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.
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: