BHAS’s South County Bird Binge Field Trip
(by Paul Hicks) – On May 19 a band of eleven intrepid hardcore birders met at my home in Tenino in the fifth annual quest to find 70 species by 1:00 p.m. The birds were plenty active and vocal, making for a morning of bird bingeing at its best. We hit the 70 mark by 9 a.m., and by quitting time we had tallied 81 species at eleven locations within 5 miles of Tenino.
We began with several common species in my yard and went on to Mull Street marsh, an interesting wetland on the eastern outskirts of Tenino, formed by beaver dams across Scatter Creek. We stopped here three times to check on the changing cast of characters, totaling 34 with several “misses.” We went on to the Tenino-Yelm trail along SR507. Within a short distance the old railroad grade trail here passes through mature and secondary fir woods, bushy hazelnut, wet willow and beaver pond swamp.
Vantine Road is a dead-end backroad that gradually ascends into old Weyerhaeuser land following Vantine Creek through a diverse mix of conifer and deciduous woods and bushes. The many dead trees along the streambed are a favorite of woodpeckers and other cavity nesters, and we found five warbler and three woodpecker species between our two stops.
Bob and Sally Sundstrom have an incredible bird sanctuary on their property on the outskirts of Tenino. We almost felt like we were cheating, cherry-picking the assortment of finches, sparrows, jays, hummingbirds, wrens and swallows that use their feeders and nest boxes—nearly 30 species total. The bird of the day was a pair of Western Kingbirds; this is only the third time in 30 years I’ve seen them in South County.
Blumauer Hill is crowned with a majestic stand of old-growth Douglas Fir surrounded by tracts of clear-cut at various stages of re-growth. We heard a single Hermit Warbler singing; it had been on territory for the past 2-3 weeks—a scarce migrant and local breeder, difficult to find in South County.
We went on to Skookumchuck Valley, sites along Bucoda Highway, and drove west through Rock and Violet Prairies to the bridge over Scatter Creek. By our target time of 1 p.m. we had found nearly everything on our bird-binge list: 81 species plus one possible drive-by heard-only Olive-sided Flycatcher. Four of us “die-hards” continued the quest, heading eastward toward Rainier, where we added 9 species for a total of 90 for the day.
Top five highlights and/or “firsts” for participants: Western Kingbird; great looks at Red-breasted Sapsucker, Lazuli Bunting, and Hutton’s and Warbling Vireos.