Saturday, March 19, 2011

Early spring birding at the Montlake Fill 3/17

Spring is on its way, and track season is here.  This confluence of events means that most of my spring birding is done locally, with the exception of a few of our invitational meets, and some spring break trips I've got planned.  Today I decided I was overdue for an entry, so I hit the Montlake Fill by the University of Washington.  Technically, this is the "Union Bay Natural Area", but it is referred to by most birders as the Montlake Fill, or just "The Fill" because it is a natural area that has been built over a former dump. 

Bewick's Wren
I parked by the UW's Center for Urban Horticulture, and as I changed shoes with the doors open, I heard robins, a Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, Bewick's Wren, Steller's Jay, and Black-capped Chickadee.  So many birds were singing today, and the species continued to roll in as I walked past the greenhouses - American Crow, Glaucous-winged Gull, Anna's Hummingbird, House Finch.  I can still remember vividly seeing my first American Goldfinch along this stretch.  None here today, but I ran into plenty as I continued.

I caught two birds today that I hadn't seen before at the Fill, but I'm sure I'll see plenty of in future visits, two Western Scrub-Jays.  These birds have been more and more visible farther and farther north each year, and this pair seems to have set up permanent residence.  Coming around the corner (I think onto Wahkiakum Lane - all thirty-nine counties have a street named for them on the UW campus, btw) I heard an unfamiliar song, followed it to its owner, and found that it was a Fox Sparrow!  I see them often enough in the winter, but they start singing in the spring, and move up to higher elevations, by and large, very soon thereafter.  This means I don't get to hear them singing all that often, so this was a nice treat.

A couple of birds I heard for the first time this year for King County - Virginia Rail, and Tree Swallow, which put me at 110 for the county for the year.  I also had my first Connie Sidles sighting of the year!  Connie is a birder that has basically adopted the Fill for the last 20 years or more, birding there most days (she has in fact "written the book" on the Fill, a book titled In My Nature).  Every time I run into Connie at the Fill, I learn a ton about the place, and about birds.  We chatted about Meadowlarks, Black Scoters, Canvasbacks and Virginia Rails - also a little about luck and birding, and how to tell a female Cinnamon Teal from a female Blue-winged Teal.

It's still early in the year, but she pointed out that the total species count at the Fill is down about 10 species from last year at the same time (and last year was 20 species fewer than the year before).  One idea I had was that some of the same birds that might drop by the Fill are staying at Magnuson Park instead - I didn't stop by, but there has been so much work to put together good bird habitat there.  A nickel says that there have been more birds showing up there each year.
Wood duck
47 species by the time I left the Fill.  No Say's Phoebe's or Mountain Bluebirds or early warblers, but a very nice morning nonetheless.
The Montlake Fill  (Union Bay Natural Area) - Husky Stadium in the background

No comments:

Post a Comment