[Tweeters] Snohomish County Big Year Wrap Up
xjoshx at gmail.com
Mon Jan 7 22:58:51 PST 2019
As Dalton Spencer said a few days ago, most county big years don't start of
as planned. Mine was certainly not an exception. Somewhere around late May
of last year I began to realize I was having a pretty good year in my home
county. I'd picked up 6 birds I'd never seen in the county before and had
also found most of the uncommon migrants that can be missed during spring
migration (Cassin's Vireo, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, etc.). I
did a little math and realized that with a lot of luck and hard work I
might have a shot at breaking Dennis Duffy's big year record of 234
species, which had stood since 2003.
The last seven months of the year turned into an incredible grind with many
highlights and a few spectacular lowlights.
I had a pretty spectacular June, all things considered. Weekly visits to
Darrington turned up the counties third record of Gray Catbird and one of
the only June records of Loggerhead Shrike on the west side of the
Jetty Island, off Everett was one of the big surprises of the year for me.
I'd never paid too much attention to it since easy access is limited to a
couple months of summer when a fairy runs, but even that can be difficult
due to tide timing, etc. This spring, I realized you could scope the
beaches and identify some of the larger shorebirds if you had decent
weather conditions. I picked up American Avocet and Marbled Godwit this
July is typically a pretty slow month for birding, but it's also the month
when birding in the mountains really starts to pick up. I picked up my
first of several American Three-Toed Woockpecker and Pine Grosbeak
sightings at the end of the month. I also had perhaps my luckiest sighting
of the year on the other end of the county of the final day of that month.
I'd just about run out of ideas for that time of year, so I went to the
Edmonds pier hoping for an early Parasitic Jaeger. Shortly after I arrived
a Manx Shearwater flew by, the first record for the county and one of only
a few Puget Sound records. I wouldn't find my first Parasitic Jaeger for
another six weeks.
I picked up some good shorebirds during August including a Red Knot. I had
been wanting to do overnight backpacking trips in the county for years, but
I finally got around to it at the end of August. I hiked to the base of
Glacier Peak and found my only Ptarmigans and Prairie Falcon of the year. I
also had arguably my best sighting of the year, although it wasn't a bird.
While hiking down from Glacier Peak I scared two Wolverines off a snowfield
and managed to get a video of them.
The first half of September was undoubtedly my worst run of luck. I did
another overnight hike, traveling over 36 miles along the Pacific Crest
Trail, but couldn't find any new species. Fortunately, after going 20 days
without a new species during the prime of fall migration, my luck took a
dramatic turn for the better. I'd purchased an inflatable kayak over the
summer in order to be able to access Jetty Island once the ferry service
stopped and that paid off in spades when I found both species of
Golden-Plovers there. On the 19th of September I had a Leach's Storm-Petrel
fly by the Edmonds pier. Not only was this a great bird to find, but it was
also #234, tying the previous record.
The rest of the year was a bit of a blur, but I was astonished that I
managed to keep finding new birds. Brown Pelican, Harris's Sparrow,
Fork-Tailed Storm-Petrel, and Black Phoebe all turned up in October and
November. Perhaps my favorite bird of the year came the day before
Thanksgiving, when an acquaintance alerted me to a Great Gray Owl that was
hanging out in a residential area near their house. This is presumably the
same bird that was photographed by various people several times between
July and November.
As I headed into the final month of the year I had a few possibilities, but
one nemesis really stuck out: Long-Tailed Duck. I'd probably spent twenty
hours on the Edmonds Pier in addition to other locations looking for this
species, with no luck at all. Finally on December 12th I saw a distant one
fly-by. Amazingly enough, fifteen minutes later another one flew right past
the pier. December also brought the Stanwood Vermillion Flycatcher (Thanks
Maxine and Mike!), the Monroe Rusty Blackbird (Thanks Marv!), and a
heard-only flyover Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Thanks David!).
I have focused on the positives here, but there were certainly a lot of
misses. Two stood out above all others though: American White Pelican and
Palm Warbler. Both had been seen several times throughout the year. I
chased both and missed them by minutes. I was pretty confident that I'd
look out my window on January first and find a Palm Warbler riding a
Pelican, because it just felt like I wasn't going to get them. I made one
last try for Palm Warbler at Eide Road on the 28th of December. It was
drizzling rain and no birds were moving around. I had resigned myself to
having had my last new bird of the year and was about to walk back to my
car when I heard a familiar chirping from the bushes and a Palm Warbler
popped out. It was a nice end to the year.
I ended 2018 with 252 species, 17 of which I'd never had in the county
But there's a postscript. Two days ago Carol Riddell found an American
White Pelican hanging out in a field full of Swans within a couple miles of
my house and I relocated it today. Good way to start off the 2019 list I
Thank you very much to everyone who submitted Snohomish county reports to
Tweeters, eBird reports, contacted me privately, invited me to your home,
etc. I truly appreciate it.
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