[Tweeters] Nisqually NWR Wednesday walk 5/1/13

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Thu May 2 13:11:52 PDT 2013

Hi Tweets,

34 of us enjoyed a great day at the Refuge with sunny skies, temperature
between the 40's to 50's degrees Fahrenheit, and a High 11'1" Tide at

Highlights included first of year Warbling Vireo, Western Tanager, Vaux's
Swift, Yellow Warbler, Caspian Tern, and Wilson's Warbler. We witnessed a
Bald Eagle capture and kill a Great Blue Heron in McAllister Creek. Saw
the American Bittern on 4 occasions, probably 3 birds. And enjoyed great
looks at Least and Western Sandpiper foraging on mud flats from above at
15-30 feet from the boardwalk.

Starting out at 8am from the Visitor Center Pond Overlook, we had great
looks of Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser,
Mallard, Common Yellowthroat, and American Goldfinch. The Canada Geese are
nesting on grass islands on the pond and in surrounding large Maple Trees.
Cliff Swallow and Barn Swallow are nesting in the Visitor Center breezeway.

The edge habitat along the entrance road adjacent to the Orchard, flooded
field, and access road entrance have been good spots for locating
Black-throated Gray Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Western
Tanager. The difficulty is the trees are full of Yellow-rumped Warblers
both Audubon and Myrtle variety, so it helps to recognize call notes and

The flooded fields along the entrance road, access road and visible from
the Twin Barns Observation Platform provide great opportunities to observe
Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon,
American Coot, Greater Yellowlegs. We also saw Wood Duck and additional
Cinnamon Teal and Ring-necked Duck.

American Bittern was seen at the entrance to the Visitor Center, the
flooded field south of the Access Road, the Visitor Center Pond, and on the
inside, or fresh water section, of the new dike Nisqually Estuary Trail.

We had great looks of Vaux's Swifts flying high with the moon in the
background, over the flooded fields and Twin Barns. There are hundreds of
swarms of non-biting midges which may be providing a good source of
nutrition for all the flying insect eating birds.

Along the Twin Barns Loop Trail, we picked up Yellow Warbler,
Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Bewick's
Wren, Marsh Wren and Pied-billed Grebe. Sora was heard this week on the
inside of the trail near the Twin Barns cut-off. Just south of the
cut-off there was one female Rufous Hummingbird feeding chicks in the nest,
the other 6 nests on the loop trail are empty, three of which were
successful in fledging. Many Tree Swallows were flying around foraging and
exploring nest cavities in tree snags. Wilson's Warbler was heard in the
bramble of the woods just east of the Old Nisqually River Dike and north of
the Riparian Forest Overlook. There are several snags with flaking bark
along the south and eastern Twin Barns Loop Trail where Brown Creeper are
easily heard and probably nesting.

The Twin Barns Observation Platform is a great place for scanning the
Refuge and observe the Cliff Swallows collecting mud for their colony
nesting mud huts under the eves of the Twin Barns.

On the Nisqually Estuary Trail, new dike, we had terrific comparison
between several Greater Yellowlegs and a single Lesser Yellowlegs with it's
shorter straighter bill, longer legged more attenuated appearance, and 30%
smaller size. One of our birders saw, and our group heard Virginia Rail
across from the entrance of the boardwalk. Sadly, we could not relocate
the Black-necked Stilts and Yellow-headed Blackbird seen by Phil and others
over the weekend and earlier in the week. The Cackling Geese may have
moved through as we did not see any, and there are fewer numbers of
American Coot and waterfowl.

>From the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail we could look straight down on

many Least Sandpipers and a couple Western Sandpipers. This was a fabulous
opportunity to study these birds. We observed our FOY Caspian Tern, and
picked up Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Purple Martin, Common Goldeneye,
Surf Scoter, Double Crested Cormorant, Glaucous-winged Gull, Ring-billed
Gull, Mew Gull and many Great Blue Heron.

There are two large juvenile Bald Eagles in the nest south of the
McAllister Creek Viewing Platform, and active feeding by adults in the nest
north at the mouth of the creek. We suspect one of the adults from the
south nest was responsible for the brutal predation of the Great Blue Heron
observed in McAllister Creek. A visceral experience to behold, and
hopefully an indication of improved health of the estuary.

On our return, we missed the Great Horned Owls, but the trees are leafing
out very quickly making it harder to see through the woods. All in all
another beautiful day at the Refuge.

We saw 79 species for the day, my year list for the walk is 139 species.
Mammals seen included Muskrat, Eastern Gray Squirrel and Columbia Black
Tailed Deer.

Until next week when we meet again at 8am.

Good birding,

Shep Thorp
Browns Point
sthorp at theaec.com
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