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Bird Sightings

Bird Sightings
by Bob Boekelheide & Denny Van Horn

The weather has been quite psychotic this spring. First, April rainfall at Seatac scored the third wettest on record, with over half the days recording measurable rainfall. The bottom dropped out in May with only 0.12 in. of rain, which tied the driest May on record. May 2018 was also the warmest May every recorded at SeaTac, with every day reaching a high temperature of at least 60 degrees F. The NWS says this is only the second May on record this has happened. Weather prognosticators say one of the possible outcomes of increased global temperatures and less sea-ice in the Arctic will be a locked jet stream, making weather systems sit longer in place. This may bring persistent storms and flooding to some areas, while unrelenting hot drought conditions sit over other places. Which do you choose?         

In other bird sightings, that lone Snow Goose here much of the winter stuck around until at least 5/25, last spotted by Bob Bagwell flying away with the Canada Goose flock. Michael Barry scoped a large group of 270 Surf Scoters off Jamestown Beach on 7/4, likely first-year birds staying south for the nesting season.

Brad Waggoner spotted a lone Manx Shearwater from Cape Flattery on 6/21. Brad says it flew surprisingly close to the rocks offshore.  Betsy Carlson and Bob Boekelheide, while surveying the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve on 6/7, discovered 20 American White Pelicans roosting on the south shoreline of the island, all clumped up on shore.

The raptor migration at Bahokus Peak near Neah Bay finished with several good sightings, including Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks on 5/13, seen by John Gatchet and Bob Bagwell.  Several Golden Eagles passed by Bahokus, along with one seen by Susan Savage and Marie Grad at Hurricane Ridge on 5/31. In the same area, Brad Waggoner spotted a lone Sandhill Crane on 6/20.

Spring shorebirds pass by quickly, requiring close vigilance. One of the best places in Clallam County for Snowy Plovers, which nest as far north as Ocean Shores, is Hobuck Beach, where several observers spotted an adult male Snowy on 4/28. That wayward Pacific Golden-Plover first seen on our 5/12 Birdathon at Ediz Hook stuck around for a few days, last seen by Eric Guzman on 5/15. Four Red Knots appeared on 5/18 at 3 Crabs, finally dwindling to 2 knots last seen 6/12 by the 3 Crabs Bird Monitors.

Time to head to the mountains!  Michael Barry found an American Three-toed Woodpecker at Hurricane Ridge on 5/6, and P Albin reported a male and female together at the Hoh Rain Forest on 6/7. Eric Guzman found a pair of Rock Wrens near Marmot Pass on 5/28, suggesting they may nest up there. Eric also watched a group of 6 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches on snowfields of Mt Buckhorn on 5/27, saying they make a good case to be the loveliest bird of the high country.

Western Kingbird
Photo by Gary Bullock

It has been an exceptional spring for kingbirds in Clallam County. The most extraordinary was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found by Em Scattaregia and Christopher Hinkle at Sand Point on 6/11, flycatching from an offshore seastack, the second record of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for Clallam County. Gary Bullock spotted a lovely Eastern Kingbird along his driveway east of the Dungeness River on 6/16. Several Western Kingbirds appeared in May through June, ranging from Fort Worden on the east to Hobuck Beach on the west, with several in between.

Eastern Kingbird
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

Keep your eyes out for an all-white Barn Swallow flying around the Dungeness Valley. Bonnie Bless-Boenish spotted it first on the west side of the Dungeness River on 6/22, then Michael Barry found it again on the east side of the Dungeness.  It looks to be a leucistic individual, all white but with dark eyes. 

In vireo news, singing Red-eyed Vireos popped up a few places in mid-June. Christopher Hinkle and Em Scattaregia found one in the Waatch Valley on 6/9, David Poortinga found another at Lords Lake Loop on 6/15, and Michael Barry found one at the Elwha River near Little River

All-white Barn Swallow Photo by Bonnie Bless-Boenish

on 6/19. We hear little about Cassin’s Vireos this time of year, so it was good that Gary Bullock spotted one in his yard near the Dungeness River on 7/3.

It’s been a good spring for American Redstarts throughout western WA. A redstart in immature plumage visited Adrianne Akmajian’s home in the Waatch Valley on 6/19.  Another showed up near Sequim on 6/21, also a first-year male still in immature plumage yet singing a full song, found by Bob Boekelheide.

n addition to the redstart, Adrianne has had a veritable parade of unusual species showing up at her home this spring.

Red-eyed Vireo
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

A female Yellow-headed Blackbird appeared on 5/20, the same day that a very late Golden-crowned Sparrow dropped by. Then, on 6/2, she spotted and heard a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing behind her house. As if that’s not all, she found a Common Grackle at her feeder on 6/7, with its big tail and big bill. Another very late Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared at Graysmarsh on 5/24, seen by Bob Boekelheide. 

On 6/8, Christopher Hinkle and Em Scattaregia also found a Common Grackle in Neah Bay, hiding in a willow behind Butler’s Motel. Could it have been the same bird?  Christopher and Em searched Neah Bay and

American Redstart
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

vicinity for several days, finding several noteworthy birds. Other than the grackle, they picked up a Lazuli Bunting in the Waatch Valley on 6/10, a remarkable gang of 68 Black Swifts sailing over the Waatch Valley on 6/10, and a singing Yellow-breasted Chat on 6/11.

Eric Guzman located our first Sage Thrasher of the year at the Dungeness Recreation Area on 5/15. A female Mountain Bluebird also dropped by 3 Crabs on May 5, perching well for an OPAS field trip.

Lastly, two noteworthy observations from late April were a male Lapland Longspur feeding in a pasture at Hobuck Beach, seen by many observers, and a Brewer’s

Mountain Bluebird
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

Sparrow found by Mark Mizak along the Boom Road at Neah Bay, feeding with a group of Savannah Sparrows.

Charlotte Watts asks a good question – Are there fewer Tree Swallows this year?  She says she typically has more Tree Swallows than Violet-green Swallows at her home off Chicken Coop Rd., but this year she only has Violet-greens. The 3 Crabs surveys have also shown a relative dearth of Tree Swallows this year, although there have been some. Ken Wiersema says Tree Swallows are doing fine at his home in west Dungeness. Any other data points?

House Wren
Photo by Cindy Fullwiler

Fall migration has already begun. The nesting season is winding down and young birds are wandering your way. Please go birding and let us know what you find, at bboek@olympus.net. Thank you for your observations!