Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending the Year Back in Washington

Vertigo subsided, finals week came to an end, and alas break was upon us. Jen and I got back to Washington on December 21st, spent a week in Spokane with my parents, then came over to the west side on the 28th where we're closing out 2014 and ringing in 2015.

My dad and I had a couple pretty incredible days out birding, each of which provided a single addition to my ABA year list. On the first outing we went exploring the left over burns from the Stevens County fires this past summer. We reminisced along the way, recalling the days some 20 years ago when tracking down Black-backed and White-headed Woodpeckers in fresh burns along the Spokane River was some of my first real birding. To this day, it's still some of my favorite kind of birding. On this particular day, we wound up with three Black-backs and a White-headed; the latter wasn't a year bird, but I got much better looks than I had in June. Also had a personal high of 22 Hairy Woodpeckers in one spot. Fun stuff.

Black-backed Woodpeckers

White-headed Woodpecker

And then there were Bohemians...

Bohemian Waxwings

and some real big Mule Deer.

Mule Deer.

Then on the 26th, we headed south to Whitman County where we had a day that far exceeded our expectations. One of the first birds of the day was #507 for the year, a Gray-crowned Rosy-finch at Steptoe Butte. I got to see it for all of about eight seconds as it flushed in front of our car, landed in the road behind us for real quick, then took off never to be found again. The pinkish tones in the wing and gray coloring on the head were unmistakable; such a sweet bird that I hadn't seen for a long while.

Steptoe was dramatically beautiful around sunrise, and gave us the nice surprise of a Moose, my only one of the year!

The number of Townsend's Solitaires was impressive throughout the morning, totaling seven between a couple locations.

Townsend's Solitaire

Colfax was surprisingly birdy, and I even found my dad his only county lifer of the day, a Brown Creeper.

Bewick's Wren

Bohemian Waxwings

Cedar and Bohemian Waxwing

Lesser Goldfinches

Cassin's Finch

And Rock Lake wasn't too bad either:

Golden Eagle

Prairie Falcon

Northern Shrike

 And then, the bird of the day, a really sweet find for inland Washington.

Long-tailed Duck

And with that, we headed to the west side, my hopes high for hitting 510 for the year. We got in on Sunday night, and Monday morning Ted and I were off before dawn. Our first stop was Point Hudson in Jefferson County where Ancient Murrelets flew by and a Black Turnstone scurried along the shore, 509!

Point Hudson at Sunrise

Black Turnstone

The shorebirds were one of the fun highlights of the day, as I wound up tallying seven species.


A stop at Gardiner Beach produced a first for me, this fun hybrid:

American x Eurasian Wigeon

Then further north at John Wayne Marina I found a pure Eurasian...

Eurasian Wigeon

Working our way out to the Gibson Spit area, we came across a group of sparrows that had a couple Golden-crowns, and once we got to the water I had a distant flock of Brant fly by - and just like that I was at 511!

Another fun find from that area was a Northern Shrike, which I don't think I've had on the west side before.

Northern Shrike

Gibson Spit

By far my favorite stop of the day was Ediz Hook. My best find for the day came in a pair of Ruddy Turnstones which I spotted among a flock of Black-bellied Plovers, Black Turnstones, Sanderling, and a Black Oystercatcher. This was only my second time seeing Ruddies in Washington.

And at Ediz, the Harlequins are always close and abundant.

Harlequin Ducks


Black Oystercstcher

Black-bellied Plover

Ruddy with Black Turnstones

Ruddy Turnstones

It took some patience, but I finally came away with these long desired shots:

Black Turnstone

And here's a couple highlights from Island County these past couple days. I love birding out here so much, for obvious reasons.

Surf Scoters and Barrow's Goldeneyes


Lincoln's Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

And now, I can't believe it, but I'm signing off for 2014. I'll do a year recap post soon just to catalog this incredible year, but not before getting a start to the 2015 list tomorrow morning. I will rest well tonight knowing that a year ago I set out to reach a goal, and I accomplished it.