[Tweeters] Big WA State Day - Team Raven Loonatics

Doug Schurman doug at bodyresults.com
Tue May 12 09:52:39 PDT 2015

On Saturday May 9th team Raven Loonatics completed a Seattle Audubon Bird-a-thon State Big Day. We ended the day with 172 species (18 more than last year) and should have raised about $1,000. Team members were Sarah Peden, Jordan Gunn, Travis Keay and Doug Schurman.

If anyone would like to help us push that Seattle Audubon donation total over $1,000 you can donate at this link:


We changed our route so we had more birding time and less driving. This meant skipping areas that had unique birds, but we felt the added birding time would more than make up for it for our group. We put a ton of planning into the new route by copious eBird research and contacting many kind folks familiar with the route areas. We also scouted the full route the weekend before to refine our stop list - we timed our coastal visit so we would be hitting the areas at the same time relative to high tide for the Big Day though the tide was quite a bit higher on the Big Day. On Friday May 8th we did further scouting of White Pass, Bethel Ridge and Highway 12. Following a coma-inducing carb dinner we all tried for about 3-4 hours of sleep at an inexpensive Yakima motel. I’ll bet they don’t get a lot of customers that check out before midnight the day of arrival. Or perhaps they do, but we chose not to think about why other customers would do that.

Our first destination was high up on Bethel Ridge. We arrived just after midnight and heard a pair FLAMMULATED OWLs calling back and worth right as we got out of the car. A little lower down we heard GREAT HORNED OWL and then moved on to Tieton Marsh. Around the area we heard a few different bird sounds but none were identifiable to us so we moved on to high ground toward Lost Lake where we found a calling NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. After hearing a chorus of COMMON POORWILLs at Oak Creek we tried for Screech Owl in Yakima with no firm success.

We arrived in the Toppenish NWR a little before 4:30am hopping for Barn or Short-Eared Owl. No luck on either but other birds were singing well over an hour before sunrise. WILSON'S SNIPE were winnowing overhead and we picked up SORA, VIRGINIA RAIL, AMERICAN BITTERN, RING-NECKED PHEASANT, BLACK-NECKED STILT, SAGEBRUSH SPARROW, BLUE-WINGED and CINNAMON TEAL, WESTERN MEADOWLARK, NORTHERN HARRIER, WESTERN KINGBIRD, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and any more. Along I-97 south of Toppenish we picked up ROCK WREN, CHUKAR and an unexpected SAGE THRASHER. We proceeded over to the Yakima river to a great place for ROUGH-WINGED and BANK SWALLOWS and picked both of them up. At the same place we also have AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, HOUSE WREN, COMMON MERGANSER and BALD EAGLE. A house nearby produced BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD and LAZULI BUNTING.

The next stop was Kerry Ponds in Granger where we added AMERICAN AVOCET, REDHEAD, SPOTTED SANDPIPER and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD. Along our drive toward Oak Creek we had many OSPREY on nests. At Oak Creek Headquarters we added WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, SPOTTED TOWHEE, LARK SPARROW, BREWER'S SPARROW, BULLOCK'S ORIOLE and TURKEY VULTURE. Nearby on the Canyon road we picked up RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, WARBLING VIREO, LEWIS'S WOODPECKER and WILSON'S WARBLER.

Along the Highway 12 drive up to Bethel Ridge we had WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, GOLDEN EAGLE, HARLEQUIN DUCK and several others. At Bethel Ridge we spent a lot of time on Woodpeckers, but the birding proved to be a bit slow. We did get HAIRY and BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERs, NORTHERN FLICKER and WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER. Missed White-headed Woodpecked despite knowing there were plenty in the area and getting some quality tips. While looking for the woodpeckers we also had CASSIN'S FINCH, TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, WESTERN BLUEBIRD, DUSKY and HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHERS, LINCOLN'S SPARROW and a soaring SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. At Tieton Marsh we could not relocate the Northern Pintail we had the day before but did get LESSER SCAUP and RING-NECKED DUCK.

After adding BARROW'S GOLDENEYE at Clear Lake we headed to White Pass where we found a signing FOX SPARROW that wasn't found on scouting. We dipped on Gray Jay but heard and saw VARIED THRUSH, TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, WHITE CROWNED SPARROW and DARK EYED JUNCO. High up in the air were a few VAUX'S SWIFTS flying around and pair of RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKERs moved through the campground.

Peter’s Rd Wetlands near Randle produced our scouted HOODED MERGANSER and BELTED KINGFISHER but Wood Ducks eluded us here. Driving in to Riffe Lake we spotted an American Bittern in some short grass that was very visible. New birds added here were WOOD DUCK, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, PACIFIC WREN and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. From there we drove a ways until we hit up a couple access points to the Willipa Hills Trail in Lewis County. There we added ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, BAND-TAILED PIGEON, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, MARSH WREN, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE.

Rainbow Falls produced HERMIT WARBLER, BROWN CREEPER, PINE SISKIN and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET. Had no luck on Pileated. Our stop at Willapa Airport produced our first and only ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEEs, BEWICK'S WREN, as well as a nice fly-by of a pair of COOPER'S HAWKS. Across the road from the airport were GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Next we took the road following the bay over to Tokeland. We had a few pullouts planned from out scouting and they produced BRANDT, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, COMMON LOON, WHIMBREL, SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, WESTERN and LEAST SANDPIPER, DUNLIN and RING-BILLED GULL.

The Fisher Pullout in Tokeland gave us good views of shorebirds with new birds of MARBLED GODWIT, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, BONAPARTE'S GULL and CASPIAN TERN. In Tokeland we had both BLACK and RUDDY TURNSTONES, WESTERN and GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, GREATER SCAUP and RED-THROATED LOON. We were doing fairly well on time so we drove out on the Grayland Beach hoping for a quick pick-up of SANDERLING and BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. We got those and had some good luck to also get a flock of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE that we sitting on the dry sand and a single foraging SNOWY PLOVER.

We scoped from Westport Jetty for about 25 minutes. We came up with WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, BRANDT'S CORMORANT'S, BROWN PELICAN, PIGEON GUILLEMOT and RHINOCEROS AUKLET. As we left we passed the incoming “other Big Day group” who shall be known as the Marymoor Birders.

Next we headed over to the marina hoping to see the recently reported Heerman’s Gull. We could not find it but we did probably have the most unexpected sighting there. A GREEN HERON flew in to the main street retaining wall right in front of Travis before flying to a nearby dock where it eventually walked out of sight. We were all quite stunned with the sighting and got some photos in the fading light.

We made a couple more stops but could not turn up any more new birds before it got completely dark. A stop near Aberdeen produced a pair of BARRED OWLs that the Marymoor Birders had successfully called in.

Team Raven Loonatics

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