Monday, January 17, 2011

Northwest Washington - Entry one: Whatcom County

Had a Friday/Saturday coaching conference in Everett, so I made Whatcom and San Juan counties my bookends for the trip, inserting some visits with friends and family as well.  Left school on Thursday after my last class, and actually decided to take Chuckanut, rather than I5, to see if I would end up in a good spot to see some Short-eared Owls in Skagit before meeting up with a friend in Bellingham.  I did see a few - the clearest I'd seen these owls hunting, but it was not my best view of them for the weekend (stay tuned for a San Juan post!)

Boundary Bay Brewing Company - Bellingham

One of the things I'm looking forward to during this trip is spending time with friends and family that are spread around the state a bit.  Thursday evening was a great start to my year, meeting up with a high school friend at Boundary Bay Brewing in Bellingham.  A Western Washington grad at the lunch table at school told me that I had to have the BBQ pork sandwich here, and Mitch agreed.  It is, pardon me, a damn fine sandwich. 

I was hoping to do some owling in the morning - it's the right time of year - and chatted with Mitch about this.  He's not a birder, but gets out around the county a good bit on his bike, so he mentioned several places where he's seen owls during the day, including Whatcom Falls State Park.  In the morning, I checked my map, and realized that the park was really close, so I drove up, and almost immediately after getting out of my car was greeted by a Western Screech-owl calling in the tree right above me.  After two calls, he was done for the day - I walked the park a little more, then decided that wind+drizzle+dark-flashlight= time to go.

Next stop - Blaine!

Boundary Bay, and the Peace Arch

Take a walk with me
And talk with me about Blaine,
The City by the Bay,
Where the sky is blue and people true
And mountains are just a look away.
Blaine, the Peace Arch City.
Blaine, the City by the Bay.
Blaine, the place to live and play.
Blaine, Washington, is our home.

Okay... the sky wasn't blue, and I couldn't see any mountains, but I had to include that bit of "Blaine, the Peace Arch City", written by fourth grade students from Blaine Elementary back in 1979.  Had several college friends from Blaine - one of whom would pull out that song every now and then. 

Blaine Marina, with mixed scoter flock
The Blaine Marina was very windy!  I was able to find some good waterbirds.  The first of which was a Long-Tailed Duck as it was just getting light.  I got a dark dark picture of it, and didn't go back to it, thinking I'd see a lot of those on this trip - whoops!  White-winged Scoters were the bird that I saw the most during the day - nearly everywhere in large numbers - more than I have ever seen down in King county by quite a stretch.  The dots in the picture by the Peace Arch were geese.  Most were Canada, a fair number were Cackling Geese, and two Snow Geese were really easy to find as well.

Snow Geese?  I thought so, but no black
on the tail!  Some kind of domestic varmints..
From Blaine, I went around Drayton Harbor to Semiahmoo Spit.  It was a windy morning, and a spit is not a good place to be when the wind is blowing.  In the choppy waves, there were a lot of scoters - both White-winged and Surf- and Harlequin Ducks, beautiful ducks that love choppy water.  A Northern Pintail was a surprising find, and I also found one each of Red-throated and Common Loon.  The spit was beautiful - I hadn't visited it before, but would love to be there on a sunny day when I didn't feel the need to run for the car.

Cutting across to Birch Bay, I found a Pacific Loon among other birds, including Brant, scoters, and Harlequin Ducks.  Killdeer on the shore were my only shorebirds of the day.  Pacific Loon was one that I had really wanted to see here, as I have seemed to have a hard time finding them in my neck of the woods, although I thought I had one at Birch Bay (see photo below), another look at it, and I realized that this was another Common Loon - the bill is huuuuge compared to a Pacific.  Still a tricky one for me! 

Harlequin Ducks at Birch Bay

Pacific Loon?.... nope - it's a Common Loon that had me tricked

Birch Bay

...but at some point, a path is not a path.
From Birch Bay, I went away from the saltwater and over to Lake Terrell.  This is a hunting area - certainly not the last time that I'll pass through one this year!  The people that look at the birds and the people that shoot them don't always agree on things, but preserves like this are designed to make sure there's plenty of birds, which is fine by all of us.  Nice setting, and found some birds that I had not previously, but nothing out of the ordinary here.  Helped one person out by explaining that the black 'ducks' on the lake are called coots.  Didn't tell them that they're not ducks... nobody likes that...

Northern Pintail - out of curiosity, I looked it up on a hunting
forum... it says that they taste "like duck".

Lake Terrell

Sandy Point was my next stop - again, a lot of new birds, but nothing unusual.  Then it was on to the Lummi Flats.  This area was quite beautiful, sitting on the Lummi Reservation.  There's a lot of wide open land used by geese and swans (although I saw none on my trip), and that brings with it a lot of raptors (which I did see).  Bald Eagles, Northern Harrier and Cooper's Hawk were out today.  Found about 20 Common Ravens in a field, which seemed odd until I saw the deer carcass they were on. 

Lummi Flats
Northern Harrier - Lummi Flats
This was my last stop in Whatcom before heading south.  Wish I could insert a picture of Mt. Baker, but the clouds wouldn't give me a break.  A beautiful day nonetheless, and 58 different species of birds for the county.  Two down!

No comments:

Post a Comment