[Tweeters] extreme (southeast Clallam County) birding adventure, 5/10 (long): CASSIN'S FINCH, HERMIT WARBLER, CHIPPING SPARROW

Scott scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Sun May 11 20:32:02 PDT 2014


Anne Winskie and I covered the extreme southeast corner of Clallam County for the County-wide May count yesterday, and we had quite a trip. The weather until noon was mostly sunny. This paid off when we were in the core part of the coverage, the Forest Service Rd 2870 coverage--from Dungeness Forks campground to the end of the road, past the Royal Basin trailhead to the Tubal Cane Mine trailhead. Later we covered FS 28 south to the Mt. Zion trailhead and on southward to Bon Jon Pass, but the birding was best, as expected, along 2870.

Before I met Anne I walked the Graysmarsh public beach access and Holland Rd bordering the property; from 5:30 a.m. to 7:05 a.m., I also had brief time along Port Williams Rd. Best birds were a MERLIN along the public beach, and a singing CASSIN'S VIREO and MacGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER in the damp roadside habitat in the Gierin Creek ravine (along Holland Rd). The first warning of a banner-best
day on HOUSE WREN was a surprising 4 birds on territories along Holland Rd and Port Williams, but the best bird of the lot was a singing CHIPPING SPARROW near confluence of Scott Rd. and Port Williams Rd.

As I was departing I witnessed an unforgettable chase scene involving a late (BLACK) BRANT. The bird took off from the public beach with gulls at the approach of an ad. BALD EAGLE; the eagle quickly gave chase and over the next minute, I watched aerial acrobatics as the eagle tried, in vain, for breakfast. But just when it gave up, a second BALD EAGLE gave chase! I was sure the BRANT would not survive, as it had to be too tired to hang on. But somehow, about 30 seconds into the second chase, the BRANT took a sudden dive into the water, and though the eagle hovered overhead, it soon broke off the chase. The Brant had defied the odds and survived.

Anne and I did well along upper Jimmy-Come-Lately Rd--amazingly HOUSE WRENS kept showing; by the end, we'd found 7 birds on territories--a total of 11 birds for the day. It was almost like being in San Juan County or at Fort Lewis. But the highlight of the morning hours was a brilliant male HERMIT WARBLER that we both saw, in full sunlight, at the second overlook along FS 2870; it was associating with a TOWNSEND'S and a TOWNSEND'S x HERMIT WARBLER nearby. The TOWNSEND'S allowed the first of several photos of the species for the day:


In places, you can hear a singing male about every 50 yards or so. And appropriately enough, since we were with TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, headed for the Mt. TOWNSEND trailhead, not that far from Port TOWNSEND, the first of three TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES for the day showed up, later allowing also for photography:


At the second overlook, I was thrilled to hear the unmistakable song of a CASSIN'S FINCH, right where a bird had been about 5 years prior, on a May 9th visit. The song of the species is plainly longer and more complex than our PURPLE, of which several were also found. Near here we also heard just the single PINE SISKIN of the day--given the recent trend, I almost felt like we had a rarity.

Other birds of note for the day included an ad. GOLDEN EAGLE, and an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER near the Royal Creek trailhead (below Tyler Peak). The yellow-headed, wheezy-singing treetop Doug-Fir warbler count for the day was:

Townsend's Warbler 39
Townsend's x Hermit Warbler 6
Dendroica, sp (Townsend's, Hermit, or hybrid) 19

This was a bit higher for each (except HERMIT) than the last couple May surveys. In all (including early lowland coverage), it was an 8-warbler day involving 139 individuals.

Lastly, we had a very exciting moment with heavy bird action near Mueller Creek, just about a 1/2 mile from the trailhead parking for Royal Basin. A nuthatch flew downslope amidst a flight of several warblers and juncos, and it had me pretty fired up, but Anne and I felt it best to leave it as nuthatch species--as the view was fleeting...

Notable for being away from immediate Sequim: a vocalizing CALIF. QUAIL along lower Palo Alto Rd., and more surprisingly, up at Louella near the Valhalla Farm--this is about 1600' elevation and isolated by heavy timberlands. Finally, among other highlights--terrific views of snowy peaks and a plethora of wildflowers, including Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum), Hairy Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), and two violet species (Viola glabella and sempervirens). The most unusual vegetative find, however, was a Pacific Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) well up FS 28, about 5 miles south of the Dungeness Forks; elevation about 2200'. I had never seen the species so far away from salt water, nor ever at such a high elevation--and it was about a 20' tree. Perhaps some lonely pioneering family planted it there decades ago, but evidence of residences are nil here, and the species just doesn't transplant well...

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

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