Early Spring Field Trip to Port Angeles and Beyond
by Sam Merrill and Bob Wadsworth – Nine of us devoted the third weekend of March to a field trip for bird finding in the Port Angeles area. Leaving early Saturday morning, we stopped first at Potlatch State Park near Hoodsport, where we found surprisingly good avian variety including Western and Horned Grebes, both goldeneyes, a loon, Dunlin, and a Purple Finch, among others. Then on to John Wayne Marina on Sequim Bay where variety was weak, but included about a dozen Pigeon Guillemots in bright breeding plumage, several Brant, and — best of all — four Long-tailed Ducks. (Well, birders could have come up with a more engaging new common name for this striking species!)
Soon after leaving John Wayne, we passed a large nearby flock of Trumpeter Swans along Schmuck Road before reaching Marlyn Nelson County Park and our first view open to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here, again, not much variety, but more Brant and our first Harlequin Ducks (some of the old-timers did know how to choose colorful names). Our next stop on the Strait was at the site of the old Three Crabs restaurant, where we quickly spotted a Eurasian Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Sanderlings, and two species each of swallows and blackbirds. A little to the west, Dungeness Landing offered views of the partially sheltered Dungeness Bay, where we observed Pintail and Red-breasted Mergansers. The walking trail at the Dungeness N.W.R. offered a lovely woods, two Bewick’s and Pacific Wrens, and a view of the Spit with its giant curve out to the lighthouse.
After dinner at a Thai restaurant just off the Port Angeles harbor and a good night’s rest, we headed for Ediz Hook, which curls toward the city from the west. More Brant and Harlequins, three Grebes (including Red-necked), Pelagic Cormorants with their breeding-plumage white patches, and Bonaparte’s Gulls. Finally, we reached the rocky shores of Salt Creek Park about 15 miles west of Port Angeles. On the way in to the park, we heard a Hutton’s Vireo and spotted a flock of two of three dozen migrating Turkey Vultures. At rocky Tongue Point in the park, we saw more Harlequin Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-necked Grebes, and — perhaps best of all — Black Oystercatchers and Black Turnstones foraging among the rocks. A fitting end to a memorable excursion to the rim of Olympia Peninsula.