[Tweeters] WOS field trip to Mason County (29 May 2015)

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 29 20:17:28 PDT 2015

Today I led an annual WOS field trip to Mason County - the 7th time I've offered this trip --
15 of us met up in Belfair and had a pretty excellent day -- weather was more overcast than expected, a bit chilly in the wind at exposed stops, and misty all afternoon - but at around 60 degrees all day, really there was little to complain about on that front.

We began with a try for Mountain Quail on Elfendahl Pass Rd., off Belfair-Tahuya Rd on the Tahuya Peninsula -- we had perhaps the worst possible countable 'observation' of Mountain Quail with some muted clucking responses along a gated road about a half mile north of the intersection -- Better observed birds in the area included singing & seen Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers, Mourning Dove, Orange-crowned Warbler, Purple Finch and Varied Thrush.

Next stop was Belfair State Park, our first view of the Hood Canal and source of a bundle of birds -- highlights included 2 Bonaparte's Gulls, the lingering Marbled Godwit, a distant Eared Grebe & Red-throated Loon, 2 Dunlin & 7 Greater Yellowlegs. Also present were White-winged & Surf Scoters, Northern Pintail, Red-breasted & Common Mergansers and several other ducks.

A long walk around the loop at Theler Wetlands was enjoyable -- in two spots we had looks at Virginia Rail popping out into the open. An American Kestrel was out by the barn, and a Peregrine Falcon soared well overhead, along with the first of many Turkey Vultures for the day. We picked up Wilson's Snipe, Bushtit, Savannah Sparrows, heard but didn't see Common Yellowthroats, Violet-green, Tree & Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Rufous Hummer & three woodpeckers, with Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker & Red-breasted Sapsucker.

Our next stop was Twanoh State Park, where we picked up Barrows Goldeneye, Common Loon, Pigeon Guillemot, Red-necked, Horned & Western Grebe quickly, then walked to the north end of the park and were pleasantly surprised to pull out a Pacific Loon & a pair of Black Scoters.

The birds kept coming as we moved south -- at Hunters Farm, the geese flock has thinned from weeks past, but the lone Snow Goose and a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese still were hanging around. As we drove down Purdy Cutoff Rd., we caught looks at Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, and Ring-necked Duck. American Dipper checking its nest under the bridge at the George Adams Hatchery was our next stop -- We tried for Mountain Quail along E.Eagle Point Dr. [a place I'd had success with yesterday], but didn't have any luck.

At our lunch break at Potlatch SP, we finally saw our first American Wigeon of the trip, and a Western Gull was cooperative with good looks. A brief stop at the Skokomish Park at Potlach turned up Harlequin Duck.

Along Skokomish Valley Rd., we pulled out a perched Merlin early on, followed by Brewer's Blackbird, a flying Northern Harrier, Band-tailed Pigeon & Eurasian Collared Dove. A bit behind schedule, we skipped the trip up into the higher elevations, and next stopped at the Eells Hill Hatchery -- after trying quite a while without luck to find the resident Green Heron, someone pulled it out as we were loading up the car. While watching it, we also had our only Anna's Hummingbird of the trip, and heard a distant Pileated Woodpecker.

On Eells Hill Rd., most of the way south and right where the dirt road transitions to paved road, a pair of Western Bluebirds gave us great looks.

After hearing more Virginia Rails and seeing more swallows on Little Egypt Rd. loop, we moved in to Shelton -- in the Mountainview Neighborhood we found our hoped for Western Scrub-Jays pretty quickly, and also found our first House Finch of the day [along w/ more Eurasian Collared Doves].

Last stop of the day was the Kennedy Creek Natural Area, where we pulled out several Black-bellied Plovers getting into alternate plumage -- the much larger Dunlin flock also included several molting into breeding plumage black bellies. A Brown Creeper came in to give us our final new species of the day.

Notable misses for the day included: Brant, Hooded Merganser, any accipiter, Hairy Woodpecker, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Red Crossbill, American Goldfinch.

For the trip, we managed to tally 98 species for the day. If we count the two owl species Tim Brennan had in the morning before we started [Northern Pygmy-Owl and Barred Owl] , we can fudge our way to a Century Day in Mason County -- not too shabby!

Good spring birding

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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