[Tweeters] Nice couple of days in "The Bay Area" (long)

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Thu Dec 1 21:32:59 PST 2016

Hi Tweets - Neah Bay area, that is. I arrived about 11 am on Wednesday and was greeted by pretty stiff winds, and then by Charlie Desilets, at the base of the Jetty. Waves were breaking over the jetty and the wind made scoping pretty difficult but we did manage to see a fair number of Western and Horned Grebes, Scaup, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Common and Red-throated Loons, Harlequin Ducks, Hooded and Red-Breasted Grebes, Black Turnstones, and several gulls. Thinking we might avoid some of the wind, we abandoned town and headed in search of the Tufted Duck, reported at the STP out in the Wa'atch Valley. Because the birds on the STP ponds were reported to be quite spooky, we approached from below the berm (staying right as we passed through the gate), and climbed up to view the ponds only when we were behind the large yellow machinery, using that as a blind. We had no luck finding the TUDU in the masses of Bufflehead and Scaup (mostly Lesser, we believe), and vowed to return later. Along the flats of the River, there were a couple of flocks of Cackling Geese, a few Mallards, and 4 distant swans, presumed to Whistlers. Back in town, we searched in vain in the high winds for some passerines, and finally (with a little help) found a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (state bird for Charlie) in what seems to be its favorite haunt these days, a vacant lot along 1st between Lincoln and Blue Jay. Then we had the interesting mistaken identity (previously tweeted) of thinking a loon showing a lot of white along the waterline, a seemingly heavier bill, held out straight in front might be an Arctic Loon. Getting a photo to Ryan Merrill later in the evening, he brought us back to earth pointing out that the speckled pattern on the back and the shape of the white on the flank, made it just another RTLO. Oh well, ever optimistic, we headed back to the STP where the same cautious approach and better light made it relatively easy to find the Tufted Duck - a lifer for a new birder friend from Minnesota who we brought along. An evening foray looking for (and listening for) owls up the road towards Hobuck Lake was cut short by fresh trees across the already marginal roadway. No creatures were seen. The evening was brightened by clearing skies and a really good wood-fired pizza at Linda's. Side note: If you get tired of fried tater tots (I know - they're hard to come by in a restaurant) at the Warehouse (er...Warm House), I strongly urge you to try this pizza as an alternative!! After a relatively peaceful evening at Butler's (World Famous) Motel, the shrubberies of Neah Bay were quite alive with bird life this morning (cf. yesterday when most were quite hunkered down from the wind). Nothing of special note, except better looks at the Gnatcatcher and Ryan Merrill arrived in town to find several Palm Warblers. Regrettably, none of the Tropical Kingbirds or the Northern Mockingbirds could be found by the time I left (2pm). About noon, though, Charlie and I were chatting with Alex Patia about what birds he was needing for his WA big year. He had just scored the Tufted, but said he'd really like to see a Glaucous Gull. Chuck Jenson had texted me about a very pale gull out in the Wa'atch River area but had not confirmed its ID; this I mentioned to Alex. Less than 30 seconds later, Ryan Merrill texted me that there was a GLGU at the mouth of the creek just west of the Senior Center. We all headed there for great looks at and photos of this juvenile bird. After another look for tubenoses or murrelets from the jetty, and with rain starting to get serious, Charlie and I took a short walk around the Ba'adah Point Street/Heights area but saw only flycatching Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the area of the Hooded Warbler hangout. I then dropped Charlie at his car headed east, stopping at Pillar Point for a quick scope. In addition to many species seen off the Neah Bay Jetty, I did finally see some alcids (Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, and Marbled Murrelet) and one Long-tailed Duck. For the two days I had about 68 species. Happy Birding! - Jon Houghton, Edmonds

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