Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day birding at Nisqually NWR: June 19th

Well, it's Father's Day... where to go get a nice walk in without torturing the family?  I chose Nisqually NWR, even though I'm 'done' with Thurston County for the year.  The new boardwalk was so walkable before, and it's close enough to Renton.  So we packed up our sandwiches and made our way down a little before noon.
Maura at the spotting scope

The headquarters and visitor's center was actually not a bad stop in and of itself.  I was able to hear a lot of warblers (Wilson's, Yellow, and Common Yellowthroat) and flycatchers (Willow, and Western Wood-Peewee) from the center, Maura spent her time at the spotting scope, and Declan was fascinated with the nests built by Cliff and Barn Swallows in the eaves.   Parents were bringing deliveries of food to the baby swallows, which had him totally jazzed.

I was amazed at how lush everything was compared to back in February.  Unfortunately, lush foliage means invisible birds!  I may have seen 1 bird for every 20 I heard in the trees!  Walking the boardwalk, it was also clear that the ducks which had occupied the little ponds along the first stretch had left for the summer.  Warbling Vireos and Brown Creepers were added to the list before we made it to Twin Barns.  There were also Brown-headed Cowbirds everywhere - looking for nests of other birds to lay eggs in! 

Bre was the 'staff photographer' this time, and we took turns corralling the kids while we walked, although the two of them were pretty content to talk about Yu-Gi-Oh as we went.  Not all of the kids on the walk were so content, however, and we even passed one mom telling her kids, "You made Father's Day bad for your Dad, and I'm very disappointed."  Ugh!  Not today, but Bre and I agreed that, at our worst, we've been there.  Doing things that you want to do with kids who don't want to do what you want to do can be a challenge!  Figuring out how to cajole kids into trying new things is one of the biggest battles for parents.

My happy walkers
Twin Barns
Sora and Cinnamon Teal here
While I didn't 'need' any birds for Thurston for the year, ones that I'd seen earlier in the year had put me pretty close to 100 for the county.  In the back of my mind, I had a list of birds I was hoping to see that would put me over.  Some of them showed up (Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cinnamon Teal), and others did not (Yellow-headed Blackbird, Blue-winged Teal), and there were also a few surprises not on my list!  In this area, next to the dike trail, it took me a minute to realize that there were several Soras calling from the water!

Further along, the kids conked out a little short of the end of the boardwalk.  I went ahead to the end, and watched this Caspian Tern diving for food.  Bre had the camera with her, and got a few shots of it - even the kids thought it was pretty cool! 

Bre took a run up to the end of the boardwalk once I got back, as I started walking the kids back towards the headquarters.  Along the way, I lucked out and found someone who knew the flowers along the side of the trail - lupines, vetch, and.... oh dear... I will have to learn them better.  Maura especially liked asking about them as we walked.  Although we got sprinkled on a few times, it was just a lovely day!  I finished the day with a Thurston County life list of 105, without really needing to work for it.  Probably could have dug up some Wood Ducks if I'd tried, but it's nice to have silly reasons like that to come back and try new trails.  Finished the day with some Nisqually Oysters, just for fun!

Hooded Merganser and young

Maura learns about warblers

Halftime Report - January to June

I'm almost six months in towards finishing up this year - trying to see 39 birds in each of the 39 counties Washington.  All things considered, it's been a good start to the year - I haven't been lost... too badly... yet.  No car problems during any trips... no accidents or tickets... (is anyone knocking on wood yet??).  217 species of birds for the year, 13 life birds, 27 counties visited, 22 counties where I've reached 39 birds for the year (16 of them over 50, and King almost to 150). 

I'm finishing up school work this week, and will be heading off on an 8 day road trip.  This will take me through 25 counties, all told, including ten that I haven't visited yet.  I'll be spending a good chunk of time in the NE corner (Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille), then to the SE corner (Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, Walla Walla), and then hitting the South-central counties of Klickitat and Skamania before heading home.  There's 20 or so birds out there that I've never seen in my life that I could encounter, and 9 counties where I've done no birding before. 

Needless to say, I'm a little excited.  :)  In the last few weeks, I've been getting my camping supplies together, meeting with people who've visited these spots - emailing, and checking eBird.  Bre has tolerated it all pretty well, and even went shopping with me for a new GPS.  The cord frayed on the loaner, and it was an oooold model.  A lot of planning has gone into it, and fingers are crossed!