[Tweeters] WA State Big Day - May 18th

Doug Schurman doug at bodyresults.com
Mon May 20 10:14:41 PDT 2013

Four of us formed a Seattle Audubon Bird-a-thon team called, Raven
Loonatics. Team members were Cara Borre, Sarah Peden, Jordan Gunn and Doug
Schurman. We planned to do a WA state Big Day using a similar route to the
2011 team of Ryan Shaw, Ryan Merrill, Charlie Wright and Michael Woodruff.
The basic route starts up Hwy 12 around Bethel Ridge and the Tieton Airport
Marsh goes down to Yakima, through Toppenish, down Hwy 97 to the Columbia
along the cliffs to the Lyle area, continues to Ridgefield then Rainbow
Falls and finishes out at the coast going through Raymond, Tokeland,
Westport and Aberdeen.

In the process Team Raven Loonatics endured frigid temperatures, lost about
4 square inches of skin, survived burrowing parasites and lasted the 24
hours with the help of painkillers, energy drinks and continuous joking

We left Seattle at 11:30pm on Friday with minimal sleep to get to our
beginning route point. We had a great start by hearing a Flammulated Owl (a
life bird for 3 of us) on Bethel Ridge at about 3:45am even though we were
all freezing in the 40 degree temp with a bit of wind. Before sunrise we
managed to hear 1 other owl, the Great Horned. Tieton Marsh started coming
alive before dawn with a chorus of bird songs and calls. Killdeers were so
vocal at times we tried to separate ourselves from them to better be able to
hear the other birds. We stayed around the marsh for quite some time which
yielded a MacGillvray's as our last bird there.

We birded our way down Hwy 12 to Yakima and picked up some other good birds
including Williamson's Sapsucker, American Dipper, Harlequin Ducks, Black
Swift, White-throated Swifts and Lewis's woodpecker. On the way to
Toppenish we saw a flock of 30 American White Pelicans flying in the
distance. On Lateral C (Toppenish) we all got great looks at two male
Bobolinks displaying and singing. Definitely a highlight for all of us!
Otherwise birding that area was a bit slow. Our sage species stop, Tule
road, turned out to be devoid birds, however we managed to get Sage Sparrow
and Loggerhead Shrike. Another stop at a riparian area a few miles South
produced 4 good birds for the trip, Bushtits, Lazuli Bunting, Spotted Towhee
and Yellow-breasted Chat.

We were behind schedule so we skipped several stops that were not a priority
in order to get to the Lyle area. We made several stops at cliffs for Rock
and Canyon Wrens but they were not present or refused to make themselves
known to us in the wind. At one stop along the Lyle cliffs we spotted our
first Ash-throated Flycatcher for the day. After a quick stop in Lyle at a
home with a hummingbird feeder, we added Calliope, Anna's and Rufous HBs.
We thank the generous homeowner and on we traveled.

On the way to our next stop we pulled over to examine some gulls on a log in
the Columbia. After identifying California and Ring-billed Gulls we
proceeded back to the car. Doug attempted to step over the guardrail and
caught his right foot on the top. With his momentum going forward he was
going down. His right shin balanced on the top of the metal rail and acted
like a fulcrum for his entire weight. He caught himself with his hands on
the ground but managed to remove about 4 square inches of skin from his
shin. After a quick first aid application, we were off to our next stop,
Balch lake. The word Balch became our mantra earlier in the trip, replacing
it for select words as we deemed fit such as "let's get the balch out of
here". For full effect balch should be drawn out as if belching.

We were looking forward to Balch Lake, not only because the word had become
a joke to us but also because it was home to specialties such as Acorn
Woodpeckers and Lesser Goldfinches. Jordan was the only one to have
identifying looks at the Acorn WP. So without a team sighting for the
Acorn, we became insistent on finding the Lesser Goldfinch. After some
effort and reading Opperman's tips, we finally were able to find the Lesser
Goldfinches (a WA first for 2 of us)

Next stop was Ridgefield. As we sped down the Oregon side to get their
quickly, we realized we had lingered at previous stops too long. As a result
we had to choose whether we would do Ridgefield or the coast. Both were
important in the overall plan, but with too little time left, we could only
do one. We chose Ridgefield. We arrived at 6pm and birded till dusk. We saw
tons of ducks and filled our list with all the expected ones except Hooded
Mergansers. We ended there with our last new species of the day, the
Savannah Sparrow

Just before leaving the refuge Sarah noticed she had a tick embedded in her.
Cara did some field surgery to remove the parasite, and we drove back I5 to
get home. We arrived at Ravenna park and ride about 24 hours after we had
started. We had racked up 700 miles on the odometer, raised about $1,700 for
Seattle Audubon and ended the day with 127 species.

A great time was had by all. We had learned that a big day can really
benefit from good scouting and very strict schedule adherence. All of us
enjoyed some very special birds on the trip. Now we hope that we can recover
from such an extreme outing before our next adventure.

Raven Loonatics

Cara, Sarah, Jordan and Doug

Big thanks to all that helped us out, Scott Downes, Matt Bartels, Andy
Stepniewski, John Rasmussen and many others and all those that donated to
Seattle Audubon our behalf of Team Raven Loonatics.

More information about the Tweeters mailing list