[Tweeters] Montlake Fill WILSON'S WARBLER and other Union Bay goodies

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Fri Nov 27 22:22:27 PST 2015


Hello Tweets,

On this fine, amazingly sunny day in late November, I woke up early for a boat ride to the 2015 Apple Cup football game in the Husky Stadium at the UW. My first highlight of the day was seeing two Barred Owls that my brother spotted in broad daylight in my yard: one perched in a cedar, and one that flew around the house just as the first one disappeared into the forest.

On the boat, open expanse of Lake Washington wasn't too exciting, though a few Common Goldeneyes were nice. However, once we reached Union Bay, the flocks waterfowl were spectacular. Coots, wigeon, buffleheads, gadwalls, wood ducks and a few canvasback floated en masse, along with assorted other species. Looking among the flotilla of coots, I noted a bird that surprisingly reminded me of an Emperor Goose. I concluded soon after that it was actually a leucistic coot!

A few minutes later, I glanced at the small group of Canada Geese beside the marina and noticed a smaller fowl among its larger companions. A quick looks through my binoculars at the pink bill confirmed that this was, indeed, a Greater White-fronted Goose! I was privileged to enjoy my best views yet of this species, as the goose barely moved more than 400 feet from me all morning - at least not until I walked to the Montlake Fill.

The Fill was birdy. Many waterfowl, two herons and two killdeer all occupied the area around the Lagoon in the southwest corner, and two Lincoln's Sparrows appeared in the bushes on the inner loop just west of Main Pond - the preferred haunt of the Clay-colored Sparrow, apparently, during its brief appearance here last month. My highlight of the outing and the day, however, was soon to come. As I approached the thicket on the southern end of Main Pond, where a dry creekbed leads to a secluded area in the copse, I saw a flash of yellow in the leaves. I knew instantly, in a flash of excitement, that this was a warbler. Soon after, I was reminded of the Wilson's Warbler that I saw here last February (sorry, I forgot to report that continuing individual back then!).

When my binoculars landed on the bird, I saw the black French beret, and knew that I had my ID. While last year's bird was called a female, this Wilson's was clearly a bright golden male. Perhaps last winter's warbler was a mis-identified first-year male that decided that I enjoyed its previous winter at the Fill and decided to return for another season - or perhaps this is a new individual in an accommodating location! While I believe the former explanation is probably more likely, you never know with birds.

Unfortunately, all was not entirely well with the warbler. Although its plumage was mostly bright as pristine, and its behavior was quite vigorous (I watched the bird forage in the raspberry bushes, and call a few times, during my observation period), it had a mysterious black area around its left eye. I have been looking over my photos and videos to attempt a diagnosis, but have so far been unsuccessful. I am at least pretty sure that it isn't a tick. I'll get my media up soon on Flickr!

One last thing: On the boat ride home, when the sun had long disappeared beneath the Olympics and the light was fading from the sky, a decent flock of gulls (~20 individuals) flushed from the water to the left of our boat, and flew off into the darkness, presumably to resettle further off on the somewhat still but perhaps slightly choppy surface. The gull flock was about halfway across the lake from Madrona to Medina, right in the middle of the widest section of the lake. This corroborates my theory, based on additional previous nocturnal observations of the same phenomenon, that gulls on Lake Washington prefer to sleep out in the middle of the lake, at lead on calm nights.

Good birding (and Go Huskies! 45-10 domination over the Cougars), Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com
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