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Monday, May 28, 2012

From Stanwood to Saint Helens

Friday afternoon we headed south from San Juan Island to Saint Helens, Oregon to spend a week with friends and family and attend an event at my alma mater. Our first stop after disembarking the ferry was Eide Road in Stanwood, Washington where there are always some great birds to be seen - it's where I saw the snowy owl in December of last year. There were several species that had been reported the weekend before I was particularly interested in seeing, the rarest of which was a bobolink. I didn't have luck turning up the bobolink, but the shrubby trees at the beginning of the road were very active with birds, including cedar waxwings, yellow warblers, and western tanagers.

A little further along the road I saw a pair of western kingbirds - always a great find. Then, I was really surprised a few hundred yards away to see a second pair! Despite their name, they're pretty uncommon in western Washington, and I've never seen so many in one place.

Northern harriers, an osprey, and a pair of turkey vultures soared overhead, and a few great blue herons were flying in the distance, but still no sign of any of the "target" birds I was looking for. From the parking area I could see a pond to the southwest with lots of birds on it. As I was walking along the path, a bald eagle flew over and flushed almost all the birds off the pond. Argh! A few birds remained, however, so I continued in that direction.

The only ducks left were a pair of cinnamon teal. There were three shorebirds left.....what were was a Wilson's phalarope (182)! (Note: just realized I never mentioned cedar waxwing near home was 181.) An excellent find. When the other two flew, I was able to confirm that they were short-billed dowitchers (183), another year bird.

It was time to continue south, and the plan to take an extra ferry from Edmonds to Kingston to avoid the Memorial Day weekend traffic on I5 turned out to be a good one. There was a wait for the ferry, but there was virtually no traffic down Highway 3 on the other side. I'm no fan of scotch broom since it's so invasive and causes me horrible allergies, but my attitude towards it softened a bit on this drive. I've never seen so much of it in such peak bloom - it lined both sides of the highway for miles and miles, and was a pretty impressive sight.

On the first day of our visit in Saint Helens my dad and I went birding along the Crown-Zellerbach Trail in Scappoose. A gray morning turned into another beautiful afternoon, and right when we got out of the car we saw an olive-sided flycatcher and a pair of California quail - not a bad start!

Lots of flowers were in bloom, and some of the Nootka rose provided an opportunity to get a photo of another plant in in all its stages - bud, blossom, and rosehip:

Along the first part of the trail some of the birds we saw included common yellowthroat, American goldfinch, and marsh wren. At the marshy area, I was hoping to hear an American bittern, and I wasn't disappointed (184). We also heard a pair of Virginia rails there, and a couple of Vaux's swifts (185) flew overhead too.

While looking at a pied-billed grebe family with a couple of cute chicks, all of a sudden there was a flurry of bird activity. In one tree there was a cedar waxing, an olive-sided flycatcher, and a western wood-pewee (186) perched on right above the other.

Western wood-pewee

A woodpecker flying across the trail caught my eye, but when I investigated further the only thing I could find was a pair of warbling vireos (187), already the fourth year bird of the day!

Before heading home we drove to a spot further along the C-Z Trail where my dad had seen some good birds biking a few weeks ago. Right under the bridge where he had seen it was an American dipper (188). We were ready to head home when I heard a bird singing I didn't recognize. I headed in that direction and spotted something blue perched on a wire, facing away from we. What the heck? It turned out to be a lazuli bunting (189)! Another species, along with the Wilson's phalarope from the day before, that didn't make it onto my year list last year.

The birding is just as good at my parents' house, where their feeders are always bustling. The main attraction is the big flock of evening grosbeaks that comes by, with a few black-headed grosbeaks mixed in for good measure.

Two female evening grosbeaks
Male evening grosbeak
Female black-headed grosbeak
Other regular visitors include band-tailed pigeons, mourning doves, Steller's jays, dark-eyed juncos (including one with one leg), red-breasted nuthatches, both black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees, rufous hummingbirds, and pine siskins. There's a lot to watch, and it's a treat to spend time just sitting by the window taking in all the activity.


Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

189 v 175 + 17's close!!!!



Unknown said...

What a great find with the grosbeaks! I always enjoy your photos!!

Delbensonphotography said...

The images are nice! I love the male evening grosbeak shot. Great job!