by Bob Boekelheide
Following a very cold February, temperatures returned to above average in March and April, with lots of sunshine and few major storms. Even though we like these lovely spring days, it may not bode well for river flows later this summer. This is the time of year that snow needs to accumulate in the mountains, not melt away. Near the end of April, snow-pack measuring stations at Waterhole and Mt Crag in the Olympics measured well below average, with no storms in sight. Compared to the rest of North America, however, we have nothing to complain about; for example, blizzard warnings in the northern Rockies to catastrophic floods in the Mississippi River Valley.
Bird migration floodgates really opened in the second half of April. Western warblers led the torrent, with lots of Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, and Townsend’s leading the way. Wilson’s, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, typically considered later arrivals, are already back at some of their respective locations. Sue Nattinger reported the first Yellow Warbler at Wasankari Rd on 4/22, a bright yellow male with beautiful red breast streaks. Institute of Bird Populations researchers found at least 3 MacGillivray’s males singing near the parking lot of the Olympic Adventure Trail on Dan Kelly Rd on 4/28. Kirsten Tucker recorded the first Black-throated Gray Warbler on 4/14 near Morse Creek in east Port Angeles.
Bruce Paige reported the first local Chipping Sparrow at his feeders near Holland Rd on 4/4, along with the first House Wren in the same area on 4/11. Otis Bush also photographed another Chipping Sparrow on the Miller Peninsula on 4/24, where Chippers might nest. Judy White spotted a late White-throated Sparrow at 3 Crabs on 4/21. Jean Siesener found a spring Townsend’s Solitaire sitting on a fence post along Holgerson Rd on 4/26. Sue Nattinger reported two very early Vaux’s Swifts at Wasankari Rd on 4/7. The Wednesday morning bird walk at RR Bridge Park recorded two early Pacific-slope Flycatchers and a little-late Cassin’s Vireo on 4/24. Kathy Bush had a Canada Jay visiting her feeder near the north end of Miller Peninsula for about 10 days in April, far down in the lowlands for this normal montane species.
Anna’s Hummingbirds have already fledged their first clutches and are moving to clutch number two. Gary Bullock tracked an Anna’s nest at his home in Sequim, seeing two chicks in the nest on 3/22, then successfully fledged on 4/13.
Swallows are back with a vengeance, showing up throughout Clallam County through March and April. The first Purple Martin appeared back at 3 Crabs on 4/2, a single female-type that flew overhead and kept on going, seen by Bob Boekelheide. When the OPAS martin crew led by Ken Wiersema installed the new martin nest boxes at 3 Crabs on 4/21, martins already flew around and landed on the boxes, as if to say “It’s about time!” While installing the martin boxes, Gary Bullock spotted 4 Mountain Bluebirds hopping on beach logs nearby. The bluebirds stuck around for a couple days, allowing several people to view them. Western Bluebirds are back on territories and likely laying eggs by now. Enid Phreaner spotted a male Western Bluebird on DNR land near River Road on 3/21, the same area where she saw a male in April 2017. Please keep track of bluebirds if they nest in your area, and let Joyce Volmut know where they are.
Could escapee Northern Bobwhites be nesting in Clallam County? Sue Nattinger twice reported bobwhites near Wasankari Road, with 10 there on 3/6 and 2 on 4/22. Sue Nattinger and Coleman Byrnes last reported their winter-over American Tree Sparrow in the same area on 2/28. When the snow left, so did the Tree Sparrow. Speaking of snow, Scott Rose reported the only Snow Bunting of late winter on 3/19, apparently getting grit on Hwy 112 near Salt Creek Rd.
Among shorebirds, Leslie and Bob Bagwell last spotted the winter-over Willet at Dungeness Bay on 3/5, the fourth straight winter that one Willet remained in Dungeness Bay, possibly the same bird. Stacey Fradkin and Marion Rutledge reported 2 Pacific Golden-Plovers in alternate plumage at 3 Crabs on 4/1, where Bob Boekelheide found a different one in basic plumage on 4/2. Curiously, one Pacific Golden-Plover also wintered over during the past two winters, but other than these sightings they haven’t been seen so far this winter. Where are they hiding?
Bingo! Michael Barry finally saw a Wandering Tattler in Clallam County, discovering one at Shipwreck Point on 4/28. Lastly, Cindy Fullwiler spotted at least 3 Dunlin at 3 Crabs that were missing feet, walking around with stumps on one leg. Cindy asks: How could Dunlin lose feet? Don’t know.
One or possibly two very white immature Glaucous Gulls has been lurking around Dungeness through March and April. Barb and Bob Boekelheide found one Glaucous with other gulls in a pasture by the Dungeness River on 3/22. John Gatchet found a very similar Glaucous Gull at Roberta’s Pond on 4/24. Same bird? Don’t know.
There was a wonderful movement of Sandhill Cranes in mid-April. The Neah Bay BirdFest field trip watched several big flocks pass overhead at Neah Bay. Later, Ida Domazlicky watched 24 Sandhill Cranes fly over RR Bridge Park near Sequim on 4/19, the same day that Bob and Barb Boekelheide watched 25 Sandhills flying over Dungeness. The Boeks also watched 217 Greater White-fronted Geese and 19 Cackling Geese at Dungeness Bay the same day.
Yellow-billed Loons appear to be a fixture during winter in waters near Protection Island. The Protection Island Aquatic Reserve surveys spotted 5 Yellow-billed Loons on 3/29, the high count for this winter. Sarah Peden and Pam Cahn found one off Diamond Point on 4/7, and John Gatchet spotted one near Gardiner on 3/1 and 4/8. The BirdFest Gardiner field trip also discovered one at Diamond Point on 4/14. Leslie and Bob Bagwell found another Yellow-billed Loon in Neah Bay on 3/2.
Among sensitive species, there are two reports of Great Gray Owls in Clallam County this spring, one on the Miller Peninsula on 4/8 by John Woolley, and one in west Clallam County on 4/21, viewed by a visitor from Texas. Cindy Fullwiler reported the last sighting of the wintering-over Gyrfalcon on 3/8, northeast of Sequim, likely the same bird first seen on the Sequim-Dungeness Christmas Bird Count. Another Red-naped Sapsucker appeared this spring, this one for the Wednesday Morning Bird Walk in RR Bridge Park on 4/3. It stuck around for at least two days, seen and photographed by several
Much more spring migration is on its way, so get out there and find some birds. The month of May brings more flycatchers, Swainson’s Thrushes, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and much more. Watch the mudflats and shorelines for flashy shorebirds rushing north to the Arctic. Go to the mountains for pipits, Horned Larks, and rosy finches. Then email Bob Boekelheide (firstname.lastname@example.org) when you see something interesting or unusual. Thank you very much for your sightings.