[Tweeters] Sunday Afternoon Along the Stillaguamish (Plus West 90) - 11/16/17

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Tue Nov 18 03:05:53 PST 2014

With reports of Short-eared Owls drawing us north, Sue Connell and I donned our winter garb and took a drive up to the Stilly and Samish Flats, to see what we could find in the few hours of afternoon light. It was delightful.

Our first pullover was on Norman Rd. to view the Trumpeter Swans (Sue counted 80) grazing in a field on the south side of the road. Mixed in with the swans were a bunch (no count on these) of dozing gulls, which I was content to just describe as "gulz". Sue, however wanted to try to figure out the species, so "Gull Gal" set about trying to identify them while I set up my scope and 'ran' around (I use the term loosely) trying to take some photos. It was decided that most of the gulls were likely Ring-billed Gulls, but we are open to other suggestions. The glare of the ice the birds were on, through and off-of, made shots pretty contrasty and my eyes squinty. The swans were muddling about (literally and figuratively), and, as they began to break up the ice a bit (were these related to those Northern Icepeckers Caryn S saw on her birdbath? :-)), drink some water and start feeding, they moved away from the ponds they had been skating on, and waddled over to the stubble in the field, leaving the gulls to rest in peace, on the remaining ice patches. I don't recall hearing any trumpeting and only saw them take short flights as they moved around the big field. Along the river to the south a Bald Eagle sat in a large cottonwood and alongside the field, a lone Killdeer ran around doing whatever it is that Killdeer do, occasionally calling out it's easily-recognizable "kill-DEER". We saw no deer around to be killed... and we moved on down the road to...

...Boe Rd., looking to see how many killers were there awaiting the movement of the Snow Geese. I think we saw the very first one to open his folding chair and sit behind the signs. We saw a lot of geese way to the south of us, in the "No Hunting" field - smart birds... :-)

Also out in the hunting field was a female Northern Harrier and about 4 Wilson's Snipe - Sue is credited with the sighting and with hearing their soft calls.

On to Thomle Rd., where we were enchanted by the cuteness of the American Kestrel (a female) hunting from the power lines. For a few minutes, she was joined on the wire, by a Western Meadowlark, one of several we saw in the area. Toward the end of the road (north end), we tried to identify the sparrows flitting and sitting in the weeds alongside the road (on the river side) - best we could tell, they were Golden-crowned Sparrows, but again, if you can tell otherwise from my pictures, we'll not stand firm with our ID. I do wish to thank the person who gave me a gender correction on the kestrel on an older photo from this same road, in a Jan. Flickr album - we thought this kestrel had enough color on it to be a male, but apparently the males have blue-gray scapulars, a black band on the tail, no major streakage on the breast and some other details I now forget. I get so inured to the less-than-vivid coloration of most of our Washington birds, that ANY color makes me immediately think "male", at least in raptors. No excuse, I know, for lack of recognition of this kestrel's femininity, but I'm sure she'll forgive me for thinking her bright and beautiful !

Almost didn't stop at Eide Rd. to check for Short-eared Owls, but ended up doing a quick park&peer out into the field festooned with camouflage-laden duck hunters making Mallard calls. BUT, we actually saw 2 Shortears doing their mothy flight. It warmed our hearts. But then, the popping sounds started in earnest, the owls (and harriers) disappeared and we shot out of there. A lone Redtail remained in a tree way out near the bay.

We continued shooting on down the road to West 90, but only met with a sunset, the cold, a few harriers and more camo folks and their dogs, dragging their bags of plastic ducks in off the fields and heading to their trucks. We stayed 'til the last truck left, hoping for an SEOW to come by and wave "Hi", but it wasn't to be. No disappointment, though - the exhilaration of watching the Eide Shortears, lasted on through dinner and the drive home.

DINNER - that was a very pleasant surprise - very tasty fares were enjoyed by us, at "Seeds" in LaConner. That, plus the lack of traffic on the roads home, made for a fine ending to a finer-than-fine afternoon up in the northern farmlands.

Some day I'll make it up to West 90 early enough to see the large collection of Short-eared Owls that are now up there. Last number I heard reported is 10. Can you find them?

link to Flickr album: "Along the Stilly, Mostly": https://flic.kr/s/aHsk2GHL3Y

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