[Tweeters] WOS Whatcom County field trip today: 70 species including Rock Wren, Bohemian Waxwing and Common Redpoll

Ed Swan EdSwan2 at comcast.net
Fri Jan 12 21:18:09 PST 2018

We ended up having a pretty good day but frankly, we started out with a
whimper before ending with a bang.

The day started out along Red River Road and then the Lummi dike at 37
degrees and a NE wind coming down out of the Fraser blowing misty rain.
Let's just say it was bracing. To access the Lummi lands and dike which are
off pavement, you need a permit which is easily obtained at the Planning
Division at the Lummi Nation HQ on Kwina Road. It's free and they just
reach into a manila folder and hand it to you on request. Please don't blow
it for birders like some have in the past and go without a permit. Past bad
birder behavior has resulted in restricted access which is only now being
lifted if you go and get a permit.

So, we went out on the dike seeing several hundred Gr. Scaup and Brant and
miscellaneous other stuff but no Snow Buntings as seen in early December.
But Hillaire Road and the access road to the dike had a lot of Northern
Harriers and a couple of nice Rough-legged Hawks. Right where the dike
access road leaves the pavement a cooperative Northern Shrike provided a
life bird for some and a county list bird for others. This is a good place
to watch for Short-eared Owls and harriers chasing each other at dusk, we
dipped on the SE Owl though today. Several Western Meadowlark were here as
well and along Red River Road standing out in the grey with their bright
yellow breasts and white tail lights. Also along Red River Road, a couple
of drake Ring-necked Pheasants and a hen tried to lay on the ground and
blend in but eventually flew across the river. Somehow, I've never seen a
pheasant in Whatcom County, so that was a nice county list bird for me. One
of the drakes lay as flat as he could looking like some weird duck left to
die by hunters before he realized he was spotted and jumped up to fly off.

The fields to the north and south of Slater Road next provided some very
close looks at Trumpeter Swans, many duck species including Eurasian Wigeon,
sparrows including a nice Savannah Sparrow, blackbirds and more. We
couldn't find the leucistic Red-tailed Hawk that's been along Grandview for
at least eight years, sometimes it just doesn't cooperate. The weather
wasn't exactly helpful, raptors were out but really hunched down mostly when

We next stopped at my place along Maple Way near Pt. Whitehorn. Black
Scoter and Long-tailed Duck provided some nice acoustics along with
sightings of a good variety of other diving ducks. Dipped on the usual
Red-throated Loons, Western Grebes and Red-necked Grebes, maybe I'll see
them tomorrow. The neighborhood Pileated Woodpeckers and Brown Creepers
kept us from getting in the vehicles long enough for us to look over at a
couple of snags used by just about every species imaginable sometime during
the year. Dotting the upper branches, sixteen Bohemian Waxwings showed the
ladder up their wing and the red undies (technical term) were apparent on
some. I've seen them before over in the Okanagan and other points east, but
this was a nice yard and county list bird for me, plus I've never heard them
vocalize and these provided some good sounds.

As we drove out and started moving near Pt. Whitehorn Marine Reserve just
down the block from Maple Way, a Merlin flew in and landed on a tree briefly
before flying on. We pulled into the Pt. Whitehorn parking lot for a look
and a raptor obligingly posed at the top of a conifer holding out its wings
in a vain, pathetic attempt at drying them? Really in this stuff coming down
that's going to work? It was a first year bird, they're not the brightest
bulbs in the light fixture. This bird was an accipiter which in the mist
we decided to just go with. So we thought the Merlin was this bird but then
we saw a Merlin again at Birch Bay State Park about a mile away as the
Merlin flies, so I think we had one Merlin with an accipiter that just
happened to pop up inbetween. As we looked at the accipiter, a flock of
about 50-75 finches flew overhead which sounded like redpolls and didn't
give off definitive siskin calls. I'd lean on calling this a predominantly
redpoll flock but perhaps finch sp. is the way to go just like with the
accipiter. I had six definite Common Redpolls at my place about 500m away
two weeks before and others had photos of redpolls along nearby Grandview
Road during the last week.

Birch Bay State Park had a number of good birds. The Rock Wren continued in
the driftwood and beach wrack near the restroom building along the south
shore of the park. Thanks to Steve Chase for sending a photo of this
location so that we picked up the bird immediately. Also present were a lot
of Brant, scoters, scaup, goldeneye and other stuff and an Eared Grebe which
is a pretty good bird to find for Whatcom County.

We made an extremely brief stop at Semiahmoo at the end where the usual
suspects were present but how can you help going to see a definite
oystercatcher spot where that red-orange bill is visible even in the gloom
at 4pm on January afternoon? Some Sanderling flew in to the logboom there
which I thought was interesting, Dunlin being the usual shorebird to find.

Altogether we had 70 species for the day which is pretty reasonable. With
some of the dips I mentioned above and a couple of other usual birds we
missed, I think if we'd had a bit better weather we could have easily
reached over 80.

Good birding,


Ed Swan

Nature writer and guide

<http://www.theswancompany.com/> www.theswancompany.com

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