[Tweeters] King County Big Day - 2 May 2015

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Sun May 3 11:16:23 PDT 2015

Hi Tweets -
Yesterday, Michael Hobbs, Sharon Cormier-Aagaard and I conducted a King County Big Day - it was our 11th annual attempt at the feat, and this year we opted to go w/ our smaller team. Weather was excellent, birds were cooperative, and the day proved fun and birdy throughout.

We ended up with 126 species for the day - a tie with the record for the county for a big day.

Highlight birds:
Black-bellied Plover - ~6 in a field west off W. Snoqualmie River Rd. outside Duvall
Semipalmated Plover - 2 along Alki Beach in West Seattle at sunset.
Western Kingbird - Fish Hatchery Rd., Fall City
3 vireos, 9 warblers and nice spring returnees like Western Tanager, Bullock's Oriole & Black-headed Grosbeaks

The day:

We began the day at 3:00 at Marymoor Park, where Barn Owls were vocal around the windmill [sounded like young out of the windmill, following adults]. Next up, headed to Red Brick Rd., where in the marsh we heard American Bittern & Virginia Rail, but could not rouse another owl. We tried several spots hoping for Great Horned Owl or others, but had no early luck.

We headed to Marymoor for a couple hours at dawn, our 'home base' where we aim to pick up as many species as possible quickly. Marymoor cooperated with about 59 species including our first Bullock's Oriole of the year, a Wilson's Snipe & Least Sandpipers below the weir, a late Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Purple Martins at the gourds from the viewing platform, and our only American Pipit of the day.

Next, we moved out to the Snoqualmie Valley. After finding Greater Yellowlegs along Woodinville-Duvall Rd., we headed up W. Snoqualmie River Rd., where a group of Black-bellied Plovers were the best birds, but House Sparrow, Eurasian Collared-Doves were nice too. Heading east out Cherry Valley Rd. and up to Stoessel Creek, we picked up some nice forest birds: Hammond's Flycatcher, Pac-slope Flycatcher, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, MacGillivray's & Nashville Warbler, and a big flock of Red Crossbills. Moss Lake offered heard-only Cassin's Vireo and Hutton's Vireo, and a nice flock of Evening Grosbeak as we drove in towards Lake Joy. We couldn't find a Banks Swallow at Chinook Bend, but we did add N.Rough-winged Swallow & Spotted Sandpiper to our list from that stop.

Down at Fall City, along Fish Hatchery Rd. we lucked on a Western Kingbird, a Northern Harrier, and our first Vaux's Swift of the day. American Dipper was tough to find this year at Tokul Creek outlet, but we did eventually find one way out on the river. Snoqualmie Falls was mobbed with sunny day visitors, but a Peregrine Falcon was sitting on the scrape [thanks Dave T for the directions on Tweeters last week]. A Cooper's Hawk flying overhead as we drove south on 18 was bird #99 of the day.

Our run through Kent Valley was decent, but also always stands as a reminder of how many good birding spots have deteriorated by overgrowth & mitigation policies that hate open space and mud. Emerald Downs/M St. had Least & Western Sandpipers and our first American Wigeon of the day. At Thomas's Wetlands we saw a Green Heron & our first Cinnamon Teal. The fields at 285th St. were mostly dry, but our surprise was a day-flying Barn Owl that cruised overhead. Lake Fenwick Park failed to offer up a Barred Owl, but we did snag our only Ring-necked Duck of the day. Moving north, we picked up Western Scrub-Jay in their reliable spot across from the Kent Ponds Grassy Knoll. Ruddy Ducks were still present at Boeing Ponds. The fields off 200th had a nice goose flock, with over 30 Cackling Geese and 6 Greater White-fronted Geese. The retention pond on 204th had a pair of Greater Scaup, and at our last Kent Valley stop, the ponds on 200th, we finally got a response from Sora.

Final run of the day was West Seattle, where another spurt of birds awaited. T-107th/Herring House was our first stop, where Caspian Terns cooperated [Purple Martins & more peeps as well, but no new day birds there]. At Jack Block Park, we scoped Brandt's Cormorants & Pigeon Guillemots. Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter,Harlequin Ducks & Pelagic Cormorant were along Alki. A large Western Grebe flock was off MeKwaMooks, Red-necked Grebe waited until Lowman Beach to appear. Up in Lincoln Park, we heard Barred Owl calling and tried in vain to get a Pileated Woodpecker to respond before daylight gave out.

Our last bird of the day, as light faded, was a pair of Semipalmated Plovers along Alki Beach - nice!
We couldn't get any owl response at MeKwaMooks after dark [lots of campfires & frolicking made it less than likely], and after crossing back to the east side we tried again for Great Horned Owl back at Red Brick Rd but alas couldn't pull one out so we called it a day with a tie with our old King Co Big Day record.

Notable misses for the day: Brant [our first time ever missing], Northern Pintail, Solitary Sandpiper, Rhino Auklet, Pileated Woodpecker, Hermit or Varied Thrush.

Overall though, a great day with some fun & cooperative birds.

Next up, next week's State Big Day....

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

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