After Texas and before heading off to Massachusetts, I wanted to catch up on some birding in Washington – a little ahead of the busy month of May but able to watch some early migration and chase after some rarities close to home. My first foray was back to some favored places in Kittitas County and beyond with Frank Caruso and for some of the time with Deb Essman. Before joining Deb, Frank and I picked up Rufous Hummingbirds at the Hyak feeders on Snoqualmie Pass and then found some First of Year birds (FOY’s) at Bullfrog Pond including Red Naped Sapsucker and Cassin’s Finch.
After checking in on the Great Horned Owl that was nesting across from Deb’s House and finding two fluffy owlets, Deb joined us and we first visited a known nesting site for Bank Swallows and even though it was quite early, we found 5 Swallows flying about – no nests yet. We doubled checked to see the dark chest bands to be sure they were not Northern Rough Winged Swallows. Frank and I had not yet seen any Swainson’s Hawks and that was our next “find”.
Great Horned Owl with Owlets
We did not find much in the Whiskey Dick area above the corrals off Vantage Road but did have a quick look at a FOY Brewer’s Sparrow and Sagebrush Sparrows as we had had there earlier this year. Just as we were leaving two Prairie Falcons flew over. We also heard Sandhill Cranes somewhere off in the distance. Not much at Recreation Road either – Rock Wren only and no Canyon Wrens. Frank and I continued on to Frenchman’s Coulee after Deb had to leave and found our FOY White Throated Swifts. I did not even attempt a photo of these ultra-fast fliers. We then went Southeast to the County Line Ponds on Highway 26 and picked up FOY American Avocets and Black Necked Stilts.
Black Necked Stilts
We had been looking for a Loggerhead Shrike all day without success. Somehow even zooming along at 60 MPH, we finally saw one on a post and a quick U-turn got a photo.
One last stop on the long way home resulted in a very fun time with the American Dipper nest under the Teanaway River Bridge. We watched in fascination as first one parent and then the other would catch food in the river, pause briefly at a riverside rock near the bridge and then fly up and deliver the food to the two babies. It was non-stop for the whole time we were there.
American Dipper with Food Ready to Go and then Delivery to the Babies at Nest
A couple of days later, I made a quick visit to Yost Park and with Frank had our FOY Black Throated Gray Warblers. Too high up and uncooperative for photos, but I am sure I will get some later. I tried several places looking for newly arrived migrants like Wilson’s or Yellow Warblers without success. At Wylie Slough where I had Yellow Warblers at this time in year’s past, I did find my FOY Lesser Yellowlegs for Washington. On the way home, I stopped at Maxine Reid’s place on Tulalip Bay and got a distant view of a couple of Purple Martins coming to her gourds. Maxine had shared that they had arrived a couple of days earlier. With the exception of the Dippers, I had seen all of these birds in Texas two weeks earlier – that’s how migration works.
On April 24th, the ABC Club in Tacoma was having a program that I wanted to attend as much to see friends there as to see the program. As a good way to avoid traffic on the trip down, I decided to chase some of the new birds that had been reported there in the previous few days at places I had not visited before as my Pierce County birding had been very limited. My first stop was the Puyallup Fish Hatchery. I was hoping to see a Wilson’s Warbler as one had been seen two days earlier and also figured it a good spot for a Yellow Warbler or other migrant. I batted only .500 as I found a Wilson’s but not a Yellow. Still a fun place and I expect it can be very productive.
My next stop was Chambers Lake – another new spot. I almost blew it. My GPS took me to the location which turned out to be on the Joint Base Lewis McChord property. I knew you need a pass to be on the property but I thought I would run into a gate that would either deny me access or would allow me to get a pass. No gates were encountered so I kept on going and made it to the Lake where I got my FOY Chipping Sparrow. I later learned from Bruce LaBar that I still needed a pass and might have been in trouble if patrols had come around. I need to attend to that detail for any future visits.
One last stop was the Mountain View Cemetery where Bruce and Ed Pullen had reported a House Wren. Even though Bruce provided excellent directions, I couldn’t match landmarks and was uncertain if I was in the right location. Slowly it started looking familiar as I realized I had been to the same location three years earlier also looking for a House Wren. I had found it then and finally found it again this day – another Washington FOY that I had seen earlier in Texas.
The program was Dave Slager talking mostly about Crows and the question of whether there really is such a thing as a Northwestern Crow as a separate species. It was fascinating to learn of the work that has gone into the examination of this question and the question of speciation in general. For the time being the two species both exist but I think the clock is ticking and a determination will be made to lump them into a single species. Much better than the program was a very fun dinner with Bruce and Ed beforehand. Outstanding birders and outstanding people – they make it fun to be part of the community.
The next day I made a quick visit to Homeacres Road in Snohomish County for a quite rare Black Necked Stilt that had been found by David Poortinga and was then relocated by a number of local birders. A distant view only, but a new bird for the County. I later stopped at Pine Ridge Park hoping to find some FOY Pacific Slope Flycatchers that Frank had seen earlier that day. I found a couple of Pac Slopes but the real prize was the friendliest Pileated Woodpecker I have ever seen. It flew onto a log on the ground literally five feet from me. It paid me no attention as it drilled on that log and then on some low trees nearby. VERY photo friendly. I could choose any of a dozen good photos but will go with this one.
I wanted to do one more long foray into Eastern Washington before heading off to Boston. Ann Marie Wood and Steve Pink were game and we left very early – revisiting some of the territory Frank and I had covered the previous week but adding Para Ponds and a Burrowing Owl site on Lemaster Road following in part the success of an Audubon trip the previous weekend. In beautiful weather with no wind we had a wonderful long trip to Kittitas, Grant and Adams Counties today.