[Tweeters] San Juan County WOS trip, May 4-5 2013

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Sun May 5 21:44:59 PDT 2013

This weekend I led the 4th annual WOS field trip to the San Juan Islands.
It was [obviously] a beautiful weekend to be out anywhere, and the timing was great to stumble across some fun birds. A great group of 12 people enjoyed the 2-day outing.

Saturday May 4
We caught the early ferry to Lopez Island and birded there until we caught the afternoon ferry to San Juan. Our first stop was the flooded field along Port Stanley Rd. where we were greeted with a small flock of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and one SNOW GOOSE. Good start! A group of Least Sandpipers was out in the pond, among American Wigeon, Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal.

Swifts Bay marsh had Western Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers mixed together, along with one dowitcher that we were able to coax in for close looks to cinch the id as SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER.

Spencer Spit State Park's highlight was a WHIMBREL and brief glimpses by some of a MERLIN and a GOLDEN EAGLE.We also saw our first PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER of the trip and watched the first of endless Orange-crowned Warblers.

Hummel Lake had a singing BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and great swallows.

A house with hummingbird feeders along Kjarstadt Rd. was active, with both Rufous & Anna's Hummingbirds. We also picked up American Pipits in a random field along the same road.

At the Center Church Marsh, we watched Wood Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, and a soaring Northern Harrier. We dipped on the hoped for American Coots though

At the marsh near the airport along Fisherman Bay Rd., we found a pair of CINNAMON TEAL, one CACKLING GOOSE.

Fisherman Bay Spit had a good selection out on the water including, Rhino Auklets, Mew Gulls, breeding plumage Pacific Loons. In the bay, Caspian Terns & one Bonaparte's Gull were resting on a spit. Nearby were more peeps, and a flock of Dunlin. While eating lunch at the Preserve at the end of Fisherman Bay Spit, were found Black-bellied Plover, Belted Kingfisher and got good looks at some already heard-only birds.

A marsh along Richardson Rd. had heard-only Sora & Virginia Rail, and in the forest above it , a singing but invisible WESTERN TANAGER. At the end of Richardson Rd., we found our first HOUSE WREN of the weekend. On Vista Rd. we came across a couple cooperative Wilson's Snipe, and at Sperry Spit we came across Surf & White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers and more loons.

We caught the interisland ferry in the late afternoon, and en route to San Juan Island had great looks at an Osprey overheard. Before calling it a day, we headed to Jackson Beach -- it wasn't very productive, but on the way out we came across Townsend's Warbler & Varied Thrush to end the day.

For Saturday 101 species.

Sunday May 5
We were joined by Barb Jensen for much of Sunday, a great help having a 'local' to point out great spots.

Our day began along San Juan Valley Rd., where in the flooded fields we watched a couple Wilson's Snipe to begin the day. Next up, we were about to try to see a Sora, when someone spotted a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD in the fields. Amazingly, this was one of two YHBL we saw today - the other at 3Meadows. After listening to Sora [but not seeing them], we headed to Pleasant Valley Rd. A YELLOW WARBLER was singing from the hedges, and a few Golden-crowned Sparrows lingered along the road edges. In the pond east of the road, we scoped a bit and found 2 great San Juan County birds, 2 SOLITARY SANDPIPERS and a male BLUE-WINGED TEAL.

Along #2 Schoolhouse Rd., a couple stops produced Chipping Sparrow & looks at a female Western Tanager. Near Egg Lake, we added our first Wilson's Warbler & Cassin's Vireo to the day's sightings.

At Three Meadows Marsh [permission required to access], we watched Wood Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes,a soaring Cooper's Hawk and heard Virginia Rail. A sharp-eared participant heard distant Hermit Thrush singing as well.

English Camp was up next, where we enjoyed Chipping Sparrows, Cassin's Vireo, Osprey's on their traditional nest tree, House Wren, and Townsend's Warbler.

At San Juan County Park, we watched a Sea Lion munch on a seal, as we ate lunch, and then looked to the rocks for a few lingering pairs of Harlequin Ducks & several Black Oystercatchers.

Westside Lake had Hooded Mergansers displaying and Wood Ducks, and we called in the only Warbling Vireo we saw on the trip.

False Bay on a nice incoming tide held several Greater Yellowlegs, a couple Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers, and a Western Sandpiper. South Beach at American camp offered Red-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers and some gorgeous Pacific Loons. 4th of July Beach didn't have Purple Martins yet, but we did see Horned & Red-necked Grebe, White-winged & Surf Scoters.

We ended the day with a bit of good ferry-catching karma & a few Bonaparte's Gulls before crossing into Skagit waters. For the day in San Juan 92 species.
For the weekend, 117 species for the group (though many were seen by only part of the group), a lot of fun and beautiful weather.

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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