[Tweeters] Skagit County Big Day

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 17 21:01:22 PST 2013

Dear Tweeters,
Today I decided once again to try to match the mark of 94 species for a day's birding in Skagit County during November. Whoever it was who hit that mark in the first place, my hat is off to you.
The birding gods were very kind to me, but not that kind; they continued to smile upon me until I matched the mark of 94, and then they shut me down!
Anyway, it was a great day. Upriver, there were American Dippers at quite a few spots. In the river just west of Concrete was my first Barrow's Goldeneye of the season. Other tough birds upriver included a Sharpie in Concrete, an American Goldfinch and a White-crowned Sparrow in Grassmere, and a drake Gadwall at the Van Horn Ponds.
Perhaps the most surprising bird of the day was a Ruffed Grouse in the woods along the edge of Butler Flats, less than a mile and a half from I-5. That was the first Ruffed Grouse I'd seen in western Skagit County in a long time.
The Yellow-headed Blackbirds were nowhere to be seen on Samish Flats, and neither were the Savannah Sparrows, but there were lots of other birds out there, including a Short-eared Owl, a Cooper's Hawk, an American Pipit, and so on.
Samish Island Public Beach (the DNR park) was surprisingly birdy, despite the high tide. There were a couple of Harlequin Ducks, lots of Oldsquaws, and most of the other expected birds. I was surprised to see the White-winged Scoters outnumbering the Surf Scoters by quite a bit. I have not yet found any Brant this season, though.
Fir Island was where my luck started getting so good that I was wondering if I should quit birding and buy a lottery ticket. First, I found an American Kestrel less than a minute before it flew into the trees to roost for the night. Then, at North Fork Access, an American Bittern flew up from the marsh. Next I raced over to Jensen Access, where five Black-bellied Plover spent five minutes flying back and forth in front of me.
At Hayton Reserve, it was so dark that I had a hard time figuring out what I was looking at, but the voices of the Cackling Geese carried over just fine in the dark. Eventually I was able to discern them, standing around next to the "honking-big" Snow Geese (pun intended).
I pulled into the Game Range at 1705, well after sunset, and found a pair of calling Great Horned Owls immediately--species number ninety-four on the nose! One of them flew right over my head for a grand finale.
Instead of going out for a celebratory burrito, I raced up to Harry Osborne State Forest near Hamilton, where I spent the next hour and a half or so, walking five miles in the darkness, and not finding the Saw-whet Owl or the Barred Owl that would have put me at ninety-five. I should have had the burrito. The way my luck had been going up to that point, it would not have been all that surprising if a West Mexican Chachalaca had flown up and landed on the salsa bar. That's the way it goes.
Big misses today included Lesser Scaup, American Coot, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, and Downy Woodpecker. Actually, they aren't big misses--there isn't enough daylight in November to get to all the places one wants to bird.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

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