[Tweeters] Super 2 Days in the Snoqualmie Valley, Stanwood and Near Snohomish - 1/25-26/2015...

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Tue Jan 27 16:46:07 PST 2015

...Not only the weather and the birds, but the people, and LOTS of them !!! Sue & I made our way over to Chinook Bend and Sikes Lake both Sunday and Monday, for the birds, of course, but for whatever and whomever else came along. And there were lots of the latter (and a modicum of the former). Had some similar and some different good experiences on Sunday up in Stanwood.

As for birds, the days' lists included mostly charismatic megafaunic birds that have been mentioned on eBird and Tweeters multi times by now, namely Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Northern Pygmy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk ( in various hues, lightness and darkness. In addition, we noted Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Swan Goose, collections of shorebirds (which included yellowlegs and Dunlin) going-to-roost Snow Geese, G-t-R crows (near Bothell) Trumpeter Swans, various ducks and gulls, robins, blackbirds and starlings, flickers, and other usuals.

But the people were an unexpected pleasure, unlike a few recent experiences having to do with bird-watching/photographing humans and the avian objects of their interest. One positive encounter was at Chinook Bend (both days), where scores of famous or infamous photographers of any caliber, were hanging out to see one NOPO that was in the area, on Sun. and Mon., fairly near the restrooms (how handy for us !). Sunday, one of the owls was found out where one had to walk through serious mud and water to look for it. Being more of a dry-land birder of the parking-lot or road pull-off variety, I shrugged and passed up the chance to do a mud walk, so didn't see the bird that day. But many of the camera-ed individuals managed to get some mighty fine pics of the little owl and shared very willingly camera-screen views with people interested in seeing them. And many of the seekers, camera-ed or not, were very nice about giving directions to the latest known area in which the bird had been seen. Thanks so much, you owl. The Pygmy Owl, after capturing and feasting on, a hapless kinglet, seemed to try to sit higher up in the available trees, to be at a more comfortable distance from the bobbleheaded public below, according to some of the photogs.

But it was the relaxed gathering of more and more photographers both near the parking area and off down the 'trail', that seemed so nice. Most of them mingled with each other and with those of us with lesser camera credentials or knowledge, for hours, as they took snack and bathroom breaks or were 'working' out at the latest site where the owl was. It almost seemed more like a social gathering or relaxed committee mtg. with a no great number of 'grumble-stilt-skins' tainting the overall mood. That's what Sue and I experienced and also heard from a couple of the photographers. And, as for the bird, it seemed to be deihling with the people well, but, really, who knows how damaging the changes-of-behavior were that we all were causing - at least no flushing of the bird was mentioned and people were fairly quiet and slow-moving and not using camera flash - I don't know how close people got, as I wasn't out there with them, so, I assume, since the owl returned to a lookout perch nearby the next morning, it wasn't overly agitated and the big photo group modeled appropriate behaviors. I'm so glad that the competitive spirit didn't push people to behave badly. Yay !

Monday, there was a smaller number of people both at Chinook Bend and Sikes Lake. Sue got to see the NOPO before it flew across the street and off into the trees - I missed it again as I was changing footwear when the owl flew - oh well, there will be another time, at least somewhere ! On Mon. the Golden Eagle was in the same conifer we'd seen it in Sunday. That was before Mike Hamilton saw it fly back to the area farther north, where it scuffled with a Bald Eagle.

When I reported to Mike that Sue & I saw 2 possible gray Gyrfalcons fly in up north of the bridge road, behind a light green building and disappear up there, he said that he had seen a lot of birds in the air up that way at the time we may have seen the Gyrs. And I saw a big flock of light shorebirds or pigeons swirling around after we had seen the big, gray birds with falconlike wings. Perhaps there are a couple of hunting Gyrs hunting in the valley, as one has been seen near the bridge road on 2 occasions. Mike H. got a blurry photo of a seeming gray Gyrfalcon there last week. On our way home, we swung by last year's Gyrfalcon site near Snohomish, finding a dozen immature Bald Eagles in and around the cottonwood trees that the Gyrs had used on the north end of the valley, but no sign of any Gyrfalcon. A croaking frog provided entertaining, rubbery background music (?).

The Eide Rd. scene later Sun. afternoon and evening, was even more relaxing and nice. Yes, there were quite a few people out there, but everyone we encountered or observed, seemed to be caught up, like we were, in the spell of magic created by the landscape, sun, clouds, birds flying and hunting, warmth, layers of mist and birds calling. There was no huge group of photographers, but instead groups of 2-4 that stayed put in separate areas, waiting for an owl or something else to stimulate their camera action. It was very quiet. People drifted back down the road one or 2 at a time as it got darker and darker. Sue & I finally moved back to the parking area ourselves, the darkness and encroaching fog and chill in the air forcing our exit. Once in the car, we chose a restaurant to try for in town and ended up finally finding The Chatterbox many blocks farther east than my directions had indicated. However, once there, we enjoyed some Thai food, good service and the lack of a lot of other diners. The background music at the restaurant was a tad loud for our tastes, but the taste and quantity of food more than made up for that. It was a nice way to end a full and fun day.

The link to my Flickr album: "Super Sunday & Monday - Snoqualmie Valley, Stanwood & Snohomish" with photos from both days, is :

https://flic.kr/s/aHsk7msRK4 (same link as I posted yesterday, but with a few more pics)

I must also express how nice it was, on both days, to run into and meet many Tweets and others whom I haven't seen in awhile or had previously only corresponded with, but never met in person . While frequently I go off into nature to take a break from human interaction, sometimes such outings provide a rich human addition to a get-away, as did these last two. You just never know...:-)

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

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