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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Birding on San Juan

On Friday a friend came over to the island and we spent three hours birding around the southern and central portions of San Juan. Our first stop was at Jackson Beach just outside of town, where in addition to the regular species we saw our only pigeon guillemots and belted kingfisher of the day. Then it was on to Fourth of July Beach, where we found one of the bigger flocks of shorebirds I have ever seen there. It was made up of about 20 black-bellied plovers (now in their breeding plumage) and a dozen sanderlings. There were also about 150 bufflehead out in Griffin Bay.

There weren't any more shorebirds at Cattle Point like there were earlier in the week, but the red-breasted mergansers, harlequin ducks, and horned grebes were all there, as were a flock of surf scoters. We heard a Eurasian collared-dove and saw the resident flock of red-winged blackbirds. Apparently about the same time we were there a fishing boat reported about 15 transient killer whales right in Cattle Pass, but we somehow didn't see them while looking at all the birds - too bad!

At South Beach we saw the first of many savannah sparrows for the day and also a northern harrier to join the red-tailed hawk we saw at Cattle Point. Next stop was the American Camp visitor center where we walked around hoping to see some woodland birds. We didn't see much, but we did hear a Bewick's wren, northern flicker, golden-crowned sparrow and California quail.

Panorama Marsh is becoming a new favorite stop for me. It's a wetland on private land and there's no real place to park there, but it's on a quiet road so you can pull over and take a scan. A pair of marsh wrens was the highlight of the wetlands, but the deciduous trees bordering the pond were more active. We saw a male ruby-crowned kinglet displaying for a female, a chestnut-backed chickadee gathering nesting material, and a brown creeper creeping up and down the trees. 

At False Bay the over-wintering flock of mew gulls was still present, as were a small flock of green-winged teal and a half-dozen northern pintail. Two great blue herons were feeding in the mudflats, and two immature bald eagles were scavenging something on the far shore of the bay. 

Next we headed further inland, and saw our first turkey vulture for the day. At the pond on Beaverton Valley Road we found that the pair of Eurasian wigeon I found the other day were still present along with about 20 American wigeon. At Egg Lake a few ring-necked ducks joined a single lesser scaup and a pair of bufflehead on the lake, and I heard my first common yellowthroats on San Juan Island this year. Our last stop was at Sportsman's Lake where in addition to some violet-green and tree swallows, the very last species added to the day list was a single northern rough-winged swallow (year bird 148).

We ended the morning with an even 60 species seen by the two of us, though by comparing notes later in the day we collectively closed in on 70. He saw an osprey that afternoon, which is a newly returned species I haven't come across yet!

I did, however, hear and then see my first orange-crowned warblers (149) of the year on Saturday. I know other birders have been detecting this species since the beginning of April, and while it took me a little longer I've now seen them in multiple locations over the weekend!

Next up, as Warren predicted in his comment on my last post....butterflies!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Your birding spots have great names but wher does Egg Lake come from.

Can't believe its so nip and tuck between us in our YL challenge



Monika said...

Perhaps because it (not very imaginatively) looks like an Egg?

I can't believe it's so close either - pretty remarkable!