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Monday, April 4, 2011

Birding the Beach

Yesterday afternoon I went to Fourth of July Beach to conduct a COASST survey. As per usual, I didn't find any beached birds, but I was thrilled to find nine black-bellied plovers, two sanderlings, and a dunlin. I saw all three of these species on my trip over Dungeness Spit last month, and it's always nice to see them on the island. As I was continuing my survey I was worried about flushing them off the beach, but then a bald eagle flew by and the shorebirds (along with the 100+ bufflehead on the bay) all took flight anyway! Here are four of the black-bellied plovers as they flew away:

Also on Griffin Bay were about five common loons, 20 or so surf scoters, and a single horned grebe. Among all the glaucous-winged gulls I found three western gulls. Through the woods on my way back to the car I spotted a pair of golden-crowned kinglets, a single golden-crowned sparrow, some house finches, and a trio of robins.

Inspired by my bird sightings at Fourth of July Beach along with the lack of rain, I decided to check out some other coastal sites at the south end of the island to see if I could turn up any other shorebirds. Next up was South Beach, where I saw a flock of 35 red-breasted mergansers off shore. The water was choppy and the rest of the birds were pretty far offshore, so it took some patience to scan the birds as they bobbed up and down in the swells and try to identify them. It was worth it, though, because I found three long-tailed ducks out there! I was thrilled. The only bird closer to shore was another lone horned grebe - they all seem to be molting into their breeding plumage now:

Cattle Point was bustling with activity. 40+ glaucous-winged gulls, 65 pelagic cormorants, five Canada geese, and a smattering of double-crested cormorants were hanging out on Goose Island. Red-winged blackbirds, dark-eyed juncos, house sparrows, and house finches were all perched in the trees along the shoreline. I was surprised to see so many passerines out in the open with the heavy breeze. In Cattle Pass itself 15 harlequin ducks, two pigeon guillemots, and half a dozen red-necked grebes. There were also two flocks of surf scoters, and among those two flocks I counted no fewer than 30 horned grebes! I've never seen that many in one place. On the rocks below the lighthouse were a couple of black oystercatchers (another shorebird for the list!), and a fly-by from six rhinoceros auklets completed the bird list for Cattle Point.

I swung by False Bay, but there were no sandpipers there. A great blue heron was fishing out in the tidal flats, and the expected large flock of mew gulls were hanging out on their gravel spit. A couple of them were foot paddling in the mud and feeding. There were also flocks of northern pintail and green-winged teal - smaller than the groups seen there in the depths of winter, but still quite a few of them.

I went back to town to warm up and have a bowl of soup for lunch, and then I made one more trip out to check Jackson's Beach. While I didn't see the greater yellowlegs I had hoped for, I did find a female common goldeneye, another pair of harlequin ducks, another dozen bufflehead, three gadwall, four mallards, five green-winged teal, and a flock of about 40 mew gulls - this time close enough for photos:

I heard or saw four different hummingbirds throughout the day, but was never able to get any of them in binoculars to see if it might be my first rufous hummingbird of the year. Still, I ended the day with 46 species on the list, a nice total! I'm glad I got out yesterday, too, because it has again been raining alllll day today!


Lois Evensen said...

Wow, that was a busy day.

Warren Baker said...

Rain all day, its a real downer aint it :-(. As you say at least you got out yesterday :-)

That mew gull looks a dapper fellow! Better looking than our gulls :-)