[Tweeters] Brambling, Bluetail, Gyrfalcon, Rusty Blackbird - 1.31

Neil Hayward neil.hayward at gmail.com
Thu Jan 31 19:51:21 PST 2013

Dear Tweeters,

My first visit / birding day in the Pacific Northwest did not disappoint!

I started in Vancouver (stayed the night) and saw the Brambling easily at
8:15 this morning. The bird was coming to the feeder behind 868 W 17th St,
accessed by the alley behind. Also an Anna's Hummer, and a *very* exciting
NW Crow lifer!

I proceeded on to Queen's Park in New Westminster for the Red-Flanked
Bluetail. Conditions were poor - it was raining and the light was simply
dreadful. I was thus surprised to find the bird within 15 mins. I was very
close to it, and only noticed it because it hopped. The upperparts are a
perfect color match for the drab ground under the cedars. If it hadn't
moved, I wouldn't have seen it. I was surprised at how bright the orange on
the flanks was. It hopped around a bit, flew short distances, and seemed
quite sprightly. It was just north of the parking lot (1st and 4th) and
west of the playground. (I could see both the parking lot and the
playground from where the bird was - clearly not as far NW this time as has
often been reported.)

After a painful wait for US customs, I got to Fir Island at around 1:30 to
look for the Gyrfalcon. I'm from MA where we've hosted one recently - which
has been incredibly elusive (presumed to hunt over a massive winter
territory.) I'd tried 3 days with no luck, so I was hoping this bird would
be a bit more cooperative!

I birded the northern part of Dry Sough Road, and then west along Skagit
City Road. It was raining most of the time, with occasional breaks, and
lighting was poor. I did well in finding lots of raptors - just all the
wrong ones - Peregrine, Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tails and Bald Eagles. As a
distraction I searched through the Trumpeter Swans on Fir Island Road (on a
field south and west of the intersection with Dry Slough) and found 9
Tundra Swans - one with a leg and neck band, as well as a small number of
Snow Geese. (The regularly-reported Northern Shrike was also present at the
northern end of Dry Slough.)

After almost 3 hours, I gave up. I drove out down Skagit City Road, stopped
at the intersection with Moore, and did the usual birding farewell of "one
last look". As I said this I noticed a large, dark falcon flying right
towards me! It zipped past me and headed north up Skagit City Road. I lost
it as it flew beyond the trees. I drove in that direction, and was very
lucky to relocate the bird in a tree by the road - at 18598 Skagit City
Road. It sat there long enough for me to get some quick digiscoped pics
with my iPhone. Interestingly, the pics show a distended crop. I'd noticed
the bird in flight had an odd-shaped neck, and the pictures confirm this. I
suspect it had just eaten. The bird was dark brown above, heavily streaked
below, with a massive tail - well rounded and extending well beyond the
wings. There was some white feathering on the back of the head / neck, and
the scapulars and flight feathers were delicately fringed in pale brown.
Beautiful bird - and well worth the wait!

Here are the photos: http://flic.kr/p/dRkMFJ (starting here, and there's a
movie later on)
And the eBird checklist:

On my way back to Seattle, I just had enough time to stop off for the Rusty
Blackbird. I found a flock of about 50 Brewer's Blackbirds, and it was just
light enough to pick out the Rusty. The flock was on the wires where
previously described - on 7th Ave, about a quarter mile north of the
intersection with Pioneer Highway (opposite two houses.) Some very poor
record images can be seen in the eBird checklist:

What a great start to the trip! Thanks to everyone who's been posting
regularly about these birds on the list - sure made it a lot easier.

- Neil

Neil Hayward
Cambridge, MA
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