[Tweeters] Nisqually NWR - An "Unofficial" Wednesday Walk

Jon. Anderson and Marty Chaney festuca at comcast.net
Wed Mar 25 21:08:07 PDT 2020

Hi folks,

With many outdoor venues closed or about to be shut down due to the virus and Executive Orders, I went out to Nisqually Refuge for an "unofficial" walk, to try and maintain a modicum of continuity for the Weekly Wednesday Walks. Four of us gathered at the Visitors’ Center and practiced Social Distancing, while we checked the pond, which had Canada Geese, Mallards, Gadwalls, Bufflehead, a Wigeon and a Hooded Merganser Hen.

I'd misread the tide tables, and thought that the tide was coming in, so figured that it would make sense to go out to the north dike and see if the high tide would push shorebirds, etc., closer to the dike and estuary boardwalk. Sadly, the tide was ebbing instead . . .

We walked along the boardwalk to the Twin Barns, and noted quite a few Tree and a few Violet-green Swallows. The Yellow-rumped Warblers were waking and feeding, and we got good views of waterfowl, as well as Song and Golden-crowned Sparrows. A Peregrine perched briefly on one of the snags out on the marsh plain, and an adult Bald Eagle was on her nest along the Nisqually River.

With the tide ebbing fast, most of the area north of the dike was mudflat, but we had good looks at American Wigeon, Gadwalls and Northern Pintails, as well as some Greater Yellowlegs. Three Virginia Rails were calling from the cattail marsh, but were not doing so nearly as loud or steadily as the Marsh Wrens. We did not see the Bittern that a photographer had seen along the dike last week, and again a few days ago. We were treated to around 30 Dunlin in the slough.

My three companions turned back at the base of the estuary boardwalk, as there was a cool breeze blowing down the Valley. I continued out to the end of the boards, and noted that there was an adult Bald Eagle in the south nest along McAllister Creek. On the way out, I found a small flock of peeps, which included 4 Western Sandpipers. eBird still flags WESAs here as "rare", but we’ve seen this species weekly for over a month now. A flock of Mew Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants and Red-breasted Mergansers was frenzy-feeding on some prey as the water ebbed, and the flock finally shot out past Luhr Beach into Nisqually Reach.

Returning, I heard the bark of a goose that wasn’t the usual Cacklers - and looked up to see that it was a flock of over 250 Snow Geese flying high over the Refuge and off to the north. Before I got back to the dike, I’d seen nearly 1,000 Snows in four flocks. Migration has begun!!

On my way back along the eastern side of the boardwalk loop, I found the Great Horned Owl in its usual perch west of the Beaver Deceiver, and picked up more Audubon’s Warblers, Bushtits, Brown Creepers, and Black-capped Chickadees.

Since I’d started backwards from the usual birding route, I took a loop through the Heritage Orchard and along the service road, and was pleased to find an Intergrade Northern Flicker. This male flicker had the red mustache of the Red-shafted form, and no red crescent on his nape as one would find in a Yellow-shafted Flicker. But, his wings were a beautiful golden yellow. Cool!

I finished the day by walking in the sunshine, having seen 66 species. Here’s hoping that the Stay At Home Order still allows you to enjoy the outside, and see some birds. Stay well.

Jon. Anderson

I sent the following checklist to eBird:
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR, Thurston, Washington, US
Mar 25, 2020 8:06 AM - 4:05 PM
Protocol: Traveling 4.97 mile(s)

Checklist Comments: Not an "official" Wednesday walk. Showers in the morning, clearing to partly cloudy, 39-50° F, light breeze from the southwest. There was a +13.30-foot high tide at 7:08 a.m., ebbing to a +2.38-foot low water at 1:34 p.m. Mammals seen included Columbian Black-tailed Deer, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Eastern Cottontail, and Townsend's Chipmunk.

65 species (+10 other taxa)

Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) 970 Four flocks of 265, 180, 275, 250 flying high. Came in from over the Nisqually Valley and flew out over the Reach to the north
Brant (Black) (Branta bernicla nigricans) 17 Seen from the end of the estuary boardwalk on the Mudflats
Cackling Goose (minima) (Branta hutchinsii minima) 650
Cackling Goose (Taverner's) (Branta hutchinsii taverneri) 25
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 62
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 2 Visitors' Center Pond
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 95
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) 75
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 1 Adult male in with a flock of ~ 200 American Wigeon on the east side of McAllister Creek
American Wigeon (Mareca americana) 655
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 185
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 455
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 515
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) 8
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) 1 Female in McAllister Creek
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) 85
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 14
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) 5 One in McAllister Creek; a pair each along east side of Boardwalk and in Visitors' Center pond
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 5
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 75
duck sp. (Anatinae sp.) 600 Estimate of birds at the mudflats north from the platform at the north end of the estuary boardwalk
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 3 One in Cattail marsh, two on the Visitors' Center pond
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon)) 6 One at the Twin Barns; 5 in the mudflats at the Refuge entrance gate.
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) 4
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) 3 Cattail marsh
American Coot (Fulica americana) 40
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 1
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 32
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) 28
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 4 * Continuing along the estuary boardwalk, in the company of Least Sandpipers. Paler and grayer, compared to the smaller, browner Least Sandpipers. White in the face, black legs, longer, slightly downcurved bill.
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 2
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) 7
Mew Gull (Larus canus) 95
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 9
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid) (Larus occidentalis x glaucescens) 2
Western/Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus occidentalis/glaucescens) 5
gull sp. (Larinae sp.) 30 Mudflats along Nisqually Reach
Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) 5 Nisqually Reach channel marker
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 8
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 13
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 16 Adults on South nest along McAllister Creek and on the nest along the River
Red-tailed Hawk (calurus/alascensis) (Buteo jamaicensis calurus/alascensis) 1 Orchard
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) 1 Perched in the 'usual' forked cottonwood to the west of the "Beaver Deceiver"
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 2 McAllister Creek
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 4
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group]) 3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted x Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus luteus x cafer) 1 At Visitors' Center. Male with Red mustache; no red nape, golden yellow primaries and rectrices .
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 1
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 1 Vocalizing from west of McAllister Creek
American/Northwestern Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos/caurinus) 14
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 10
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) 90
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) 6
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) 1 Reddish brown forehead and rump. Seen in the flock of Tree/Violet-Green Swallows over the north dike.
Bushtit (Pacific) (Psaltriparus minimus [minimus Group]) 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 5
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 4
Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus) 2
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) 20
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 9
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 50
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 48
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) 2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 2
Fox Sparrow (Sooty) (Passerella iliaca [unalaschcensis Group]) 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group]) 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) 16
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 34
Spotted Towhee (oregonus Group) (Pipilo maculatus [oregonus Group]) 3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 48
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) 38
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata) 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 12

View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/checklist/S66218566

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