[Tweeters] Extreme (northeast) Skagit County birding: part II (August 24-25)--CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER

Scott scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 26 17:28:24 PDT 2014

Tweeters (continuing from Part I):

My mission on the 24th was to continue up the Pacific Crest trail from Cutthroat Pass to Granite Pass, and beyond. The first part of the trail (almost to Granite Pass) is in Okanogan County, so none of the birds in this report relate to that 1.5-mile stretch. Right as I approached the first switchback down to Granite Pass, I distinctly heard, and then saw, a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, just barely inside Okanogan County. To my great good fortune, the bird was headed west, like me, and I heard it several more times as it went over the ridge, and then down the Skagit County side of the ridge, calling three more times. This species has, like PYGMY NUTHATCH, been recorded no more than 4-5 times in the county. Another highlight a bit later right at Granite Pass was a single WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL, heard only but well with the redpoll-like "chet-chet-chet" series. Four PINE GROSBEAKS were found within a mile of Granite Pass heading for Snowy Lakes/Methow Pass, a male of which allowed for several low-quality, dark photos which I will post soon to my flickr site, where I also have late July photos of the Hayton Reserve COM. GOLDENEYE that Gary alluded to.

At about 3.7 miles from Granite Pass, I began the ascent toward the Snowy Lakes but a mid-day thunder and hail storm forced a hasty downhill retreat. I was inspired by a first-hand account the day prior of a Franklin's Spruce Grouse here. Alas, there were no grouse but 4 (SLATE-COLORED) FOX SPARROWS were a nice consolation at the trailhead. I spent some time with these expecting, but failing, to get a photo. To my ear, the "smack" call note is hollower than our SOOTIES, and these birds also gave a short little "seee" call, like our SONG SPARROWS do. Interesting sparrows, and not the last of the trip. Other highlights along this stretch were 11 CASSIN'S FINCHES, 10 CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS, and 2 more RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS.

The 25th was return day. Predawn was clear and chilly at Cutthroat Pass, about 38-40 F I figured, but the sunrise was spectacular, to say the least. With the first rays of sun on the larch and spruce tops, you could sense the ridge was alive with migrants. I was especially impressed with 7 DUSKY FLYCATCHERS, all calling birds; 2 or 3 also sang. I managed a photo of one of these. I believe these is an all-time high concentration for Skagit County, with most encounters of a single or rarely pair of birds. There were also 3 HAMMOND'S and an OLIVE-SIDED here, plus two more RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS. But amidst flycatchers, tanagers, sparrows (including a GOLDEN-CROWNED) and juncos, the warblers really stole the show. As I was attempting photography of a DUSKY FLY, a strange bird appeared at eye-level, facing me, that gave a first impression of a Gnatcatcher--floppy, cocked-upward grayish tail, little white eye ring, and warbler-shaped bill. The face also gave a first impression of a Gray Vireo. But as it moved, I was stunned to see brilliant lime green crest and crown, uniformly lime green across the upperparts--except for black wings with two creamy wingbars. No question, having the early sun's rays on the bird made for a very bright impression. The face, throat and upper breast were contrastingly gray, fading to dirty whitish below, I had a sense of molt given feather wear and was close enough to see a couple of feathers sticking out near the legs. This first-fall female CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER was just the second for Skagit County, the first a bird that showed up at a more predictable time and place, mid-June at "Ilabot" (may have been Barnaby) Slough near Rockport, over 20 years ago.

The CHESTNUT-SIDED was one of 7 species (about 50 individuals) on the ridge, there were two more NASHVILLES here among them (two more were found on the return hike to Rainy Pass). What a trip it was, full list to be provided to Ebird and the few photos to flickr.

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

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