Field Trip and Event Reports

Field Trip Report – Sauvie and Swifts in September

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The day was supposed to be a wet one so we were all delighted when we met at 9am under a blue sky sprinkled with high clouds. We were there to ride most of the perimeter of Sauvie Island, just outside downtown Portland, while birding. The island contains a large refuge so birding any time of year is usually worthwhile. For those birders who also like to bike, the island is flat and pastoral so a lovely ride on a quintessential autumn day.

We rode and birded for 4 hours before ending at Kruger’s Farm for sandwiches and shopping. After a few free hours to spend as we each liked, we met up again at the Chapman School in NW Portland to view the nightly performance of the thousands of Vaux’s Swifts that roost in the tower there during their migration south. It was not disappointing! It took about 40 minutes for all the birds to settle inside after gathering, circling and flying lower and lower until at last they dropped into the tower. They cannot perch due to their body structure so are on the wing all day. Besides the thousands of Vaux Swifts, we saw on the island, a stunning flock of about 150 White Pelicans, in migration, over 100 Sandhill Cranes, and 5 Great Egrets.  There were also two Osprey nests along the road, which the birds were still using as staging areas, and there were lots of more commonly seen birds as well.

We saw amazing birds while experiencing a wondeful island ride with a wonderful group of people. Join us next September, and check out other upcoming birding trips on the BHAS web page.

BHAS’s South County Bird Binge Field Trip

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Western Kingbird – Photo courtey Mdf – Wikimedia Commons

(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.

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)

Field Trip Report: Birding Sequim, Port Angeles, and more

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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.READ MORE

Annual Audubon Dinner Gala

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The Thirtieth Annual BHAS Dinner gala once again brought together members and friends to celebrate birds and our shared enthusiasm for them. Gathered in the attractive high-ceilinged room at the Community College, we filled the tables, crowded the sale room, and chatted in the wine and beer line. Old friends reconnected and new friends made birding dates. The sale, an innovation this year, offered many intriguing and artful items, and the tasteful—and tasty—raffle items added opportunity and suspense. The accounts of the ongoing work of our award winners—Sam Merrill as the Jack Davis Conservationist and Margaret Tudor as the Dave McNett Environmental Educator of the year—were thoughtful and inspiring. Remarks by Art Wang, our national board representative, connected our work with the wider efforts being carried on across the nation. The highlight of the evening was the invigorating talk by Dr. Julia Parrish, who entertained and informed us about the world of sea and shore birds and the programs that seek to protect them. She offered concrete opportunities for ways to get involved in citizen science projects and do our part to support birds and other wildlife we love. Throughout the evening, our president Deb Nickerson gracefully emceed the event, served up humor, affection and inspiring reflections and kept us on schedule for another very successful celebration of all things Audubon. Thanks to all who made the evening memorable and fun!READ MORE

Hard-Core Birders’ Trip – November 5, 2016

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On November 5 I led a Hard-Core Birders’ field trip from Olympia to Port Townsend via the Hood Canal Bridge and points in between. Dave and Sherry Hayden, Jim Pruske, Lonnie Sommers, and I started in rain at 7:00 a.m. and made our way to Gorst where it was raining harder. Looking up the bay toward Bremerton, we spotted Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed and Mew Gulls, Surf Scoters, Bald Eagles, American Wigeon, and Common Goldeneye.READ MORE

Aboard the Lady Alderbrook with Black Hills Audubon

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On November 12, 41 birders braved the wet, cold, and chop on Hood Canal aboard the Lady Alderbrook. The weather predictions the night before were grim, but the Alderbrook Resort’s dock managers assured me that all would be fine. Our trip was indeed fine, yet in fact—to use leader Bill Tweit’s words—we had “light rain at the beginning, low overcast, and winds gusting 10-30 miles per hour. Water was smooth at times, quite choppy at others. Waters were rough in the Great Bend area.”READ MORE

Big Birds of Clark County Trip – November 2016

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Sam Merrill, Paul Hicks and I had organized this trip for October 15, but it didn’t materialize due to a predicted storm (that ultimately didn’t occur); but ten of us made the trip on November 19. Randy Hill and Ryan Abe, from the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, guided us through an excellent day of birding with some spectacular finds. We visited sites at the Refuge, on the Columbia River, along with the River S auto tour route, Fruit Valley Park along LaFramboise Road, Old Lower River Road, Vancouver Lake (viewed from the flushing channel and North Vancouver Lake access trail and Vancouver Lake Park), Shillapoo Wildlife Area, Vancouver’s Marine Park, the Water Resources Education Center, and Vancouver’s Tidewater Cove. In total, we saw 77 species. Notable finds were Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Great Egret, Cinnamon Teal, Western Grebe, Wilson’s Snipe, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Lincoln and Fox Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatch, Lesser Goldfinch and—rare for the locality and season—White-winged Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, and Red Phalarope.We started by driving the Ridgefield NWR River S auto tour where we stay in our cars as a moving blind to prevent disturbing the large numbers of waterfowl in the adjacent ponds and waterways. Aside from many Canada and Cackling Geese and the common wintering waterfowl, we spotted Red Phalarope (“code 5” in the county), many Tundra—and a few Trumpeter—Swans, several cooperative Wilson’s Snipes, and a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks. At the Fruit Valley Park along LaFramboise Road our patience paid off when a couple of Lesser Goldfinches appeared. At Shillapoo Wildlife Area, we enjoyed good views of Sandhill Cranes and caught glimpses of both Fox and Lincoln Sparrows.READ MORE