[Tweeters] Washington State Big Day - May 18, 2013

Ryan Shaw rtshaw80 at hotmail.com
Tue May 21 14:12:49 PDT 2013

Geetings all,

Saturday, May 18th, the unnamed team of Ryan Merrill, Charlie Wright, Annie Meyer (In for Michael Woodruff who couldn't make it) and myself ran our 3rd State Big Day - running a very similar route to our two previous days. In 2010 we ended with 197, in 2011 we set the state record with 208. We took last year off but decided to try to break our record.

I won't go into as much detail as our 2011 Big Day - we basically mirrored our route from that year - details can be found here:


We stared at midnight at the Tieton Airport Marsh on Tieton Road on the east end of Rimrock Lake on Highway 12, Yakima County. 3 seconds after the stroke of midnight, a Townsend's Solitaire spouted off in full song one time - turned out it was our only Solitaire of the day so we lucked out! We also had a few midnight singing Lincoln's Sparrows and a White-crowned Sparrow. No owls unfortunately - we have had Long-eared Owl and Saw-whet Owl here before but it wasn't meant to be this year.

We did owl various places in the area coming up with many vocal Flammulated Owls, and lone encounters with Spotted and Great Horned - that ended our owl luck for the day.

After a 20 minute nap, dawn found us at Clear Lake to the west of Tieton Marsh and we picked up many singing passerines - Dusky, Hammond's Flycathers, Nashville, Yellow, MacGillivray's Warblers, booming Sooty Grouse, Williamson's Sapsucker, House Wren - a great start considering we missed Dusky Flycatcher in 2011. Barrow's Goldeneye rounded out the ducks on the lake.

Back to Tieton Airport Marsh where we picked up Cinnamon Teal, Western Bluebird, Downy Woodpecker and Mountain Chickadees. Soup Creek Rd had a cooperative White-headed Woodpecker - then it was off to Bethel Ridge Road. Here we missed Black-backed Woodpecker - a great pickup in 2011 but did add Red-naped Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker, both missed in 2012. Also picked up Clark's Nutracker - new for our overall combined Big Day list. Cassin's Finch were singing along the road and we encountered a few more Western Bluebirds in the burn.

We picked up a lone Harlequin Duck and a couple of American Dippers in the Tieton River on the way to Bear Canyon. Bear Canyon produced our only Red Crossbill (type 4) and a pair of Golden Eagles, and a calling Ash-throated Flycatcher. Nearby Oak Creek had several Lewis's Woodpeckers which are always nice to see.

We headed for Toppenish NWR - Lateral C Road and Pumphouse Road. We looked for the Tricolored Blackbird on Lateral C Road without success. Great looks of at least 6 Bobolinks were a nice consolation prize - new bird for the big day list! Sora, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a pair of Wilson's Phalarope's, Lark Sparrow and a family group of Loggerhead Shrikes (2 near grown chicks that just blew up the cuteness factor scale).

Overall, Toppenish was rather slow and not as productive as it has been in prior years - looks like the water levels were down compared to our previous 2 Big Day attempts.

Tule Road off Hwy 97 was productive - picking up Horned Lark, Brewer's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow and Sage Sparrow. A flyby Long-billed Curlew saved us from missing that species all together for the day.

We picked up a staked out Gray Flycatcher in Klickitat County but missed Say's Phoebe (We were Phoebeless for the day which hurt!)

The cliffs near Lyle gave us our White-throated Swifts and Canyon Wrens for the day (also another Golden Eagle). Balch Road was again good for Ash-throated Flycatcher, Wild Turkeys, and a few Acorn Woodpeckers on the Granary Tree. The Lyle cemetery had a few Lesser Goldfinch.

We switched drivers and Headed to Ridgefield NWR - slightly ahead of schedule from 2011. Ridgefield was very productive - a Pileated Woodpecker flew over the freeway as we were exiting - American Bittern, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson's Warbler, Purple Martin were all added on this stop.

Our next stop before the coast was Rainbow Falls State Park in Lewis County - which was just chock full of Hermit Warblers. Unfortunately we missed several other targets that we have seen here prior - Hutton's Vireo, RB Sapsucker, Purple Finch - all 3 big misses for the day.

We headed for Willapa Bay - the tide was pretty high which limited the Shorebird possibilities - we did pick up a large flock of Brant, a few Red-breasted Mergansers and DC Cormorants. Cedar River near Tokeland had a Western Kingbird - a new county bird for all 4 of us - Tokeland had some Marbled Godwits, Whimbrel and a Short-billed Dowitcher, a few peeps but no Red Knots.

We stopped at Midway Beach for Least Sandpiper - We were successful - also saw 4 Wilson's Phalarope's (2 pair - hopefully they will breed) and heard a Bittern and our first Long-billed Dowitchers.

The Westport Jetty was basically our last stop -we picked up many species here but not quite the show of 2012 (no Common Terns). Rhino Auklets, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Red-necked and Western Grebe, all 3 cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Sooty Shearwaters, Bonaparte's Gulls, 2-3 Parasitic Jaegers were all added as light faded.

it was 10PM and we tallied up - we were at 197 - all 4 of us were exhausted so since we were nowhere close to the record, we pretty much called it an evening and drove back to Tacoma where we started. So now we have 197 for 2 of the 3 years with 208 as the high from 2011.

The weather was much better in the mountains this year than in 2011 - and it helped us increase our total # of birds seen in this region compared to 2011. Unfortunately we missed a few gettable birds elsewhere (Rainbow Falls, Willapa Bay, Coast).

You can see the species observed here on this eBird Checklist


We've now encountered a total of 230 species on this route for the 3 years we have ran it - so we believe that the 208 record is quite beatable - it will take more scouting and a little more luck with the weather and better planning for Tides.

Here are some stats for comparing the previous two big days for our team:

Species seen in 2013 missed in 2011:

Blue-winged Teal

Red-necked Grebe

Golden Eagle

Heermann's Gull

Marbled Murrelet

Flammulated Owl

Williamson's Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

Hairy Woodpecker
Dusky Flycatcher

Gray Jay

Clark's Nutcracker

Lark Sparrow


Red Crossbill

Species seen in 2011 but missed in 2013:

Greater White-fronted Goose

Cackling Goose

Eurasian Wigeon

Common Goldeneye

Common Merganser


Solitary Sandpiper

Wandering Tattler

Hudsonian Godwit

Ruddy Turnstone

Red Knot

Black-legged Kittiwake

Mew Gull

Common Tern

Barn Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl

Barred Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Black-backed Woodpecker

Peregrine Falcon

Black Phoebe

Say's Phoebe

Eastern Kingbird

Hutton's Vireo

Purple Finch


Ryan Shaw

Tacoma WA

rtshaw80 at hotmail.com

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