[Tweeters] Olympic Peninsula Trip-15-18 February
steppie at nwinfo.net
Fri Feb 22 07:15:19 PST 2013
OLYMPIC PENINSULA WEEKEND
15-18 FEBRUARY 2013
Eight Yakima Valley Auduboners headed over to the Olympic Peninsula, staying
in Sequim. We enjoyed a very full long weekend of birding.
15 February. We began at Fort Flagler State Park where we sampled the fine
variety of habitats there: deep saltwater, shallow salt bays, freshwater
ponds, coniferous forest, and brushy patches. In four hours, we tallied
close to 50 species of birds, good evidence the varied habitats provide lots
of niches for a good diversity. At Marrowstone Point, we mostly missed the
"conveyor belt" spectacle that occurs at ebb tide so numbers and activity
were subdued. The cobble beach on the spit to the west was very birdy with
Brant, Long-tailed Ducks, and Black Oystercatcher being especially
Oak Bay County Park, nearby, was great for displaying Anna's Hummingbirds, a
sure sign spring is near at hand. I gave a mini-tutorial on gull
identification. Here we had super views of Mew and Glaucous-winged and
hybrid Glaucous-winged X Western gulls.
After checking into Sequim West Inn, we headed to the bluffs above Dungeness
Landing/Oyster House, where we scanned out to the spit for Snowy Owl, with
no luck. We did, however, enjoy great views of a Barn Owl, displaying its
colorful, golden uppersides, flapping lazily below us, a unique view for all
16 February. We began our birding along the Port Angeles waterfront, at log
booms in "Boat Haven," a spot for roosting shorebirds mentioned by Sequim
birder Vincent Lucas. We were not to be disappointed with good views of
Black Oystercatcher, two RUDDY TURNSTONE (rare in winter in WA), Black
Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, and Dunlin. We then scanned the harbor for the
Thick-billed Murre, present for weeks, without success. A fairly stiff
westerly breeze surely hampered our efforts here, though. We did compile a
good list of the expected loons, grebes, and other alcids expected
hereabouts in winter.
We then headed to Salt Creek County Park, west of Port Angeles, hoping for
good views of Marbled Murrelet. We could not find murrelets so had to be
content with the scenic rocky shoreline and kelp beds and close views of
Black Oystercatchers and Black Turnstones. I thought sighting a group of
American Wigeon feeding in the kelp bed pretty unusual but they seemed quite
happy in the saltwater.
Heading back towards Sequim, we stopped at the Elwha River Mouth, in the
past a great spot for bathing and loafing gulls. The river, since our last
visit a few years ago, seems to have dramatically reconfigured the actual
mouth at the shore, shifting it perhaps a quarter mile east. There seems to
be a new lagoon and lots of extra sediment, perhaps a consequence of removal
of the lower Elwha Dam? Gulls were about in numbers at the mouth but in
lower numbers and diversity than on most of our prior visits at this season.
We then hit the lower Elwhar Dam removal site and along this walk,
encountered both kinglets and Chestnut-backed Chickadees. Too, we had great
looks of a Hairy Woodpecker and a Brown Creeper creeping.
17 February. We spent much of today at Dungeness NWR and nearby Three Crabs
and the old oysterhouse. Beginning with the viewpoint near the entrance to
the refuge, we spotted our first Black Scoters and Red-throated Loons.
The forest walk to the spit was pretty quiet birdwise with the best birding
at a couple of feeders where we had good studies of Chestnut-backed
Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and both Fox and Golden-crowned
Sparrows. A stunning Varied Thrush here and a bonus HERMIT THRUSH (scarce in
winter here) were here, too.
At the base of Dungeness Spit we scoped the shore on the strait side and
found good numbers of White-winged Scoters and more Red-throated Loons.
We hit Schmuck Road later in the afternoon, noting Greater White-fronted
Goose and Trumpeter Swans and an adult Peregrine Falcon sitting in the
middle of the field.
A short time at the John Wayne Marina proved good for waterfowl and alcids
including distant Marbled Murrelets.
Back on Schmuck Road, as dusk approached, a SNOWY OWL lit on a power pole, a
stunning sight, indeed. This magnificent bird was quickly voted "Top Bird of
the Trip." Later, as it was just about too dark to see, a SHORT-EARED OWL
flapped lazily about the rank grassy fields on the west side of this big
field. A great finale!
18 February. More tranquil weather prompted us to return to Port Angeles and
Ediz Hook to try again for the oddball murre. Jim Dummel joined us in our
efforts and was first to pick out the THICK-BILLED MURRE off in the harbor.
Thanks Jim! We had good views of Marbled Murrelets, too.
Late morning found us at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim where the feeders
gave us our one and only Pine Siskin of the trip. We walked west from the
bridge to the west entrance, noting forest and garden birds along the way.
On our return we paused to view the American Dipper bobbing along the
cobble-lined Dungeness River, always a treat!
Our final birding was at and near the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
east of Sequim where a wigeon flock had a few EURASIANS. We at last had
blundered into good numbers of wigeons. Eurasian Wigeon was our 25th species
of waterfowl on our trip list. We also tallied 3 species each of of loons,
grebes, cormorants, owls, doves, woodpeckers and wrens, 9 species of
shorebirds, 5 of alcids (murres etc.), and 6 sparrows. Less diverse than
expected were only 5 diurnal raptors and 3 finches. One might blame
increasing urbanization around Sequim for the shortfall in raptors and poor
seed crops (or already shed cones and fruits) for the paucity of finches.
Regardless, our total of 104 species does reflect the great diversity of
birdlife on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Greater White-fronted Goose
Great Blue Heron
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)
More information about the Tweeters