[Tweeters] WOS Field Trip to Vashon Island today

Ed Swan edswan at centurytel.net
Wed Mar 19 18:08:57 PDT 2014

We had an enjoyable trip on Vashon today despite some wind and rain and came
out at about 60 species. There were a few amazing misses like
Chestnut-backed Chickadee and a few of the usuals but sometimes
uncooperative species like Pacific and Red-throated Loons. On the other
hand, we had some crowd pleasing Harlequin Ducks and breeding plumaged
Brandt's Cormorant and Common Loon and some of the harder to find birds like
Virginia Rail and Wilson's Snipe. It was the first trip I've led where the
group assembled after contingents arrived on Island from three different
ferries: from Fauntleroy, Southworth and Pt. Defiance. You can see a map
with directions to all the locations mentioned if you go to
www.vashonaudubon.org <http://www.vashonaudubon.org> and then click on
"Birding." This brings you to a map with a list of locations, click on a
location and one receives a site description and directions quoted from my
book The Birds of Vashon Island.

On the way over from Fauntleroy, Brant geese flew across the bow and landed
about mid-channel just after a Rhinocerous Auklet gave us a quick up and
down peek in the chop. At the Vashon dock, all three cormorant species
perched on the pilings next to the dock with the Brandt's Cormorant sporting
long white plumes from their head and backs and a few quick glimpses of the
blue pouch under the bill. Both goldeneye species, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead
and half a dozen Harlequin were a few yards off shore. There's a good
viewing position from the parking lot of the LaPlaya Mexican Restaurant at
the end of the dock and the Harlequin Duck can often be seen here at high
tide. Pigeon Guillemot flashed there bright red legs as they flew round and
about the dock. They'll soon be nesting under the dock as the season
progresses. Many Horned Grebe were about as well as a Belted Kingfisher.

We went on from there to Fisher Pond which is 1.1 miles west of town on Bank
Road which is the first four way stop on Vashon Highway heading south from
the ferry dock. (At Fisher Pond stunning Wood male and female Wood Ducks
perched next to some very pretty Green-winged Teal. Mallards, Bufflehead
and Ring-necked Duck were also foraging about the pond. On one of the mud
islands in the pond, about 10-12 Wilson's Snipe were sleeping or preening.
Pied-billed Grebes gave their weird calls as they popped up and down. In
the grey gloom at that time, the bright shoulder patches of the Red-winged
Blackbirds were pretty spectacular. We walked down the trail that goes
along the edge of the pond and lucked into a nice frolic of land birds: a
number of Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown Creeper, both kinglets,
Song Sparrows and Pacific Wren. A Rufous Hummingbird buzzed by and a half
dozen Violet-green Swallows flew low over the tree tops and surface of the

Next we visited Tramp Harbor, the site of the Yellow-billed Loon sightings
in December and January. No Yellow-billeds were present but several Commons
popped up including one almost completely changed to breeding plumage. This
is a very reliable location for Eared Grebe and at least three showed up
among the ubiquitous Horned Grebes and a lone Red-necked Grebe. A Surf
Scoter raft included a bunch of Greater Scaup and a single Brant slid along
the shoreline of KVI Beach in the distance to the north.

We continued south down to Raab's Lagoon where Shep Thorp scoped into
horizontal rain to find a bunch of Black Scoters in Quartermaster Harbor. A
few White-winged and Surf Scoters were present as well. A Lincoln's Sparrow
and an Anna's Woodpecker were in the brush nearby.

Heading west over to Monument Road, we stopped and Shep played his Virginia
Rail call for us by the cattails on the west side of the road, just north of
Quartermaster Drive. A couple of rails responded but stayed hidden though
just twenty feet away. Another Lincoln Sparrow grasped the top of a cattail
to watch us.

The rain and wind increased and we saw little but a few Mew and
Glaucous-winged Gulls on a stream delta south of Burton on Quartermaster
Harbor. In the middle of the outer harbor is generally a good place to find
flocks of Red-throated and Pacific Loons and Western Grebes but we dipped on
them all here today.

We changed habitat to pasture and open area at Wax Orchards but again rain
dampened sightings a bit. Finally a Common Raven glided by and as we left,
an American Kestrel hunted from the top of a medium sized Douglas-fir tree
out in the field. It's usually hard to miss Red-tailed Hawk here but they
were hiding from the rain. Harrier hunt these fields as well and at time
Barn Owls.

As we neared Fern Cove at the northwest corner of Vashon, Laurel Parshell
asked me, "What about woodpeckers here?" I looked up and said, "There's a
Pileated there on the top of the snag to the right." As we pulled over to
watch it work the snag, a Cooper's Hawk swooped in for a couple of passes
which the Pileated responded to by just shifting to one side or the other as
it pecked.

It was fun to start to see spring birds like the Violet-green Swallows and
Yellow-rumped Warblers while seeing that all of the Red-breasted Mergansers
that dot the shores in ones and twos were all already gone.

Good birding,


Ed Swan

Nature writer and guide

www.theswancompany.com <http://www.theswancompany.com>

edswan at centurytel.net <mailto:edswan at centurytel.net>


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