Pacific NW birding

Just back from a medical conference in Seattle which allowed for some local exploring during meeting breaks with Frank Gallo, Ryan Merrill, and Jay Withgott. I came away very impressed with the birding that the Pacific Northwest has to offer at this time of year.

This has been a banner season for Asian vagrants in the region, with Red-flanked Bluetail and multiple Bramblings being the current highlights we were able to enjoy last weekend. A Citrine Wagtail on Vancouver Island was last reported on Jan 13th and a Little Bunting was recently a two-day wonder in NE Oregon, so we did not try for those. Both the wagtail and bunting are almost certainly kicking around somewhere nearby but are currently eluding birders.

Vagrants aside, the birding was just phenomenal. The raptor show in such places as the Skagit Valley and Samish Flats just north of Seattle and at Boundary Bay near Vancouver was nothing short of brilliant. Multiple Short-eared (several dozen), Long-eared, Snowy, and Barn Owls were seen well, sometimes absurdly close. Hawks included two (!) Gyrfalcons, a few dozen Rough-legs, and a "Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk.

If you like waterfowl, you'll have your hands full here. Flooded field after flooded field is covered in swans (Trumpeter and Tundra), geese, and ducks. Eurasian Wigeon are present in surprising numbers, and there's always the chance of finding an Emperor Goose, Falcated Duck, or Baikal Teal among the masses.

On the water, four species of loons are present including a few Yellow-billeds (we saw one), and five alcid species can be expected from land.

And last but not least, we have the gulls. We recorded 10 species plus three hybrid combinations and were able to study them repeatedly. I don't believe that the North American Gull Conference has been held here yet, but it NEEDS to be.

More on all of these in the near future.

 - Nick


  1. I got to spend three days birding the Samish/Skagit area back in early February 2003 and couldn't agree more. That year there was a Prairie Falcon hanging around, and at least one WA birder managed to have a 5-falcon day that winter.



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