[Tweeters] Skagit Audubon birding cruise

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 27 09:41:42 PDT 2013

Dear Tweeters,
Yesterday, 26 October 2013, a party of around 30 birders enjoyed an afternoon of birding aboard the Lightkeeper. We left Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes at 1115 and got back at 1600. Bird of the day in my opinion was the Surfbird.
The itinerary took us along the shoreline of Anacortes, bending southwards past Burrows Island and Allan Island. Then we spent from 1230 to 1305 at Williamson's Rocks, south of Allan Island. About the only birding spot outside of Skagit County on this trip was Bird Rocks, where we birded from about 1330 to 1350. A flock of about 20 unidentified shorebirds blew by the rocks, giving everyone pause to wonder what we'd seen.
After Bird Rocks, we cruised to Cypress Island, where we found relatively few birds around Strawberry Bay and Strawberry Island.
However, our last major stop, Deepwater Bay, was much more productive. Around the salmon pens there, on the southeast corner of Cypress, were hundreds of birds.
From there, we cruised past Guemes Island and back to Cap Sante.
Here is a list of what we found.
Common Loon, very few today, less than ten in all. One observer did report a Red-throated Loon flying by. I believe there may have been a Pacific Loon seen by one observer, but I am not sure.
Western Grebe, a few tiny flocks of two and three here and there.
Red-necked Grebe, perhaps a dozen on the day.
Horned Grebe, very few, less than ten on the day.
All three of the expected cormorant species were in good numbers and observed closely.
 Four or five Great Blue Herons were seen here and there.
Swan species, unidentified: several observers called out about this lone bird, which flew over the boat near Green Point.
As to ducks, I don't believe we identified a single dabbling duck the whole trip, nor did we see any Aythya or Bucephala ducks of any kind. About 350 Surf Scoters were at Deepwater Bay, with a few score elsewhere. Small numbers of White-winged Scoters were spotted here and there. We saw one Oldsquaw off Guemes toward the end of the cruise. Harlequin Ducks were spotted at the rocky islets we visited, and at least ten of them were by the salmon pens. Also at Deepwater Bay were three Hooded Mergansers. Near Green Point, a flock of ten or twenty unidentified mergansers, probably Common Mergansers, flew by fast. I have not found any Red-breasted Mergansers yet this fall.
A few Bald Eagles appeared here and there. In a treetop in Anacortes, a Merlin had some crows worried as we cruised by; some observers reported a probable Cooper's Hawk right nearby, perched on the top of a boom.
Shorebirds were best represented by Black Turnstones, with good numbers at both Williamson's Rocks and Bird Rocks. At Williamson's Rocks were two Surfbirds. It took a lot of patience to get decent looks at them from the distance we kept, but I think everyone finally did get to see them. Also at Williamson's were four Black Oystercatchers.
We had the expected large numbers of Glaucous-winged Gulls everywhere, with a pretty good admixture of Mew, Bonaparte's, and Heermann's Gulls (in decreasing order of abundance). We also saw two California Gulls and one or two Ring-billed Gulls.
There were lots of Pigeon Guillemots and Marbled Murrelets to see, plus a few Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets.
The only passerines I noted were crows and Eurasian Starlings.
Mammals included harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and river otters. Three otters were scrambling around Williamson's Rocks, and seemed to disappear into a cleft or tiny cave in the rocks at one point.
Large numbers of annoying flies joined us as we approached the guano-reeking Bird Rocks; I was wondering whether they might be some sort of seaweed fly, or perhaps some other type that specializes in guano.
I might add that there were some interesting birds at Skagit Airport Ponds at about ten in the morning. Thirteen Wilson's Snipe flushed from the reedy edges of the ponds.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

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