Familiar Targets in Familiar Territory

The cold and accompanying cough and congestion had been with me for 32 days.  Maybe it was a second one as I thought I was over the one acquired on the San Francisco trip as I left for Boston two weeks ago.  Grandson Griffin had a cold and he is a sharing kind of guy.  And I am sure birding in the New England cold with temps in the 20’s and single digits with wind chill did not help.   In any even I had been almost entirely indoors for a week and needed to get out.  I had hoped for company but did not want to share germs so I headed off alone on Tuesday, January 28th to look for birds on familiar turf in Snohomish and Skagit counties.  Not going to be doing a big Washington list this year, but there will still be a list to keep.

My first stop was at Tulalip Bay to see if Maxine Reid’s pet Ruddy Turnstone was still around.  Not really her pet of course, but she discovered it a year or two ago and reports it frequently – sharing with us all.  It was not at my first stop – the spit, but I found it with Dunlin and Black Turnstones on the logs at the marina – another of its hangouts.  Seeing one in Washington always reminds me of how birding is so different on the two coasts.  Ruddies are abundant in the East and regular but uncommon here where Black Turnstones are abundant.  If a Black Turnstone ever showed up on the East Coast it would be a mega event.

Ruddy Turnstone (from the spit – too distant for photos this day)

Ruddy Turnstone

Next was a visit to Stanwood.  Yellow Headed Blackbirds had been seen near the same area on 98th Avenue where the Vermilion Flycatcher had been seen in 2018.  The area had tons of casual water in the fields and there were many ducks including my FOY Eurasian Wigeon.  There were also many blackbirds and Starlings.  As is soften the case, the flocks would form, fly off and reform within minutes.  I was able to see a single male Yellow Headed Blackbird on the ground in shallow water on a flagged off area for a second before a tractor came by and sent them all off to the trees.  I settled for that brief glance.

Target number 3 was a Wild Turkey on Hanstad Road on Camano Island.  There is a small flock that is regular there but I have missed them as often as I have seen them.  This was another miss.  I had not been to Eide Road since its major “remodel”, so I stopped on my way back.  Complete redo and not very birder friendly.  LOTS of water and very few birds.  Since it was raining I did not walk out along the dike, but was mostly sad to not find the old familiar place that I loved.  So much for Snohomish County.  I continued north.

No matter what else is going on, at this time of year on the Skagit and Samish flats, it is always fun to look for the big flocks of Swans and Snow Geese in addition to other waterfowl and raptors.  I decided not to make the usual stop at Wylie Slough and went straight to Hayton Preserve on Fir Island.  The main hope was for a Northern Shrike but there were other possibilities and one never knows what might be there.  No Shrike, buts lots of ducks and shorebirds.  Many hundred Mallards and American Wigeon, thousands of Dunlin and a dozen plus Black Bellied Plovers and Killdeer.  The shorebirds and many of the ducks took flight suddenly and I watched for a falcon, expecting Peregrine but hoping for a Gyrfalcon.  It was the former and I saw it grab a shorebird – probably a Dunlin.  Just before that I was able to get a distant photo (from the car as it was raining) of another Eurasian Wigeon – one of at least two or three that I saw in the mixed foraging flock.  There had also been small flocks of both Canada and Cackling Geese.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon1 Eurasian Wigeon Getaway

I continued my visit driving around familiar areas on Maupin, Rawlins, Moore and Fir Island roads.  Swans were everywhere in numbers and I stopped at one small group that I had heard whistling instead of trumpeting and the yellow at the base of the bill confirmed that they were Tundra Swans.  If I had to guess I would estimate that I saw at least 1500 swans for the day with the very large majority being Trumpeter Swans.  When I first started birding in Washington in the mid 1970’s, swans were rare indeed in Western Washington and seeing a Trumpeter was a treasured moment.  Good riddance to lead shot!!

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan1

Also seen in big numbers were Bald Eagles.  There seemed to be an even split between juveniles and adults.  I stopped counting at 175 for the day – with 10 at a time being the biggest concentration.  Far less common than I think is more often the case were Red Tailed Hawks.  I did not keep a running count but do not believe I saw more than 8.  There were a half dozen or so Northern Harriers and only a single Rough Legged Hawk.  But there were other raptors and these proved to be the highlights of the trip.

Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

In the past few days, there had been reports of a Prairie Falcon, a Golden Eagle and a Gyrfalcon.   They would all be first of year birds for me.  The Golden Eagle favored a particular group of trees at the intersection of Josh Wilson and Avon Allen Roads, a bit further north.   I did not have specific info for either of the others.  Still on Maupin Road I saw a smallish raptor on a distant tree.  It was an accipiter.  My first guess was a Cooper’s Hawk as it seemed too big for a Sharp Shinned Hawk especially at that distance.  This is where photography really helps.  It was a distant photo from the car – again in the rain, but the small head seen in the picture was proof positive that I was wrong and it was a Sharp Shinned Hawk.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Sharp Shinned Hawk

A short while later in the same general area I saw another raptor perched alone in a distant tree.  This one seemed much larger but determining size at distance is tricky.  Again the camera saved the day.  My first thought had again been a Cooper’s Hawk female, much larger than the male.  But something was not right.  The photo proved it to be the Gyrfalcon seen in the area earlier in the week.  In the poor light through the rain, I thought it was too brown for that ID, but lots of input from others and photo comparisons on the internet support the conclusion.  A very nice new bird for the year!



Jon Houghton, who I ran into later in the day, had shown me a favorite brushy area just off of Moore and Best Roads that was good for sparrows and we had birded there with mixed results in the past.  I saw some movement in the brush and was able to call in a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  Being protective of my camera, I had left it in the car to avoid getting wet.  But I love the subtlety of this sparrow so I retrieved it and returned to the spot.  It had moved deeper into the woods and would not make another appearance.  I thought I might come back later in the day if I retraced steps.  It was my first one of the year.  I am including an older photo wishing that I had a new one.  The pose in the briers is exactly the same as this day.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

lincoln's sparrow

It had already been a great day despite no Northern Shrike as the Turnstone, Eurasian Wigeon, Yellow Headed Blackbird, Cackling Goose, Sharp Shinned Hawk, Gyrfalcon and Lincoln’s Sparrow were all new for the year.  Time to look for the Golden Eagle.  The small grove of evergreens at the Southeast corner of Josh Wilson and Avon Allen Roads was impossible to miss.  So, too, was the eagle perched atop one of the conifers.  It was also impossible for it to be a Golden Eagle as it had a fully white head and tail.  An adult Bald Eagle.  But wait, there was a second eagle in an adjoining tree visible from my parking spot on Josh Wilson Road.  No golden nape and too large a head and beak.  This was an immature Bald Eagle.  Maybe the Golden Eagle was off hunting and would return.  When I walked around to Avon Allen Road, I saw a third eagle, somewhat buried in the branches.  This was the Golden Eagle indeed.  Even in the dim gray light, the smaller beak and flatter head and a golden cast to the head and nape were readily seen.  Juvenile Bald Eagles without white heads and tails are often misidentified as Golden Eagles and on the Samish and Skagit flats, Goldens are very unlikely.  Nobody knows why this one is here or why it returns consistently to this perch, but we are all glad it does.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

I still wanted to find a Northern Shrike and figured the East and West 90’s on the Samish Flats would be as good a spot as any and there was always the chance of finding Short Eared Owls.  The latter put on a good show at the East 90’s with at least three there.  Two were interacting and I do not know if it was a breeding display, hunting competition or what.  My photos just show two owls in flight.  There was a third Short Eared Owl there as well and it landed on the ground not too far away giving me a chance for a decent photo.  And then another as it flew away.

Short Eared Owls

Short Eared Owls

Short Eared Owl


A smaller bird landed on a wire and at first I thought it was my Shrike.  Nope – an American Kestrel – often seen here.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

It was then on to the West 90’s where I ran into Jon Houghton and Bev Bowe who were scouting for the field trip Jon would be leading the following day.  They had seen a Northern Shrike at the dike on Fir Island.  I had forgotten to look there and thought I might return.  We watched a single Short Eared Owl and over 30 Western Meadowlarks, the most I had ever seen there.  They took off and I hiked out into the fields hoping for more Owl shots.  Nothing close, but as I returned to the parking area, a Northern Shrike perched briefly.  It was the 9th FOY for the trip.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike

Time to go.  I was still coughing a bit and congested, but how much better to be out birding doing that than staying home.  I am closing with two Snow Geese photos as they are quite the show in the area.  One a close up and one a distant shot of thousands of them off Fir Island.  Wish I had seen the Prairie Falcon but no complaints…

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Snow Geese1



A Dovekie after the Goose and a Great Cormorant after the Dovekie

It has been a great trip to Massachusetts indeed.  In early planning I thought there was at best a 50% chance for a Dovekie and a 50% chance on top of that for a decent photo.  Then that Barnacle Goose showed up and became the priority.  Per my last blog post, the second time was the charm for that.  ABA Lifer and ABA photo #709.  It was cold today – mid-teens and wind chill in single digits, but the sun was out and I rented a car and headed to Gloucester hoping for that Dovekie.

Fisherman’s Memorial Monument


First stop was the Fisherman’s Memorial Monument.  Dovekies had been seen from there.  There were lots of Common Eiders.  Wait what is that?  A small black and white alcid.  Could it be?  A quick photo and it disappeared in a deep and very long dive.  And I never saw it again.  My first look at the photo almost had me believing.  But almost is not good enough.  I had a Razorbill.  Nice but NOT a Dovekie.



Several more stops including the breakwater at the Eastern Point Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary/Lighthouse.  Lots more Common Eiders, some Harlequin Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Scoters, Scaup, Buffleheads and Mergansers.  I hiked out the length of the breakwater and flushed a Purple Sandpiper but no alcids.  The light was great for some Eider photos though.

Common Eiders – Male and Female

Common Eider Male

Common Eider Female

It was cold in the wind and I needed every layer – and I had brought many.  The breakwater was an easy walk but it was very exposed.  If the wind had been high, it would have been impossible.  It was manageable.

Gloucester Breakwater

About half way back, it happened.  Another black and white form was in front of me and it was not one of the many male Buffleheads.  In excellent light and not more than 50 feet away a Dovekie swam and dove and allowed me to get my life view and my life photo.  They are incredibly small.  It was a very nice moment.




At best I had expected a distant view and without a scope that might have been impossible even if some were present.  This was as good as it gets.  I forgot the cold for at least a while.

It was just after noon.  I wanted to miss the traffic returning to Newton, but there was time for one more quest.  Not quite at the top of my worst bird photos, but right behind Winter Wren, Sinaloa Wren and American Woodcock is a terrible photo of a Great Cormorant.  I spent the next hour plus looking for them in the harbor, on rocks, on islands – in Rockport and back in Gloucester.  Nada.  One more try – Bass Rocks in Gloucester.  As I headed north on the beautiful road with beautiful houses with beautiful views, just before Bass Rocks, numerous dark forms were on a relatively flat rock about 200 yards out.  Up until this day I had seen a total of 4 Great Cormorants in the ABA area and had that one awful photo.  I had also seen them in Africa, and Asia.  On this one rock were 13.  Too far out for great photos but not too bad and an enormous improvement.  A great end to a great day and great trip.

Great Cormorants

Great Cormorants Best

Great Cormorants on Rock

Two life birds and two life photos and the third one may as well have been one as well.  Sign me up for this anytime.

Wild Goose Chases – Second Times a Charm

It is January 20th and I have just returned to my daughter’s home in Newton, MA after a second attempt to find a pair of Barnacle Geese that have been seen in Bristol and Plymouth counties over the past week.  Since this was my second attempt, you can probably guess that the first attempt was not successful.  Thankfully the second was and I now have Barnacle Goose on my ABA Life list.  The experience is reminiscent of other “wild goose chases” where the targeted rarity was not seen until the second attempt.  It is also a reminder yet again to follow Rule #1 on a chase – Go now!!

The main purpose of my visit to Boston was to see my daughter and son-in-law and my grandson who will soon be 2 years old and whom I have not seen nearly as often as I would like.  The visit was long enough to include some birding time and the plan was to get to the coast and try for a Dovekie, which would be a life bird as well.  Two days before I departed Seattle, however, I saw that a Barnacle Goose had been seen in Plymouth County and I figured if it was seen again the next day and again when I was flying out then if weather permitted, I would try for it.  It was seen both days in the same general vicinity so I gave it a go the day after I arrived.

I got to the field on Vaughn Hill Road where it had been reported and there were no geese whatsoever but there were other fields and at one I saw a large flock of geese, and more importantly, several birders with scopes were parked nearby.  It was only 15 degrees so I figured if they were not in their cars this was a good sign.  Unfortunately though, as I parked I got the thumbs down signal.  They had been there for 2+ hours and there were only Canada Geese – hundreds of them.  Disappointing to all of us and somewhat moreso for them as the earlier observations had included two other rarities for the area – a Snow Goose and a Greater White Fronted GooseSnow Geese are abundant in my home state of Washington and Greater White Fronted Geese are common as well.

I hung around for another couple of hours and tried some other fields and ponds nearby, but found no rare geese.  Several new birds for the year since this was a very different habitat than Washington.  My favorite was probably the Mute Swans but I also very much enjoyed a Red Bellied Woodpecker, found not in a tree but seemingly pecking on a cornstalk.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

There were some other consolation prizes as well including nice chats with local birders including some who knew Edmonds birding friend Frank Caruso from his earlier days on Cape Cod and one who was the brother in law of a well known Seattle birder – small world.  I also learned of a great birding site – birdfinder.net – which displays Ebird checklists in pretty close to real time.  Two hours after I got back to Newton, I learned that the Barnacle Geese had been found in a different location – several miles from where we had searched.  Too late to return.  Maybe another chance would come – but a snowstorm was predicted that night.  I had some other species as well including my first Eastern Bluebirds for Massachusetts and several White Throated Sparrows.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird2

White Throated Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow

The snow came but they definitely know how to deal with snow here.  Sunday was a day with the family including a visit to the Boston Children’s Museum – a terrific place and some local dining including a lobster roll – yummy.  As an aside, with the promise of a Kouign Amann, we also stopped at a Nero Cafe.  These are a favorite pastry (as I have written) at the Breadfarm in Edison, WA, so this was a not to be missed comparison opportunity.   It was tasty, but the Breadfarm’s is WAAAAY better!!  Meanwhile I kept my eye peeled on Ebird reports and saw that the Barnacle Geese and the other rarities had been seen by many at several times on Sunday.  I planned another attempt on Monday.

Grandson Griffin and Bubbles at the Boston Children’s Museum


The original plan was to leave around 1 p.m. and get to the new location a bit after 2 p.m. but my obsession with the Go Now Rule 1 changed that to a planned departure at 11:00 and then a great conversation delayed that until 11:15 a.m. – which became an almost disastrous delay.  I got to the new location on Golfview Road in Acushnet, MA around 12:15 p.m. and saw two birders there with scopes.  One was a gentleman I had met two days earlier when the Barnacle Geese were missed.  There were hundreds of geese on a pond in front of them.  Just as I pulled up, a portion of the geese took flight, circled and landed behind some reeds at the back of the pond – now invisible.  Uh-oh.  Yep, that group included the Barnacle Geese which had been in the open moments before.  The Snow Goose was still visible as was the Greater White Fronted Goose but no Barnacle Geese – the only ones I cared about.

Maybe 5 minutes later, a group of geese from behind the pond took flight and headed north.  I saw the Barnacle Geese clearly in my binoculars.  I did not have my regular camera with me – only my back up Canon SX70.  It is much harder to focus and does not reload quickly for a series of shots.  I aimed and took two photos.  Would I get lucky?  Not a great photo but lucky enough.  One of the Barnacle Geese was captured in flight.  Had I gotten there 5 minutes earlier, I would have had a nice photo.  Had I gotten there 5 minutes later – no observation at all.

Barnacle Goose in Flight

Barnacle Goose in Flight (2)

Snow Goose (Blue Form)

Snow Goose

Not a great photo but the smaller size, white face and black breast confirm the ID.  I was then a happy birder.  Later I explored the area and found a field with many geese behind a house that had some bird feeders around it.  I knocked on the door and got permission to walk out into the field for a look.  There were hundreds of Canada Geese and when I got relatively close I found the Snow Goose and got a quick look at one of the Barnacle Geese before it disappeared over small hill.  I pressed on a bit and all of the geese took off.  I saw both Barnacle Geese in flight but there was no chance for a photo.  All of the geese returned to the original pond on the golf course.  I returned as well but could not view the Barnacle Geese which I believe were behind the reeds and hill again.

Bottom line is that it was another successful wild goose chase.  In November 2016, I had a somewhat similar experience.  Mike Resch and I tried in vain to find a Pink Footed Goose that had been seen off and on near Artichoke Reservoir near Newburyport, MA.  It took a second try the next day for me to find that lifer as well.   A few months later I had two – with photos – with Melissa Hafting near Victoria, B.C.

Pink Footed Geese (Victoria, B.C.) – March 2017

Pink Footed Geese

In November 2018, I dipped on a Tundra Bean Goose in at the William R. Finley NWR in Oregon.  Again it took a second try as I found it the next week.  Another lifer and another successful wild goose chase.

Tundra Bean Goose – Finley NWR, Oregon – December 2018

Tundra Bean Goose Flight1

In December 2019, Jon Houghton and I chased an Emperor Goose that had been seen in Sequim, WA.  Again it took two tries – although both on the same day.  We missed it at the Dungeness Landing site but found it later at the base of Dungeness Spit.

Emperor Goose – Dungeness Spit – December 2019

Emperor Goose2

And to complete the Wild Goose chases which needed two attempts, there was the Ross’s Goose (uncommon in Washington) at the Ocean Shores Golf Course in January 2018.  Again it was on the same day, but the initial attempt at the wrong spot on the golf course failed.  As it is said, “the second time is the charm” I guess.

Ross’s Goose

Ross's Goose

I have written that I now so enjoy the chasing that it is not so disappointing when the target bird is not found.  Truth in birding though, I was really disappointed in not finding the the Barnacle Geese on the first attempt.  Not nearly as disappointed as I would have been if I had missed them by 5 minutes today.  I guess Go Now includes not waiting even another 5 minutes.


Birds and Birding Month to Month – 2019

It’s January 2020 – the start of a new year and the start of a new decade.  Lots of plans and no way to tell what really lies ahead, but I know 2020 will be quite different from last year and from many of the ones preceding it.  Birds and birding will remain a big part of my life, but there is no birding “project” ahead.  No 50 states to visit.   No Big Year in Washington or anywhere else.  Right now, I am feeling a bit of withdrawal and although I had a chance to write up a wonderful trip to San Francisco which had a little birding, in the following week I was in recovery mode from a bad cold and so did not really get out much.  There was nothing current for any blog post.  I like to write, though, and wanted to get back to it.  This is a start – a retrospective on 2019 with just a little commentary and a photo or two for each month.

For most months I was birding somewhere outside of Washington – working on my 50/50/50 Adventure and/or chasing rarities in British Columbia.  For at least a day or two I was also able to bird in familiar places in Washington.  It was an excellent year in all respects.  What follows is a month by month catalog of favorite photos – one from Washington and one from elsewhere when I birded in and out of state.   A little background is added.  It was often very hard to select only one photo to include – a nice dilemma to have.



Short Eared Owl  Eide Road/Snohomish County January 15th

short eared owl eyes closed

I had a great birding start to the month on January 1st with some birding in my home town of Edmonds, WA followed by time in Skagit County about 40 miles north.  76 species that first day highlighted by a Merlin, a Peregrine Falcon and 5 Short Eared Owls in Skagit County.  I had good photos of the latter from that day but I have chosen an even better photo from Eide Road in Snohomish County – about 20 miles to the south from later that month.

End of Month total for Washington – 160 Species


Black Rosy Finch – Sandia Crest Scenic Highway, Cedar Crest, New Mexico – January 19th

Black Rosy Finch 2

I only birded out of state once in January 2019 – a great visit to New Mexico as part of the 50 state project.  It was a fun 3 day whirlwind visit with 82 species seen highlighted by time at Bosque del Apache NWR and a visit to Sandia Crest in heavy snow looking for Rosy Finches.  I had only seen a single Black Rosy Finch before – in Colorado in 2016 and had an awful photo.  This time there were at least 75 Black Rosy Finches and the photos were much better.

End of Month total for ABA Area- 187 Species



Northern Mockingbird – Anacortes, WA – February 28th

Northern Mockingbird1

Northern Mockingbirds are uncommon in Washington with maybe a handful of records each year.  When one is reported, listers like me chase after them for year and county lists.  This one was around for several days in Anacortes, WA and posed nicely for Ann Marie Wood and me on a sunny day.  There were many other nice Washington birds from trips to the Coast and to the Okanogan area but nothing really rare and I like this photo.  It was also the last bird seen that month.

End of Month total for Washington- 183 Species


Red Billed Leiothorix – Waimea, HI – February 8th

Red Billed Leiothorix

Hawaii always seemed like it would be the toughest state in which to find 50 species in a single day.  I was able to join my daughter, son-in-law and grandson there on Maui in February and tacked on a couple of days on the Big Island to try for the targeted 50.  With the help of excellent guide Lance Tanino, I just barely made it with 51 species on February 7th.  The next morning I found the Red Billed Leiothorix that we missed on the Big Day and include the photo as it is a favorite although like most others in Hawaii it is an introduced species.  All told, I had 60 species in Hawaii.  It was the only state visited outside of Washington in February.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 250 Species



Harlequin Duck – Semiahmoo Spit, WA – March 17th

Harlequin Duck

March was a very special month as it was the month I met Cindy Bailey who has become a most important part of my life.  I hope and expect I will be able to acknowledge that in every year end retrospective I do in future years – a very good feeling.  Not even two weeks after we met we went on our first birding trip – a visit to the Semiahmoo Spit in Whatcom County, Washington – a few miles from the Canadian Border.   The first bird that turned Cindy’s head was a Black Oystercatcher, but it was this Harlequin Duck that hooked her.  She may never be a hard core birder, and that is just fine, but her participation and support sure are appreciated.  Not a lot of birding that month as much time was devoted to getting to know each other, but we did a first trip to Eastern Washington and there were no trips outside of Washington at all.

End of Month total for Washington- 206 Species

Elsewhere – (No Out of State Birding in March)

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 268 Species



Laysan Albatross – Westport – Offshore Waters, April 20th

Laysan Albatross2

There are many diverse habitats in Washington with Puget Sound, big forests, high mountains, sagebrush and agricultural areas, and of course the Pacific Ocean.  I usually try to go on at least two pelagic trips out of Westport, WA each year – once in the Spring and again in the Fall.  In addition to great “regular” birds, there is always the chance for something special.  Not too long ago sighting a Laysan Albatross was that something special.  With the establishment of a breeding colony off the coast of Mexico, they are now fairly common on our trips – but still a spectacular experience.  In April, I had an excellent pelagic trip combined with some “list building” at the coast and then I closed the month with another good trip to Eastern Washington catching some of the early migration.

End of Month total for Washington- 252 Species


Tufted Titmouse – Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, MA – April 30th

Tufted Titmouse

My only birding outside of Washington in April was during a walk with my daughter in Massachusetts where the focus was on family and then getting ready for a multi-state birding adventure in May for my 50/50/50 project.  Only a handful of species and I include the Tufted Titmouse because it was with her the previous year that I got my first ABA photo of this species.  I would see many more in the months ahead.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 317 Species



Black Backed Woodpecker – Kittitas County – May 29th

Black Backed WP at Nest1

With Spring migration in full force, May is generally the best month to bird in most states – including Washington.  But in 2019, it was almost an afterthought in Washington as I was elsewhere through May 28th and only birded a single day in my home state.  But it was a great day – again in Eastern Washington catching birds that had arrived while I was gone – and looking for a Black Backed Woodpecker in a burn area and then doing some owling at night.  I had 84 species that day, somewhat making up for time lost.

End of Month total for Washington- 275 Species


Connecticut Warbler – Magee Marsh – May 15th

Connecticut Warbler3

There is no good way to summarize the month of May “elsewhere – outside of Washington” or to select only a single photo to include.  This was the month of the BIG TRIP for my 50/50/50 Adventure and I birded in 16 different states, saw incredible places and birds with incredible people.  I have chosen my photo of a Connecticut Warbler to represent this amazing month in my birding life.  I never expected to see let alone photograph one.  Additionally it was at Magee Marsh, a famous birding location on Lake Erie in Ohio that I had never visited before.  As I related in my blog posts on the visit there, I intersected with some extraordinary birders – new and old friends and was also joined by Cindy for part of a day.  So that clinched the choice.  It could just as well have been the Kirtland’s Warbler from Michigan, the Prothonotary Warbler from West Virginia, the Piping Plover from Connecticut, the Black Billed Cuckoo from Pennsylvania or any of many other great birds.

Altogether I saw 298 species in May one of my top 5 best months ever,

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 443 Species



Marbled Murrelet, Edmonds WA – June 23rd

Marbled Murrelet with Fish2

June was a fun combination of some more birding in Washington – a couple of chases but mostly in Eastern Washington on the way to and back from some 50/50/50 birding in the Mountain States.  Hometown Edmonds, WA is situated on Puget Sound and has a public fishing pier that gives great access to some saltwater species that can often be seen close up.  My Washington photo for June is of a Marbled Murrelet with a fish that it caught right off the Edmonds Pier.  The Murrelet is one of 4 alcid species, adding Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, and Common Murre that are regularly seen off the pier, about a mile from my home.  On rare occasions two other alcids have been seen here – Ancient Murrelet and Tufted Puffin and there have also been extremely rare sightings of a Horned Puffin and a Cassin’s Auklet.

End of Month total for Washington – 297 Species


Flammulated Owl – East Canyon – Big Mountain Pass, UT – June 12th

Flammulated Owl

June brought me to Idaho where I added Cassia Crossbill to my life list and got 50 species in a day.  Next up was Utah.  I got 50 species in a day on my own and then joined Tim Avery to do it again, but far more importantly with his expert help, I finally got a lifer photo of a Flammulated Owl.  I had heard dozens but this was my first good visual and photo.  Cindy flew in to Salt Lake City and then we birded and played in Wyoming and Montana with visits to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and some fishing on the Bitterroot River.  An excellent month.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 443 Species



Rose Breasted Grosbeak – Seattle, WA – July 8th

Rose Breasted Grosbeak1r

The Rose Breasted Grosbeak was the last species I saw in Washington that was not on the Review Committee list.  That first one was a female in Neah Bay in October 2016.  Then a young male showed up in Seattle in December 2017 and remained for additional views in 2018.  But the best of the lot was the bright male shown here that came to a feeder in Seattle in July 2019.  In July, Cindy and I visited Sun Mountain Lodge and easily found numerous Dusky Grouse – a regular there.

End of Month total for Washington- 307 Species


Common Ringed Plover – Boundary Bay, B.C. Canada – July 15, 2019

Common Ringed Plover2

Good friend Melissa Hafting from Vancouver, B.C. called me on July 14th and told me there was a Common Ringed Plover at Boundary Bay and that she and others would be searching for it the next day.  A mega-rarity, I could not resist and joined her and others the following day for the search.  It took some doing as it staked out an area that could not be seen from our first viewing spot.  Eventually we hiked out to the other side of a little spit and found it in great light and very cooperative – an ABA Lifer for almost all of us.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 465 Species



Hudsonian Godwit – Crockett Lake, Whidbey Island, WA – August 5th

Hudsonian Godwit Crockett3

August is generally the beginning of good fall migration – especially for rare shorebirds in Washington.  I was able to relocate the Hudsonian Godwit that had been reported from Crockett Lake on Whidbey Island.  It had moved to a different spot that took some walking through the salucornia but fortunately remained there for several days and many others followed my footsteps out for the bird.  Other good first of year shorebirds in the month included Solitary, Baird’s and Stilt Sandpiper.  Frank Caruso and I also had some Gray Crowned Rosy Finches at Mt. Rainier – but no Ptarmigan.

End of Month total for Washington- 313 Species

Elsewhere (No Out of State Birding in August)

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 467 Species



Flesh Footed Shearwater – Westport Pelagic – September 7th

Flesh Footed Shearwater Gaping

Since much of September was spent in the Midwest, there was not much birding in Washington, but I was able to bird the Coast and then join Westport Seabirds for another pelagic trip.  Among the FOY’s seen were South Polar Skua, Long Tailed Jaeger, Arctic Tern and Buller’s, Short Tailed and Flesh Footed Shearwaters.   I also ended the month with a birding trip trying once again for a visual and photo of a Boreal Owl at Mt. Rainier – and yet again one heard but not seen – sigh!!

End of Month total for Washington- 323 Species

Krider’s Red Tailed Hawk – North Dakota – September 15th

Krider's Takeoff

My 50/50/50 birding took me to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.  Many good times with new and old friends and many fun birds.  I have chosen a photo of a beautiful very white Krider’s Red Tailed Hawk.  It was a tough choice though as there were great birds and I got my best photo ever of a favorite – Red Headed Woodpecker.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 477 Species



Eurasian Tree Sparrow – Neah Bay, WA – October 26th


October was somewhat of a recovery month.  I had only one more trip ahead to close out the 50/50/50 project and I had a lot of catching up to do with “normal life” matters left unattended from the previous months.  I had a chance to go to Neah Bay the last week of the month.  I missed a few specialties/rarities but did find the Orchard Oriole.  I also found something else that was rare but I blew it big time.  A flock of “sparrows” were feeding in brush at Butler’s Motel and then flew across the street to more brush.  They were seemingly all House Sparrows. As I scanned the flock, one looked “different” specifically with a dark spot on the cheek.  I told myself that it looked “kinda like” an Eurasian Tree Sparrow which is abundant in Europe but in the U.S. is found only around St. Louis, MO where I saw my first one in 2018.  I also told myself that it was impossible for one to be here and then thought nothing of it, and as the flock flew off I moved on.  Later that day I told the story to the person in Missouri who had shown me the Eurasian Tree Sparrow there.  And that was that until the next day when someone reported seeing a Eurasian Tree Sparrow at Butler’s AND had a confirming photo.  I had really blown it big time – pretty embarrassing.  The photo above is of the Sparrow in Missouri.  Sigh (again).

End of Month total for Washington- 326 Species


Yellow Browed Warbler – Panama Flats, Victoria, B.C., Canada – October 19th

Yellow Browed Warbler Flight

In a replay of the Common Ringed Plover in July, I got a message from Melissa Hafting.  Incredibly a Yellow Browed Warbler had been seen at Panama Flats, near Victoria, B.C.  So off I went the next day and with dozens of others, including Melissa, was able to get a glimpse and pretty poor photo of this incredible mega-rarity.  Fewer than a handful have ever been seen in the Western Hemisphere.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 480 Species



Mountain Plover – Griffiths Priday SP – WA – November 30th

Mountain Plover

I had finished my 50/50/50 Adventure in Arkansas on November 9th.  I was not burned out but not real motivated.  There had already been MANY birding days in Washington when I had seen 50 or more species, but I felt a need to have one more in the same month that the 50/50/50 Adventure had ended.  A trip to the Coast on November 21st added a couple of species for the year and with a couple of stops elsewhere enabled me to have 70 species for the day.  I didn’t know that I would be returning to the coast about a week later chasing a State Lifer.  Carl Haynie had found a Mountain Plover at Griffiths Priday State Park just north of Ocean Shores.  Jon Houghton and I went the next day, November 30th and  found birding friend Scott Downs who was already on the Plover. Yay!!  Jon and I added Rock Sandpiper (regular but uncommon) at the Point Brown jetty and then the Lesser Black Backed Gull (even more uncommon) at the mouth of the Cedar River – a great way to end the month.

End of Month total for Washington- 329 Species


LeConte’s Sparrow – Woolsey Wet Prairie – Arkansas – November 9th

LeConte's SparrowR

Kansas was the last of the 50 states I had not ever visited.  It is where I started my last 50/50/50 Adventure trek – a week-long trip to Kansas, then Oklahoma and then finally Arkansas.  November is not the birdiest of months but with excellent help from some really super birders and very fun folks, I was able to find the targeted 50 species on single days in each state.  The project was completed!!!!!  There were many great birds and I have chosen a photo of a LeConte’s Sparrow.  It’s orange tones are striking and beautiful.  It can be a difficult bird to see let alone photograph as it skulks in heavy high grass.  We had several without photos in Oklahoma and then a much more cooperative one in Arkansas.

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 487 Species



Ross’s Gull – Union Bay, Seattle, WA – December 1st

Ross's Gull1

What a way to start a month.  Around 1:40 p.m. on Monday December 1st, Dennis Paulson posted on Tweeters  that there was a Ross’s Gull in Union Bay in Seattle.  Even though I was in the shower and 12 miles away when the post appeared, I was there by 2:30 p.m and joined another 10 birders drawn by the chance to see this mega-rarity.  Birders continued to arrive and the Ross’s Gull cooperated until at about 3:15, it flew off its platform perch and within another 2 minutes it had been caught by a Bald Eagle and … was consumed.  What a story!!  After that hardly anything else would matter.  I again had the Lesser Black Backed Gull and this time with a Glaucous Gull at the mouth of the Cedar River and then successfully chased a very rare Emperor Goose on Dungeness Spit in Clallam County before ending the year with a few days of birding in the Okanogan where birds were relatively scarce.  A great month to end a very great year!!

With all the time spent out of state in 2019, I was pleased to end the year with 335 species  in Washington even though that tied my lowest number of species in Washington for the last 8 years.  I don’t expect to be anywhere near that number in years ahead.

End of Month and 2019 Year End total for Washington- 335 Species

Elsewhere (No Out of State Birding in December)

End of Month total for ABA (incl. Hawaii) – 494 Species

There is no way 2020 will compare favorably with 2019, but in birding you never know.  It seems like there will be no irruption of northern species this winter and no Snowy Owls have been reported yet.  I am still hoping that this will be the year that a Smew shows up — someday.

Yesterday (January 10th), Frank Caruso relocated a Northern Saw Whet Owl in Lynndale Park.  It remained long enough for me to get there and see it and to take Cindy later – her third owl species as we had Short Eared Owls in Skagit County earlier in the week.  How nice if a Snowy would be #4…

Northern Saw Whet Owl – Lynnwood, WA – January 10, 2020