[Tweeters] Leadbetter & Scissortail

Daniel R Froehlich danielfroehlich at gmail.com
Mon Jun 17 23:39:03 PDT 2013

What a moment!
Went out today to help the Feds and WDFW with a Leadbetter Point Snowy
Plover Survey. I wanted to spend the rest of the day out at the tip of
Leadbetter to look for vagrant songbirds--"mirror migration" eastern
warblers hit N California in early June, so why not mid June in WA? or
flycatchers--they migrate fairly late. Then it turned out that a front was
moving in this afternoon--could be happy circumstances! Things looked
propitious: wind from the S, turning SE. But after 3 hours of wandering
around the tip I'd found only typical residents, and even they were sparse.

Squawking adult Hairy Woodpeckers caught my attention and I saw something
black in thick veg at the base of a tree some 30m away. Porcupine? Bear?
So I took a break, had a bite, waited, and waited; and waited. Nothing.
Oh well, good scientists reject one pet hypothesis a day--I guess vagrants
in mid June was mine. I packed up my water bottle, slung up the pack. At
that moment, the tree started moving. A lot. One bear charged up the
tree; another dropped onto the ground and started huffing. Was that yet
another, a third? Oh crap, a sow with yearlings? And at that very
instant, a strange call caught my attention and large birds began darting
through the canopy. Collared Doves? No, Kingbirds? and whoa, a kingbird
with a sense of humor--look at that forked tail, hahaha. OK, where the
hell did that sow go? Why is the camera strap all tangled with the
backpack, dangit! Geez, that fork, no sense of humor--or accidental molt,
for that matter--can make a tail that long and that forked! All that white
on the tail sides, that looks familiar, yea and the pale head too. Damn
camera strap--arrgh! Ok, now I'm kinda between the treed bear and the ones
on the ground--that's not good is it? Would you look at that tail--it's
soo long! And whoa, under the wings, all that red--that reminds me of
Texas and mesquite flats near Brownwood, sow-where, camera-untangle, Holy
Smokes, that's nothing if not *Tyrannus forficatus... *phttz *zzppk-k-k-k
*&%#*! <--that's my brain short-circuiting. I released the shutter a few
times and that was that. 45 seconds: 3 bears, a Western Kingbird and a
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. And then they were all gone--with a few
identifiable pixels on my flashcard. The tyrannids were moving fast and
far--I couldn't find them again though I looked for an hour.

At that point, the front from the SE moved in and drenched everything. I
suspect the Tyrannids were riding the prow of the front like spectacular
galleon figures, as flycatchers and other aerial foragers--swallows and
swifts--often do; within 10 minutes of the freak tyrannids there were 20
Barn Swallows low over the beach. If that's the case, the likelihood is
great that they kept on going--maybe riding the front's bow-wave over to

For those that want to try for the Scissortail at Leadbetter--it's a long
slog to Grassy Island, that's the patch of tall woods on the NE tip of the
peninsula, 5 hours roundtrip from the parking lot. The birds visited me in
the middle of the biggest stand of tall conifer woods--not at all where I'd
have expected. You'll get eaten alive, not by bears, but by
mosquitoes--they're noticeably thick this year. Good luck!

Of note too, one of the WDFW plover surveyors found a freshly dead Rock
Wren under a log toward the exposed outer tip where there are no shrubs or
trees--or rocks for that matter.

Long post, I know, but I had to share that freak fight-or-flight fancy.
I'll see if any other songbirds show up tomorrow morning, prob Fort Canby.

Good birding,
Dan Froehlich
Poulsbo, WA
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