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.
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).
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.
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.
So we spent two days driving hundreds of miles, braving the cold and wet and only came up with four new birds. Today after work, at home, what did we see? Four more new birds! No driving, no putting on rain pants and jackets, just look out our window and take in the view. At our suet feeder a nice looking female hairy woodpecker (#69).
Add to that a pine siskin (#70) showed up at the feeder. I really don't remember ever seeing one at our feeder before. Then the little red-breasted nuthatch (#71) decided to come back for the season. It was nice to see him for the first time this year. But we almost missed the pièce de résistance. There were some purple finches that showed up but there was one that looked very different. After closer examination we realized we had a pair of red crossbills (#72). Neither one of us had ever see them before and for sure never at our feeder. It made us very happy.
We didn't feel satisfied from our birding on Saturday so we decided to skip church and go down to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to see what we could see. Once again, so cold, wet and miserable. Why are we doing this? To start I checked at the Center. There had been reports from the day before of the fledgling great horned owls flying around an alder grove by the boardwalk, so that's where we headed. On the way we were following a very good birder. He recognized a Pacific wren and then a warbler--we didn't catch either of those. Well we did see the warbler but we couldn't tell for sure which kind. Probably a yellow-rump warbler but we couldn't confirm it so no count. We should see some later this year. Hoping we couldn't miss a good size owl we moved onward. We reached the alder area and watched, along with some other birders. Nothing. There was a gentleman with a very large lens who had been there the day before and seen the birds. The weather had been hailing and bad and he couldn't get any good photos that day so he had come back but no owls, no photos. Oh well, we still had about 4 miles of trail left, there should be something. It had stopped raining and we were hopeful for clearing, but the clouds didn't look good. Anyway, we proceeded out toward the boardwalk but before we could even get to the beginning it started to rain, hail and the wind picked up and it was so cold. We almost turned around but covered up the gear and moved on. It looked like it might be temporary. We did see some tree swallows (#67) flying up and around. That means spring is coming. Hopefully the birds know more than the weatherman. We headed for the beginning of the boardwalk where there is a gazebo where we could dry out for a moment. It was so cold. Our hands were so cold we couldn't keep the binocs up to our eyes very long--our fingers just hurt. That birder we had met earlier was there and helped us identify a Lincoln sparrow (#68) in the scrub bushed below the gazebo. We still had all of the boardwalk to go so we set out and went to the end and back, fighting hail, then a bit of sunshine then hail, cold and wind. No new birds. We walked back by the ponds. I checked in at the center before we got back to the car to see if anyone had seen the owls, but no reports. A day late all around.
Could this winter be colder, wetter, or windier? What a terrible time to be outside but there we were again out on a trail in 30 something degree weather, raining almost snowing, trying to keep ourselves and our gear somewhat dry. We started at Spencer Island just out of the city part of Everett. To get there you go to Langus Riverfront Park and keep going under I-5 to the treatment center. Birds always love treatment ponds--must be lots of good stuff to be found there--I don't like to envision it. You park there and then walk to the bridge (.4 mile) that leads to the trails around the island. On the way to the bridge there was a flock of greater scaups up by one of the ponds. There were some nice marsh areas on each side of the trail and from there we could hear a very pretty bird song. Inside we spotted a marsh wren (#65) bouncing around and singing.
There were a few of them along the walk along with mallards and Canadian geese, crows and gulls. Crossing the bridge you see a great estuary system that looks like it should be full of water critters but because of the weather I think they were all hunkered down somewhere else. You have a choice of going left or right on the trail. Not knowing exactly which way to go we chose to the right. It was cold and wet but we were there and by gum we were going to take the trail. After a ways you have a choice of going right or left again. The left is the Cross Island Levee Trail and that's the one we took--we could see some waterfowl in the ponds in that direction and hoped to get a better view. There were some green winged teals, common goldeneyes, mallards and a great blue heron but not much else. It was a great trail though and would have been much more enjoyable if it wasn't raining. The trail did cross the island and joined another trail--left or right? I was pretty sure the right would join back up with our original trail so that's what we took. This followed the river and gave us a glimpse of some of the history along the way with shells of old boats, and some boats that were in working order. This part of the river is called Steamboat Slough. Not many birds though. The trail did continue to follow the lower and western side of the island and joined up where we had been. It was a pretty good walk (2.6 miles round trip from the bridge) but no new birds. The sun tried to come out a bit but it was very sporadic. Back at the car we did get some good looks of mew gulls (#66) flying around the treatment ponds. We were there about 3 1/2 hours. Really quite disappointed in the birding but it was a great area. We would love to come back in better weather.
We drove around a bit, Langus Riverfront Park and some land north of the treatment ponds, to see if we could find any other birds. We saw a nice bald eagle, American wigeons, green winged teals and herons but again nothing new. Hunger was setting in so we decided to head south on I-5 a bit to Edmonds to check out their marsh/pier area. On the way we found a Subway for lunch, right next to a Starbucks--what luck for Rudy, and then onward to Edmonds. The marsh area was small but a nice boardwalk and it's really close to the fishing pier--just south of the Kingston ferry dock. The marsh had a couple of beautiful blue herons and some waterfowl. Over on the pier there were surf scoters, red-breasted and common mergansers, cormorants, a rhino auklet, pigeon guillemot and many gulls. Nothing new again but a good bunch of birds. It was about 3:30p and we had to get over to Burien for a family dinner so we ended the day having a great pot of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty's Day.
We decided to stay a bit close to home this Saturday. I'd seen another birders post from March 9 at Brown's Point that included some birds we hadn't seen yet so that was our first stop. Browns Point is a community park just opposite the city of Tacoma. I'd been there many times but never as a birder. We got there and the gate was open so we drove in. It was cold, wet and windy--so what is new for this winter? We watched for awhile from the car and were intrigued enough to brave the elements and get closer to the water. It was pretty wet so Rudy opted not to bring the camera, I did bring the video because it's a lot easier to keep dry. The video is a nice way for us to confirm what we see when we are out. We take the videos, the camera is HD and has a great zoom, and when we get home we watch the videos with the bird books out and confirm what we see. It really has been a great way to learn and then remember the birds for the next time we see them. Also, I just got a new pair of binoculars, Nikon Monarch 100 x 45. All I can say is niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!
The first birds we watched were black with some white on the wings--pigeon guillemot's (#61). We wandered over to the other side of the point and saw a ways out in the water one rhinoceros auklet (#62). There were also some horned grebes, surf scoters, a cormorant, and golden eyes. Then in some bushes next to the beach Rudy saw some birds and they turned out to be house sparrows (#63). So that was a good little count for an hours work and a fairly short drive. It was still very early, about 9:30am, so we decided to go over to the Tacoma waterfront to see what we could see. There were not a lot of birds but we did finally see a pair of red-breasted mergansers (#64). That was a thrill to see them. They both have those crazy hair-dos but their even a bit wilder then their other merganser cousins.
We had driven around enough till it was noon so we went over to the Spaghetti Factory for lunch, I was ready to eat and it had been quite a while since we were there so that worked out well. After that we headed over to Dash Point State Park and Salt Water State Park and the Des Moines Marina. We saw pretty much the same birds we'd been seeing so nothing extra to the list. We ended up going past the Smith Brothers Dairy area in the Kent Valley and saw some American wigeons, cinnamon teals, northern pintails and a great blue heron all in one field that held enough water for a couple of small ponds. On the way home we saw a red-tailed hawk in a tree on the outskirts of town. We acutally spent a pretty full day out and only added four new birds but we still consider it a good day for the list.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is about 15 miles north of the Oregon border and about a 3 hour drive from where we live. This means rising early to get in some good birding. We made it out about 6:15am, Starbucks stop and arrived at about 9am. It rained a bit on the way down but stopped before we arrived--it was a bit warmer, and not much wind, so the weather was much better than some of our other birding Saturdays. From October through April there are two areas you can visit in the refuge. One is a two mile walk in the Carty Unit and the other is a 4.2 mile auto tour in the "River S Unit". Because of the amount of wildlife in the winter you are required to stay in your car for viewing along the route as the car acts as a bird blind and doesn't disturb the birds as much as walking would. This sounded kind of intriguing so we chose to do the car route first. On the way into the refuge we crossed a river and saw a juvenile double-crested cormorant perched on a small bit of land in the river. This boded well for a good birding day. We checked in at the entry to pay our $3 and took some notes from the board to see what birds had been seen in the past couple of days. I really wanted to see sandhill cranes and they weren't on the current list, but my hopes were high. So we set off on the route. The area is full of small lakes and lowlands with some trees and canals. Right off there were two pond areas on either side of the road lined with cattails. There were tons of American coots and we also saw northern shovelers, a pair of hooded mergansers, a bufflehead, red tailed hawk, a very blue great blue heron and bunches of red winged blackbirds perched on the cattails. A bit further we saw some tundra swans (#52), these are a bit smaller then the trumpeter swans but still just as beautiful. Down the road a bit on a small canal were a pair of gadwalls (#53) and then in the small lake opposite there were some green-winged teals (#54) swimming and feeding with a few other gadwalls and another great blue heron. Down the road a bit was a small forested area. We saw some small birds jumping around in the trees and some flying about but we really we unable to label any expect a song sparrow. We did see some nice red-tailed hawks, and immature bald eagles and one northern flicker in the trees.
Immature bald eagle
In the waters were some more coots and one pied-billed grebe (#55). Off in the distance were some more swans and a few Canadian geese. More water and more coots and a nice ring-necked duck. Further down in some open pond and grass areas we saw tons of cackling geese (#56). Cackling geese can easily get mislabeled for Canadian geese but they are smaller, have a higher pitched honk and a shorter bill. Driving on we saw a couple more tundra swans, more coots, pintails and shovelers. In the air was a northern harrier scouring the fields for lunch along with groups of geese and a small flock of swans. All in all there are thousands of birds in the refuge and we saw a good bit of them. Just before finishing the driving tour is an open field and we saw a well fed coyote hunting and catching some lunch. Only a 4.2 mile drive but it took us almost 3 hours, no sandhill cranes, but very memorable.
We made our way to the Carty Unit of the park to take the "Oaks to Wetlands" 2 mile trail. This area of the refuge is only a bit over a mile north of the "river S-unit" but it is a little higher and is forested with a few lakes scattered here and there. The forest has lots of lovely Garry oak trees which is something we don't see up north. We started off by catching a streak of blue flying into an oak. It turned out to be a western scrub-jay (#57). We ended up seeing a good number of them. If all birds were so brightly colored we'd have a lot easier time spotting them. Just a bit further, in some bushes, we saw some bushtit's (#58) bouncing from branch to branch. After that we walked through the forest and around the lakes but really didn't see much else. Again there were some birds we couldn't recognize and a few ducks and some swans in the distance but that was about it. Quite a let down after seeing so many on the driving tour, but it was dry and not too cold and we did get a nice hike out of it.
It was only about 2:30pm when we got back so we thought we'd try another area a bit further north called La Center Bottoms. We found our way using back roads--it was probably about 10 miles away in the town of La Center. They have nicely done an area by the river that flows through town with a good trail with a couple of viewing blinds. The problem was as soon as we got out of the car we heard gun shots. Good bird viewing and gun shots don't normally go together but we were there so we headed down the trail. We saw a great egret (#59) just when we arrived but when we got close enough to take some photos it flew away. There were some great blue herons but that was about it. The gun shots continued so we turned around after a bit and headed back. I did see a golden-crowned sparrow and some black capped chickadees in the wooded area and while I was watching these a Anna's hummingbird (#60) flew between Rudy and me and hovered for a moment next to a fir tree and then flew on. That was an unexpected delight. The first hummer of the year for us!
It was about 4pm by then so we headed north for home stopping in Chehalis for a pleasant dinner at the Kit Carson restaurant just off of I-5. We made it home about 7:30pm. We saw hundreds of birds but only added 9 new to the list. Still, it was another good day.
Here's a video with some fun images of the birds we saw.
Woke up and the power was out again. It was windy but not bad enough for that. Not knowing how long it could be out got us out of bed and on the road. Headed out about 9am over to Belfair to check out the Theler Wetland Trails. The weather was gray and cold--seems to be a theme this winter. We made the obligatory stop for gas and Starbucks and arrived about 10:30am at Theler Community Center. The nature trails are out the back, through a gate and down through a small wooded area. Still windy and cold which isn't the best weather for birding but it didn't rain. There is a nice interpretive center there--wasn't open--but it looks interesting. We went off on the Alder/Cedar swamp trail--a floating boardwalk--but didn't even see one bird. Then we connected with the 1 1/2 mile Union River Estuary Trail which basically is on top of the dike following the Union River which empties out into Hood Canal. Immediately we saw some mallards lazing around in some wetlands. Then I heard a red winged blackbird (#46) and found him in a scrub tree. In a pond to the right floated a solitary water bird--turned out to be a common goldeneye. Not a bad start. We wandered further and saw some Canadian geese in a farmers field, a northern harrier flying out in the tideland along with a bald eagle foraging in the mudflats. I saw some little birds jumping around in the brush along the trail, I could see some yellow on the head and wasn't sure exactly what they were. Turned out they were golden crowned sparrows (#47). They didn't seem too scared of the people on the trail so I was able to get some nice video of them. Travelin' on down it changes to boardwalk areas that follow the bends in the small river. Saw some very nice common merganser's (#48) along the waters edge. The females had some doos on them--especially when the wind blew through them and their bright orange pointy bills and brilliant red feet made them really fun to watch. A belted king fisher came swooping down the river at breakneck speed. All we really saw was a blue blur streaking by. I had no idea they could fly so fast. We went to the end of the walk but didn't see much else. The sun came out but the wind picked up. On the way back there were a couple of killdeer along the shore and we did see a great blue heron on the fresh water side. We took the south tidal marsh trail that goes out to Hood Canal, but it was so windy there was nothing out there. This will be a great area to come back to later in the season. It was nicely laid out and some good variance in ecosystems.
Hunger was setting in so when we got back to the car, about 2pm, we headed back into Belfair and found a Mexican Restaurant called El Sombrero and had a very pleasant lunch. Another Starbucks stop and we headed down Highway 3 and then followed Hood Canal down to Twanoh State Park. Along the way we saw some more common mergansers and at the park a group of surf scoters. Out in the canal I videoed what looks like Clark's grebes (#49). These are pretty rare and there aren't any other sightings so far on the web but we saw what we saw. We also saw a nice group of Barrow's goldeneyes (#50). We continued down the Canal and saw a group of greater scaups (#51). We headed down to Shelton and then back east and back across the Narrows. Got home about 7pm with 6 new birds to the list. It was a nice day.