Bird Sightings -- Fall, 2007
By Bob Boekelheide
Fall is a lovely time of year to be out birding. Even if the birds are slow, the cool crisp air, colored leaves, and blue sky (yes, blue sky!) make for wonderful adventures.
The most exciting bird news this fall comes from last summer. Linda Griffith, while boating at Lake Ozette over July 4th, spotted a Common Loon pair with a chick at Ericsons Bay, on the western side of the lake. This may be the first recorded breeding of loons on the Olympic Peninsula, as even E.A. Kitchin in his Birds of the Olympic Peninsula in 1949 said he knew of no records.
Observations in the Olympic Mountains were productive in September. Scott Atkinson spotted a Northern Goshawk in the upper Dungeness on 9/13 near the same area where the Late Spring Bird Class from the River Center found one in May. Phil Pickering, while hiking from Obstruction Point to Elk Mtn on 9/18, saw one American Kestrel, one Cooper’s Hawk, 200 American Pipits, and 40 Horned Larks before, as he called it, and insta-blizzard appeared and he had to turn around early. On 9/19, Phil hiked to the Marmot Pass area, finding one Am. Kestrel, 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks, one Cooper’s Hawk, one Golden Eagle, 30 pipits, 10 larks, and one Pine Grosbeak.
Barb Blackie, Scott Mills, Scott Atkinson, and others participated in a National Marine Sanctuary bird survey from La Push on 9/14, going as far as 34 miles offshore. The “best birds” of the day included one Flesh-footed Shearwater, 3 Short-tailed Shearwaters, and 7 Buller’s Shearwaters among the hundreds of Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters. They also had great storm-petrel numbers, including 2 Leach’s Storm-petrels and 2517 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels. Among other species they saw 13 Sabine’s Gulls, 3 Common Terns, 8 Pomarine Jaegers, one Parasitic Jaeger, and over 20 South Polar Skuas. It must have been a great migration day, because during their trip several non-seabirds came near their boat and tried to land, including one Pacific Golden-Plover, a Swainson’s Thrush, an Am. Pipit, an Orange-crowned Warbler, a Savannah Sparrow, and a Brown-headed Cowbird.
Brown Pelicans stayed awhile in late August and early September, including 19 seen by Tom Pysher in Sequim Bay on 8/31, and one flying 1/4 mile out on Dungeness Spit seen by Pam Davick and Sandy Hake on 9/21.
A pair of Gray Jays appeared in the lowlands at the suet feeder of Terry Kush for a couple weeks in September, at Siebert’s Creek near Hwy 101, which is very low elevation for these birds, even when cold conditions force them downslope in winter.
Eurasian Collared-Doves continue to spread, this time along Spath Road west of Carlsborg, reported by Pam Larsen and Melissa Coughlin on 9/17. Harry Bergtholdt also spotted a collared-dove at his home along Towne Rd. north of Sequim on 9/3.
Patience paid off for the Turkey Vulture observers at Salt Creek. Several days of fog limited their sightings, but on 9/24 they counted 597 TVs and on 9/29 they counted 918 TVs, making the highest tallies for the fall. Many thanks to Diann McRae for her patience and to Larry Rymon for sharing the report.
Scott Atkinson had another very productive day at Graysmarsh during his fall count there on 9/29. Among the sightings of typical western WA species, he reported one Swainson’s Hawk, a Pacific Golden-Plover, a Forster’s Tern, and, included in the big sparrow flock, one White-throated Sparrow and one Vesper Sparrow. It’s amazing what Graysmarsh will turn up.
Sandhill Cranes appeared during their fall migration, including 2 at Helen’s Pond at 3 Crabs on 9/18 seen by Lee Bowen, 2 at Kitchen-Dick Ponds on 9/18 seen by Frank Keith, 7 overhead of Dry Creek School on 9/19 reported by Joan Ethier, and 20 that flew over Civic Field on 10/1 reported by Kathe Smith.
On 10/6, Stephen Cunliffe spotted a Franklin’s Gull on the beach near the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in Fort Worden, the only local sighting of this species we’ve heard about this fall. Bruce Moorhead visited the Elwha River mouth on 10/20, seeing a nice assemblage of gulls, including 75 Heermann’s Gulls still hanging around before their fall flight back to Mexico. Bruce also spotted 2 Pacific Loons, 2 Red-throated Loons, 3 Red-necked Grebes, and 10 Horned Grebes.
The Fall Bird Class from the River Center spotted a Long-billed Curlew at John Wayne Marina on 10/25, roosting with the gulls at the mouth of Johnson Creek.
Millie Marzec continued her Western Bluebird sightings at her home up Hooker Road, reporting that her neighbor with nest boxes had two broods fledge this summer, including one of 3 chicks and one of 4 chicks. The spoiled young sat for 2 or 3 days in nearby trees after leaving the nest boxes, constantly calling to be fed. Bob Iddins, in the same area on 9/17, reported 8 bluebirds, perhaps the same ones. Bob also watched an immature Peregrine Falcon rip apart a duck on 9/15 near the Kitchen-Dick Ponds, with feathers flying in a giant cloud.
Chrilo Von Gontard says the Great Horned Owls were hooting up a storm in mid-October by her house in lower Happy Valley, on the west side of Bell Hill. Chrilo also spotted an Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on her honeysuckle flowers on 10/23, as species we’d like to encourage to stick around for the Christmas Count.
It was a great fall for Cackling Geese. Jim Gift reported 300-400 feeding in the fields near Schmuck Road on 10/27. On 10/20, the dawn field trip from the ACOW meeting found about 60 Cacklers at Dungeness Bay, loafing around the mudflats with big Canadas.
It’s time to prepare for the Christmas Bird Count. Don’t let the cool weather keep you inside – get out there and look for birds! When you see something noteworthy, call Bob Boekelheide -- phone 681-4867 (h), 681-4076 (w), or email:firstname.lastname@example.org) -- or Bob Norton (928-3053 or email: email@example.com). Thank you for your sightings.
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