[Tweeters] Marysville JACK SNIPE, PALM WARBLER, COM. GRACKLE this weekend+ (long)

Scott Atkinson scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 27 23:02:11 PDT 2013


This was an absolutely incredible weekend for birds locally up here in central Snohomish County. I wasn't really trying to bird that hard--but ran into some stunning surprises. Just when you least expect it, well, you know the rest...

1. JACK SNIPE. Hot bird #1 was seen at the edge of the Allen Creek Elementary School, right across from the Marysville YMCA. Talk about a freak encounter! The circumstance was that I was stretching for a small jog around the track around the Allen Creek fields, a regular spot for me. There is a small retention pond, heavily vegetated and encircled by a screen fence, right there at the west end of the soccer field and visible as you enter the Y. The encounter was at about 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

As I finished my stretching out, I was heading for the track and nearly past the retention pond fence, when a dark, very boldly buff-streaked creature about the size of a sparrow flew up--literally right in front of my face. (I nearly stepped on it!) This bird had very bold buff stripes on the scapulars above, and light edges along the trailing edge of the wings and the primaries. Strangest of all, the little bird was quick but strange in flight--it was much less decisive than a Wilson's and had more rounded wings, and barely flew--it went up just high enough (perhaps 8') to clear the fence--and then immediately dropped down into shady cover along the pond's edge, a distance of at most 15'. I immediately walked right to the fence and looked through--it is pure shade and heavy with fallen cottonwood leaves there, but I did glimpse the bird--with the naked eye--from 10-12 feet. It was a small, plump little snipe with a bill plainly shorter (perhaps half the length) of a Wilson's Snipe, and even in the shade it looked pale on the basal half. I could see most of the face, enough to make out a strong dark mark across the cheek running horizontally, below the eye; there was also a less pronounced dark line through the eye. From the angle I had I could not see the bifurcated eyebrow, only that it was light on the eyebrow above the eye. The breast was streaked but the rest of the underparts were obscured by leaf litter.

I've never seen anything rare enough to warrant a camera there before, so perhaps Dennis you can forgive me. But as it was, I turned the jog into a mad sprint over to my car, which was luckily a mere 30 yards or so away. I was back in a flash, but the snipe had moved a bit. Absent from its previous spot, I rounded the corner to get around a small shrubby tree inside the fence that blocked view of the muddy edge of the pond and fallen leaves. And so I spotted the bird again--but this time it took off as soon as it saw me. It ran through the leaves quickly with about the same gait as a small rail, but running through the leaf litter, the effect reminded me more of a mouse. Alas, I went back three times over the course of the day, camera in hand, no luck; I climbed the fence and attempted a close encounter but the bird was gone. No luck today either.

2. COM. GRACKLE. Hot bird #2 was an equally brief encounter, but a clearer view today at about 9 a.m. I was on my way back from the n. Everett godwit spot (no godwits) and stopped at the Union Restoration site, the slough on the right as you are heading into the former Biringer Farm; it is readily visible from I-5 immediately south of the southernmost Marysville exit on the west side. The bird flew in and landed in a group of reeds (apparently clubrush, Scirpus, sp) directly south of the viewing area. There is an islet here at the confluence of the lagoon and the open slough; I was scoping the gull flock when the bird flew in. It perched in the Scirpus for about 20 seconds, in this time I listened to it call as it was facing me. Larger than a Brewer's Blackbird, with an obvious keel-shaped, rounded tail; this was a real dark brown individual (blackish in the head) with the pale eye. My excuse for the absence of photo is that it was an absolute downpour, and the bird flew southward before I would have had a good shot at a photo anyway.

My experience level with the grackle is close to endless, but the Jack Snipe was just the second (saw one near Moscow, Russia many years back, a May arrival and not a flying bird).

Other notable birds/sites were encountered over the weekend as well, as follows:

Gr. WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE--100 in flight over Allen Creek Elementary in Marysville today; another 25 over Centennial Trail seen just n.e. of the Hwy 9 (under) crossing.

W. GREBE 1--at the Union Restoration Slough; we had only 6 on the Everett-Marysville CBC last Dec.

LEAST SANDPIPER--several along the n. Everett waterfront today, we do better than most regionally for the species on the CBC.

DOWITCHERS--a flock of about 50 at the Union Restoration site today.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW--single bird heard only in thickets along the Centennial trail, close to the W. Grebe spot.

PALM WARBLER--a bird was in with 3 LINCOLN'S SPARROWS, a horde of juncos, and about 30 other sparrows (mostly GC and Song) in a meadow near 109th Place in n. Marysville at about 4:45 pm Saturday, Oct. 26. The site is accessed via 116th Ave, on the south side of the road and just about directly opposite a Winco grocery. Walking in this old road grade, just east of 38th Place Dr, the road goes through a wooded area before entering a large open area to the south. This site can also be entered by parking at the Furniture World (along State Ave) and carefully walking across the street and the RR tracks, and down the hill through the trees and into the meadow.

Scott Atkinson
Lake Stevens
mail to: scottratkinson at hotmail.com

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