If I ever “grew up” at all, it was in the Sixties – that wonderful decade that set in motion so many of the changes that have shaped America and the World in the following 50 years. (Damn I am old!!!) One of my fond memories of the Sixties was a short lived television satire called That Was the Week That Was or in shorthand TW3. It was an American version of an eponymous British show that first brought David Frost to British audiences just as this TW3 brought him and many other talented artists to America. Little was sacred, most was irreverent and all was fun – even better than the Daily Show – a favorite that just has not been the same without John Stewart. What does this have to do with a birding blog you might ask.
Well aside from the fact that it is my blog and I can write whatever I want, it came to my mind as I considered what to write this week – a week that must be considered as “Birding Lite” even though it included a fun trip to Yost Memorial Park in Edmonds as part of Edmonds Bird Fest. In great weather we had over 70 people walking the trails in rapt attention of our leader Finn learning about and hoping to see one of the Barred Owls resident in the Park. My job was to “help” which essentially turned into a combination of crowd management, Finn management (when he gets on a roll, it is great but then again only for those close by – so I worked to be sure the stories were repeated and heard by all) – and occasionally identification of some additional species. It was a great trip; we had fabulous looks and photo ops with one of the owls and everyone was happy, but not really enough material for a full post.
Barred Owl at Yost Park
Finn and Edmonds BirdFest Crowd at Yost Park
I recalled that when I first started writing the blog, I expected that there would be down/inactive weeks so to continue to write, I would revisit experiences from my birding past and include a feature called “Bird and Memory of the Week” which I figured would provide lots of content options. Who knows why, but this morning as I started that exercise, TW3 came to mind and I decided instead to look back at some as yet unidentified week of birding in the past and see if that might be of interest. Where to start? Two options first came to mind – go back to my first week of “real” Ebird records or go back to this same past week but in some other year – like last year for example. I thought the first option would be really cool, but the reality is that when I first switched over to Ebird to enter historical data, it was woefully incomplete – since it was only the “new species” and not really as detailed as to time and place as it could have/should have been.
So I looked at Option 2 instead. September is usually a great month to look for shorebirds, so I knew I had been out sometime last year for that – but which week. Turned out I made a great choice. With the possible exception of the Eurasian Hobby extravaganza at Neah Bay the week of November 14, 2014, the week of September 9- 15 last year just may have been my best week of birding in Washington. Here are the stories and some of the details for That Week That Was.
The birding part of the week started with a 3:00 a.m. wake up call on September 9. I have since moved a few blocks away but at that time I lived very close to the aforementioned Yost Park and one of its owls was asking the world “Who..Who Cooks for You”; so this story begins with the hooting of one of the parents of the Barred Owl that we saw last Sunday on the Bird Fest Trip. How’s that for symmetry…stay tuned there will be more. It turns out that this particular “week that was” was one that included LOTS of birding and travel. Indeed, while the owl did in fact wake me up a bit earlier than planned, I was heading off to Neah Bay with an early start anyhow. A Red Legged Kittiwake had been reported from there the day before, so together with Jon Houghton and Nathaniel Peters we were off in search of that mega rarity. (See earlier Blog Post https://wordpress.com/post/blairbirding.wordpress.com/1900).
We tried hard to find a Kittiwake with red legs, but unfortunately the only one we found had legs that were decidedly black. Still a nice bird … but… We birded the area the whole day without anything special but we were planning to stay the night so who knew what the morrow would bring. It brought some good birds but again nothing with red legs.
Kittiwake – Unfortunately with Black and Not Red Legs
As indicated earlier this trip was covered in an earlier post so I will not go into further details other than to say in the context of this post, there were lots of good birds to add to THE LIST for that week including Sooty Grouse, Northern Pygmy Owl, Black Oystercatcher and a Stilt Sandpiper.
At this point I am going to jump to the end of the story, possibly to build interest for a reader to continue with the details. It turns out that this was a very birdy week to have chosen as I said. Here are some bottom line numbers: Total species seen – 131; shorebird species – 25; waterfowl – 13; gulls and terns – 10. Even better though, I would say at least 10 of the species were pretty special or even better. Read on.
After the long trip to Neah Bay, I took a couple of days off but hit the birding trail again with another Edmonds Bird Fest trip which I lead to Kitsap County including a wonderful visit to Point No Point where EVERYONE on the trip was able to observe a relatively close fly by of a Brown Booby, presumably the same one that had been spotted from the Edmonds Pier in August and which I had seen up close and personal as it came into the marina perched on the mast of a sail boat. Our look at Point No Point was not that good but what a great bird for everyone.
Brown Booby in Flight – September 13, 2015 (not as good as the photo from the Edmonds Marina which I include again here)
Brown Booby from Edmonds Marina (August 21, 2015)
Any week in Washington that includes a Brown Booby is very special – but there is more. On Monday following the Sunday BirdFest trip, I headed back down to the coast. I had been there the week before and after another wonderful trip with Westport Seabirds and had some nice shorebirds but nothing special (although there had been Elegant Terns – unlike this year.) This week in 2015 proved much better – indeed quite spectacular with observations and photos of many great shorebirds including among others: American and Pacific Golden Plovers, Ruff, Sharp Tailed, Baird’s, Pectoral and Rock Sandpipers!!!
Pacific Golden Plover
Golden Plovers and Ruff
Sharp Tailed Sandpiper
It was also nice to have good looks at both American Pipits and Lapland Longspurs in the salucornia and grass at the Game Range when chasing down the Ruff and Golden Plovers.
As is usually the case, I had forgotten how much birding I had done and how much of the state I had covered in that week. After the birding in Neah Bay, Kitsap County, Edmonds and Ocean Shores, I should have been done but I guess I needed some diversity so the next day I headed east to Soap Lake and Potholes among other spots. Probably the best birding was a spectacular mix of shorebirds that included another Stilt Sandpiper at Lind Coulee among 11 species there and the huge flock of Eared Grebes (and some Horned and Western but no Clark’s Grebes) at Soap Lake.
My last stop for the week was at Robinson Canyon on the way home – hoping for the picture of a Poorwill that had eluded me all year. Surprisingly though there were many other “recreationists” using the Canyon that evening so although I added a Merlin and a Sharp Shinned Hawk, a try for a late Poorwill was ill fated.
Looks like I picked a pretty good week to look back on.
Here is the entire list of birds seen that week. I have highlighted 15 that I think are special – either rare or at least not on my every day bird lists:
|American Coot (Red-shielded)|
|Great Blue Heron|
|Red Tailed Hawk|
|Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)|
|Short Billed Dowitcher|
I found this retrospective to be pretty surprising and also a reflection of a crazy week of travel in our quite wonderful state. Pretty hard to imagine someplace else with this bird list for this week and/or such diverse places as Neah Bay, Ocean Shores, Soap Lake and Robinson Canyon (among others). Not now but at some other time I am going to look at other weeks in the Spring or Fall and see how they compare. Pretty hard to top a Brown Booby, Ruff and Sharp Tailed Sandpiper though.