[Tweeters] WOS field trip to Mason County [29 March 2014]

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 29 19:31:31 PDT 2014

Today was the 6th year for my WOS field trip to Mason County --
12 of us joined forces in Belfair to begin what would be a rainy day of birding around the Hood Canal. All told , we had a remarkably good day with good birds between downpours, rain, sleet, some mizzle [yes Michael, we got mizzle] and some sun.

Our day began with a try for Mountain Quail on the Tahuya Peninsula. We stopped about a half mile north of Belfair-Tahuya Rd., on Elfendahl Pass Rd -- this is a new spot for me this year, and in 4 tries earlier this year, the Mountain Quail have been very vocal and often visible -- today, alas, no luck. The Mountain Quail refused to even hoot back at us between showers. We did see Purple Finch, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove [mostly heard only], Ruby-crowned & Golden-crowned Kinglet & Yellow-rumped Warbler. A fly-by Double-crested Cormorant surprisingly proved to be one of only 2 seen during the day!

At Belfair State Park, our highlights were the lingering Marbled Godwit out on the flats, along with a single Bonaparte's Gull . In addition, we saw Surf Scoter, Common & Red-breasted Mergansers, a smattering of American Wigeon, Gadwall & Bufflehead, and a couple decent sized flocks of Greater Scaup. A single Ruddy Duck out on the water was unfortunately only cooperative for me to get a glance at before rain obscured views. A pugentensis White-crowned Sparrow was cooperative for some looks and nice songs despite the rain.

We had a nice break in the heavy rain for our walk around Theler Wetlands. First up, as we entered the woods, from the parking lot was a Barred Owl, hooting back to our ipod. A couple of Brown Creepers were keeping it company on the trunk of the Doug Fir it sat in. At the first marshy portion of the estuary trail, we had a very cooperative Virginia Rail come in to us for nice looks. The walk around the loop trail was mostly quiet [ a Cooper's Hawk, some Green-winged Teal, and our first of several Turkey Vultures] until we got out to the new portion of the loop trail -- our best bird of the day popped up on the fence line near the alpacas: SAY'S PHOEBE! Always a good day when you can pick up a Mason County first on a field trip!

At Twanoh State Park, as we moved south along the west shore of the Hood Canal, we picked up Barrow's Goldeneye, a big flock of Red-necked Grebes, and the first of many Horned Grebe & Western Grebes. Around Union, a group of White-winged Scoters put in an appearance.

Potlatch State Park failed to give us the hoped for Eared Grebe, but during our lunch break here were saw several Horned Grebes in difficult plumage variations and a couple Harlequin Ducks.

We moved on to the Skokomish Valley, where the water is starting to encroach on the roads but they were still easily passable. Not much popped up in the fields despite a good bit of scanning [the swans of the winter, still present last week, were not in evidence]. At Eells Hilll Trout Hatchery, we were unable to locate the resident Green Heron --- We moved up FR 23 into the Olympic National Forest where some sharp eyes from the car pulled out a pair of Western Bluebirds working one of the clearcuts. Unfortunately, heavy rains really pulled the plug on any birding higher up --- even a stop at the gorgeous High Steel Bridge wasn't really pracitcal. Cars coming from beyond the bridge told us that a slide was blocking the road higher up, so affer waiting in vain for the rain to abate, we headed back down. As with the Green Heron, the Dippers that are normally faithful at George Adams Hatchery were hiding from the weather when we looked -- sneaky birds!

We stopped in the Mountainview Neighborhood of Shelton [around H & King Streets] , and saw Eurasian Collared Dove, Western Scrub-Jay and Red-breasted Sapsucker -- dipped on Anna's Hummingbird though --

Our final stop was Kennedy Creek Natural Area and the area south of 101 just across from it. On the flats, despite it being high tide, we found a handful of Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin. Across 101, we ended our day with our first Downy Woodpecker of the trip, looks at Fox Sparrow, and big friendly dog coming out of the brush.

For the day, I think we came up with 75 species and a lot of fun birding our way around the county.

Happy to pass on site directions to anyone interested.

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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