Field Trip Reports: Springtime Birding at Three Preserves

Field Trip Reports: Springtime Birding at Three Preserves

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Among Black Hills Audubon Society’s field trips this spring were forays to three preserves I had never visited before, two of them newly acquired by local land trusts: Darlin Creek Preserve, Powell Creek Preserve, and Morse Preserve. Thanks go to Capitol Land Trust and Nisqually Land Trust for partnering with us and sharing access to their new properties at Darlin and Powell Creeks. The Morse Preserve in Graham is open to the public the second Sunday of each month, April through October (Tahoma Audubon Society leads bird walks there these second Sundays), and by special appointment at other times. All three preserves boasted diverse habitat and offered us sights and sounds of our usual springtime Western Washington bird species.

Most birds recorded by me:
The Morse Preserve is a wonderful place. Its paths and boardwalks are well-maintained, their loops totaling about two miles. There are coniferous and deciduous woods, wetlands with boardwalks, meadows, and a tall observation deck. In mid-May, we saw and heard 41 species. Joe Zabransky would bet money he heard Western Tanager, but the bird eluded our efforts effectively that morning. Given Morse Preserve’s habitat diversity, one would have expected to see it. Ah well….

Most accessible:
For those living in the Olympia area, Capitol Land Trust’s Darlin Creek Preserve is the easiest to visit on a regular basis: located at the end of Lake Lucinda Drive in Tumwater, and open to the public all the time. The day we visited in early May, this spring’s rain and cool had just waned. It was still very cool that morning, and while birds were singing and calling (Wilson’s Warblers were especially insistent, and at one point we heard a Pileated Woodpecker), they did not stir so we could see them easily until the sun had warmed things up a bit. About 25 of us, in three groups, wandered different paths, exploring the preserve’s ponds, upland second-growth forest, and riparian habitat. We had good looks at Western Tanager, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Wilson’s Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, and others.

Most riverine:
Nisqually Land Trust’s recently acquired Powell Creek Property in Yelm comprises over 460 acres along the Nisqually River. The Land Trust is restoring the property and has planted thousands of trees and put up bird houses, in which Tree Swallows and Western Bluebirds have nested. (Alas, no Western Bluebird appeared for us, but the gorgeously iridescent blue-backed Tree Swallows watching us out their houses’ holes were very cooperative.) We tramped through pasture past old slough wetland to Powell Creek’s shore on a beautiful warm sunny morning and totaled 34 species. Notables were five swallow species, Vaux’s Swift, Willow Flycatcher, Chipping Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, female Common Merganser, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwing, Western Wood-Pewee, and Spotted Sandpiper. (by Bonnie Wood, Photos: Barn Swallow (top), Common Yellowthroat (center) – courtesy Janet Wheeler)