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Bird Sightings

by Bob Boekelheide

It has been an incredible two months for birds and birding on the north Olympic Peninsula. As more and more birders flock to Clallam County, it’s hard to keep up with all the bird sightings. But here we go…

Trumpeter Swans are back! Stacey Fradkin found two early Trumpeters at Schmuck Rd on 10/24. Snow Geese are back! Bruce Paige found one Snow Goose in east Sequim on 9/2, but the local land owner says it had been around for a week before that. Another Snow Goose, perhaps the same one, hung out with Cackling and Canada Geese at Schmuck Rd in mid-September. Speaking of Cackling Geese, the high count for Cacklers at Schmuck Road was 3700 on 10/20, counted one-by-one by Bob Boekelheide.

Cackling Geese
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

Several birders found a lingering female Blue-winged Teal on 10/10 at Dungeness Landing Park. Cindy McCormack spotted the first returning Long-tailed Duck at Dungeness NWR on 9/14, then Judy Mullally found two Long-taileds at Ediz Hook on 10/6. Rita Johnson spotted a very early Black Scoter off the Dungeness Rec Area on 8/27. The first Common Goldeneye of the fall appeared for Paulette and Mary Ache at Diamond Point on 10/18.

Gary Bullock has been tracking nesting Pied-billed Grebes at Kirner Pond off Woodcock Road. On 9/5, Gary spotted two adult PB Grebes feeding four tiny chicks, likely only a week or two old. According to Birds of North America, a late pair like this likely relayed a new replacement clutch after losing their first clutch. On 9/16, Bob Boekelheide counted two adults and only three chicks, then on 10/4 Gary found two adults and only two chicks. By mid-October the two chicks were as big as the adults, but they still had their striped faces.

Sandhill Cranes made an appearance, first one bird on 9/9 at Old Olympic Hwy and Kitchen-Dick Rd, seen by Sherrie Rogers. The high crane count goes to Brad, Dan, and Kevin Waggoner, who spotted 93 Sandhills flying over Neah Bay on 9/28.

Band-tailed Pigeons have mostly flown the coop, but John Gatchet may have spotted the last two for the year on 10/15 at Gardiner Beach. Leslie and Bob Bagwell have the high BT Pigeon count for the fall at Blue Ribbon Farms, with 153 flocking there on 9/10.

An amazing assortment of shorebirds appeared in Clallam during the last two months. First, and perhaps foremost, the second Little Stint ever for WA State occurred near Neah Bay on 8/31, found by Adam Crutcher, Jason Vassallo, Adrian Lee, and WIll Brooks. This bird is a classic case of a long-distance migrant wandering off-course, because Little Stints nest in Arctic Europe and Siberia, and typically winter in Africa and around the Indian Ocean. Adam Crutcher also discovered 8 Black-necked Stilts standing in the Elwha River near its mouth on 9/7. Unfortunately neither the Stint nor the Stilts stuck around for long.

What’s with all the golden-plovers? Several Pacific Golden-Plovers appeared in Dungeness Bay from August through October, with a high count of 3 on 9/13. Most of these birds were juveniles, but one was a post-breeding adult that looks very similar to the Pacific Golden-Plover(s) that wintered here over the last three years, making us wonder if could be the same bird. Another two Pacific Golden-Plovers showed up at Ediz Hook, first seen by Carolyn Wilcox and Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin on 8/11, and last seen on 9/4. Another Pacific Golden-Plover appeared at Tsoo-Yess Beach on 10/26, reported by Roger Isbert. One American Golden-Plover appeared at Tsoo-Yess Beach from 8/31-9/1, seen by many observers, then another American appeared at Hobuck Beach from 10/1-2, first seen by Bruce Paige and Michael Barry.

American Golden Plover
Photo by Michael Barry

Eric Guzman discovered a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Dungeness Spit on 8/30, where John Gatchet found it the next day. Also on 8/30, Darcy McNamara found a likely Pectoral Sandpiper in a pasture near the Olympic Discovery Trail on the east side of the Dungeness River. Michael Barry and Bruce Paige recorded a Stilt Sandpiper near the Dungeness Creamery on 9/1, then Judi White found another Stilt Sandpiper at Neah Bay on 9/8. Bruce Paige and Eric Guzman found a wayward Ruff at Three Crabs on 9/3.

A very accommodating Bar-tailed Godwit is still present off Dungeness Landing Park, where it was first found by Rick Klawitter on 10/9. An equally accommodating Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is hanging out at the mouth of Meadowbrook Creek at 3 Crabs, found by Bob Boekelheide on 10/26.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Photo by Rick Klawitter

In other shorebird news, Michael Barry wins the high count for Whimbrel, with 42 at Dungeness Spit on 9/1. Bob and Leslie Bagwell win the high count for Marbled Godwit, with 41 at Dungeness Landing on 9/15. There’s an on-again, off-again Willet hanging around Dungeness Bay, or perhaps several individuals moving through the area. The last Willet was reported by Judi White and Blair Bernson at Dungeness Landing on 10/26.

Two out-of-the-ordinary gulls appeared in the area, one from the Atlantic Ocean and one from the Far East. First, Roger Hoffman and Bob Boekelheide spotted an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at 3 Crabs on 9/1, a species more at home in the north Atlantic. Second, Andy Bridges photographed an immature Black-tailed Gull at Port Townsend on 10/17, a species more at home in Japan.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

100s of Pacific Loons have been feeding in Discovery Bay and the waters around Protection Island. John Gatchet reports 350 Pacific Loons feeding off Gardiner Beach on 10/15, and the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve bird survey turned up hundreds in feeding flocks with gulls and murres on 10/24. The PIAR survey also found 3 Yellow-billed Loons north of Protection Island, where they regularly hang out.

As expected, many people reported big flights of Turkey Vultures in the last week of September, particularly on 9/28. Ron Sikes reports the last TV so far, with one flying off Point WIlson on 10/22.

Three Northern Goshawk reports in the period: 1) 9/19 by Scott Atkinson near the Upper Dungeness Trailhead, 2) 10/1 by Dave Manson north of Lake Crescent, and 3) 10/22 by John Gatchet near his home in Gardiner. Bahokus Peak and the Waatch Valley produced several migratory raptor sightings, as usual: 1) a Broad-winged Hawk on 9/7 by Scott Atkinson at Bahokus Peak, 2) A Rough-legged Hawk seen on 9/29 by the Waggoner brothers in the Waatch River Valley, 3) a Red-shouldered Hawk seen on 9/21 by Jordan Gunn and Sarah Peden in the Waatch Valley, and 4) a Golden Eagle on 10/25 seen by Bruce Paige in the Waatch Valley. Another Golden Eagle appeared at Hurricane Ridge on 10/6, seen by Brad Waggoner. Also at Hurricane Ridge, Eric Guzman spotted a Swainson’s Hawk on 8/27.

Among unusual herons and egrets, Sue Nattinger watched a Black-crowned Night Heron flying over Onella Road on 9/24. Grace Oliver found a Great Egret at the Shine Tidelands near the Hood Canal Bridge on 9/16.

Good news! It apparently was a good nesting year for Northern Saw-whet Owls to the north, so be on the lookout for these migratory owls this winter. Owls are quite vocal right now, setting up pairs and territories, so listen for their hoots at night.

Dark falcons in the news: Bob Boekelheide spotted a Black Merlin, the coastal subspecies, at Schmuck Road on 9/14. Bob also watched a large, dark Peale’s Peregrine Falcon hunt at Dungeness Landing on 10/11. Peale’s Peregrine is the subspecies that nests along the Pacific Coast.

The most interesting flycatcher of the period was an Ash-throated Flycatcher found by Carre Borre at Neah Bay on 10/19. The bird stuck around until at least 10/24. Tropical Kingbirds appeared in Neah Bay on 9/30 and 10/19,
with one at Cape Alava on 10/14, seen by Jesse Christensen. Late Pacific-slope Flycatchers showed up well into October, with the last seen by the Wednesday morning birdwalk at RR Bridge Park on 10/9. Bruce Paige found a late Willow Flycatcher on 9/24 at the Dungeness Rec Area.

Tropical Kingbird
Photo by Bob Boekelheide

A big migration concentration of swallows occurred at 3 Crabs on 9/24 and 9/25, when approximately 1000 swallows perched on the power lines and cattails. Most of the swallows were Violet-green and Barn Swallows, with small numbers of Tree and Cliff Swallows. One Bank Swallow also mixed in, seen by Bob Boekelheide on 9/24. Purple Martins finally made their escape to southern climes, last seen on 9/12 by Carolyn Wilcox with 5 at 3 Crabs and by Bob Boekelheide with 2 at Dungeness.

The California Scrub-Jay continued at RR Bridge Park, last seen on 10/2, but the species continues its westward march. Iris Winslow found a Scrub-Jay in Port Angeles on 10/7-9, and another appeared in Neah Bay on 10/27. Will they eventually be a common backyard bird in Clallam County?

Two Northern Mockingbirds showed up, with one seen by Donald Sutherland at the Cape Flattery trailhead on 9/5, and another seen by Scott Olmstead at La Push on 10/19. Jordan Gunn and Bruce Paige found a Gray Catbird at Neah Bay on 10/23, near the aptly named “Rarity Corner.” Also in Neah Bay was one immature male Indigo Bunting hanging out at Butler’s Motel from 10/12-19, and a Lazuli Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak seen by Will Brooks, Adam Crutcher, and Jason Vassallo on 9/1. Tim Wootton, while studying at Tatoosh Island near Neah Bay, reported a Lark Bunting on 8/28, along with a high count of 51 Tufted Puffins.

Gary Bullock reported a big warbler fallout near his home on Community Lane on 9/20, estimating about 300 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 2 Yellow Warblers filling the trees. He believes the majority of Yellow-rumpeds were Myrtle types. In other warbler news, Ryan Merrill and others found a Blackburnian Warbler traveling in a warbler flock at Neah Bay on 9/22. Will Brooks and others spotted a Northern Waterthrush and an American Redstart with similar warbler flocks on 8/31 and 9/1. John Gatchet and Bob Bagwell reported a Nashville Warbler at Neah Bay on 9/6. Ryan Shaw found a Palm Warbler at the Waatch River on 10/22, and Sue Nattinger spotted a late Wilson’s Warbler at Onella Road near Joyce on 9/28.

At least three remarkable orioles appeared at Neah Bay, seen by many observers. A Hooded Oriole hung out at hummingbird feeders between 10/19-22. At least two and maybe three Orchard Orioles were there between 9/22 and 10/25. Hopefully some of these will stick around for the Christmas Count. Gary Bullock spotted a Yellow-headed Blackbird among Red-wingeds on 9/18, where it was seen by several others up until 9/25.

White-throated Sparrow
Photo by Robert Hutchison

Sharp-eyed Stacey Fradkin spotted a White-throated Sparrow on the Wednesday am bird walk at RR Bridge Park on 9/25. Gary Bullock found another near his home west of the Dungeness River on 9/26. Neah Bay has been good for wayward sparrows, with 1) a Lark Sparrow there on 9/21-22 first seen by Jordan Gunn and Sarah Peden, 2) a Chipping Sparrow on 10/20 reported by Charlie Wright, 3) at least one Swamp Sparrow at Butler’s Motel from 10/19-25, and 4) a Clay-colored Sparrow at Butler’s Motel from 10/20-24. Abby Haight and Monica Fletcher reported another Lark Sparrow at North Beach near Port Townsend on 10/8.

Lastly, the bird of the month is a Eurasian Tree Sparrow currently at Neah Bay, first seen on 10/27 by Chris Warlow. What the heck is a Eurasian Tree Sparrow doing in Neah Bay? Eurasian Tree Sparrows are common in East Asia, particularly Japan, but are generally considered non-migratory. They have been transplanted to North America around St Louis. Could it have gotten here on its own?

The Christmas Bird Counts are coming up, so now is the time to be out birding. If you see anything interesting, please email Bob Boekelheide at bboek@olympus.net. Thanks very much for your sightings.