[Tweeters] Red-hot birding Skagit County Sept 14-16: strange cowbird posted to flickr

Scott scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 17 14:53:05 PDT 2014


It's no secret that Fir Island has been great for birding lately. I went both yesterday and the 15th in search of the LITTLE BLUE HERON but had no luck. But on the 15th, about 3 pm, I had great looks at the juv. GRUFF (RUFF) before a N. HARRIER flew through. VIRGINIA RAILS seem uncommonly vocal throughout the marsh; on the 15th, I clearly heard a SORA give the whinny call as well. Less expected but also heard-only was a single EASTERN KINGBIRD call, out to the east of the south dike fork--in the vast sea of dead tree snags, and at the time there were no blackbird-starling conglomerations out there, believe it or not. On the 14th, after the previously-reported goodies were found at the Skagit WMA, I had a VESPER SPARROW and a late LAZULI BUNTING at the Bryson Rd. access of the Sauk Valley Rd, north of Arlington, and two N. PYGMY OWLS were heard about a mile up the Suiattle River Rd. nearby.

On the 16th, I was able to photograph a male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD well down the south dike from the main dike, and posted
it to https://www.flickr.com/photos/14115261@N05/15084437340/in/photostream/. Amazingly, this was a singing bird, giving the very harsh, drawn-out "craw" note that is slightly downslurred. A ran into a couple that said they had counted three YELLOW-HEADEDS out there. I had another (a female) right along the main road close to the Hayton Preserve. Most of us have encountered the single YELLOW-HEADED west of the Cascades once or more, but has anyone ever had a singing bird in fall? A BANK SWALLOW was over Maupin Rd also, and other highlight was a high of 47 CINNAMON TEAL (all female/imm) at the Skagit Game Range. Judging from Tweeters and Ebird, I feel like we've never had so many BANK SWALLOWS reported in fall migration.

But (possibly) the most interesting of all birds was an odd juv./imm. female COWBIRD that was very accommodating last night near the Jensen Access. This was a grubby bird with the countenance of an rat in the company of mice (HOUSE SPARROWS). Now, let it be said that there are plenty of BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS around, including a flock of 60+ near the north end of Wylie Rd. nearby yesterday. But this lone bird was with a small group of House Sparrows. Right at the 90-degree turn in the main road, where one goes straight to get to Jensen, there is a barn and a sign for the "Uff Da Shoppe" in Stanwood. The COWBIRD was on the ground here when I flushed it. When it flew I instantly thought "cowbird," but somehow something seemed a little off, and I found myself seeking photos...

I am eager to hear from any of you in Tweeterland with an opinion about this bird. I have never seen a more thick-billed cowbird than this--added to which it seemed much larger than the House Sparrows it was with, on the order of Red-winged or even Brewer's Blackbird size. As shown on flickr (0060, 0063, 0064):


this bird had a heavy build and the throat/neck area seemed ruff-like, but your opinion is encouraged. In flight the bird seemed cowbird-like but a bit heavier perhaps than with Brown-headed:

I also intentionally lightened one photo to highlight what appeared to be a slightly paler supercilium. All are encouraged to comment. Scott AtkinsonLake Stevensmail to: scottratkinson at hotmail.com

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