[Tweeters] Snohomish County Big Day

Josh Adams xjoshx at gmail.com
Sat May 3 22:29:06 PDT 2014

Hello Tweets,
Ever since I noticed that Snohomish County has no big day records on the
WABirder.com list last year I've been hoping to get out and do one.
Everything finally aligned as well as it could so Friday was the day.

The first bird of the day was a Barn Owl sitting on power lines in the
Snohomish Valley. I had no luck with Great-Horned Owls in the same area. I
was able to coax a Northern Saw-Whet Owl in along Sultan Basin Road and
later I heard a toot or two from a Northern Pygmy Owl. Wilson's Snipe were
winnowing in several swampy areas in this same area.

While looking for Barred Owls, I had the best non-bird highlight of the
day. About a dozen medium sized bats were foraging over Kellogg Lake just
before dawn. I always enjoy seeing bats, but this is the highest number I
can recall seeing in western Washington. I'm assuming they were Big Brown
Bats, but I'd be curious if anyone with an educated guess might have a
better idea.

Evening Grosbeaks were calling constantly over Sultan Basin as were
Band-Tailed Pigeons and Gray Jays, but I didn't have any flyover Red
Crossbills like on other recent visits. One interesting question mark was a
low frequency sound I heard for several minutes just after dawn. Obviously
Sooty Grouse comes to mind, but it was infrequent and didn't have any
sequence like all the Sooty Grouse I've heard. I've also never had them
near this area on many visits.

Clearcuts near Kellogg Lake Rd yielded my only real surprise bird of the
day, which were two Nashville Warblers. I had a probable heard only
Nashville in the exact same spot last June so perhaps they're breeding in
this area. A pair of Western Bluebirds continued in a clearcut nearby.

My first inclination that my day was not going to go as planned came when I
arrived at Monroe Prison Farm Pond. I had hoped for Blue-Winged Teal, but
instead I couldn't even find a Cinnamon Teal. The Greater White-Fronted
Goose present two days earlier was either gone or hiding wherever the teal
were. While scoping the area I caught a Sora in short flight in my scope.
Minutes later a Bullocks Oriole flew directly overhead and landed in a
nearby tree giving nice views. I had one nearby on the same date last year,
which is the earliest county record for the species arrival I'm aware of.

I knew I was cutting the tides close already and skipped walking through
Crescent Lake in order to get to Eide Rd while the ponds should still be
full of shorebirds. Unfortunately I either timed it wrong or the birds just
haven't arrived yet because when I arrived there was only a single Greater
Yellowlegs which might as well have been a tumbleweed rolling across the
fields. The scene there was not all bad, as I picked up a male Northern
Harrier, a Peregrine Falcon, and Merlin.

I picked up most of the rest of the ducks I needed at the Stanwood WMA, but
Wilson's Phalaropes weren't present yet. Norman Road had about 20
Dowitchers that appeared to represent both species, but I would have loved
to get a little closer look.

American Pipit should be almost a gimme this time of year, but the fields I
expected them in around Monroe haven't been plowed yet and the Eide Rd had
proved empty. I made one last ditch stop at a nice plowed field at the end
of Thomle Rd that proved fortuitous. While I scanned the field for the
invisible Pipits that /should/ have been there I spotted a loose flock of
23 Whimbrels flying over. I had a vague sense that one might be bigger and
longer billed than the others, but that was probably just a factor of the
flock being spread out. The Whimbrels appeared to be headed to land between
Thomle Road and Boe Road, but I was unable to find them in those fields
when I looked. Immediately after the Whimbrels flew over a flock of Pipits
flew in and landed in the field I'd been looking for them in.

Everett was a huge disappointment due to tides and I missed nearly all the
Gulls I was hoping to get there. I made a detour to Mukilteo in hope of
getting at least a Ring-Billed or California, but it was just as barren of
anything besides GW.

I had picked up most of my seabirds on the Tulalip reservation, but still
needed Brant, Pelagic Cormorant, and Black Scoter. The first two were easy
(along with both Common and Pacific Loon), but Black Scoters, which I had
found easily less than 24 hours previously had apparently made their move
north in the meantime. This was a trend that continued throughout Edmonds
as I missed multiple species that had been conspicuous on the previous day
at the hatchery and Yost park.

I ended up stopping at Scriber Creek park in hopes of finding Green Heron
and immediately found a pair engaging in some sort of rambunctious behavior
while looking for and immediately after I found my only Golden-Crowned
Sparrows of the day. I knew I could likely pick up at least three more
species at North Creek Park, but at that point I'd been birding for 16
hours and the thought of getting to put my daughter to bed sounded much
more pleasant.

Final count for the day was 115 with lots of missed species which should
have been easy. I apparently was possibly one day too early for a few
migrants and a day too late for others (or just had bad timing, I see that
the Greater White-Fronted Goose was present again today.) A few days later
possibly would have gained me Macgillivray's Warbler, Western Tanager,
Yellow Warbler, and Warbling Vireo. Maybe I'll try again next year.

Still, as far as I can tell it counts as a Snohomish County record. I'd
love to hear if there are other records for the county that haven't been
sent to WABirder.

Notable Birds:
Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Sultan Basin)
Nashville Warbler (2, near Kellogg Lake)
Western Bluebird (2, near Kellogg Lake)
Whimbrel (23 over Thomle Road)
Green Heron (2 possibly scoping nesting spots at Scriber Creek)
Bullocks Oriole (ties my earliest record for the county)

Notable Misses:
Turkey Vulture
Purple Finch
Lesser Yellowlegs
Cinnamon Teal
Virginia Rail
Red-Breasted Sapsucker
Vaux's Swift
Ring-Billed Gull
California Gull
Hammond's Flycatcher
Great Horned Owl
Hutton's Vireo (present < 24 hours previously)
Warbling Vireo (present < 24 hours previously)
Black Scoter (present < 24 hours previously)
Greater White-Fronted Goose (Present < 48 hours previously)

Josh Adams
Lynnwood, WA
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