Saturday, December 22, 2012

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.

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