[Tweeters] Three Ss Field Trip Yesterday

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Mon Feb 20 21:39:49 PST 2017

Hi Tweets - Yesterday, Sarah Peden and I led a group of 6 intrepid and eager birders on a field trip through the Stilly, Skagit and Samish (the 3 Ss) deltas in stiff breezes and scattered but persistent showers. Because of the rain moving north in the morning, we altered our usual route to head north first (theoretically past the rain) to work our way south through the day. We started on Bayview Edison Rd. north of SR 20 where Gary Bletsch had gotten great photos of a Gyrfalcon the day before. No luck on that bird, though, so we headed north through Bayview to the Samish flats. There, we found what seemed like an unusual abundance of Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, ducks and a couple of large flocks of Dunlin, one being harassed by two Peregrine Falcons. At the new (unmarked) WDFW public access off Bayview-Edison Rd. we found early Savannah Sparrows along with Lincoln's, Song, and White-crowned. Western Meadowlarks were fairly consistent in fields there, at the West 90, and elsewhere throughout the day. The West 90 was relatively slow with mainly Northern Harriers and distant Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, and Bald Eagles. The same birds were even more abundant at the East 90, but Short-eared Owls, that had been very active there during our Thursday scout trip, were not to be seen. We went out onto Samish Island to the County Park overlook (many thanks to whoever trimmed the limbs to ease the viewing there!). Very rough water made viewing tough but we managed to see a few Long-Tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated Loons, Common Loons and other expected marine birds. Regrettably, no alcids. Heading back south we still saw no owls or Gyr. On Fir Island, we got poor views of Barn Owls in a nest box, and at Wylie Slough, no Prairie Falcon, but very nice looks at the Great Horned Owl on the nest by the east parking lot, and an adult Coopers Hawk in the dead alders. Then, the birding got good!

Reaching Eide Rd. about 330, we at first didn't see any Short-ears flying but I did find one in the drift wood over the dike to the east which gave us nice close views in the scope. Then, they came out in force with about 7 birds hunting over the fields, interacting with each other and coming quite close to the road for great views in flight. Pumped by this, we headed to Thomle Road hoping for a look at the Golden Eagle that's been there for a couple of weeks. First pass through, we saw the huge flocks of Snow Geese to the south, and several raptors, but no Golden. We then headed south to Boe Rd where we were teased by a distant view of what turned out to be a juv. Bald Eagle, sitting on one of the poles where the Golden had been previously reported. A bit disappointed, and approaching 5 pm, we decided to take one more drive back to Thomle Rd. There, west of the houses, we came around a bend in the dike to be greeted by a very large raptor, flying right at us. It was the Golden, and a golden moment for us all! The bird flew close by, and off toward the flock of Snow Geese, landing on the top of a small spruce tree to keep an eye on the flock. Our whole group had a great view on the fly by, and in the scope after it landed. A nice ending bonus to a great day with a fun bunch of birders! Overall, we saw/heard 70 species for the day. Happy Birding - Jon Houghton, Edmonds

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