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?