many great blue herons along the beach. Back through the woods we saw some small birds flitting around but could never make a positive ID. This was Sunday and we needed to get back home so we said our good-byes to our friends and headed out. I wanted to make one stop along the way at the Willapa Bay Refuge Headquarters along Hwy 101 near milepost 24. I didn't know what to expect but I had read they had a trail behind the center. Here is where I must say, if you are ever in this area you must stop and take this trail. It's not so much for the wildlife viewing as it is an art trail. As I understand it the U of W got involved with making art for display in and along the trail and it turned out marvelously. Right from the start the boardwalk curves away along a wetland/creek area. There is art built in to the wood, along it, sculptures, poetry and on and on. There is a section called cutthroat climb an uphill trail that goes about 2/3 of a mile. It was a good workout for us and beautiful. On the way back down there is an incredible labryth patio out in the middle of the woods-why I don't know--but I'm sure all part of this trail. No birds really but so, so worth the stop and hike.

No new birds this weekend to add to our count but a marvelous time.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012 Home

We've only been out once since my eye surgery. That was to Nisqually NWR and we didn't see anything new. We've been working on our yard instead of going out birding. It will still be at least a couple of months before I'll hopefully be able to really use my binocs. Right now its more like monocs. Today was hot, in the 90's and I was working outside. There was a squawking bird flying into some alders. Pileated Woodpecker! (#149). Just like Woody Woodpecker. I ran in to tell Rudy and he came out in time to see him too. I love it when the birds come to us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monday June 25, 2012 Squak Mt. State Park

I'm trying to get in every last second I can before my eye surgery tomorrow. I'm not sure when I'll be able to go birding again. After work, Rudy and I had to go up to Bellevue to pick up some special equipment for my recovery today so instead of battling the traffic to get home we decided to see what mischief we could get into. First we ate dinner at a nice little teriyaki place at Factoria. Then we headed out Coal Creek Parkway and Maytown road toward Issaquah-Hobert. There was a sign for a Squawk Mountain State Park on the way so we decided to stop by and see what we could find. It is just a small little parking area but there were a few trails. Since my knee is still so bad we had to keep to the short ones so we went on a nicely done interpretive trail. The setting is an older forest but it was very quiet so we didn't know if we'd see any birds. Then we heard what sounded like a new song but once we found the source it was a pretty little spotted towhee. The interpretive trail was like none I'd ever seen before (this is saying something because I hit about every one I've ever been near). It was done in a children's story with the field mouse looking for the pretzel tree. Along the way he meets all kinds of critters in the forest and how they all work together to make the forest a wonderful place. It so inspired me I'm going to do something similar for our property. But, back to birds. Still pretty quiet but we did hear some high pitched noise. Rudy saw it first, a brown creeper (#147). Then I got a nice little show. Creepers are great because they will only go up a tree, never down. Sure enough that is exactly what he did. Then we heard another very intricate song and it turned out to be a Pacific wren (#148) perched on top of a stump. Wouldn't you know it, I did not have my video camera to capture the moment but it lives on in our memory. We kept hoping to see an owl as it was a perfect forest for one but no luck. But we were happy to add two more for such a simple outing.

After that we headed out toward Maple Valley, Four Corners and Black Diamond. We decided to go into Flaming Geyser State Park for our last look of the day. First thing we saw was a beautiful eagle flying from a tree down through the valley. Then we went over to the ponds and saw a belted kingfisher and startled a great blue heron. Also making a racket were a bunch of red winged blackbirds chasing a crow out of their area. That went on for a while until they quieted down for the night. Rudy found a mama merganser with some babies--it doesn't get cuter than that. No new birds at that stop but a nice way to finish the day.

Saturday June 23, 2012 Auburn Enviornment Park

 I was really hoping to get a full day of birding in today as I'm having eye surgury on Tuesday and I won't be able to get out for a while. I had planned to go to Nisqually NWR but the morning was very cold and very wet and I had no desire to get out to Nisqually on the boardwalk and get drenched. So we just took it easy. The late afternoon did dry out and warm a bit so we pushed ourselves to get out. We stayed close to home and just went to the Auburn Enviornment Park. We did see swallows, waxwings, even the Virginia rail gave us a brief peak but we didn't see any new bird....until...we were getting back in our car. What's that up in that tree? Rudy got the scope out. It's a flycatcher--it's a willow flycatcher (#146)! Add one more.

Weekend-June 15-17, 2012 Moving Flynn & Anna

This was really a working weekend but if we're going all the way to Pendleton, OR we're going to get in a bit of birding. Friday night, after work, Rudy and I headed over to Pendleton because our son, Flynn, was moving back to the "wet side" of the mountains. We took a bit of a jog from the Interstates at Ellensburg by going on the Yakima Canyon Road. This is a wonderful alternative to the freeway that goes up and down over the mountains. It is so beautiful following the river winding through the Yakima canyon. We made one stop to look for birds. We saw all of these birds flying around above us catching bugs.We thought they were swifts but after looking in the bird book we found out they were actually nighthawks (#143). We needed to push on and so pulled ourselves away from there and proceeded on to Pendleton. We arrived late, about 10:30pm, but we had a reservation at the Super 8.

Next morning we met Flynn and Anna at their apartment. Now was time to work. Rick, Flynn and I had to drive to Pasco to pick up a U-Haul truck, drive back and then we all loaded it up. Anna had done a great job of packing everything up so all we had to do was bring down everything 3 stories, and fit it all in to the back of the box truck--kind of like Tetris. We ended up sometime in the late afternoon. Rudy had worked up a sweat, it was a nice warm day, so we went back to the motel to clean up and Flynn and Anna went out for a couple of farewell parties. Rudy and I ate at the Prodigal Son Brewery, really good. I had a beer named Sue and Rudy had a beer with coffee. I had mac and cheese and he had fish and chips. After that we took the walk along the river. We saw some house finches, lots of swallow, cedar wax wings and then we spotted a black crowned night heron (#144) in the middle of the river. That was really exciting.

Next morning up early and out for a quick trip to McKay NWR. We had very little time but we saw a kestral, swallows, blue heron, quails and even a ring-necked pheasant (#145). We could have stayed there much longer but we had to get back for the drive back home. We ended up departing about 10am, Rudy driving the truck, me driving our car, Flynn and Anna in their car. We stopped in Prosser at the Subway for a bite and then booked it all the way to Kirkland to their new place. Moved them in, ate at Azteca and then home to crash. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. We did add three birds which isn't bad for a working weekend. Nice to have Flynn and Anna so close now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday June 11, 2012 Auburn Environmental Park

Birding and a two year old don't really go together too well. We had gone out on June 9 to Mima Mounds and Scatter Creek but hadn't seen anything new. It was fun being out with Libby and Liam so it really didn't matter if we added birds or not. But today Liam was going to spend the evening with his other grandparents so Libby wanted to try to get some birding in. We thought we might go to Kent but on the way we passed the new Auburn Environmental Park on the way and decided to stop by to check it out. Little did we know it would turn out to be our destination. First stop was the birding tower that anchors the site. There were cedar waxwings, robins and tree swallows. Then down to the brand new boardwalk. We could hear wrens but weren't sure what kind. After finally getting a good look we recognized a bewicks wren (#141), that was unexpected but sweet. We also heard another call we didn't know. Rudy said he saw something running among the reeds, we figured it might be the bird making the sound. Finally we got a good glimpse, it was a cute, evasive Virginia rail (#142). Very cool. Down the walk we saw a yellow warbler and many more waxwings and a flicker. The boardwalk goes through a number of different eco systems so it was fun checking it all out. We ended up spending quite a bit of time there and realized we'd better eat before it was time to pick Liam back up. Oh good, time enough for Taco Time! How about that, two new birds, Taco Time and we didn't even leave Auburn. It was a very nice evening.

Sunday June 3, 2012 Knock knock

Big day today--Libby and Liam flew in from Nashville to stay for 10 days. We were outside of the house after they had arrived and we heard a tell-tale tapping coming from the birch. Libby and I went over thinking we were going to see a downy or hairy woodpecker but were pleasantly surprised to see a gorgeous red-breasted sapsucker (#140) working away at the trunk. Nice.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 last day for Eastern WA

This was the last day of our birding trip to Eastern WA. so we got up early and headed out north on McManamon Rd out of Othello. From there we turned right onto Morgan Lake Rd. This road goes quite a long way into the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. It has numerous places to get out and look for birds. It was a bit confusing for us, not exactly knowing the area, we floundered around a bit but made the best of it. The good thing was that there were hardly any other people out there. We got out at a number of locations and saw a couple of beautiful great egrets, a blue heron and a number of terns and bunches of swallows. In another area we saw tri-colored blackbirds (#137) singing in the cattails. One of our last stops brought us to the Soda Lake Dam area. We had just a quick glimpse of some ducks and were trying to get a better view. A lady stopped and asked if we'd seen anything--we talked for a bit and she said those were blue-winged teals (#138). She also said she had just been up to the dam but hadn't seen anything. After that conversation Rudy and I almost decided not to go the extra 1/2 mile to check out the area, but Rudy decided we might as well go. It was a good thing too because there on the shallow part of the water was a single black-necked stilt (#139). A very cool looking bird and well worth the extra bit of time. It also proved to be a good bird to end our lovely time of birding in Eastern Washington.

We were gone 4 days/3 nights and added 26 new birds to the list in addition to seeing deer/porcupines/a yellow-bellied marmot/prarie dog and a cotton-tailed rabbit. We really didn't want to come back--I think we are made to bird all day long. Too bad you have to have money to keep going because it sure puts a crimp on the lifestyle we would prefer. Oh well, it was a great, great time. Here is a short video of some of my favorite birds from our long weekend.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Monday May 28, 2012 Eastern WA part 3

Walla Walla Washington, don't you love to say it? It is a nice town and it was a beautiful day. We headed over to the Fort Walla Walla Natural Area--kept up by the local Audubon club. It is not a big area but it is good enough size to have a number of trails running through it. There were old apple trees, a barn, lots of trees and water areas, just right for good birding. We did see quite a few birds including warblers and such but nothing new for the list. We did see a hummingbird that may have been a new species for us but they move too fast to get a proper ID. We really hoped to see an owl in the barn, but no luck. Still it is a nice little area and I'd go back.

We headed out of town on Hwy 12 and in between Waitsburg and Dayton there is the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. We pulled in to follow the mile long loop trail. It was great weather, not too hot, not too cold and clear. The trail starts and ends at the bathrooms and wanders through the woods to a river and follows that for awhile and then back to the restroom. We finally saw a western tanager (#129) one of our very favorite birds because of it's beautiful coloring. The we spied our first cedar waxwings (#130) for the year, another of our favorites. After a bit we got a very nice view of a Townsend's warbler (#131) and a black-headed grosbeak (#132). (Note on the grosbeak: we had actually seen some of them at our house but I failed to add them to our list so here seems like as good a place as any to add them to the count.) We also saw a woodpecker, other warblers, black birds, quail and such. It was a nice stop and another terrific easy trail.

Next stop was Palouse Falls State Park on Hwy 261. Neither of us had ever been there before so we didn't really know what to expect. First thing we noticed was the amount of cars leaving the park. It was Memorial Day and all but this park is not close to anything. Hard to believe it gets so many people coming but sure enough once we got there we found many families enjoying their time here. It's not a very big park but the view of the falls is spectacular.

We saw a yellow-bellied marmot on the edge of the walls. It didn't seem to bother him that it was a sheer drop to the rivers floor. We did see peregrine falcons (#133) flying through the canyons, they say that they nest in the walls of the cliffs in this area. We also saw meadowlark, violet-green swallow and horned larks.

Moving onward we stopped at Bassatt Park in Washtucna. It's just a simple city park but it has the reputation for being a crazy birding spot. How could we pass it by? At first it didn't seem like too much activity but we saw mourning doves, western tanagers, bullock oriole and then a Wilson's warbler (#134) jumping around in a pine tree. Also flying about were Eurasian collared doves (#135) and band-tailed pigeons (#136). It was very worth stopping for.

It was getting late and the only hope we had of finding any accommodations in this very unpopulated part of the state is Othello. So we headed over there and found what seemed to be the only hotel, Best Western Othello Inn. The front desk gal gave me a good rate and upgraded us to a executive room--complete with recline--and we walked over to the pizza place next door and had a late dinner. It all worked out beautifully.

Sunday, May 27, 2012 Eastern WA cont.

Woke up to a beautiful day and after a McD breakfast and Starbucks stop we headed out of Pasco to the Big Flat Habitat Management Unit. It's about 13 miles east of Pasco on the Pasco-Kahlotus road. It's a unique area in that it has a freshwater lake just next to the Snake River. It was mainly fishermen and families out there but we did run in to a couple of other birders. It was quite windy but I think this area always has some good winds. We headed out on the dike that crosses between the lake and the river and then goes into a couple miles of trails in Russian olives, cottonwoods, birches, shrubs and grassland. The first thing we saw was a group of white pelicans (#122) flying in formation overhead. It is a vision so awsomely beautiful that until you see it I don't know how you could appreciate it. These huge soaring white birds just going in a line and copying everything the leader was doing. One goes up, they all go up, he serpentines , they serpentine, down and around, down and around. It is mesmerizing. How could you not be a birder forever after you've seen that? Lucky for us we got to see them a number of times throughout the day. Also sharing the sky were gobs of swallows that we soon realized were bank swallows (#123). They were oddly enough, living in a bank next to the river. The fun thing about these birds is the sound they make. It is kind of a buzzing totally akin to the sound you hear when you walk under high tension power lines. We continued on the trail that took us away from the water and more into the grass/tree section of the park always hopeful for one of those birds we had always heard about but never seen--like a bullock's oriole (#124), oh yes we did seen them. Another amazingly beautiful bird, the color is so bright orange it looks like a bit of fire dancing in the trees.We also saw a western wood pewee (#125) and then...wait for it....a lazuli bunting (#126)!!! There he was singing away in a bush, just happy to pose for us while we excitedly watched and listened. Oh man, I love eastern Washington.

Bullock's Oriole

lazuli bunting

We finally pulled ourselves away from there and headed back to Pasco and checked out Sacajawea State Park. We had past it so many times when we use to go to Walla Walla to see Flynn at college but we had never stopped. It's a very nice park with lots of history but the main feature is it is located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. We didn't see any new birds but we ate a snack.

Our next stop was McNary NWR located just south of Pasco. It's actually a big area but we first checked out the headquarters as there is a nice trail that goes around the McNary Slough. It was Sunday so the Education Center was closed but there was access to the trail so we headed out and the first bird we saw....another huge moment...a yellow-headed blackbird (#127)! I had so wanted to see one and we saw many on that trail. I could hardly contain myself. What a day of birding we were having. That ended up being the only new bird we saw along the trail but it was a great little hike and I would love to go back at another time of year to see the difference in the birds that travel through.

yellow-headed blackbird

By this time it was getting late and we had to start thinking of where to spend the night. It looked like Walla Walla so I got on the phone and set up a night at La Quinta. This way we didn't have to rush into town to find a place to stay,we could stop at a couple more places and bird. Which is what we did. We stopped at the Walula Unit of the NWR. We walked some of the trail and drove to an overlook but didn't see anything new. We continued out Hwy 12 toward Walla Walla but Rudy found one last turn out to look over the tidal area. We could see some birds feeding in the pool areas, binocs up, American avocet's (#128). A very cool looking, long legged water bird that uses his beak to swish the water to stir it up for feeding. We got some nice shots of them. A perfect ending to a perfect birding day.

American avocet
We drove into Walla Walla and had dinner at El Sombero Restaurant--been there before with Flynn. Took a little time to be nostalgic about that season in our lives and then crawled into bed in anticipation of another day of birding.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday May 26, 2012 Eastern Washington

Being a travel agent it is not often when I go off for 3 nights and don't have everything planned. This weekend was the exception. Life had been too full and busy and I just hadn't had the time to research or make plans. So here we were driving east on I-90 with no plan about where we were going to spend the next few nights. It was really quite fun--also it was my 60th birthday so I knew we couldn't go wrong. First new bird black-billed magpie (#112) flying over the road--not a hard bird to spot east of the mountains but you don't seem them on the wet side. We turned off I-90 just after the Columbia and headed south on the east side of the river and turned off at Beverly on Crab Creek Road. Oh, what's that sitting in that tree? Bird book out, eastern kingbird (#113), sweet. We also saw brown-headed cowbirds (#114) and California quail (#115).

 Eastern kingbird                                                         California quail
There were groves of Russian olive trees along the road. We stopped to look at what we thought was a nest but it turned out to be a porcupine sleeping in the boughs. Not too far a way was another one. Who knew they slept in trees?

We headed back to highway 240 and stopped at a rest area just across the Columbia and ate some lunch. There we saw some ravens (#116) and western kingbirds (#117) flying around in the trees. Lunch hit the spot and we were ready to take another diversion, crossing back over the Columbia to State Route 24. At 60.1 milepost we took a road north to the Wahluke Slope Wildlife Area. It was a nice quiet road and we heard the melodious song of the western meadowlark (#118). They're not too hard to find-just follow the song. They love to sit on top of a post or shrub and sing away. In the road we saw some medium size birds jumping around--binocs focused--horned larks (#119)--really cool looking!
horned lark
They was quite a bit of sage brush around and we heard and finally saw a sage sparrow (#120). The road kept going up to the ridge top and up there we got a birds eye view of the valley below crowned by a beautiful great egret flying through the hilltops. Before ending the day we also saw a rough legged hawk (#121).

We ended the day staying at the Red Lion in Pasco. They were pretty full but I worked them down to a good rate. We ate at a nice local restaurant and they brought me a dessert with Happy Birthday written in chocolate on the plate--they must know me. Back at the hotel Rudy gave me a Kindle Fire and wrote me a beautiful poem for my birthday. Nice day birding--nice way to spend my birthday.

Friday May 11, 2012 Titlow Beach

After being gone all last weekend we really needed to stay around this weekend and do some work on the yard. But not to be totally shut out for the week we decided to devote some time Friday night. I had an eye appointment in Tacoma in the late afternoon so we decided to go back to Titlow beach. This time I did my homework and read reports that the purple martins were now being sighted. My eyes were pretty dilated and it was a beautiful sunny day, but I donned my sunglasses and we set out. Sure enough there they were when we first arrived. Swooping around out by the pilings about 5 purple martins (#109). Also we spotted a nice osprey (#110) flying over.

We still hadn't had our fill of birding and we had to go over to Kent before going home so we headed out to the Green River Resource Area (Kent Ponds). It was such a nice night and it produced a beautiful common yellow throat (#111).

OK now we can feel good about staying home and working outside for the weekend.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012 Coast Migration Part II

Woke up early and saw the "big moon" setting over the ocean. It made a nice start to the day. The second bonus was a clear, blue sky as the sun was coming up. A beautiful day at the beach...just proves it can happen however rare. Flying in formation we saw small groups of brown pelicans (#105). It was follow the leader, up then down, and all tracing the line of surf--they were mesmerizing to watch.

Our first stop of the day was Ocean Shores jetty. There we found where many of the brown pelicans called home. The tide was just coming in and the rocks of the jetty were quickly getting covered by the waves. There were colorful starfish clinging to the sides of the boulders. There were cormorants, sea gulls and we saw some Savannah sparrows but not much else. We decided to head to a place call Bill's Spit. Our last time at Ocean Shores we had tried to find Bill's Spit to no avail. This time I had precise directions and we did find it. The trail out to the spit is not marked and very narrow. It is easily missed and is in between many homes. But this time we found it and headed out. The tide was still very far out so we didn't see much except there were some seals sleeping on a beach a ways out--we were told there were babies there but they were so far out we really couldn't tell. One home on the beach did have a bunch of bird houses in their yard and tree and violet-green swallows (#106) were making their homes there. We decided not to wait for the tide as we wanted to go back to Bottle Beach when the tide was better for viewing. On the way out we checked out the lake but nothing was happening there this time of year.

violet-green swallow

At Bottle Beach we arrived perfectly timed with the tide. Instead of a semi-barren beach we were greeted with western sandpipers, dunlins, short billed dowitchers, black bellied plovers and a few red knots (#107) and some ruddy turnstones (#108). We were able to get quite close to some of them and it was a thrill to watch. The western sandpipers were the smallest and closet, then the dunlins and dowitchers, and the ruddy turnstones were running rapidly between them all. Once the tide got pretty high and covered most of the mud the little sandpipers all tucked their heads under their wings--all in the same direction--and took a bit of a nap. They were so cute you just wanted to scoop them up and take a few home.

snoozing western sandpipers in the foreground

We had a long drive home and we decided to make it a bit longer by going south and then cut over to I-5. There were a few areas we wanted to check out along the way. None of them proved anything of interest but you never know until you try. We arrived home in the early evening with visions of shorebirds still etched in our minds. It was a very enjoyable weekend even if it ended a bit down on the bird count. We did add 15 birds to the list and we saw thousands of birds over the course of the weekend plus we had a great time. I think that counts for a good way to spend a weekend.

Saturday, May 5, 2012 Coast Migration part 1

Destination - the ocean beaches of Washington state. Reason - the height of the shorebird migration.
Late April and early May is the time many shore birds are coming from their southern winter homes to their Alaska summer homes and they stop along the way to fuel up for their journey. Rudy and I were going to get a piece of that action. We got up early and made our first stop at Bottle Beach State Park at 8am. Bottle Beach is between Westport and Aberdeen. When we got to the beach the tide was way out. Birdwatching is at it's worst when the tide is out because the birds are far out where the water is. We could see some birds but didn't have any idea what were there as they were too far away. However, close to shore we did see a small herd of semi-palmated plovers (#94) so that was good.

We decided to head down the road to Johns River, an estuary/woodland area back toward Aberdeen. We took the trail for a short ways and heard a new song coming from the trees. To our delight we spotted a brilliant yellow warbler (#95) singing away. He was like a drop of sunshine sitting on a branch. Just beyond that there was a place where the estuary went under the trail and just below us was about 20 least sandpipers (#96). Oh the were busy poking the mud for food. We went a bit further but didn't see anything else new. There were some marsh wrens and mallards and such but we had bigger goals set for ourselves so we turned back and headed for Hoquiam for the Gray's Harbor Shorebird Festival.

least sandpiper

The event was easy to find, at the high school, and there was a good turn out with booths, classes and tours. We looked around and grabbed some soup and a huge brownie for lunch and then boarded the shuttle that was provided to visit the Gray's Harbor NWR. We were timing it to be there 2 hours before high tide--the primo viewing time. We'd been to Gray's Harbor NWR before when we had come out to the beach for the snowy owls. We stopped by but never actually found the trail out to the tide flats. So this was a great opportunity to learn the layout of the refuge. It actually is next to the airport and has a wonderful trail and boardwalk out to the harbor. From the shuttle we were dropped off at the trailhead. The trail is lined with small trees such as willows and makes a nice haven for warblers and such. Closer to the shore there were areas that wrens find homey and sure enough their songs filled the air. Up to our right and out toward the flats was a small group of white-fronted geese (#97). That was kind of a surprise. The tide flats were just beyond and there flying in were hundreds of birds. Mostly western sandpipers (#98) but there were a few dunlins (#99) mixed in. It took us awhile to get out to the best viewing area for the shorebirds because we were stopping to watch for birds in the shrubs, grasses and the mudflats. We saw one in particular that we knew must be a warbler but we couldn't put a name to. We'd have to get out the bird book and figure it out later. When we did get to where most people were gathered for viewing, the birds had moved on. Being new to this we didn't exactly know how this whole thing works. Timing is everything. So the best viewing times are about 1-2 hours before and after high tide but not necessarily at high tide. At high tide the mud is covered by water and the birds have no foraging areas. The good thing was the birds were still around, we just had to go to another section of the trail. Sure enough there they were--thousands. Each of them trying to find the last bit of high ground and rest awhile before they would eat again. Looking out it looked like a bunch of small islands by the shore, until you got the binocs on the "islands" and saw it was solid birds--not land. The movements of the flocks were something to see. All of a sudden, as if on some hidden command, hundreds of birds would swarm at the same time. Sometimes flying in circles and landing back where they started. Other times flying off to try some new part of the basin.

There is an island way out in the harbor where we could see thousands of birds swarming like a giant cloud moving to and fro. It was amazing. It was like it was alive.The tide came in higher and the birds flew off for higher ground. It didn't help that a merlin (#100) flew over at the same time--birds of prey always upset shorebirds and it kind of put an end to the viewing time at that part of the boardwalk.

Rudy and I decided to go back to the place we'd been when we first got out to the mudflats and wait for the tide to go out to see if the birds would come back. Many of the birders had left, except for the volunteers with scopes, and we found a bench to sit and wait. We ate a snack and looked in the bird book for that warbler we had seen. It turned out it was an orange-crowned warbler (#101). After about a half hour - 45 minutes there were patches of mud starting to appear again. Then a few birds, then more, then - well you get the picture. This time we had a front row seat. Western sandpipers, dunlins, semi-palmated plovers--then a shout--"black-bellied plovers (#102) coming in on the right!" Sure enough, there they were along with short-billed dowitchers (#103) and in the sky caspian terns and their flying antics.Migration--you bet. What a wonderful time being there in the midst of such an event. We watched as long as we dared--we had about 45 minutes until the last shuttle so we needed to start heading back. It worked out well, we had plenty of time to scan the path on the way back. We saw a wonderful yellow-rumped warbler and another yellow warbler. Watched a song sparrow give us a show and a song from a branch of apple blossoms. Found a marsh wren perched and trilling in his reeds. We were high on the thrill of it all.

That night we stayed at Ocean Shores at the Best Western Lighthouse Inn. We went down to the beach before dinner and saw more birds poking their long beaks in the sand for dinner. New to this group were a number of marbled godwits (#104). They had really long bills and were sticking it in the sand so even their head went under. Must have been some good stuff there.

We ate at the restaurant at the hotel--not the best--but it was easy. That night was one of those times when the moon was as close as it gets and appears bigger than normal so we were anxious to get a glimpse of it rising. Luckily the hotel has a "lighthouse" viewing room with 360 degree view. Moonrise was just about the same time as sunset. We were able to watch the sunset from our room and then high tailed it up to the lookout. Sure enough it appeared big and yellow and gave us a nice show for the end of the day.

A video to show some of the masses of birds:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday April 29, 2012 Titlow Beach and Gog-le-hi-te

We just couldn't get over the lack of birds from Saturday so we decided to go out again after church. We wanted to stay local so we just went to a couple of places in Tacoma. I'd been wanting to go to Titlow Beach Park down by the Narrows Bridge because it is supposed to be a good place to see purple martins at this time of year. So we grabbed a Subway sandwich to eat at the park and headed out prepared for a purple mass of color. OK so maybe I should have checked details before getting my hopes up again but I can't cover everything can I? Titlow is one place that has put up special purple martin nesting boxes so why shouldn't I believe they'd be there? What I hadn't read is that the book I got the info from was back in 2003, there are only about 1,000 purple martins in Washington at the time and starlings like to take over purple martin nests. To top it off that book said in 2003 there were only 16 there at the park. Wow 1,000 in all of Washington and 16 at this spot. That is not many. Well the starlings had taken over every nesting box and there were zero purple martins at Titlow Beach Park in 2012. I should have checked out e-birds to see where they had been spotted but I hadn't. Titlow was humming with scuba divers, families, trains and people with dogs. It was a nice Sunday and many locals were out enjoying the day. What I didn't expect was the amount of cormorants we would find. There were about 18-20 and all three species. There were some double-breasted and then quite a few pelagic cormorants (#90) and one Brandt's cormorant (#91). He had white hair coming off his head reminding me of a balding older gentleman with hair only left around the bottom part of his head.

There were also quite a few pigeon guillemots swimming in the water and hanging out on the pier. We really hadn't seen them out of water before so that was fun. At times you could really see their bright orange feet. We also saw a red-necked grebe (#92) swimming all alone in the water. He was quite pretty in his mating colors but he was too far away to get any good video. I only hope a female grebe got to see his show.

There is a trail through some nice woods there so we took that after we had our al fresco lunch. It was quite nice with great vistas of the water. We came across an older gentleman gazing up in a huge fir tree. When we approached he asked if we'd see the eagles nest. We looked up and sure enough there was a gigantic nest and in looking closer--with binocs of course--we could see Mr and Mrs Eagle up there guarding the aerie. I tell you that nest was big enough to hold a family of four.

Oh yeah--he's real

Other than the eagles the forest was pretty quiet. I did see an Anna's hummingbird for a few brief moments and we heard some other birds but we could never get a good look. This is where knowing bird songs would really pay off. However, I'm having enough trouble recognizing a bird by sight--so I'll wait a bit before I tackle the sounds.

We decided to go home via the tide flats in Tacoma. I had printed up some information on some areas there for birding. We finally found Gog-Le-Hi-Te wetlands park. It's not terrifically easy to find but there is a small parking area and even a viewing blind. We both saw an American goldfinch (#93) so we finally got to add him to the list. There was a cute little killdeer making a bit of a racket and some yellow-rumped warblers and song sparrows around. But the highlight had to be the little mallard duckling swimming by himself in the pond.

Here's a little video of Nisqually and this day....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Saturday April 28 Nisqually NWR

We went out with high hopes today. Rudy and I were finally home together after our separate travels, the bird migration up to Alaska was on and we had a Saturday to spend searching for migrants at Nisqually NWR. All reports were good, it was even supposed to be descent weather. Well gosh, about none of those things turned out to be true--other than Rudy and I were finally together. When we got there the swallows were in force so that was a nice reception. Cliff swallows (#81) and barn swallows (#82) were nesting around the visitors center. Swooping in and out like only swallows can do. In fact I think the word swooping was invented to describe swallows. We decided to try to get out to the mudflats as quick as possible--since the tide was right. Of course we were quite distracted on the way out. We checked out more swallows and saw the northern rough wing swallows (#83) by the twin barns.

tree swallow

We kept a watchful eye out for the owls--but no luck, again. Out to the boardwalk there was a red-tailed hawk feeding on the ground by the trail. Out toward the flats we saw a few Savannah sparrows (#84) a white-crowned sparrow (#85) and in the marsh some cinnamon teals (#86).

cinnamon teals

But where are the hundreds of migrating shorebirds stopping by to pick up nutrients on their way to Alaska? We walked out most of the way on the boardwalk but there was not much. We did see a few Caspian terns (#87) with some seagulls. They really are one of my favorite birds and one of them decided to perform for us, flying high and then dropping into the water to catch a bit of dinner. We also saw a few greater yellowlegs (#88) picking around in the mud. But other than those few birds there wasn't much. Of course there were great blue herons, mallards and some dabblers but not even many of those. It wasn't even that great of weather--for a few brief moments the sun would poke through the clouds and warm us up but then disappear and cool us down again.

We gave up on the mudflats and decided to try our hand at the woods so back along the river we traipsed. We did see quite a few yellow-rumped warblers (#89), both Audubon and Magnolia.

see the yellow rump?

 But other than those we didn't see much. So we called it a day, disappointed in the amount of birds that weren't there but happy that we added nine to our count. That's the point anyway, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday April 24, 2012-Back Home Again

So I was in Peru from April 1-17. I was visiting jungle lodges. It was for work so Rudy didn't get to go with me. Then when I got home Rudy had to depart for his work to North Carolina and won't be home until late on April 26. So we haven't had any chance to go out birding together. I did see 125 different species of birds in the Amazon but they won't count. Rudy went east of the mountains to see our son and daughter in law over Easter and saw white pelicans, magpies and such but they don't count because we didn't do it together. I went out yesterday and saw an osprey and a goldfinch but guess what--it won't count. We hope to go out Saturday so we'll see what happens then.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunday March 25, 2012 At Home

We had a couple of mourning doves (#79) visit this morning. Also, a bunch of house finches (#80) including one that was orange instead of red. By searching the web I found out it was an adult "yellow-phase" male.

mourning doves
Check out the difference in their colors!
Up to 80 - now.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Saturday March 24, 2012

Woke up with lots of bird songs outside. What would we find today? Looking out and seeing for the first time this year a beautiful evening grosbeak (#74).

Evening Grosbeaks

Oh yeah, it starts with one but then go away for a few minutes and look again and a whole flock of them are sitting on the feeder singing away in a raucous chirping concerto. We had bunches of birds today but there was another bird we didn't know off-hand. Looking closer we saw it was a white-throated sparrow (#75). I'd never seen one of these ever so it was nice to add him to the count.

We decided to go out in search of wood ducks today. There had been a report of a couple in Deep Lake at Nolte State Park--not far from where we live. So we headed out there. First it was closed for the winter--really? Well we did like everyone else and parked on the road and walked in. There is a trail that appears to go around Deep Lake but it's a small lake and we could see most of it from a floating platform--no ducks. Disappointing. Oh well, let's go to Federal Way to the Weyerhaeuser campus pond. There were some hopeful reports from there. It's also a small lake with a trail around it. Even though it's right next to I-5 it has a wide assortment of waterfowl and we did find two new ones. First, the comical ruddy duck (#76) and then the classic beauty  redhead (#77) and then a lesser scaup (#78) but no wood duck.


So over to West Hylebos Wetlands. We hiked the trail but hardly any bird activity. I think I saw a Huttton's vireo but it was a bit of a quick peak so I'm not going to confirm that. So no wood duck but it was still a nice day--we added five--that's a good day at this point.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friday March 23, 2012 Rufous

After the currents started to bloom, I knew the hummers would soon be coming. I put out fresh nectar in the feeder a few days ago and waited and today was the day. One lone rust colored rufous hummingbird (#73) at the feeder. Soon there will be many more.