[Tweeters] Nisqually NWR Wednesday Walk for 6/26/13

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Thu Jun 27 13:00:44 PDT 2013

Hi Tweets,

thirty five of us enjoyed a cloudy, breezy, humid day at the Refuge with
intermittent light rain, temperature in the 60-70's degrees Fahrenheit and
a Low -2'4" Tide at 2:31pm. We observed 57 species for the day with the
highlights including a beautiful morning chorus, lots of babies, great
views of Caspian Tern foraging for fish along the McAllister Creek.

Starting out at 8am at the Visitor Center Pond Overlook, we had great views
of Wood Duck ducklings foraging in the pond. We probably saw over a dozen
ducklings of this species through out the day. One of our participants
found a brown barred off white fuzzy margined feather in the breezeway that
was marked with possibly a drop of blood. We speculated this was a Great
Horned Owl feather. Other species seen included Barn Swallow, Cliff
Swallow, Tree Swallow, American/Northwestern Crow, Common Yellowthroat,
Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and European Starling. The Barn
Swallow and Cliff Swallow are nesting at the Visitor Center. The
surrounding riparian woodlands were full of the songs of Swainson's Thrush,
Yellow Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Willow Flycatcher and the other species

We scanned the fields along the Access Road and viewed the Eagle Nest Tree
on the west bank of McAllister Creek south of the McAllister Creek Viewing
Platform and confluence. We observed 1 adult and 2 juvenile Bald Eagles in
the nest tree. We enjoyed great looks at Red-winged Blackbird, Willow
Flycatcher, Savannah Sparrow and swallows. We were unable to relocate the
Lazuli Bunting which had been spotted earlier in the week in this location.
Refuge biologists had also reported seeing Lazuli Bunting from the Twin
Barns Observation Platform, but we could not relocate this species there or
the Orchard.

Birding along the Twin Barns Loop Trail from the west entrance, we enjoyed
great looks at juvenile Wood Duck, Song Sparrow and American Robin. We
also had nice close observation of Willow Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow
Warbler, American Goldfinch, and Black-headed Grosbeak. The Bullock's
Oriole was spotted near the Nisqually River Overlook, but there has been an
adult male singing around the Cottonwood trees on either side of the Twin
Barns cut-off and a second male around the Cottonwood trees at the east
entrance to the Twin Barns Loop Trail.

>From the Twin Barns Observation Platform we had a great chance to study the

swallows in flight. The Cliff and Barn Swallows are nesting on or in the
barn, and the Tree Swallows are using the nest boxes. The fields south of
the Twin Barns are drying up while the fields on the inside of the
NisquallyEstuary Trail or new dike remain flooded as directed by the
Biologist for vegetation management. Consequently, the waterfowl is best
observed on the Nisqually Estuary Trail, but there are plenty of bugs over
the drying fields and slough to keep the swallows and flycatchers happy. A
female Belted Kingfisher enjoyed a captured fish in a leafless Elderberry
along the slough.

Out on the Nisqually Estuary Trail or new dike we had terrific views of a
male Yellow-headed Blackbird which seems to be sticking around for the
summer and two female Ruddy Ducks. We also enjoyed great looks of juvenile
American Coot, Mallard and Hooded Mergansers. Other waterfowl seen
included Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, American
Wigeon, Common Merganser and Pied-billed Grebe. Most of our birders were
able to enjoy quick looks at two Virginia Rail running along the waters
edge of the flooded ponds foraging for food for their chicks. On the mud
flats to the north, we observed good numbers of Caspian Tern and
Ring-billed Gull roosting.

On the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, the draining channels and current
from McAllister Creek provided good hunting conditions for the Caspian Tern
just north of the confluence with Shannon Slough. There was a 5-10 mph
breeze allowing the terns to kite and gracefully drop into the creek to
capture fish. We enjoyed the show, and spoke poorly of the dozens of
Ring-billed Gull kleptoparasitizing the terns for their captured prey. Two
or three California Gulls were also spotted, and we speculated that their
arrival indicates the beginning of the slow steady autumnal migration
southward that begins after the solstice for many species. A good sized
flock of 20 plus Band-tailed Pigeon were seen flying along the west
hillside of McAllister Creek. The north Bald Eagle nest across the creek
from the Puget Sound Viewing Platform is active with juveniles and adult.
Dozens of Great Blue Heron were hunting along the edges of the mouth of
McAllister Creek and Madrone Slough. Four adult and immature Bald Eagles
were roosting on the marsh plain of the delta, while just a few immature
Double-crested Cormorant were seen on pilings out in the sound.

On our return, the Elderberry on the inside of the northeast corner of the
Twin Barns Loop Trail are ripe with berries. Along with Cedar Waxwing, we
had nice observation of Swainson's Thrush foraging fruit. We picked up
great views of Brown Creeper, Black-capped Chickadee and Chestnut-backed
Chickadee at the Riparian Forest Overlook, and had additional nice views of
Willow Flycatcher along the southeast side of the trail.

57 species for the day, with 157 species for the year. Hopefully the
Lazuli Bunting will stick around until next week.

Mammals seen included Muskrat, Eastern Gray Squirrel and Harbor Seal.

Until next week, good birding!

Shep Thorp
Browns Point
sthorp at theaec.com
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