[Tweeters] Sunny Skamish - Birds and More - 11/7/14

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Sun Nov 9 20:37:04 PST 2014

No avian rarities, but a recently rare appearance of a flaming ball of hot gases (the sun), graced the day Friday, warmed bodies and raised spirits of all beings outdoors up in Skagit Co. I guess I can't speak for the birds, but I think I detected extra sparkle in their eyes and more uninhibited movement than during the hunker-down days.

On the drive up from Seattle, I saw 8 Red-tailed Hawks on light standards and trees visible from I-5. A good start. Then, when I exited the freeway and headed west on Josh Wilson Rd, I spotted a cluster of maybe 10 swans mixed in with a greater number of Snow Geese, in a field on my right, just east of the Pulver Rd intersection - first for me for the season. Heading north on Farm-to-Mkt. Rd., made a first-ever stop at Rosabella's cafe - bought a tasty, juicy pear (a Gorham?) and then headed down to the end of Rawlins Rd. on Fir Is., where there were a few distant harriers, a few swans out over the bay, a Great Blue Heron in near the dike, and a Golden-crowned "Chick-a dee" - this 'bird' and her friend were out in the reeds, imbibing some liquid spirits. 2 photographers, Duke and Aaron, and my friends Dory & Ray, shared some sightings and non-sightings (including the aforementioned Goldencrown), including some stories from the past about birds we weren't seeing at the end of Rawlins.

Enroute next to Hayton Reserve, we saw a kestrel, a usual sighting along Rawlins and Maupin Rds. I also saw a few Eurasian-collared Doves and a few Road Chickens (these chicks actually real fowl !), some turkeys (Wild ?) behind a fence and down the road into the reserve, a perched Redtail and a pair of Bald Eagles and a nest in the tree that used to house one a couple years back. Not much else seen there, so on down to Wiley Rd., where things got interesting. I always check the 2 fir trees along the road into the wildlife area, for raptors, as I've often seen a Merlin at the top of one of them. I caught a glimpse of a light redtail at the top of one and stopped to take photos. Then I went around and parked in the smaller lot to the west and could much better get some shots of the hawk. I didn't notice, until yesterday, when I took a look at my photos, that this hawk had Long-billed Syndrome - looked up the condition online and was saddened to read of what can often happen to afflicted birds - possible (maybe probable) slow starvation and death. I've contacted Bud Anderson about this find, in case he and/or the Falcon Research Group is still interested in reports of sightings and photos. Here is my Flickr album link to photos of this bird and the tree in which I spotted it :


My friends then left for home, and I turned around and started my end-'o'-day drive north back up to the Samish Flats area, particularly West-90. Just across SR20 on Farm-to-Mkt Rd, I stopped to watch a pair of Bald Eagles, first sit together on a branch across from their nest, and then suddenly lift up and together zoom after a gull who had strayed away from its peers. Though the BAEA gave that gull a run (fly) for its life, life triumphed that time, and the eagles gave up and returned to their tree - I think I heard the gull give a big sigh of relief as it caught up with it's buddies.

I started seeing quite a few raptors on wires, looking for a last or second-to last, meal of the day - RTHA, one Rough-legged Hawk wires along F-t-M Rd, between Josh Wilson Rd and D'Arcy Rd, where I turned and went over to Bayview-Edison Rd. Once I was heading north on B-E Rd, I passed a familiar silhouette on a wire, across from a flooded field in which a patch of Dunlin were sitting, head-under-wing. Wait, was that a Peregrine ? I turned around to re-approach the bird and pulled over to look and photograph, yes, a Peregrine. A smile filled me ! It had been awhile since I'd seen a Peregrine up in that area. :-)

Then finally to West 90. A few remaining hunters came in with their booty and drove away. The sun had almost set, so I set out for the short paved path, with binoculars only, to search for and ultimately spot, my favorite owl, a Short-eared. It took awhile to follow both it and a N. Harrier hunt back-and-forth, sometimes pushing each other out of the way. I was trying to determine if that light-colored bird was an SEOW or a male NOHA. The movement, wing-shape and amount of light color, all added up to an owl, not a harrier. No photo, so...perhaps it wouldn't count on eBird, but I'm adding it to my day list ! Woo-hoo !

After that I stayed to listen to and watch the swarms of ducks and geese which apparently were making their first major roost in the barley fields (according to a wetland worker I talked with, who goes out to W-90 every evening because he loves the waterfowl and he works 'for' them). How exciting it was to watch wave after wave of waterfowl temporarily darken the sky and call out their distinctive versions of "Watch out, here I come". A few Killdeer were out there sounding off, too. The only sounds I didn't hear at all that day were shotguns - :-)

The only other flying things that I experienced out at West 90 were mosquitoes ! They will likely be history if the weather cools down to the extent that is predicted for this week. Friday night it was balmy. Guess summer is finally over.

For photos, other than the Long-billed Redtail in the other album, click on this link for my Flickr album : "First Fall Day in the Sunny Skamish" -


Barb Deihl
Matthews Beach Neighborhood - NE Seattle
barbdeihl at comcast.net

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