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Texas & Washington State 2013

...with Mark Finn

January 16th - 30th

This tour was arranged at short notice as a private trip for three of our clients. Our tour started in coastal Texas which has seen a boom in development during the last decade. Despite this many wild areas remain which attract a wide range of wildlife. Highlights in Texas included several wintering Whooping Cranes, Snow Geese, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, a wide range of ducks and waders, Inca Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Vermillion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Blue-headed Vireo, Sprague’s Pipit, Pyrrhuloxia and literally thousands of roosting grackles near Houston. Washington State was a totally different place with highlights including fourteen Snowy Owls sitting on a factory roof at Boundary Bay (we had 24 birds in total), Northern Saw-whet and Short-eared Owls, the beautiful Varied Thrush and wintering Townsend’s Warblers. Other interesting species of note included; Cackling Goose, Harlequin Duck, all three North American scoters, Barrow’s Goldeneye, a passage of 1000+ divers in San Juan de Fuca, over 400 Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Buzzards and Short-eared Owls in high numbers. The Pacific Ocean revealed Marbled and Ancient Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Guillemots. North American sparrows were well represented with seven species.

Our next tour to these two states is scheduled for 2014.

January 16th : Heathrow, Houston, Palacios, Rockport.

The group met at Heathrow Airport for the flight to Houston in Texas. Landed in the Texas sunshine ahead of time and passed through immigration and customs. Our journey to Rockport was hampered by heavy traffic in Houston although we observed our first birds including Great and Snowy Egrets, Great-tailed Grackle and European Starling. Our journey to Rockport was taken mainly in darkness with a stop for dinner at Palacios.

January 17th: Dick Kleberg Park, Kingsville Cemetery, Santa Gertrudis Creek, Drum Point, Kaufer-Hubert Park.

Weather: Clear and sunny with a cool northwest wind 4 C/17 C.

A later breakfast was taken before we headed southwest along the Texas coast to the town of Kingsville. The bay across from the motel held a few birds; White-faced Ibis, Ring-necked and Mottled Ducks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in flight, Northern Mockingbirds and hordes of Great-tailed Grackles. The route passed Corpus Christie and south to Kingsville an important town serving this huge agricultural region of Texas. Our first birding stop at Dick Kleberg Park proved to be the start of an excellent birding day. Near the parking lot a wintering Couch’s Kingbird was catching insects. The mature trees attracted Golden-fronted, Red-bellied and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Pyrrhuloxia. Next on the agenda was the cemetery which is tucked away up an obscure side road and bordered with mature trees. The grassy areas held the first Killdeers of the tour, Eastern Meadowlarks, and a surprise find in a wintering Sprague’s Pipit. Wintering Vermillion Flycatchers were very showy here and overhead a flock of Sandhill Cranes, Turkey and American Black Vultures. Picked up lunch in Kingsville and headed to the creek at Santa Gertrudis a rather degraded marsh and creek habitat. We added a few birds including the beautiful White-tailed Hawk, Great Kiskadee, Orange-crowned Warbler and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. Drum Point, was next a habitat of tidal waters and fields the latter having several groups of Sandhill Cranes, Killdeer and Savannah Sparrows. At Drum Point we located wintering; Bufflehead, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper and resident birds; American White and Brown Pelicans, Neotropical and Double-crested Cormorants and Forster’s Terns. The last birding stop was in and around Kaufer-Hubert Park with its campground and water habitats. The bushes attracted gnatcatchers, warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, House Wren and Northern Cardinal. In the camp we were surprised to find colonising Eurasian Collared Doves and flocks of American Pipits. The last walk of the day added Brown Thrasher, American Avocet, Semipalmated Plover and two Willets. The journey back to Rockport was uneventful apart from a hunting Northern Harrier.

January 18th : Rockport, Rattlesnake Point, Aransas.

Weather: Clear and sunny with a northwest wind 6 C/19 C.

Due to a problem with the crane boat we had to jiggle the day around to fit our plans for Saturday. We started the day by looking at a Coopers Hawk which was trying to catch the local House Sparrows without too much success. In the taller trees we added White-winged Doves and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker to the day list. I then travelled up route 35 and stopped just before the causeway where a small enclosed freshwater pool was attracting birds. This was a remarkable place as we had good views of Pied-billed Grebes, Mallard, Mottled and Ring-necked Ducks, Redhead, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricoloured Heron and several Ospreys. Next on the agenda was Rockport waterfront which has been extensively developed in recent years. The tide was low thus attracting both pelicans, Neotropical and Double-crested Cormorants, Laughing, Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls, Caspian and Forster’s Terns, Greater Yellowlegs and a female Canvasback. I decided to visit Rattlesnake Point which added Little Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Marbled Godwit and Grey Plovers. Mid-morning we picked up supplies and headed to Aransas National Wildlife Reserve which is reached by driving through the vast farmlands. The wires attracted American Kestrels and Loggerhead Shrikes whilst Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks hunted over the fields. Near a farm we found the first Bald Eagle of the tour, Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Couch’s Kingbird. We checked in at the nature centre and then proceeded to the first birding trail where we had lunch. Before arriving views of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, Black and White Warbler and American Pipits. The trail was quiet apart from a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Further on an elevated viewing platform allows views over the bay and adjacent mud flats. Careful scanning added Green-winged Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt and Least Sandpipers and Sanderling. Offshore the water habitats had Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Redheads. Bird Trail 2 had a wintering Grey Catbird and numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers. The next trail we visited was near the tower hide where a walk within the live oaks habitat added Blue-headed Vireo and Orange-crowned Warbler. Beyond the woods the estuarine area had a party of Roseate Spoonbills and several Willets. We ended the day on the rail trail although this was rather poor for birds. Species recorded included Common Moorhen, Bewick’s Wren and a hunting Peregrine Falcon.

January 19th : Aransas Bay, Port Lavaca, San Bernard NWR, Galveston.

Weather: Sunny and clear with a light northwest wind 6 C/17 C.

After the disappointment of yesterday’s cancellation we met up at the quay for a birding trip into Aransas Bay. Outside the harbour deeper waters attracted Great Northern Divers and Common Goldeneyes. The maze of channels, islands and grassy bunds are extremely attractive to resident and wintering birds. Exposed muddy patches attracted American Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Dunlin and both Western and Least Sandpipers. Herons and egrets were in abundance along with American White Ibis, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs and Roseate Spoonbills. As the boat slowly went up the channel a scan of the salt-marsh revealed Whooping Cranes with a total of 21 birds seen. A first winter Merlin was found sitting on a post and two Spotted Sandpipers feeding on exposed rocks. On the way back to the harbour sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Ruddy Turnstone and hordes of egrets and herons. Back to the motel and then eastwards to the industrial town of Port Lavaca. The boardwalk around the marsh is usually productive for birds with sightings of Northern Harrier, Long-billed Curlew and Least Sandpipers. Due to the problem with the boat trip I decided to take a gamble and visit San Bernard NWR and here the entrance road woods had Carolina Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal and Savannah Sparrows. The best sector was the last with a Common Yellowthroat showing well and further down the track Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks and a Great Horned Owl located by Biff.

January 20th: Galveston, Port Travis, Rollover Pass, High Island, Anahuac.

Weather: Clear and sunny with a light east wind 10 C/19 C

A later start this morning as we travelled along the waterfront and inland to join the ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula. The ferry crossing takes around fifteen minutes with sightings of Laughing, Ring-billed, American Herring and Bonaparte’s Gulls and at least two Red-breasted Mergansers the latter a scarce species in Texas. A short diversion to Port Travis was productive for Belted Kingfisher, Red-tailed Hawk, White-crowned and Savannah Sparrows. The coast along route 87 took a battering a few years ago in the hurricane season. This has changed the habitat at Rollover Pass but it is still an important area for wildlife. The vast sand and mudflats and adjacent deep-water channels attracted a wide range of birds. The mud and oyster stands were attractive to Long-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, American Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Greater Yellowlegs. In the sand patches and shore Semipalmated and Snowy Plovers, American Avocet, Grey Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Caspian, Forster’s and Gull-billed Terns and Black Skimmer. We continued our journey to High Island which is an important migrant trap in the spring although winter does bring a few birds. In the car park we quickly located Inca Doves and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Within the reserve we located House Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Grey Catbird and a first winter Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the reeds we caught up with Song Sparrows which can be rather shy during the winter months. Anahuac was our final birding stop of the day with recent habitat and access improvements. On arrival the telegraph wires were awash with Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds. In the first marshy area thousands of blackbirds and grackles, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and above average numbers of American Pipits. Next was a visit to one of the recently flooded areas which held thousands of Snow Geese, White-fronted Geese, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon and a female Merlin looking for prey from a pole. Further scans of this amazing place added Wilsons Snipe and Brewer’s Blackbirds. It was time to return to Galveston with stops at areas used for rice production. Up to 200 Long-billed Dowitchers, American Golden Plover and a wide selection of ducks made it a memorable birding day in Texas.

January 21st : Galveston, Brazos State Park, WG Jones State Forest.

Weather: Sunny and clear with light east winds 10 C/18 C.

Today we checked out and headed in a northerly direction towards Houston and Brazos State Park. On arrival I went to the first parking lot which is next to a large lake surrounded by woodland. From the parking lot a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed well preening in the bright sunshine. We then went on a walk around the lake and forest in search of birds. In the first sector of forest we found; Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers and Northern Cardinals. On reaching the lakeside a scan of the lake revealed American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American White and White-faced Ibis. On the lake edge a variety of herons including Anhinga, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets. Scarce birds present included Cave and Tree Swallows. The walk around the lake allowed us to study the commoner wetland species of Texas. Lunch was taken in a quieter part of the park with mature trees, river and grass habitats. This proved to be a good move as the group located Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Bluebird, Tufted Titmouse, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch. At 1400 hours we set off on the road to WG Jones State Forest which is north of Houston. Initially this was very quiet but we did locate a pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches, Blue Jay, Chipping Sparrow and Tufted Titmouse.

January 22nd: Jesse Jones County Park, Houston, Seattle, Anacortes.

Weather: Sunny in Texas 19c, cooler in Seattle 4 C.

Today was basically a travel day to Washington State in the Pacific north-west. However with an afternoon flight it was possible to visit Jesse Jones County Park near the airport. This proved to be very good for wintering birds along the cypress board walk. American Robins were conspicuous along with Cedar Waxwings the latter feeding on berries. Also present in the same area was Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Pine Warbler, Carolina Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers. Walking along the trail also produced views of Blue-headed Vireo, Chipping and White-throated Sparrows, Tufted Titmouse and Blue Jay. We travelled to the airport for the flight to Seattle which passed over the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountain range. On arrival in Seattle the drive north to Anacortes went smoothly and we soon reached our base for the next five nights.

January 23rd: Padilla Bay, Samish Flats, Samish Island, Howard Miller Steelhead Park.

Weather: Cloudy with persistent rain showers in the afternoon on a south-westerly wind 3 C.

Daybreak was just before 0800 hours and it revealed a cloudy and overcast sky. After breakfast we picked up supplies in the centre of town with Mew Gulls and North-western Crows for company. Our first birding spot was the huge expanse of inter-tidal water at Padilla Bay which was heaving with birdlife. Before we arrived a party of Tundra Swans were observed on a rather muddy field. Careful scanning of Padilla Bay revealed Great Northern Diver, Mallard, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and a Thayer’s Gull. Further down the road we stopped at Samish Flats which is an excellent place for birds. Telegraph poles, fences and any other elevated perch attracted Bald Eagles (numerous), Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-tailed Hawk, dozens of Northern Harriers, Merlin and Northern Shrike the latter by the parking area. Despite hunters being around thousands of Snow Geese were observed in flight. In the fields we found; Western Meadowlarks and Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds. I decided to visit Samish Island although access is difficult due to private property issues. Wharf Road allows access to the beach where we watched birds close to shore. This produced sightings of Red-throated Diver, Surf Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Brandt’s Cormorant and a single Pigeon Guillemot. On the return journey we stopped at the parking area again and found at least four drake Eurasian Wigeon a rare winter visitor to Washington State. We then joined Route 20 and went eastwards towards the Cascade Mountains with a stop near Bellingham for Trumpeter Swans and a Merlin. After this the weather started to worsen with rain showers. Along the Skagit River we had sightings of Bald Eagle, Common Goldeneye, Goosander, Glaucous-winged Gull and Common Raven. Our last stop at Howard Miller Steelhead Park was very productive with the feeders attracting Spotted Towhee, Purple Finch, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Dark-eyed Junco and Pine Siskin. The weather was poor so a short break for drinks at a nearby inn. Afterwards a short walk in the park added American Robin and the stunning Varied Thrush.

January 24th: Anacortes, Port Susan Bay, Norman Road Loop, Judy’s House, Everett including Kathleen’s House and Water Treatment Works, Mukelteo, Eide Road.

Weather: Cloudy with a southeast wind 7 C.

Today we joined up with Judy a local birder from Stanwood for some very special birds of Washington State. Our first birding spot was Port Susan Bay a large intertidal wetland near Stanwood. The group were delighted to see six Snowy Owls dotted around the reserve with one individual being only thirty metres away. Out on the marsh logs and fence posts attracted many Bald Eagles. On the shoreline several thousand wintering Dunlin being chased by a Peregrine Falcon. We then embarked on the Norman Road Loop which passes dairy farms and rich pastures the latter attracting Snow Geese, Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Grey Plover, Killdeer and Northern Flickers in the larger trees. Judy then took us to her house which has several feeders in the gardens. This was an excellent spot as we watched Steller’s Jay, Golden-crowned, Song and Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Spotted Towhees. Next on the agenda was Kathleen’s house in Everett which is tucked down a cul-de-sac next to a conifer forest. The garden here is an amazing place to watch birds attending the feeders with sightings of Downy Woodpecker, Varied Thrush, Bewick’s Wren, Townsend’s Warbler and Anna’s Hummingbirds plus the species seen at Judy’s. Mukelteo was next on the birding agenda where we consumed lunch. The parking lot here attracted a wide range of gulls; Glaucous-winged, Western and Ring-billed. The enclosed channel attracted Red-throated and Pacific Divers, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Common and Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Goosander and Red-breasted Mergansers. The light was starting to fade as we entered Everett Water Treatment Works. This area had thousands of Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks and several Ruddy Ducks. The stands of bulrushes attracted an American Bittern at close range, Song Sparrow and Marsh Wren. We ended the day at Eide Road with hunting Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls, Rough-legged Buzzard and fittingly a Snowy Owl watching us from across the water on a large log.

January 25th : Anacortes, Boundary Bay, Reifel, Victoria Island Ferry Road.

Weather: Sunny with light southeast winds 8 C.

Today we travelled north from Anacortes and crossed the border into Canada. Along the route we recorded our first Canada Geese of the tour and literally dozens of Bald Eagles sitting in trees and telegraph poles. Our first birding stop was at Boundary Bay a large area accessed by a raised tarmac track overlooking a bay, salt-marsh and dykes. Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls were abundant in the fields hunting rodents and small birds. The most amazing find was eighteen Snowy Owls in various plumages of which fourteen were sitting on a factory roof. The remainder allowed a close approach as they preened or simply watched from fallen logs. We were all stunned by this experience as too see one bird is good – but eighteen!! In the dykes we found wintering Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Marsh Wren and Spotted Towhees and a hunting Coopers Hawk. It was time to visit Reifel Nature Reserve although small in size it attracts a wide range of birds. On the entrance road we found parties of Snow Geese and Goosander. At Reifel the car park had many Mallards and American Wigeon plus a pair of Sandhill Cranes. The first part of the trail system allowed us to watch Black-crowned Night Herons and on the open water four Hooded Mergansers. Birds were numerous along the trail including Black-capped Chickadees, Song, Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhee and American Robin. Near the junction we were captivated by a roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl a regular winter visitor to Reifel. A little further along the trail a pair of Great Horned Owls showed well high up in a conifer tree. Near the tower hide Cedar Waxwings feeding on berry bushes. I decided to exit Reifel and head towards the ferry terminal which serves Victoria Island. Careful scanning into the calm waters revealed the presence of Great Northern Diver, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Greater Scaup and both Goldeneyes.

January 26th : Anacortes, Lopez Island.

Weather: Cloudy with steady rain showers 8 C.

A later start this morning as we headed towards the ferry terminus at Anacortes. Our main birding was from the ferry and on Lopez Island which has good access to the shore and forest habitats. The ferry left on time at 0925 and we were soon observing Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Red-necked Grebe, Great Northern and Pacific Divers, Pigeon and Common Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets. Once on the island I headed towards Lopez Village where feeders by the post office attracted Golden-crowned, White-crowned, Song and House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Red-winged Blackbirds. Fisherman Bay is close by where we located the commoner ducks including a drake Eurasian Wigeon, and at least four Bald Eagles sitting on washed up tree trunks. Offshore in the Middle Channel up to six Great Northern Divers, Western Grebe, Marbled Murrelet and a Belted Kingfisher perching on a sign. I then followed the back roads to Jones Bay with a stop en route for Canada Geese, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk and a willow tree attracting a large flock of Pine Siskins and Dark-eyed Juncos. Jones Bay held a few Black Oystercatchers a rather localised bird of the Pacific Ocean coastline. Lunch was taken by Shoal Bight which offered us views of an enclosed lagoon and into Lopez Sound. The latter had in excess of fifty Slavonian Grebes, Surf Scoters and up to twenty five Red-throated Divers. Next stop was at Hummel Lake where the parking area had a showy Pacific Wren. On the lake we looked at Goosanders and Buffleheads in good numbers. The weather started to improve a little as we made our last birding stop on the island at Spencer Spit. The forest was very quiet but the lagoon held Black-bellied Brent Geese, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail. At 1620 we left the island for the sea crossing back to Anacortes with similar birds to the outbound journey.

January 27th : Anacortes, Deception Pass, San Juan de Fuca, Dungeness Forks, Dungeness Nature Reserve, Sequim Railhead.

Weather: Steady drizzle and showers on an easterly wind 8 C.

We checked out of Anacortes and travelled to Deception Pass with a stop at Rosario Beach. On arrival we checked the offshore rocks recording Black Oystercatcher and Harlequin Ducks the latter being located by Jean. We then went to West Beach which overlooks the stretch of water known as San Juan de Fuca. This was simply amazing for divers with over a thousand birds present mostly Red-throated and Pacific and lower numbers of Great Northern. Also present were three species of cormorants, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead and on ponds adjacent to the sea Trumpeter Swan and Canada Geese. I decided to catch the earlier ferry across to Port Townsend at 1015. The crossing went smoothly as Ancient and Marbled Murrelets, Common and Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros Auklet and Red-necked Grebes were observed. On arrival in Port Townsend we picked up supplies and headed towards Dungeness Forks a remote campground situated in the foothills of the Olympic Peninsula. It was devoid of birds so we checked fields lower down with a garden holding Grey and Steller’s Jays and Common Ravens. Onto Dungeness Nature Reserve which is dominated by a shingle spit dotted with logs and a large lagoon separated from the sea. A feeder within the forest attracted the commoner woodland species plus Red-breasted Nuthatch and Varied Thrush. Further down the track we scanned the sea adding Surf, Black and White-winged Scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, all three divers and Black Brants in reasonable numbers. A muddy sector of the lagoon had Killdeer and a single Least Sandpiper an unusual species to see here in the winter months. We ended the day at Sequim Railhead a reserve managed and owned by the local Audubon Society. The feeders here were alive with birds with Downy Woodpecker, Hutton’s Vireo, Anna’s Hummingbird, Pine Siskin, Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadees, House Finch, Golden-crowned, Song and Fox Sparrows. A walk along the ‘old railroad’ added the highly localised American Dipper and a male Hairy Woodpecker flitting around in the mature trees. The weather had started to close in as we travelled to Port Townsend our base for the night.

January 28th : Port Townsend, Port Angeles, La Push, Ocean Shores.

Weather: Cloudy with persistent rain showers on a west wind 4 C.

This morning we set off on the journey across the Olympic Peninsula to Ocean Shores which was founded in 1960. The weather today was to dominate our birding with rain which was heavy at times. Our first birding stop was the tower hide at Port Angeles which gives a vista into the harbour area. From the hide we recorded Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes, Pacific and Great Northern Divers, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, all three cormorants and a pair of Belted Kingfishers. I decided to explore the far side, a shingle spit protecting the harbour from the waters of San Juan de la Fuca. The old log lagoons attracted Surf Scoter, Pigeon Guillemot, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes and American Wigeon. At the far end of the spit a wintering flock of Sanderling. I decided to visit the yacht club where we finally caught up with the localised Black Turnstone and a single Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover and Least Sandpiper all using old logs to feed and rest on. Filled up with fuel and headed towards the Indian village of La Push situated on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The pier here attracted Western, Mew and Glaucous-winged Gulls plus many hybrids of the two larger species. Over the forest up to four soaring Bald Eagles. In the village we watched a group of Golden-crowned Sparrows feeding in a garden. I rejoined the road 101 leading south which passes by large lakes and through stands of mature forest. The weather was appalling and made driving tricky at times. We arrived at Ocean Shores at 1730 hours.

January 29th: Ocean Shores, Ocean City State Park, Grays Harbour.

Weather: Overcast with showers. West wind brisk at times 7 C.

Thankfully the bad weather of yesterday had moved eastwards and we were left with a cloudy and showery day at Ocean Shores. Our first stop was the jetty and water treatment works situated at the southern end of the city. A careful scan of the jetty revealed little in the way of birdlife. Glaucous-winged and Western Gulls (plus their hybrids) and Brandt’s Cormorant were noted. At the works the first pond attracted Bufflehead and Greater Scaup. A walk down towards the beach which is protected from the wind paid dividends as we had close views of Surf and Black Scoters, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers and a group of Black Turnstones which promptly disappeared from sight. The tall telecommunications tower had a very attentive Peregrine Falcon looking down at us. A diversion towards the information centre added Northern Flicker and the commoner birds around the feeders. A River Otter in the nearby canal was a welcome addition. Picked up lunch and headed to Ocean City State Park an area of forest, ponds and campgrounds. A slow walk around the camp provided views of Varied and Hermit Thrushes, Golden-crowned, Song and Fox Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglet and a large flock of Pine Siskin. I decided to visit Grays Harbour an area of inter tidal grass and mud habitats plus a few stands of trees. On the approach road we encountered a mixed flock of Canada and Cackling Geese (the latter with three distinct races) feeding on close-cropped grass. By the information board the flooded fields attracted a good number of Northern Pintails and Mallards at close range. A walk along the boardwalk attracted a few birds including the commoner ducks and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. A return visit to the jetty was unproductive. Another area of Ocean Shores provided us with close views of White-winged Scoters and a group of Killdeer. The weather had started to close in again so we retreated to base for our last night in Washington State.

January 30th: Ocean Shores, Nisqually, Seattle.

Final species total : 219.

Weather: Rain showers on a cool westerly wind 8 C.

We left the coastal habitats of Ocean Shores and travelled back towards Seattle. My main aim was to check out the relatively new reserve at Nisqually which is just a short drive off the Interstate 5. The weather still had not improved when we arrived and visited the rather splendid nature centre. The pools outside held a pair of Hooded Mergansers with the drake in display. Within the car park environs flocks of American Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds. In the grass habitats we had good views of Cackling and Canada Geese. The boardwalk trail is a good place to find birds in a wooded habitat plus pools and scrub. Despite the rain we located Peregrine Falcon, Northern Shrike, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhee, Fox and Song Sparrows and the commoner birds of wetlands and forest which Washington State has to offer. At midday we stopped for lunch and headed north to the airport south of Seattle. We said goodbye to Jean who was staying on for a few days. The flight back to Europe went smoothly and arrived ahead of time due to a strong tailwind.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.


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