Birds of Northwest Washington State

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What : 1818 images of 69 different species (31 new species)
When : February 4-9 2006
Where : Skagit Flats, Point Roberts, Mount Baker, Post Point Marine Park, Deception Pass, Oak Harbor, South Whidbey State Park Washington State
  Boundary Bay, Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Vancouver, BC Canada
bold = New Species    = Good quality photos

Trip Report written by Bob H.

Nick K. (New Jersey) and I (Bob H.) birded the northwestern part of Washington, north of Seattle, for six days (2/4/06 - 2/9/06), recording 110 different bird species. The weather was excellent, ranging from the 30s to near 50 degrees, with progressively more sun each day.

Day 1

We had a rough landing in SeaTac Airport south of Seattle, amid 30-40 mph winds. We reached the Skagit Flats about 60 miles to the north by early afternoon. In overcast but clearing weather we found Bald Eagles virtually everywhere we looked. We also saw Peregrine Falcons hunting, along with Red-tails and Rough-legs. Other interesting birds were Thayer's Gull and Golden-crowned Sparrow. Further north we checked into our motel in Bellingham where we would stay for five nights.

Day 2

We crossed into Canada to bird the Boundary Bay area. First stop was Point Roberts, at the tip of a peninsula that is actually part of the U.S. The only way to get there by land is via British Columbia, Canada. We saw Brandt's Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Bewick's Wren, Black Oyster Catcher, Western Gull, and other 'normal' water birds. Moved back into Canada to the Delta area of Boundary Bay and found seven Snowy Owls in one 180-degree sweep, plus many more Bald Eagles (including a pair mating) and other raptors. Locals told us there were actually 14 Snowy Owls in the neighborhood. Also saw a Northern Shrike and two Short-eared Owls. Moved on to the area next to the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary for Barn Owl and a perched immature Golden Eagle at close range.

Day 3

We traveled up Mount Baker (10,778 feet) where a world record 95 feet of snow fell during the winter of 1998-1999. Found a flock of 25 Common Ravens at the ski lodge, plus two Grey Jays. Birds were hard to find as we worked our way down the mountain. One highlight was a flock of Varied Thrushes. We later discovered that they usually travel in groups;find one and others appear shortly. Further down we came across a noisy flock of Steller's Jays and then a large flock of Evening Grosbeaks. We saw the first 30-40 grosbeaks high up in a leafless deciduous tree and then discovered another 60 or so working a feeder nearby. We checked all fast flowing streams on the way down the mountain for American Dipper, without any luck. Then only a few miles from Bellingham, late in the day, we were chasing a mixed flock of kinglets and creepers at the south end of Lake Whatcom when Nick found two American Dippers by the stream flowing into the lake. We finished the day at Post Point Marine Park in Bellingham where we found Barrow's Goldeneye on edge of the bay.

Day 4

We headed back into Canada again, visiting the jetty out to the Tsawwassen ferry north of Point Roberts where we saw more Black Oyster Catchers, Glaucous-winged Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull X Western Gull (hybrid), Mew Gull and Snow Bunting. Then spent some time on the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary for Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sandhill Crane (6), Brewers Blackbird and Eurasian Wigeon. As on Day 2, there were lots of Bald Eagles around, many of them obviously mated pairs perched together. Later we drove through downtown Vancouver (site of the 2010 winter Olympics) to get to Stanley Park. Here we found the elusive Chestnut-backed Chickadee in a mixed flock with Black-capped Chickadees and Kinglets. Also found many Barrow's Goldeneye on the bay.

Day 5

Went to Deception Pass on the north end of Whidbey Island in the morning. Found Bushtit and Least Sandpiper, but not much else new. In the afternoon, Nick's friend Willy (10 year Seattle resident and British transplant via NJ) joined us for raptor hunting on the Samish and Skagit flats. We found the Harlan's Red-tail Hawk (blackish with some white breast streaking) at the precise location provided by Don Bryant from his trip here in 2005. Apparently this bird is a long-term resident. Also found several 'intermediate adult' Red-tails with blackish bellies and 'Red-shoulder like' crimson on the breast. We also had a dark phase Red-tail, nearly all black with a characteristic red tail. Other Red-tails were the classic western variety, similar to the eastern version but with buffier belly and chest. We also had several Rough-legged Hawks, both light phase and dark phase, along with Peregrine Falcons, American Kestrels and many Northern Harriers. Gyr Falcons were reported in the area but the best we could do was a brief over the shoulder glance at a large powerful looking falcon flying low across one of the fields. In addition to the raptors already noted were many Bald Eagles both perched and soaring. The highlight of raptor watching is nature in action; an adult Bald Eagle took an American Wigeon in flight. Willy was the only one who actually saw the kill but Nick and I got great views of the proud bird doing a victory lap with its dinner.

Day 6

We crossed the bridge on to Whidbey Island and headed south to Oak Harbor, picking up the Black Turnstone and California Quail. Further south we found Western Bluebird and a lone Cooper's Hawk. Since we had time, we decided to take a ferry from Keystone across to Port Townsend to check for seabirds. On this 30-minute ride out we found Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet and Ancient Murrelet. We turned around and came right back, seeing more of the same. Our final stop of the trip was South Whidbey State Park where we spent several hours in forest habitat searching for very elusive woodpeckers. While we found a number of trees frequented by woodpeckers (obvious by the drillings) we could not add to our meager list of Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker (Red-shafted). We then took the short ferry ride from Clinton to Mukilteo and on to Seattle for our early morning return flight.

Here is a complete list of our sightings:

Bald Eagle 
Bald Eagle with kill 
Bald Eagle drinking 
Snowy Owl 
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow 
Black Oystercatcher 
American Dipper 
Red-tailed Hawk 
Spotted Towhee 
American Wigeon 

New Species

American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus
Barn Owl Tyto alba
Barrow's Goldeneye Bucephala islandica
Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
Black Oystercatcher Haematopus bachmani
Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala
Brandt's Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus
Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
California Quail Callipepla californica
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Parus rufescens
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Evening Grosbeak Hesperiphona vespertina
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus
Mew Gull or Short-billed Gull Larus brachyrhynchus
Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus
Pigeon Guillemot Cepphus columba
Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus
Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis
Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus
Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator
Varied Thrush Zoothera naevia>/a>
Western Bluebird Sialia mexicana
Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Other Species

American Coot Fulica americana
American Wigeon Anas americana
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Common Loon Gavia immer
Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Common Murre Uria aalge
Common Raven Corvus corax
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Merlin Falco columbarius
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Northern Shrike Lanius excubitor
Peregrine Facon Falco peregrinus
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Sanderling Calidris alba
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens
Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys

Seen but not photographed

American Crow  
American Kestrel  
American Robin  
Ancient Murrelet  
Belted Kingfisher  
Brown Creeper  
Brown-headed Cowbird  
Canada Goose  
Cooper's Hawk  
European Starling  
Golden-crowned Kinglet  
Gray Jay  
Greater Scaup  
Greater Yellowlegs  
Green-winged Teal  
Herring Gull  
Hooded Merganser  
House Sparrow  
Long-tailed Duck  
Northern Flicker  
Northern Pintail  
Northern Shoveler  
Prairie Falcon  
Ring-billed Gull  
Ring-necked Duck  
Ring-necked Pheasant  
Rock Dove  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  
Ruddy Duck  
Ruffed Grouse  
Sharp-shinned Hawk  
Short-eared Owl  
Thayer's Gull  
Tundra Swan  
Western Gull  
White-winged Scoter  
Wood Duck  
Yellow-rumped Warbler