Pilchuck Audubon Society has a very active and dedicated group of birders who are off on a field trip somewhere almost every Tuesday morning. I have not been able to join them as often as I would like, but always have a good time when I do. This Tuesday the group headed off to Whatcom County to bird at the Blaine, Semiahmoo and Birch Bay area. After threatening skies, the sun came out (sort of) and we had an excellent day with about 75 species seen.
As has been the case with every trip I have been on, Virginia Clark was the intrepid trip leader. She is an excellent birder, a great leader and comes with a fabulous bonus – her wonderful homemade cookies and breads. In addition to banana bread this time, Virginia brought cookies with bright green frosting – anticipating St. Patrick’s day later in the week.
We started at the Blaine Waterfront. Tide was a bit higher than best for shorebirds so we settled for a variety of ducks and grebes, a dozen plus Golden Crowned Sparrows, a beautiful Killdeer and a single Greater Yellowlegs. We had a distant look at a Long Tailed Duck – one of the hoped for species and some beautiful Greater Scaup with their iridescent heads colorful in the light.
We moved on to Drayton Harbor on our way to Semiahmoo and found fewer ducks than generally seen and nothing of note. Our fortunes changed at Semiahmoo though – one of my favorite birding spots in Washington. Here we had both Goldeneyes, Red Breasted and Common Mergansers, the three Cormorant species, and Common and Pacific Loons, the former starting to come into their beautiful breeding plumage. We also had some nice shorebirds many Black Turnstones, Killdeer, a single Black Oystercatcher and then a large group of Dunlin and Sanderlings on one of the rafts.
Dunlin and Sanderlings
But the treat here was the variety and quality of looks at the sea ducks. There were many Long Tailed Ducks, mostly females, and two that were in very close. We had numerous Surf Scoters and some White Winged Scoters as well. Nice Red Breasted Mergansers and close ups of Barrow’s and Common Goldeneyes. A female Belted Kingfisher provided a beautiful photo op perched on a colorful metal roof.
Long Tailed Duck Female
Common Goldeneye Female
Red Breasted Merganser
As we departed for our lunch stop at the base of the spit we had a Fox Sparrow and at the lunch stop, super views of a Pileated Woodpecker female and a flyover of the male. A gorgeous Bewick’s Wren serenaded me as I searched for the male Pileated.
We went through the town of Birch Bay and had another Greater Yellowlegs but not many birds and not much of note. At Birch Bay State Park though we finally got our Black Scoter, a distant view of an Eared Grebe and distant Red Throated Loons in addition to more of many of the birds we saw earlier and more Long Tailed Ducks. On the way there a large flock of Wigeons included a single Eurasian. At the Park we had many Brant included three up close one of which had a bright yellow leg band.
Our final stop was Lake Terrell. Not real birdy but we had our only Swallows of the day including a huge number of Tree Swallows and at least one Violet Green, my first of the year. We also added our first Pied Billed Grebe and some Ruddy Ducks. In the woods, Pacific and Bewick’s Wrens serenaded us and we had a good look at a Brown Creeper. It was here too that we had our only Ruby Crowned Kinglet of the day…go figure.
We called it a day and shortly after leaving we found a Kestrel on a wire. The group is very cordial and shares their expertise, observations and experience. Art and Carlos were great passengers – and Virginia delivered like always.