Today is January 16th. Yesterday I passed my initial Big Month Goal of 175 species for the State and the total was at 176. The original thought was that if 175 was “reasonably easy”, I would push on and go for 200. With 176 species in just about half of the month, had it been “reasonably easy” – well sort of, but even though “only” 24 more species in the remaining half month seemed easy, I knew that all of the easy birds had already been seen and I would need many more trips and some good lucks – maybe even some unexpected birds in addition to almost all of the expected ones to reach the goal.
This morning the plan was to try for one of the “unexpected ones”. A female Western Tanager was visiting Mark Tamboulian’s feeder in Shoreline, Washington and he said I was welcome to visit. This was a great stroke of luck. Western Tanagers are generally not here in the winter – so an unexpected add. I had to take my car in for service that day and would get a loaner but that imposed some time constraints. Luckily Mark’s place was only a couple of miles from my dealer and was on the way back from the dealer to my home. How convenient.
Mark has a landscape business and it was very apparent as I drove up to his home. The grounds were SPECTACULAR!!! Super design and of course very well maintained. I was invited in and we began our vigil watching his feeders in his equally beautiful back yard. He explained that it generally came in with other birds and usually visited the suet. As we waited we talked – about birds mostly – but a really fun free-ranging conversation. His neighbor and birding pal was there as well. His interests were more to photography but together they had traveled to many places in the U.S. and Latin America and had a very impressive bird list and expertise and great stories.
As I have said so many times, in birding we get the opportunity for great places, great people and great birds. The beautiful home and grounds and wonderful people had delivered the first two of these and when the Western Tanager showed up, all three were there and it was just barely 9:00 a.m.
Western Tanager Female
It hung around awhile and then took off. I continued my visit and we shared stories. Their experience at the Asa Wright Station in Trinidad was alarming – very unsanitary conditions – I was forewarned. They had lots of good stories as well. Time to leave but I happened to mention that one bird I was looking for was a Red Breasted Sapsucker. Bingo!! The neighbor said there was often one in his yard. We went out and there it was drumming away in open sight. Hard to get any easier than that.
Red Breasted Sapsucker
I now had 178 species for the month and the day was young and I had plans for more. The visit with Mark had been terrific in any way. I hope our paths cross again and after i am through with this Big Month I will be sure that happens. But first it was time to head north to Whatcom County.
A Rock Wren had been seen regularly at Birch Bay State Park. It was one of the birds missed on the Walla Walla trip so here was a make up opportunity. Additionally this was a good spot to find Eared Grebes – not an easy find in the winter. I found the Rock Wren fairly easily but off leash dogs on the beach kept it pretty leery not willing to pose in the open as it had for many others. The Eared Grebes were not so easy but eventually I was able to find at least two out in the Bay – just close enough for some ID shots.
It was interesting to watch one of the Grebes. It was almost like it was paired with a female Bufflehead. The two moved around as a unit and I never saw the Grebe more than 25 feet away from the Bufflehead. The photo is fun, too, as it shows just how small the Grebe is. Buffleheads are very small ducks – but the Grebe is even smaller.
Eared Grebe and Bufflehead
As pleased as I was to get a photo of the Eared Grebe, I could not fail to recall the spectacular photo of one last year not far from this spot at the Blaine Marina. I think it has appeared in a blog before but I include it again.
Eared Grebe (March 2016 – Blaine Marina)
My final stop for the day (I had to get back to get my car) was at Semiahmoo. I hoped that somehow a Mountain Bluebird might reappear here -as one had been there in the winter of 2014 – but not this time. I did however add a Northwestern Crow. This is the only place in Washington I will count one other than the Olympic Peninsula. I am not convinced it is a separate species but the authorities accept it…who am I to argue – especially as it was Bird of the Month #181.