Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gray's Harbor County, December 10

Getting the T-shirt...

Every trip to Grays Harbor County for me has just been to Grays Harbor itself, along with the ocean beaches.  So I've been there... but with this whole endeavor to see a wide range of birds in every county, it forces you to see so much more of each county, which is what I love!  So by visiting the farmland near Elma this time around, I could say more than "I've been there". 

What popped into my head at some point during the trip was "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt."  I couldn't shake it, so I thought I'd have to get it in the blog with a few footnotes.  :)   I hit Wikipedia to see if it could tell me exactly what I didn't like about the phrase.  Here's what it gave me:

From the idea of buying a T-shirt at a tourist spot in order to show others that one has been to that spot.


been there, done that, bought the T-shirt
  1. (idiomatic, humorous) Expresses the speaker's complete familiarity with a situation, with overtones of cynicism or exhaustion.,_done_that,_bought_the_T-shirt

So all of that minus the cynicism!  I wanted to say that I had been there this year (39 species), that I had done that (50 species for the year), and this time around, I wanted to also purchase that T-shirt (100 species on my life list for the county) by becoming more exhaustively familiar with the county.  It's a shame the expression wasn't about buying mugs - I've been picking some up along the way - but I'll still say this was a T-shirt run to Grays Harbor!

Saturday morning was beautiful.  The stars were out, and the moon was partially eclipsed when I got up.  I made enough noise getting up to wake my son in time for him to see it, and we decided to get my wife up as well.  They went back to bed, and I kept shooting as it became fully eclipsed, then the clouds made their way in for the morning.

Total lunar eclipse
I spent a few hours in the morning up in Seattle, finishing up with a few sessions at the National Science Teachers Association Conference at the convention center.  Great presentations to finish things out!  I made my way back up the hill to my school, where my car was packed and waiting for another trip. 

Good driving, and a good stop in Thurston County, where I found a Western Gull perched on a light!  I stopped to get some lunch, swung by the Home Depot parking lot (still looking for a White-crowned Sparrow in Thurston!) and then continued down the road.

Gray's Harbor - Wenzel Slough Road
Wenzel Slough Road

I arrived sometime around noon, and started to explore the farmlands around Elma.  My first stop was Wenzel Slough Road.  After getting a little turned around, I got over to the south side of Hwy 12 to the start of this seven mile route.  Early on, I found some flooded fields and immediately felt the loss of the spotting scope. 

Pintails just out of reach of my binoculars
 The ducks were a bit far off to ID with my binoculars.  Fortunately, the zoom on the camera goes up to 80x!  It was my spotting scope for the day, and at this time, it showed me that there were Northern Pintail, Mallard and Green-winged Teal in the field.
Downy Woodpecker - Wenzel Slough Road

On the other side of the road, a few trees up against the road held Song Sparrows and a Downy Woodpecker.  The field below even gave me a new shorebird for Grays Harbor - a Wilson's Snipe, which let out its scratchy call and flew off to find better cover.  I also added American Wigeon and the first of many Buffleheads for the day. 

I missed a turn in here, again, and went a bit further south than I had intended - missing Wenzel Slough Road itself.  I was still happy to get a little turned around;  I had a lot of time, and there was a home that had trees full of 5-6 Varied Thrushes - my favorite bird. :)  I also found Red-breasted Nuthatch and Ruby-crowned Kinglet down this little side trip.

River Otter - Vance Creek Park
Once I actually hit Wenzel Slough Road, there wasn't much new until I hit Vance Creek County Park.  Here the water was a little deeper, and I had a Common Loon, Western Grebes, American Coots, Lesser Scaup and Common Goldeneye.  Continuing down the road, a dozen Northern Shoveler's flew overhead and landed in the slough.

Eurasian Collared-Dove
As I got away from water, and back into farmland, I started to find a lot of corvids - Common Raven, American Crow, Steller's Jay, and Western Scrub-Jay.   I also got my first Eurasian Collared-Dove for the county.  I found what looked like a good sparrow patch and decided to explore a bit.  This was hopping with sparrows, including Lincoln's, Fox, Song, Junco and Towhee.  It's so rare that I actually hear Lincoln's - it was nice to hear the calls, pull out the recording on my phone, and have them come out to say hello.

Getting near the end of Wenzel Slough, I finally came across some blackbirds - Brewer's and Red-winged by the hundreds, along with Starlings, which took flight when a Peregrine Falcon swooped in to harass them.  I got to the end of the road well over 50 for the year, and with a life-list in the county just over 90, so I decided to do a small piece of Brady Loop.
Approximately one Sagan of blackbirds
(One Sagan = billions and billions = 4 billion)

Brady Loop Road
Brady Loop Road - farmhouse with Trumpeter Swans in the far field

I was kind of expecting that I would have seen some geese by now!  Surprisingly, there were none seen all day - not even a Canada Goose.  Trumpeter Swans were using these fields, as well as a few shorebirds (Killdeer, Least Sandpipers and a single Dunlin), and more raptors (Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels).  I was able to just get up to 99 by stopping at a house that had Golden- and White-crowned Sparrows, and House Finches.  
Lincoln's Sparrow - Brady Loop

I looped back around to the start of the road shortly thereafter - realizing that there was an option for a shorter loop.  The holes in my list at this point included some birds I thought I could find on a drive from Elma to Oakville on my way down to Ridgefield.  Early on, I got off of Highway 12 and took South Bank Road.  It was nice to be in a place where traffic was so light - didn't have to worry about "driving like a birder".

I pulled off at a cemetery near Cedarville.  Cemeteries always seem like a good stop, if only because they're thoughtfully planted.  I pulled over and got out of the car - looking at some very old gravestones, as well as several with fresh flowers.  I didn't realize that I hadn't seen Golden-crowned Kinglets in the county at the time, so I 'bought the t-shirt' without knowing it at the time. 

What a cool place to do it! I've driven a lot of Highway 12, but never this stretch.  Actually I still didn't drive a stretch of it, because I was on a back road.  It wasn't even one of those back-roads that you take because it's got White-tailed Kites or Mountain Quail, just a little backroad through and area I've never seen.  The cemetery was simple, and the birds ringing up in the trees are ones that I always associate with Kieran. 

Even though I didn't realize I was "done", I enjoyed the minutes there before continuing down the road to find a Gadwall for 101.  From there, it was back to the highway, through Oakville, and then back to I5, finding myself in Lewis County.  An uneventful drive got me to Ridgefield by 5 o'clock, where I met up with John and Nina who would be birding with me the next day.  We grabbed dinner, then returned to the B and B (the Sanctuary Inn in Ridgefield - more about it in the next post - and talked until late about everything from the meaning of life to the upcoming Christmas Bird Count which we'd be doing together on Jan. 1. 

A very good day, and 38 of the 39 counties in the state are over 50 now.  The next post will be for Skamania where I tried to wrap things up the next day.

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