[Tweeters] Recap of yesterday's White Wagtail sighting

Michael Hobbs birdmarymoor at frontier.com
Sun Nov 8 11:24:13 PST 2015

Tweets – my quick post sent from my phone yesterday left out a lot of
details on the sighting of a WHITE WAGTAIL that I wanted to fill in.

I had gone down to Gog-le-hi-te Wetlands early, hoping for Barn or
Short-eared Owl, but nothing there. I then waited through a gorgeous
sunrise to begin looking for the Black-throated Blue Warbler, found by
Michael Charest on Friday. Matt Bartels showed up, as followed by a few
other birders.

At around 7:45, I was maybe 30 yards from the Puyallup River when I heard a
bird off to the north. It was doing a pipit-like call, only very loud,
staccato, harsh, lower pitched, and even more distinctly two-syllable.

I finally spotted the bird in flight as it passed in front of me, 25 feet up
and 20 yards away. The bird flew along the near edge of the Puyallup River
upstream. As it passed, I was shocked by what I saw: a bird that flew like
an American Pipit, in terms of flapping then folding the wings in and
proceeding unpowered for a moment, with the tail dipping a bit. The calls
were synchronized with the wing flapping (that is, one call per set of wing
flaps, though I can't recall if it called when it flapped or when it stopped
flapping). The bird was larger than an American Pipit, and proportionately
longer tailed. The face itself was white, with black on the cap and black on
the chin/throat. I can't comment on the reach of the black in either area. I
don't *think* the back was black, but I might be wrong there. The belly
seemed whitish. Wings were mostly black with white, as was the long tail. I
saw no yellow on the bird anywhere; black and white dominated, and there was
grey in areas. Flight was straighter, without changes in elevation, and
probably faster than typical for American Pipit. I realized almost
instantly that it was a White Wagtail. I immediately turned to call back to
Matt, who was about 40 yards behind me. He was already alerted to the bird.
Unfortunately, the bird looked like it kept on going up river.

Matt came up to join me, and he played the White Wagtail call from iBird
Pro. It seemed to both of us that it matched perfectly what we had heard.
At that point, Matt & I walked the dike up river, hoping the bird landed
before crossing the highway, but we were unable to relocate it. [ A few
people did some checking in the Levee Rd. area later in the morning, but
that was like searching for a needle in a field of haystacks. ]

Apparently, at about the same time that the White Wagtail flew by, Shep
Thorp refound the BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, but it took another couple of
hours before it was seen again. I eventually got several semi-decent looks
at the bird in the tiny grove of trees across the railroad tracks on the
east edge of Gog-le-hi-te, and then I headed off to try to find some Pierce
County water birds. I did make a stop to see the KING EIDER along Ruston
Way, even though I'd already seen it on Wednesday, just to complete a triad
of new Pierce County birds - a really remarkable morning of birding!

I do hope the Wagtail will make another appearance for someone.

== Michael Hobbs
== www.marymoor.org/birding.htm
== BirdMarymoor at frontier.com

More information about the Tweeters mailing list