Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the way to the shore - Lewis and Pacific Counties 4/22

Goodrich Pond - Lewis County

Wood Duck - Goodrich Road
Spring break is almost over, and I was able to get out for a trip that started with birding, and rolled into a family trip to Ocean Shores.  I dropped the kiddos off at school on Friday morning, and make my way down towards Lewis County.  (I did make a side stop at Nisqually - not even to the visitor center - and found some shorebirds in the slough just off of the freeway - Greater Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpipers).  Goodrich Pond in Lewis County is north of Centralia, and is a spot that I had visited back in February on the way down I5.

I knew that shorebirds were on their way through the state right now, so I thought I'd give this spot a try.  No shorebirds here, but there were some Bonaparte's Gulls, which are usually seen more often on salt water.  Talking with a gentleman I met at the pond, I learned that Galvin Road had a flooded field with some Dunlin and other sandpipers - a quick trip, and I found them, some Western Sandpipers, Dunlin (sporting black bellies) and a Greater Yellowlegs. 

A lot of these signs on Highway 6!  That's 
why you might not have been on it before.
Each of these got me closer to 39 for the county, but it was time to get going to some different habitat.  Lewis County has farmland that runs all the way up into the Willapa Hills, which lie between I5 and the ocean.  Highway 6 takes a person through these hills from Centralia (where I picked up a Eurasian Collared-Dove) to Raymond, switching over to Pacific County along the way.  One stop that I had always wanted to make was to Rainbow Falls State Park on Highway 6.  I love me a good waterfall, and this sounded beautiful.

Rainbow Falls - Lewis County

The American Dipper was there a second ago, I swear!
This waterfall was not exactly what I was expecting!  It was very splashy, but allllmost looked like something you could take a kayak through.  One thing I had hoped to find here was an American Dipper.  I just hadn't found one yet this year, and they really are fun birds.  

They hang out in places just like this, hopping around in the rapids and eating larvae out of the rivers.  Fun to watch them do their thing, and I wasn't disappointed this time.  I found one almost as soon as I got there - although shooting him turned out to be a challenge.  In the end, the picture here was as good as it got, although the picture tells a lot!  The bird is in the picture somewhere, standing on a rock, happily letting the water run over him as he dipped under the rapids for a few seconds. 

Varied Thrush, Purple Finch, Tree Swallows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Pacific Wrens, and an Annas Hummingbird at the feeder at the ranger station rounded out a lovely stop.  On the way back to Hwy 6, I passed a sign I had missed on the way in (I saw another similar one as I actually passed through Pe Ell further up the road.

Willapa Hills near Rainbow Falls State Park -
leaving Lewis County with 50+ birds.
Elk Heights Road - Pacific County

Pacific County:  Once I crossed the county line, and before getting to Lebam, I pulled off at Elk Heights Road, found a spot by a creek, rolled down the windows and listened.  Pacific Wren, Downy Woodpecker, and lots of noise from the creek.  It was beautiful, so I shot some pictures before going.  By the way, Lebam had me curious, and a quick search for "how did Lebam Washington get its name" led me to a site I have not seen before! claims that Lebam, Washington is indeed Mabel spelled backwards - the daughter of an early settler.

From Highway 6 - between Lebam and Raymond

Case Pond - Raymond, WA

Raymond was full of these nature sculptures throughout the town - birds, animals and fish.  This picture is from Case Pond - a little fishing hole reserved for kids 14 and under.  I chose to go south - towards Astoria (but not all the way there, and certainly not up to Leadbetter Point on the Pacific from there, although I will get there someday!)  Time was short enough - already coming on 2:00.  I took the turn at Bay Center Dike Road, and found the Bay to be full of Western Grebes, Common Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers.  Marshy areas on the other side of the road had ducks, marsh wrens and blackbirds.

Willapa Bay - fishing boat
Oyster burger? Yes indeed.  If I'd brought a cooler,
it would have been nice to bring some oysters home!

After grabbing an oyster burger in South Bend, I made my way towards Tokeland.  Between the Tokeland Marina and Graveyard Spit, this is the most reliable place in the state to find Marbled Godwits.  The first time I came through here, a good birding friend had 'guaranteed' that there would be godwits at Graveyard Spit - no dice, but they were found at the Marina later.  It was the reverse today.  Graveyard Spit was full of thousands of shorebirds - seven species at least.

Black-bellied Plover and dowitcher
Here was one of many breeding plumaged Black-bellied Plovers that I saw on this trip, along with a dowitcher.  Long-billed? Short-billed?  Probably short - there were hundreds of those here - but I didn't pick through the dowitchers all that carefully to see if the less common (for here) Long-billed were mixed in.  Most of the birds there were godwits, dowitchers, and Dunlin.  Later some Western Sandpipers twirled in.

Long-billed Curlew
 I was hoping to find a Whimbrel on this trip, and got excited by the droopy billed shorebird at right, not a Whimbrel, but the best look I've had at a Long-billed Curlew!  It was interesting to see this here after seeing them for the first time in farmland in Grant County!  Below are the last pictures from Pacific County, where I finished out with 56 species for the day.

Shorebirds in flight - Graveyard Spit

Tokeland Marina - empty of birds today, but not always!

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