Weather predictions promised that rain, cold, and wind would abate for Saturday, March 25, so, hoping for the best, 12 of us caravanned up Route 101 to bird-rich sites on the Olympic Peninsula. Sam Merrill and Bob Wadsworth graciously and efficiently organized and led our trip, while Bob kept records of our sightings.
At Potlatch State Park we noted Western and Red-necked Grebes, Red-Breasted Merganser, Greater Scaup, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Loon, Steller’s Jay, Northern Flicker, American Robin, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco, and a Bald Eagle far away perched high in a dead snag. At Dosewallips State Park, we added Mallard, Eurasian Collared Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Spotted Towhee, while many seals with pups pulled out on one part of the shore and at least one sea lion on another.
The wind was fiercely cold at John Wayne Marina, but despite the chill we spotted Glaucous-winged Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, a Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Belted Kingfisher, and—most exciting of all—five Long-tailed Ducks; frustratingly, they kept diving or were hard to see in the chop, but everyone was finally able to see them. At and near Marlyn Nelson County Park in the Sequim area, we added 200 Brant, about 100 Trumpeter/Tundra Swans, and a Northern Harrier to our list. American Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and swallows were hanging out in rainwater ponds at Three Crabs, but we didn’t stay there long, in spite of potentially good birding at those little ponds, because the cold wind had increased to gale force, hurling sand in our faces and chilling us to the bone. Our last stops in Sequim, at Dungeness Landing Park and the forest path out to Dungeness Spit, yielded another Bald Eagle, about 300 Dunlin, American Goldfinch, a Pacific Wren, and gulls.
After spending the night in Port Angeles, we welcomed a still, sunny Sunday dawn, a contrast to the day before. At Ediz Hook, as the morning warmed, we saw Harlequin Duck, scoters, Common Loon, Red-necked and Western Grebe, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, and Belted Kingfisher. At Salt Creek State Park, there were American Wigeon and Black Oystercatchers, Pigeon Guillemot, scoters, and Common Loon; Common Merganser, Horned Grebe, Song Sparrows, and about 30 Black Turnstone were new to our trip list. Mostly, our group simply enjoyed sitting in the sun with our picnic sandwiches, chatting, watching the deep blue sea, and marveling at the gorgeous colors on the Harlequin Ducks that were feeding off the rocks.
After Salt Creek, some buzzards passed overhead as we made our way to the Elwha River. Milky, full of silt, rushing, it gleamed silver in the sun. Seeing the river and the snowbells and scylla carpeting the open spaces along the road was a lovely way to finish our field trip. (by Bonnie Wood)