[Tweeters] Whidbey Island Traverse

Scott Ramos lsr at ramoslink.info
Sun Dec 10 10:52:49 PST 2017

On a day full of superlatives, Andy Jacobson and I led an enthusiastic group of birders all over Whidbey Island for a Seattle Audubon field trip this Saturday. We visited several hotspots including Rosario Beach, Deception Pass SP including stops at Craberry Lake and the West Beach, Dugualla Bay, Oak Harbor Marina, Swantown/Bos Lake, Hastie Lake Rd beach access, Ebey’s Landing, Keystone Ferry and Crockett Lake, Deer Lagoon and Useless Bay, with a final scan of the Clinton ferry dock after dark.

The morning started out cold and quite foggy, giving us qualms about the day to come. In fact, leaving Mt. Vernon toward the flats, the fog was so dense, we had to slow to 30 mph or less for safety. Fortunately, when we reached Rosario, we emerged from the fog and had glorious, if cold, weather for the rest of the day.

At Rosario Beach, we found the expected Harlequin Duck and Black Oystercatcher, but had a treat to see dozens of Red-throated Loon in the bay. From the rocky overlook, we could see that the loon presence extended quite far out into the sound. There was a single Eurasian Starling that gave us false alarms, imitating California Quail and Pine Grosbeak. On the rocks across the bay was a small group of Mourning Dove hunkered down. Heading back to the cars, we picked up a calling Hutton’s Vireo, then the hoped for Red Crossbill’s, a flock of 9 type 3 birds.

We made a couple of stops along Cranberry Lake, and, while looking for the sapsucker frequently present, found instead a Merlin perched right above the pullout. Closer to the swim area was a pair of Redhead that has been reported recently. At the West Beach, the flow of Red-throated Loon was quite a spectacle; rough estimates were close to 500 birds playing the fast moving currents. On the rock just off the parking area, a small group of perched Black Oystercatcher fulfilled an earlier promise. There were a a few Herring Gull mixed in with others and a small group of Sanderling flew in to perch there as well.

At the lake adjacent Dugualla Bay, a flock of at least 100 Trumpeter Swans were present as were several dozen Canvasback and the usual assortment of wintering ducks. At the shallow end, a group of Greater Yellowlegs were foraging and a Wilson’s Snipe made a quick flight along the shore.

As usual, the Black Turnstones at the Oak Harbor marina did not disappoint. At least 200 birds lined the docks and boats, plus a small group of Dunlin and Least Sandpiper rested on the log boom.

Our first of several encounters of Long-tailed Duck was at the north beach access at Swantown. From the south access overlook we could see a few more, one still in alternate plumage. Across the road from the pullout was a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. One was consuming a dead Glaucous-winged Gull, unknown if this was its kill or a car/road kill. The other hawk gave up waiting its turn and flew off. Following its path, I noticed another perched raptor high above, a Peregrine Falcon. On the beach, another group of Sanderling grouped together, running and foraging southward and a few White-winged Scoter were seen. A little further south at the Hastie Lake Rd beach access were several more Long-tailed Duck.

As we turned off the highway toward Ebey’s Landing, we had a quick fly-by of first a Sharp-shinned Hawk then an American Kestrel. Further down the road was another perched Kestrel. We then made a couple of stops at different points along Crockett Lake to peruse the large flocks of American Wigeon, finding just one Eurasian, and several other wintering ducks. Our first Northern Harrier appeared here and a Western Meadowlark was perched up on the opposite bank for a brief look. We also made the obligatory stop at the Keystone ferry terminal to study the old dock with all 3 cormorants present side by side. While watching the cormorants, a high and distant flock of birds flew over southbound that we were shocked to see were Sandhill Cranes!

By now, we were running out of time so made a quick run down to Deer Lagoon, always a good place for species diversity. Among our targets here were Short-eared Owl and Black-bellied Plover. Check! The owl was flying on the far shore from our vantage point but eventually perched in a decent location for shared scope views. While watching the Plovers, Dunlin and peeps, a Bald Eagle made a successful foray, bringing down one of the ducks (didn’t see the kill so we were not sure which), scattering almost everyone in the process. Several Virginia Rail squeaked from the marshy edge, then, as were turning to leave, another high fly-by: a flock of 8 Sandhill Crane! Almost certainly the same 8 birds we saw near Crockett Lake earlier in the day.

We still had a little daylight, so made the quick swing to the Useless Bay access point—one the way there a Pileated Woodpecker flew right over our little caravan—and found first a huge flock of dozens of White-winged Scoter, then in the diminishing light, a large raft of Brant.

We missed the first boat at the Clinton ferry dock so had a few minutes to do one last bird check at the dock, now well after sunset. And were rewarded with a good group of Barrow’s Goldeneye, barely visible in the vanishing light, the 100th species of the day!

A fitting end to a satisfying day of great company and excellent birding. Trip list available upon request.
Scott Ramos

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