[Tweeters] Coastal Skagit County highlights 11/1: SLATY-BACKED GULL+

Scott scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 2 16:20:31 PST 2014


Wanted to join those out at Neah Bay, but made due with the familiar coastal Skagit Co yesterday. With 101 species between the Skagit WMA and Washington Park, felt that the day had been quite good. The big highlight of 10 (!) gull species found was an adult SLATY-BACKED GULL on the open muddy fields near the entrance to the Skagit WMA headquarters. There were several hundred gulls here late in the day, and as I was ticking off the regulars, this bird came into view:


Don't be disappointed--the "string of pearls" don't show in any of the shots here because the bird flew after the photos were taken (this is not all by the way). In flight, the "string of pearls" was especially obvious above, but also seen from below; all other details are listed in the photo narrative. The only atypical feature for this bird was the absence (mostly) of smudging on the head/around the eye, although if you look carefully you can see the dark eye-line effect coming in and evidently molt is slightly delayed. Given that we've reached November, one could expect a bit more smudging.

The very first bird of the day, surprisingly enough, was a heard-only flyover BOHEMIAN WAXWING heading southward in heavy fog at the Skagit WMA headquarters. Two groups of CEDAR WAXWINGS were perched here as well; the first one contained an atypical bird with more white in the wing and darker plumage than I think typical for most Cedars, so I snapped a shot:


Over at Jensen, I finally got a brief look at two MAGOs (MARBLED GODWITS) with a single GREATER YELLOWLEGS. At the North Fork Access, near Blake's Resort, I walked the dike trail southward and spotted an AM. BITTERN and a definite movement of MARSH WRENS--I figured there were at least 25 here, and I snapped photos of a couple as per above. The more I listen to that bird, the more I'm convinced that if we were in Eurasia, this bird would be called a warbler. The quality of the scolding notes is very Acrocephalus (Reed-warblers) like. In fact one MARSH WREN at the North Fork access gave a couple scold-notes nearly straight out of the BLACK-BROWED REED-WARBLER (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) song (calls) book, and given from just the habitat you would expect to hear one if you were in the Northeast Asia, where this reed-warbler is often common.

More exciting--in the "big one that got away" category--a very likely Rock Wren was seen fleetingly by naked eye in the open driftwood just past the hard (almost 90-degree) bend east in the dike. I was attempting a MARSH WREN photo when this bird hopped into the open but it darted deep into the driftwood crevices before I had a second chance to see it.

Washington Park's Green Point had no Ancient Murrelets, but numbers of both MARBLED MURRELET and PIGEON GUILLIMOT were in the triple figures--and those totals will be posted to EBird shortly.

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

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