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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Three Meadows Marsh

This afternoon I had the chance to visit Three Meadows Marsh, a private wetland area near where a friend lives. On the way, while running an errand, the birding got off to an excellent start with a western kingbird (168) near the Friday Harbor airport. This is only the second time I've seen one on San Juan Island:

On the walk from her house towards the marsh, the first bird we saw was this very busy hairy woodpecker. He didn't seem to mind us at all, too focused on the insects in this stump. Later on the walk we saw another pair of hairy woodpeckers, as well as heard a pileated woodpecker and a pair of northern flickers.

The woods were full of bird songs, and I heard my first Cassin's vireos (169) and Pacific-slope flycatchers (170) of the season. There were also lots of singing towhees, song sparrows, robins, and wrens.

The marsh itself was much bigger than I expected. Most of the winter ducks are gone, although there were a few bufflehead. There isn't a lot of wetland habitat on San Juan Island, so this marsh is one of the few places were some of the ducks we only see in winter might stay to breed - in particular I saw a few pairs of wigeon and ring-necked ducks, species that I generally don't see here in summer. There were also pairs of pied-billed grebes, Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, and - most excitingly! - a male cinnamon teal. This summer duck is only occasionally seen here. I saw one last year on another small marsh but it didn't stay around for the summer. I wonder if this one had a mate nearby?

There weren't a lot of swallows overhead, but I did see four different kinds: tree, violet-green, barn, and my first cliff swallows (171) of the year. Other birds identified while walking around the marsh included common yellowthroat, marsh wren, sora (another great find on the island), white-crowned sparrows, and golden-crowned sparrows. As we headed back into the woods I also heard a few black-throated gray warblers (172), bringing me up to 5 year birds for the day! In total, we saw 40 species on our two hour walk.

Before a spring rain shower had us heading back inside, my friend showed me her garden, and pointed out these tent caterpillars. Last year there was a big population boom of western tent caterpillars in the region, and it looks like the same will happen again this year, much to the chagrin of those who don't want their trees defoliated! I've seen the "tents" these caterpillars leave behind in trees often, and I've also seen larger caterpillars, but this is the first time I've seen them at such an early stage:


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

You've pulled ahead again Monika. Spring is terribly slow here, most of the species are 'in' but only the vanguard the numbers just haven't arrived yet.



Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

PS - How many species did you get on you California trip you're unlikely to find back in the NW? Need to know what I'm up against....:-)


Monika said...

Dave - I added about 20 species in California that weren't on my Pacific-Northwest-restricted year list last year. Probably 10-12 of which I'd have no chance of seeing here. You're really not too far behind!!