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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Birding Skagit County

After several birding trips on San Juan Island didn't result in any new species to our year list efforts, it was time to head off island and take advantage of a sunny (if chilly) winter weekend day. Skagit County is always a pleasure to bird in the winter, and it did not disappoint! In six hours we turned up nearly 50 species.

Our second bird of the day was a peregrine falcon - no complaints there!

64th bird species photographed this year - peregrine falcon

As hoped for, the raptors were everywhere, and for a while it seemed as if there was a new species to stop and observe around every bend in the road....

American kestrel (65)

Northern harrier (66)

Rough-legged hawk (67)
Taking flight!

Another rough-legged hawk
One species that was still a "big miss" on my photo year list was a red-tailed hawk - it had become a bit of a running joke, as Jason added it on day one and I always seemed to be on the wrong side of the car or it would take flight as soon as I lifted my camera, etc. I thought I might have to use this shot, which does at least show some field marks:

But luckily near the end of the day, after several others flew away before I could snap a photo, I finally came across this cooperative fella (or lady):

Red-tailed hawk (72)
Most water was still frozen, which put a bit of a damper on the waterfowl and shorebird front, but sure made for some beautiful landscapes:

And there were still hundreds of trumpeter swans and thousands of snow geese in the flats:

Trumpeter swans in front of the Olympic mountains
Snow goose (73)
Snow geese in flight after a hunter fires a shot

It was the bald eagles that stole the show, however. We started counting early and tallied over 100 for the day, including some fantastic looks...

A quick way to boost the count - more than 15 in one tree!
Lots of aerial acrobatics as an adult chased a juvenile out of its territory

Even as daylight dwindled all too early, we kept snapping photos in the dusk...

At the Anacortes ferry landing I was hoping for a ring-billed gull, but was happy to take the photogenic mew gulls.

Surprisingly there were more than 10 great blue herons roosting with them on the dock pilings - haven't seen that in this location before!

By the day's end I had added 12 new species to my photo year list total, and more than that to my overall year list. We heard a Virginia rail, though weren't able to see it or photograph it, though a couple of our friendly competitors in Vancouver, BC have gotten great shots of this species this year! We also flushed an American bittern but I wasn't quite quick enough on the trigger to get a identifiable shot of one. Also, I was surprised not to see any short-eared owls! But I guess that's what keeps us going back, isn't it? :)

So as of today I've got 88 species on the year list and 76 species on the photo year list - still keeping that 85% ratio going! I just love how much I've been out taking photos as a result of this challenge so far, and seeing what everyone else is turning up has been just as fun!

1 comment:

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Sounds and looks like a top dollar birding location. Just as good in summer for the migrants I assume.
Going to have to look to my photographic laurels this year I reckon.