[Tweeters] Whidbey Island, 2 March 2013

Scott Ramos lsr at ramoslink.info
Sat Mar 2 23:47:52 PST 2013


Today, Carl Haynie and I led a group of 8 in-training Master Birders from Seattle Audubon on a field trip to Whidbey Island. The morning started out decently with cloudy skies and mild temperatures, though with a little wind, but as the day progressed, the wind picked up even more and the rain started and progressed to pretty drenching periods. Still, we were able to find some very nice birds.

We started at Rosario Beach midway between flood and ebb tides and witnessed the spectacle of hundreds of loons fishing the currents. The vast majority were Red-throated, though a few Common and a couple of Pacific were also seen. We also saw Black Oystercatcher, Harlequin Duck, Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet, and many Pigeon Guillemot on the water, a Peregrine Falcon soaring away north, and the typical variety of forest birds, including Fox Sparrow and Varied Thrush. Two rocks were covered, respectively, by a dozen each Double-crested and Brandt's Cormorants.

At Cranberry Lake on the other side of Deception Pass, we saw even more loons (>300), a Pelagic Cormorant, another Rhino Auklet and a Marbled Murrelet. Sharing the rocks with about 20 Oystercatchers who were coming and going were a couple of Thayer's Gulls amid the Glaucous-winged and hybrid gulls; a single Mew Gull flew offshore. In the lake itself were a group of Ring-necked Ducks and a solitary Snow Goose standing on the far bank.

Next stop was Dugualla Bay where we saw a flock of at least 50 Canvasbacks, both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Eurasian and American Wigeon, about 20 Trumpeter Swans, and in the adjacent fields, were another solitary Snow Goose, plus Cackling, Canada and Greater White-fronted Geese. A dozen or so Tree Swallows appeared as they would in several locations during the day.

We stopped at the Swantown Rd beach were we had our first small group of Long-tailed Duck and a large flock of Surf Scoter, and from the edge of Bos Lake, we saw a couple dozen Ruddy Duck, another Eurasian Wigeon, a big group of Great Blue Heron fly into the marshes, and a dozen Brewer's Blackbirds in the gravel parking lot overlook.

Down the road at Libbey Beach County Park, we saw several more Harlequin and Long-tailed Duck and several more Black Oystercatchers.

Penn Cover produced more shorebirds including several Killdeer, a Greater Yellowlegs and a flock of at least 60 Black Turnstones. After some debate, we concluded that one of the dozens of gulls was a Western Gull.

At Ebey's Landing, there were even more Long-tailed Duck, all in winter plumage, a large raft of two dozen Horned Grebe, plus a Northern Harrier and American Kestrel in the meadows above.

By the time we got to Crockett Lake and Ft. Casey, the wind and rain reduced our efforts to just birding-by-car, but we still managed to see a few Least Sandpiper and Dunlin.

We explored the marsh ponds below Greenbank and managed to coax a Virginia Rail to vocalize. In the edges we saw a Hairy Woodpecker and a covey of California Quail. The pond by the small commerce strip there had a single bird: a Lesser Scaup.

During our prior scouting trip we had seen a large flock of Pine Siskins at South Whidbey State Park. A few Siskins were there again today, as well as both kinglets, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Brown Creeper and several Pacific Wren. A Common Raven called overhead.

More car-birding at Freeland County Park, but we did manage a pair of White-winged Scoters mixed in with the Surf Scoters.

While patrolling the views along Useless Bay and Deer Lagoon, a Black-bellied Plover was seen flying in to the mudflats. So, we braved the blowing rain to walk out the dike and were able to see two of them, as well as large numbers of Green-winged Teal. Our only Bewick's Wren of the day was calling there as well, and later we saw our only Golden-crowned Sparrows. One last look along the ocean side produced another plover plus a few dozen Dunlin and a couple of Sanderling.

The Ewing Road marsh produced a couple of calling Pied-billed Grebes, an American Coot and another 20 or so Tree Swallows. The wind and rain made it too difficult to scan for other swallows, however.

Our last stop was at Dave Mackie County Park. On our scout, we had seen a dispersed group of a couple hundred Brant. Today there were even more--consensus estimates put the total at close to 350 birds.

We reached the Clinton ferry just before dusk but managed to pull out 3 Barrow's Goldeneye along side the dock, which allowed us to wrap up the day with a total of 91 species. The weather did not dampen spirits; the good company of excellent birders made for a fun day.

Scott Ramos

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