Saturday, July 4, 2015

Olympic Peninsula & Vancouver Island (June 23-24)

June 23

My plan for today was to bird around Ocean Shores (on the opposite side of Grays Harbor from Westport) for the morning, then leisurely make my way along the outer coast to Port Angeles for a 9pm ferry to Victoria Island, BC.

I began the day with a productive 90-minute seawatch from the Point Brown jetty. Birds were moving all over the place, dominated by Rhino Auklets. I would see five species of alcid from this spot, including my first Marbled Murrelets of the trip and yet another out-of-season Ancient Murrelet. Pacific Loons were also numerous, along with three species of cormorant and more Black-legged Kittiwakes. Very few Sooty Shearwaters were evident, except for a large mass of them well to the south off Westport, right about where they were yesterday afternoon.

Mule Deer 'likes' include long walks on the beach

about as good as I could do for a record shot of this morning's Ancient Murrelet

Around the corner I stopped to check the sewage ponds, which is one of a few local rarity magnets. There were no migrants to be seen today, as the southbound shorebird migration hadn't really begun yet. A family of Northern Shovelers and a bathing Peregrine Falcon were highlights here.

I spent the rest of the morning exploring a few spots I had not seen before, with mixed results. One roadside stop was active with singing landbirds such as Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Heading north from Ocean Shores I gave myself a short tour around Quinault Lake, which is rather scenic and highly recommended. Many songbirds were active despite the midday timing. Warbling Vireo, Western Tanager, and Varied Thrush were new for the trip. I was never able to find a persistently calling Sooty Grouse.

Quinault Lake
A logging truck...a not uncommon sight around here...

I worked my way up the coast, stopping here and there for viewpoints and to scope offshore. I got all the way up to Port Angeles before birding again. Ediz Hook was quiet but had a few alcids, ducks and gulls to look through.

miles and miles of sandy beach

where the forest meets the ocean

Ferry to Victoria, BC for the night.

June 24

Today was a bit of a guilty detour to see the introduced Sky Larks of Vancouver Island before heading back into Seattle for that night's ballgame. The Sky Lark, a well-known Eurasian bird, was introduced to the area in the early 1900s. The species did well locally for a while but has since diminished in numbers as the Victoria region has become developed. Honestly, being an introduced species, this would not be much of a loss at all. But I was close enough to see this countable exotic and decided to bite the bullet.

I went straight for Victoria Airport and had immediate success as one bird was actively skylarking (go figure!) over the runways. Neighboring parks held some of the more common birds including what we're apparently still calling Northwestern Crow. At adjacent Padilla Bay Park I spotted two small diving ducks keeping each other company...a male Bufflehead and a female Common Goldeneye. An unlikely pair, and two birds that I wouldn't see anywhere else on this trip.

My return ferry from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA was uneventful thanks to some rain showers that kept me inside for most of the trip. I did finally catch up with some Black Oystercatchers though.

That afternoon was spent with Ryan & friends & family over some fine Mexican food followed by the Mariners vs. Royals game at Safeco Field. Our seats in the right field upper deck gave us a great view of both the game and the downtown Seattle skyline.

Safeco Field

 - NB

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