Washington Adventure 2011
22 July - 3 August 2011
 by Henry Detwiler

14 ace Swedish birders from Avifauna and I toured up the Olympic coastline, out to sea, over the Cascades, and through the sagebrush in search of Washington's fine avian wonders.

214 species seen.  Click here for bird checklist
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos border  

Hungry Birders

The next stop after lunch was Capitol State Forest, where a long search turned up a singing Hermit Warbler. On the way out of the forest a flock of chickadees put Teet (my partner) on this Northern Pygmy-Owl.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

After spending the first night close to the airport, we started out early on Friday and made our first stop at Nisqually NWR, where we picked up our first waterfowl, shorebirds, and regulars like Black-capped Chickadee and American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

Saturday was a fabulous day out on the ocean, with the highlight being a rare Horned Puffin. Other excellent sightings included Black-footed Albatrosses, Pink-footed Shearwaters, and both Fork-tailed and Leach's Storm-Petrels.

"Needles" Beach

Franklin's and Glaucous x Western Gulls

Cape Flattery

On Wednesday we visited La Push and the Olympic Rain Forest. Highlights included a Franklin's Gull, an early Red-throated Loon, White-winged Scoters, and Red-breasted Sapsuckers. The next day we made it to Cape Flattery, adding lots of handsome Tufted Puffins and Common Murres. The coastal scenery was outstanding, and the cool, wet weather suited the Swedes just fine!

Tufted Puffin
Up on Hurricane Ridge (Olympic National Park) we saw a wonderful wildflower display and high-mountain birds like American Pipit, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. An Olympic Marmot was a great mammal find!

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge

On Tuesday we took the Townsend Ferry over to Whidbey Island, which provided us additional looks at several more pelagics: Cassin's Auklet & Rhinoceros Murrelets. Pigeon Guillemots were everywhere, including the shoreline.

Pigeon Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemots

Mt. Baker

Up on Mt. Baker the heavy snows lingered on the upper roadways, thwarting our chances for ptarmigan. A mixture of sleet, rain, and snow made for some chilly birding. Fortunately, the Swedes thought the weather was just fine, and we did get great looks at Gray Jay and Red-breasted Sapsuckers.

Gray Jay

On the way down from Mt. Baker we picked up Vaux's Swifts and Olive-sided Flycatcher, and looked for American Dipper at the beautiful Nooksak Falls.

Nooksak Falls

Nooksak River

Winter Wren

On Thursday we started over the Cascades. Our fist hike was along the Cedar Creek Trail, where we got beautiful views of this singing Winter Wren. The gravel area below the Hardy Burn was a hot spot for these Evening Grosbeaks, Cassin's Finches, and Pine Siskins.

Evening Grosbeak and Cassin's Finch

Clark's Nutcracker

At Washington Pass a flock of Clark's Nutcrackers provided us entertainment and great photo ops. In the Winthrop area we watched a Lewis's Woodpecker feeding, and the following day drove to the snowy Slate Peak, where MacGillivray's & Townsend's Warblers, Dusky Grouse, White-crowned Sparrows, and a single Fox Sparrow were neat finds.

We detoured north to Canada for one day, seeing some great countryside and adding more birds. In the lowlands Willow Flycatchers were common, and a side trip up McKinney Road to the mountains got us a family of Spruce Grouse.

Spruce Grouse

Swallowtail Butterfly

Spruce Grouse Chick

An early morning start on the last day of July turned up a drumming & calling Black-backed Woodpecker close to Havillah. That afternoon, in the Sinlahekin Valley, we found a Red-necked Grebe on a nest, and a small herd of Bighorn Sheep.

Bighorn Sheep

Black-backed Woodpecker

Burrowing Owl
The first day of August found us in the sagebrush of the Columbia River Valley, south of Grand Coulee. We called out Sage Thrashers, Brewer's & other Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees. East of Othello we watched several families of Burrowing Owls. On Banks Lake we got our only Western Grebes of the trip, and at one of the seaside parks added several more Bullock's Orioles.

Carnation Wetlands
We started out our final full day at Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, where a long hike turned up our target, White-headed Woodpecker. At Fish Lake, even higher up in the mountains, we watched Osprey, Bald Eagles, and a Peregrine Falcon hunting for food over (and in) the lake. At a local sugar-water feeder, Rufous Hummingbirds put on a show. The final morning of our trip we scouted around the Carnation Wetlands and the Tolt River, finally adding Black-headed Grosbeak. We said our goodbyes in the early afternoon, celebrating a fine trip to the great northwest!

Olympic Mountain Range

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