[Tweeters] Whidbey Island Traverse

lsr at ramoslink.info lsr at ramoslink.info
Mon Dec 9 15:20:49 PST 2019

We managed to sneak in a full December day without rain for our annual
island traverse when Andy Jacobson and I led 9 Seattle Audubon birders on
an extensive trip from Rosario Beach south to Deer Lagoon. We ended up the
day with 99 species, 94 of which were in Island County alone.

Starting at Rosario Beach, we observed mostly the expected birds.
Normally, the larger of the Gull Rocks which lie off the cove is
exclusively the domain of Brandt's Cormorants, but this day we saw all 3
species when the 20+ Brandt's allowed a couple of Double-crested to mingle
and a few Pelagic to cling to the water line. As we had arrived at a slack
tide, there was not much action on the water. But, in the woods surrounding
the parking area, we got on to a Downy and a Hairy Woodpecker working on
adjacent trees while in the background we could hear a Norther Flicker and
a Pileated Woodpecker for a winter slam.

We next drove around to Deception Pass SP to check out West Beach and
Cranberry Lake. Offshore, we could see several dozen Red-throated Loon
loafing on the water, waiting for the current to pick up and their fishing
to begin. Alcids were few, however: a handful of Pigeon Guillemot, a
couple of Rhinoceros Auklet and singleton Marbled and Ancient Murrelet.

We then crossed over to Ala Spit County Park on the east side where we
found our first Barrow's Goldeneye mixed with the more common Common. A
single Black Oystercatcher worked the gravel beach along with a dozen Black
Turnstone. We could see the heads of a couple of American Wigeon appearing
above the beach contour, then, eventually, a reddish face moved into view,
a Eurasian Wigeon. While watching the water birds, we could hear the call
of Tundra Swan and a pair flew past to the west. A Cooper's Hawk flushed
from the parking area to the trees, giving all very good looks at a
juvenile bird.

Heading south, we stopped at Dugualla Bay to scan the adjacent lake. There
were at least 150 Trumpeter Swans in the water and the fields beyond. Also
present were a couple dozen Canvasback, though we counted only the swimming
and diving birds as there were also scads of decoys there! In the muddy
beach near Dike Rd were a dozen vocal Greater Yellowlegs.

We then went inland to access the marina at Oak Harbor. Unfortunately, the
tide was pretty high so the shorebird rest spot on the logs by the boat
slips were mostly absent of birds. There were just half a dozen Least
Sandpiper there and a pair of Dunlin on one of the docks.

There had been reports of a Willet at Penn Cove, so we continued south,
stopping first at Monroe Landing, where we found more Barrow's Goldeneye
plus a huge raft of Surf Scoter. Another flock of Black Turnstone were
working the gravel beach to the west. With a little time to scan through
the birds, we picked up a couple Surfbirds. As we were about to leave, a
Merlin came screaming by, but did stop at a treetop perch for us to get
good scope views of this attractive bird.

On our way to Grasser's Lagoon at Penn Cove we found another falcon, an
American Kestrel. Shortly after parking at the lagoon, the Willet was easy
to spot not 50 feet away.

Our next stop was back on the west side, and our route took us on a path
we had not used before, Zylstra Rd, where we spotted a group of 4
Ring-necked Pheasant in a field adjacent the road.

There were not many birds at the Swantown pullout but we eventually
spotted a pair of White-winged Scoter and then, one of the primary targets
for the trip, a pair of Long-tailed Duck. While most were scouting the
water, Rechelle located a Northern Shrike in the brambles across the road
which entertained us for many minutes while it hunted around the fields.

We next drove across Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve and found
our only Northern Harrier for the day, as well as a couple dozen Mourning
Dove in one tree.

Then, on to Crockett Lake. We first stopped in the small parking area at
the west end where we found another Eurasian Wigeon mixed in with a large
flock of American Wigeon and Northern Pintail. Across the little cove
there, we could see a resting shorebird flock, mostly several hundred
Dunlin, with maybe a hundred Black-bellied Plover. On the pilings behind,
we could see another shorebird admirer, a striking Peregrine Falcon. In the
distance, we could hear a flock of Snow Goose as they flew over. A quick
stop at the Keystone Ferry produced another singleton Black Oystercatcher
and another juvenile Cooper's Hawk, perched on one of the utility poles in
the parking area. We then cruised eastward along Hwy 20, finding another
Kestrel, then, at the far end, a Short-eared Owl. There were more
shorebirds as well but we were running out of time, so continued.

Our species total was pretty good at this point, so our next stop became
something of a motivation for finding species that had eluded us so far. We
parked along Deer Lagoon Rd on the north side and walked south to the berm
separating the two parts of the lagoon. There we finally encountered
Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, Marsh Wren plus
Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrow. In the lagoon was a large flock of resting
gulls where we picked up our only California and Ring-billed Gulls, and, on
the far shore, a small group of Northern Shoveler.

It was now after 4:00 so we had little daylight but decided to swing
around to the salt-water side at Useless Bay. As we made a turnaround at
the end of Sunlight Beach Rd, a flock of Canada Goose flew low over the
houses, and trailing at the end of the flock were 4 Greater White-fronted
Goose. At the public access spot, we had a last chance to look for, and
found!, a flock of 30-40 Brant for our 99th species of the day. Another
Short-eared Owl showed over the lagoon as well.

This was the third year in a row that we tallied 99 species on this trip.
The list of species has varied from year to year, but it is the special,
unexpected birds that allow such a good count. And, it was the contribution
of this highly motivated and enthusiastic group of birders that made it

Scott Ramos

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