[Tweeters] Nisqually Refuge Wednesday Walk - 13 April 2022

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Fri Apr 15 13:40:21 PDT 2022

Great report Jon, thanks so much. What a disappointment to have the Coyote killed, a real loss for the sanctuary. Did someone inform the Refuge? Thanks for the documentation and request for law enforcement help. I hope no one had to see the offense. I’ll be there is upcoming Wednesday, hopefully the winter weather will subside. Seems like you got to see some really interesting behavior in the inclement weather. Have a great weekend!

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From: Jon. Anderson and Marty Chaney <festuca at comcast.net>
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2022 8:46:32 AM
To: Tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>; Shep Thorp at eBird <shepthorp at gmail.com>; Eric Slagle <hannaslagle at comcast.net>; Ken Brown <kenbrownpls at comcast.net>; Phil Kelley <scrubjay323 at gmail.com>
Subject: Nisqually Refuge Wednesday Walk - 13 April 2022

Hello Tweeters,

Fourteen intrepid birders met at the Visitors’ Center at 8 a.m. for the weekly Wednesday Walk at Nisqually Refuge, with the 34º F rain beginning just as we started the walk. At the Visitors’ Center we observed RING-NECKED DUCKS and a PIED-BILLED GREBE among the mallards, and heard singing COMMON YELLOWTHROATS. A pair of HOODED MERGANSERS entertained us with the hen searching among the venerable big-leaf maples for a suitable nesting cavity.

>From the deck of the Environmental Education Center, we watched a threesome of WOOD DUCKS engaged in “courtship behavior”. The orchard was pretty quiet as far as bird activity, due to the steady rain, but we did see an ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD vigilantly guarding his patch of red-flowering currants.

As we approached the service road, several of our group noted spent 9mm brass, where someone had illegally discharged their sidearm along the entrance road. The discovery of a freshly-killed coyote completed the mystery of what the shooting was about: some yahoos had driven in, seen the half-tame coyote and murdered it on a Federal Wildlife Refuge. This, coupled with the recent parking lot break-ins, trespass into closed areas, illegal drone flights, etc. emphasize the need for active law enforcement presence at the Refuge.

The flooded fields west of the Visitors’ Center were being criss-crossed by hundreds of VIOLET-GREEN, TREE, BARN, and CLIFF SWALLOWS - all foraging just above the water in-between bouts of light and heavier rain squalls. From the green gate, an intrepid eye spotted our FOY male BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD. The rain kept many of the passerines under cover as we birded along the western side of the boardwalk loop, but a pair of ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS were found perched as the rain-mixed-with-snow increased. Is this really the middle of April?

A bit further along, the larger flock of swallows had sought a bit of shelter among the branches of an Oregon ash tree, where 200 birds snuggled side-by-side with no regard as to which species they were huddled next to. A PACIFIC WREN’s song from across the pond was defiant in the face of the wet and cold, and a single male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH sang into the wind.

We made a cursory stop at the Twin Barns overlook, but could not locate the CINNAMON OR “COMMON” TEALS that had been seen there recently. Three ROCK PIGEONS sought shelter from the deluge under the eaves of the south barn. Half of our cold and wet group called it a morning, and returned to the warmth of their cars, but the remainder continued out the north dike to the estuary boardwalk.

En route, the rain slacked a bit, and the SAVANNAH SPARROWS began to sing. The cattail marsh on the south side of the dike held good diversity, but declining numbers, of waterfowl. NORTHERN SHOVELERS are paired up and foraging as couples with their distinctive side-by-side circular swimming, which brings food from the marsh bottom toward the surface. WESTERN CANADA GEESE are paired up, with many birds on nests. NORTHERN PINTAIL, AMERICAN WIGEON, MALLARDS, GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN COOTS, and a few BUFFLEHEAD foraged in good numbers.

The tide was ebbing, so the tidal surge plain and estuary restoration area showed mostly mud. We were surprised to find no small shorebirds, although GREATER YELLOWLEGS were seen in good numbers. We always make an effort to find SPOTTED SANDPIPER along the intertidal zone of McAllister Creek, and were not disappointed. Often, the only “twitch” of STELLER’S JAY for our list is hearing them vocalize from the timber on the west side of the Creek, but today a pair were seen foraging on the cobble beach.

Amongst the flocks of wigeon on the creek’s intertidal, we found a bright male EURASIAN WIGEON. While enjoying the view of this bird, a sharp eye noticed that the hen next to him had a rufous-brown, rather than a grey, face, which proved her to be a female Eurasian! It is easy to overlook the ‘drabber-plumaged’ hens in flocks of wigeon. The HORNED GREBES are moulting into their beautiful alternate breeding plumages.

>From the observation deck at the north end of the boardwalk, we scanned the edge of the marsh to find nearly 4 dozen BALD EAGLES. A trio of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER were foraging just east of the deck. On the lower estuary and on the Reach, we used spotting scopes to pick out GREATER SCAUP, SURF SCOTER, COMMON GOLDENEYE, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, and - on their perch on a channel marker on the Reach - seven BRANDT’S CORMORANTS. Only one DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT was found, and we presume most of that species are attending their breeding colonies, as numbers here are considerably lower than just a couple of weeks ago.

The sun was actually breaking out on our return, so we stopped again at the Twin Barns overlook to scan the rain-flooded fields, hoping to find the “COMMON” TEAL. We did not, but instead found an “intergrade” drake GREEN-WINGED X COMMON TEAL, showing characteristics of both taxa: a horizontal white stripe along the wing line and a white vertical stripe on his shoulder. At the ‘picnic’ area at the Barns, a male HAIRY WOODPECKER’s loud drumming attracted our attention.

At the north end of the boardwalk loop, we stopped to check the CANADA GOOSE on her nest 20 feet above the ground in a cottonwood snag, in a cleft where Horned Owls nested a few years ago. A BUSHTIT nest at that spot appears to be finished, and we had good views of the dark-eyed male foraging nearby. A stop at the River Overlook rewarded us with views of 10 COMMON MERGANSERS, as well as a River Otter finishing its sushi lunch.

Our return along the east side of the loop provided good looks at YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, with both AUDUBON’S and MYRTLE forms, and good numbers of BROWN CREEPERS. RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS were active in the flowering currant and salmonberry patches.

The rain had ceased, so we made one more effort for birds in the fields west of the Visitors’ Center, and were rewarded with views of a drake CINNAMON TEAL, and side-by-side comparisons of “MINIMA” AND TAVERNER’S CACKLING GEESE. To end the day, a RED-TAILED HAWK soared over us as we adjourned to the neighboring Nisqually Grill to enjoy a warm dinner and good memories of a day well-spent.

Shep was visiting his Dad family in Pennsylvania, so Rob Chrisler and Olympia’s Ken Brown “led” the walk; I kept the eBird checklist:

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually NWR, Thurston, Washington, US
Apr 13, 2022 7:53 AM - 3:31 PM
Protocol: Traveling 5.52 miles
Checklist Comments: We endured the morning rains, until it broke out to partly sunny in the afternoon. Temperatures 34-40° F. There was a +4.62-foot low tide at 11:01 a.m., flooding toward a 10.62-foot high tide at 4:09 p.m. Mammals seen included Coyotes, Columbian Black-tailed Deer, eastern cottontail, eastern grey squirrel, harbor seals, and a river otter. Sadly, we found 9 mm cartridge brass near a freshly-killed coyote near the orchard. The NWR needs more enforcement agents in the area. 73 species (+9 other taxa)

Brant (Black) (Branta bernicla nigricans) 95
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) 225
Cackling Goose (minima) (Branta hutchinsii minima) 75
Cackling Goose (Taverner's) (Branta hutchinsii taverneri) 115
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 48
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 9
Cinnamon Teal (Spatula cyanoptera) 1
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) 325
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) 65
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 4
American Wigeon (Mareca americana) 675
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 80
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 255
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 425
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian x American) (Anas crecca crecca x carolinensis) 1 Scope views; adult male with distinct horizontal and vertical white stripes, facial pattern more like a Common Teal.
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) 6
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) 8
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) 5
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) 120
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) 9
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) 2
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) 10
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 3
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 2
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) 3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon)) 3
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 2
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 2
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) 9
hummingbird sp. (Trochilidae sp.) 3
American Coot (Fulica americana) 285
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) 3
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) 2
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 2
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) 40
Short-billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus) 50
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 28
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) 1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid) (Larus occidentalis x glaucescens) 2
Western/Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus occidentalis/glaucescens) 6
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 1
Brandt's Cormorant (Urile penicillatus) 7
Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 3
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 46
Red-tailed Hawk (calurus/alascensis) (Buteo jamaicensis calurus/alascensis) 1
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 2
Downy Woodpecker (Pacific) (Dryobates pubescens gairdnerii/turati) 1
Hairy Woodpecker (Pacific) (Dryobates villosus [harrisi Group]) 1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 3
Steller's Jay (Coastal) (Cyanocitta stelleri [stelleri Group]) 2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 12
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 10
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) 2
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) 125
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) 95
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 65
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) 35
Bushtit (Pacific) (Psaltriparus minimus [minimus Group]) 2
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 11
Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus) 1
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) 4
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 20
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 46
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) 5
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) 2
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group]) 1
White-crowned Sparrow (pugetensis) (Zonotrichia leucophrys pugetensis) 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) 28
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 25
Spotted Towhee (oregonus Group) (Pipilo maculatus [oregonus Group]) 1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 24
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) 1
Orange-crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata) 2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) 35
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata) 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) 18

Hope you can join us on every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the Nisqually Visitors’ Center.

Jon. Anderson

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