Saturday, January 1, 2011

Waking up in King County

Here there be coyotes!

Got out this morning thinking I'd make the first bird of the year an owl.  Each year, I keep a list of the birds that I've seen, and for the last several years, the first entry on that list has been American Crow.  In an effort to beat the crows this year, I got out to the wild area under the power lines running by Royal Hills in Renton.  It's open space, it's got little critters to eat and seems like a good place to find some owls.

7:00 A.M., I got out of the car, and am greeted by the sound of coyotes howling!  I've seen them now and then on these trails, but didn't really need to see one close up today, so I stayed close to the car, hooted a bit and listened a bit.  No owls, but the first birds of the year were not crows!  A Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow and American Robin all woke up before the crows had made the commute.

The crows did arrive soon thereafter.  In my neck of the woods, they head east every morning, and then west in the evening.  There's a giant roost that seems to have moved around a bit over the last few years, but is basically down between I5 and Hwy 167.  Thousands of crows from miles around go there at night, and make the commute back out in the morning. 

On the way back home, I got this shot of Mount Rainier with a sliver of the moon still in the sky at sunrise.  The little black dot right of Rainier is one of the first crows heading east.

Renton Park
After breakfast, I set back out to walk the neighborhood, up to Lindbergh High School, through Renton Park and back.  Highlights of the walk were a Common Raven being chased by crows through the neighborhood (usually hard to find unless you're a little farther out), a Varied Thrush (my favorite bird) in Renton Park and two Red-Breasted Sapsuckers.

The sapsuckers were interesting in part because they were tough to find last week.  The Kent-Auburn Christmas Bird Count took place on the 26th, with dozens of people birding the area extensively and it was a species that wasn't found.  One of them I found in Renton Park (left), and the other (below) was on a tree right next door as I got back home.  The systematically drilled holes are a sure sign that a sapsucker has been working on a tree.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Other birds of the morning: Bewick's Wren, House Sparrow, Black-Capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Flicker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Rock Pigeon, Glaucous-winged Gull, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Anna's Hummingbird, Starling, House Finch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Fox Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Steller's Jay, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Mallard.

27 birds for the morning, and a nice start to the year in my own neighborhood. :)

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