[Tweeters] Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (in birding)

Jon Houghton jon.houghton at hartcrowser.com
Fri Jan 24 21:03:02 PST 2020

Hi Tweets - Perhaps a few of you have been trying to get out and do a little birding despite the sometimes challenging weather of the last couple of days. Yesterday, Frank Caruso had two east-coast birding friends in town on a quest to see a couple of our winter rock pipers that would be lifers for them. Their tight schedules did not allow for 'weather delays' so yesterday, super early, we headed for the coast, despite the forecast for significant rain and strong winds. Looking at rainfall heading toward us on Raindar, we decided we might minimize rain impact on our birding by going first to Point Brown in Ocean Shores - always a good bet for winter rock pipers, but...bad idea. As we headed south toward the point, it was clear that it was going to be super windy and when we finally bundled up and got to the beach, huge waves were breaking over the top of the jetty. There were a few Sanderlings on the beach and 6 Dunlin hunkered down behind a small log, but clearly, no chance for any of our targets. Defeat. So, a little discouraged about the birds, but awed by the waves, we headed back toward Aberdeen/Hoquiam - Note that SR 109 is still closed due to mudslides and a slight, well signed (~10 min) detour is needed to actually get to or from Ocean Shores. On the south side of the Bay, we headed first toward Tokeland, with a stop at Cranberry Beach Rd. to look for Snowy Plovers. They were nowhere to be found, but, near the end of the graveled beach access road there were good numbers of Least SP, Dunlin, and Sanderlings trying to feed in the lee of slight ruts; a couple of Western SP were also present, providing Frank and I with our first FOY of the day. In the Tokeland Marina, we found the hoped for Marbled Godwits and Willets, huddled in separate groups, waiting out the wind and high tide. MAGO was a lifer for the Easterners, so the day was looking up. Partial victory! In the grassy boat/camper parking lot behind the boat launch, there were more Dunlin, Sanderling, and Least SP, plus over a dozen Semi-palmated Plovers and a single Black-bellied Plover - answering in part, our question of what to shorebirds do when the shore is untenable? A large group of Cacklers and White-fronted Geese, along with a few Brant, were grazing in a grassy swale on the way out of Tokeland along Emerson Ave. Wanting one last try for the rock pipers, we headed for Westport harbor. Several hundred more Marbled Godwits were crowded on the floats at the south end of the marina, but no rock pipers were visible from the platform looking channel-ward at the north end. As a last gasp, we stopped and climbed the wet and very windy boulders on the breakwater, east of the observation tower. There, on the 2nd and 3rd groins east of the tower, were all three target species: about a dozen Black Turnstores, half a dozen Surfbirds, and a single (seen) Rock Sandpiper, all dodging up and down as impressive rollers broke on the rocks. A couple more lifers for our Eastern guests and victory over the weather for us local diehards!!
As a post-script, today, there were about 6 Redhead (lower numbers than in previous years?) enjoying the deluge, with a hundred or so other ducks, at the extreme south end of the Weyerhaeuser Pond in Federal Way. Happy Birding! - Jon Houghton, Edmonds
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