Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big Night Takes over for the next 10 Days

It is Wednesday afternoon and I am packing to go off to Italy for the next 10 days, thus the name of this posting. I was able to live in Florence, Italy for 10 months back in 2003-04, and have been able to stay connected with some friends we made there. So we are returning again with our good US friends, Craig and Renee, to visit old haunts in Florence and Venice. Quite a bit of great food and wine will be consumed, and when I return I will do my best to share it with you.

While I am gone I will of course hope that all the rarities that I still need for my big year will wait to show up after I return, and if not, then have the good sense to hang around until I get back.

I was asked after my last post what code 1-3 birds do I still have left to see this year. For the non-birders out there, the ABA puts codes on all the birds seen in its area based on how difficult they are to find. The very rarest birds are code 4 and 5, and so far this year I have been fortunate to see several. Of the code 1-3 birds, code 3 has the fewest overall while the vast majority of ABA area birds are code 1 or 2. The coding is partly tied to a bird's habitat/geography. So for example a bird seen regularly in Alaska could be a code 1, but for someone doing a lower 48 states big year an AK code 1 bird might be an impossibility. A good example of this would be a red-faced cormorant.

So the answer to the question posed by one of my readers is not necessarily simple, nevertheless I will do my best to respond. Of all the code 1-3 birds that I would expect to find in the lower 48 states, only rusty blackbird (1) is left to see. The other 2 birds I fully expect to find are also code 1 birds--rock sandpiper and common redpoll--but that would be in AK. In the lower 48 they show up in the winter, thus my belief that I will be able to see them. I tried to find both in January thru March, but did not succeed. In the case of the common redpoll, I flushed up a large flock of small birds off a road in Minnesota in January that I believe were redpolls, but since they did not land again where I could study them, I chose not to count them.

A code 3 bird--the Tamaulipas crow--I looked for in the spring and summer in south TX, but did not find any; and the probability is very low that any will show up before the end of 2010. A code 2 bird--gyrfalcon--is a rare visitor to places like Washington state, or northern plains states in the winter where hopefully I will find one in December. Except for a couple of code 2 and 3 pelagic birds, and a few code 3 land birds, all the other birds that I might be able to see before the year is out would be code 4 or 5's. Over the past few years such birds in these groups like pink-footed goose, aztec thrush, loggerhead kingbird, and ivory and slaty-backed gulls have made appearances in November and December.

Finally, since my last post I have been in email contact with Sandy Komito who holds the record set in 1998 of 748 birds seen in the full ABA area (North America above Mexico). I had been trying to find out what his lower 48 number was that year because he had not submitted one to the ABA. Since his goal was on breaking his own ABA record of 722 birds set back in 1987, he had not focused on the lower 48 states. Because of my email he checked his computer records and told me that he had seen 692 different species in the lower 48. Prior to receiving this info, I had thought my friend, Dan Sanders, had the lower 48 record of 685. Now I know that I need a few more birds to move into the top spot for the lower 48. The photo of the great gray owl above is there as a positive statement about my prospects going forward. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still Home; Pelagic Trip Review

It is Sunday afternoon the 24th, and I am still in Chapel Hill. I did not make the trip out yesterday to northern California for the pelagic trip that was scheduled to go out this morning from Bodega Bay. I spoke with the trip organizer yesterday as he stood on the dock having canceled yesterday's small boat trip because of high winds and seas. He told me that barring a major weather change that this morning's larger boat trip would also not be able to go out. And in the past 1/2 hour I received an email from a friend who was at the dock this AM saying that today's trip was also scratched. While I am happy that I was not there to hear the bad news firsthand, I am sorry for all those who made the trip to Bodega Bay only to find foul weather.

So barring some last minute pelagic trip later this fall, I have completed all the seabirding trips for my big year. I made a total of 23 pelagic trips which is more than all the pelagic trips I have done over the years prior to 2010. I had 2 other trips planned that were weathered out. The number of different seabird species seen on these 22 trips totaled 53.

I saw all the birds you would reasonably expect to see plus several rarer ones including great skua; white-tailed and red-billed tropicbirds; Laysan albatross; Fea's, Hawaiian and Cook's petrels; streaked and flesh-footed shearwaters; both types of Xantu's murrelet; and European storm-petrel. Some other hoped for rarities that I have seen in years past but missed in 2010 included herald and Bermuda petrel, Craveri's murrelet and white-faced storm-petrel. Overall, I had a very successful series of pelagic trips which is one reason my big year total is so high.

My last posting generated a question about whether Eurasian skylarks were still being seen on the San Juan Islands in Washington state. Unfortunately the small colony that had been established there as a result of the larger group on Vancouver Island, BC has been extirpated, probably by feral cats. So this is not a bird that I might be able to add to my list by the end of 2010. However, I will be going to Washington state in December in hopes of seeing gyrfalcons and rock sandpipers.

So far in week #43 I have not birded much, as a result the 2 photos above were taken last week at Plum Island when I saw the curlew sandpiper. The top photo is mostly of sanderlings and black-bellied plovers, and the bottom one is of semi-palmated plovers, and western and semi-palmated sandpipers (click on photos to enlarge). I did look again yesterday for rusty blackbirds but to no avail. I was pleased to see a red-breasted nuthatch at my feeder--we do not see these every winter at my house. I will try for the rusty again in the next couple of days while watching to see what shows up on the internet. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Whole Week at Home-The 1st This Year

It is Friday evening, the beginning of week #43. As my blog entry title says, I have been home every nite for over a week which is the first time this entire year that has happened. I have not actually tallied up all the nites I have slept in my own bed this year, but I know that it is less than 30. So I am going on about being home for an entire week because it definitely marks a dramatic shift in this big year for me.

While the first 9+ months have been about birding almost everyday from sunrise to sundown, now I am entering the final 10 weeks of 2010 and the rhythm of the year has radically shifted to pretty much one of waiting to see what rare bird will show up on the internet, and can I possibly get to where it is in time to try to see it. As you know, my YTD is currently at 688 different species seen. I believe that there are only 3 more birds that I should see no matter what--rusty blackbird, rock sandpiper and common redpoll. Everything else not yet seen by me at this point in the year are rarities within the lower 48 states.

I have studied the probabilities of which rare birds have made fairly regular appearances in the fall and early winter over the past few years. Based on this review, I believe there are another half dozen that I have some reasonable expectation of seeing before the year comes to a close. Any others beyond that number will be a very nice surprise. I plan to keep on birding as the opportunities present themselves. With the 3 birds I mentioned above I will reach 691 which as best I can tell extends my big year record for the lower 48 states. While I did not set out on January 1st expecting to achieve such a high number, I am pleased that my birding process/schedule, and the good fortune of several rare birds showing up already this year has resulted in this level of success.

The photo above is of a terrapin taken nearby my home when I was out looking to see if rusty blackbirds had returned to central NC. So far they have not, but I know they will. Week #42 ended up with 61 birds seen including the white-cheeked pintail that is a provisional bird for the YTD count, so it is not included in the YTD total. I am waiting to hear early tomorrow morning about the weather conditions at Bodega Bay, CA before deciding to jump on a plane to fly out for 1 last pelagic trip this year. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

White-cheeked Pintail

I did not go out yesterday to the Outer Banks here in NC as my last post suggested, but instead went out early this morning, leaving my house at 5:40 to make the 250 mile drive to Pea Island NWR. As the 2 photos above show (remember to click on them to enlarge), "I got my bird", but it took some time. I arrived about 10:15 AM with the sun out but the wind howling at 20 mph. The white-cheeked pintail that has been at Pea Island for apparently at least 2 weeks was not in the spot it had been seen over the past 3 days.

About 11 AM Bob Ake and his wife, Joyce, joined me to look for the pintail. By 1 PM we were getting pretty tired of being pummeled by the wind, and our stomachs were growling, so we drove the 15+ miles back into Nags Head to get some lunch. We had just ordered when we got a call from a friend of Bob's that the pintail had finally showed up. Bob and I left his wife to enjoy her meal, and to bring us ours afterwards.

We got back to Pea Island to find a bunch of students from E. Tennessee St. checking out the bird. Their professor turned out to be a long time colleague of Bob's. After getting my photos, we decided to drive back towards Bob's wife, meeting 1/2 way to eat our now tepid crabcake sandwich for me, and flounder and shrimp for Bob.

About 3 PM Bob and Joyce headed back to get photos of the pintail, and I pointed my car towards Chapel Hill arriving home at 7. For the 1st 2 days of week #42 I saw 44 birds. Hopefully the pintail will eventually raise the YTD up one more bird, but I need to add here that this is a provisional sighting because most white-cheeked pintails in the end are deemed to be escaped birds rather than wild ones by the state review committees. That said, there is nothing so far to indicate this is not a wild bird--it has been seen feeding mostly by itself, and generally is alone rather than hanging out with other ducks. It is also would be a life bird for me.

I have added a link to Bob Ake's big year blogsite. You can find the link in the right hand column of my site, just above the start of the list of year birds. There is also an updated travel map today. I am now waiting to see what rare bird might show up. I also am trying to decide if I am going to fly back out to San Francisco next weekend to take one more pelagic trip. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plum Island: Curlew Sandpiper

Yesterday afternoon I got confirmation that the hatch year curlew sandpiper that was found on October 8th at Sandy Point on Plum Island was still being seen. So I caught a non-stop redeye flight last nite from Los Angeles to Boston. I arrived in Beantown before 7 AM with little sleep after sitting in a last minute center seat, and was at Sandy Point by 8:15. This was just before low tide, and after 90 minutes of looking, I decided to wait for the afternoon high tide to try further. I also knew that Bob Ake was coming with his friend Denny Abbott to look for the curlew.

After catching a little shut-eye, and then enjoying a lobster roll for lunch, I started looking again about 1 PM. I noticed that a few shore birds were hunkering down in the wrack area created by the high tides. This was the kind of habitat in which the bird was first seen so I thought we might find it there when more birds came into the wrack as the tide rose.

About 1:30 Bob and Denny arrived as did several more birders. We initially kept scoping the shoreline where there were lots of shorebirds, mostly dunlins which look very similar to a curlew sandpiper. But I returned to studying the wrack and realized that there were many more birds hiding out in the debris. The photo above (click on it to enlarge) gives you an idea of what I mean--these birds are white-rumped sandpipers with 1 western sandpiper mixed in (slightly smaller bird in the center).

After sifting thru sanderlings, semi-palmated sandpipers and plovers, and western and white-rumped sandpipers, finally we saw a bird that might be the curlew. But after studying it closely it became apparent that it was a dunlin (photo just below).

About 5 minutes later the curlew was finally found. The 2 photos just above are of the curlew. One is a good side shot that shows the bill shape which you will see is quite similar to the dunlin's. The very bottom photo is a rear shot where you can see the white rump peeking out and the distinct scalloped affect in the wing feathers. Once we found the curlew, while similar to a dunlin in size, etc., its unique features stood out clearly--bit larger, longer legged, slightly more decurved and thinner bill, white rump, lighter overall coloration, and different pattern on wings.

We all took long looks at the curlew since who knows when any of us might see this rare bird again, and about 4:30 we headed back to our cars. I drove into Cambridge to eat at the Summer Shack with one of my best friends. We thoroughly enjoyed some raw Wellfleet, MA and Pemaquid, ME oysters. I then had a pound of New England steamers, and some sauteed herbed mushrooms, and my friend had bluefish.

17 more new birds were seen for the week, and the curlew, which was also a life bird for me, raises the YTD up to 688. I am about to call it a nite, and will be flying home to NC tomorrow morning. On Friday I will be driving out to the Outer Banks to look for a white-cheeked pintail that has been seen there recently. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Red-Throated Pipit

This morning I arrived just after 7 at a dirt field that normally has sod on it down near the Mexican border below San Diego to look for a red-throated pipit (see photo above taken by Mat Sadowski--unfortunately clicking on it will not enlarge the photo). As predicted by Wes, Guy McCaskie was there ahead of me looking for the pipit. We worked the field together for about 30 minutes without locating the bird before Guy needed to leave. I then kept scanning all the american pipits, horned larks and killdeer. I knew this was my best chance to see this extremely rare fall migrant.

About 9 a local woman birder arrived and we began to work the field together. She had been there the morning before with Mat, who had originally found the bird, but she had not seen it then, so she had returned for a second try. Probably 30 minutes after we had started to scan together we realized that there were more pipits in the field than there had been. After another 15 minutes she heard the red-throated pipit calling as it flew over our heads. We watched it land about 50 yards away where we put our scopes on it. While not as "pretty" as it is in its breeding plumage, it was still a good looking bird, and definitely stood out from all the american pipits. It flew up and away, but we heard it again, and relocated it a 2nd time before we decided to move on to other birds.

I drove to a nearby location to look for the large-billed sub-species of the savannah sparrow group. Not only did I find 3 of them feeding together, but in my search I also saw the typical savannahs and the belding sub-species. I returned to my car to figure out what next I should do, and ended up talking with a RV couple about birding in places like Gambell, AK.

I saw 12 more new birds for the week, and the pipit brings the YTD up to 687. I am sitting writing this post at a McDonald's waiting to see if the curlew sandpiper found a few days ago in Massachusetts was seen again today. If it was I probably will catch a redeye flight tonite to Boston. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Gray Owl!!!!!

The past 2 days have not turned out as planned because the pelagic trip out of Half Moon Bay was cancelled late yesterday morning due to high seas. As a result, I went to Yosemite and met up with Wes Fritz to try again for the great gray owl. After checking into our motel in Oakhurst, a small resort town south of the south entrance to Yosemite NP, we drove about 25 miles up to the town of Wawona to check out a long time great gray site. It is a 9 hole golf course that abuts a good sized alpine meadow. For years many birders found their life great gray here, but the bird has been much less reliable at Wawona the past couple of years. Plus, they are repaving the road, so after a quick look around, we decided to drive up to Glacier Point road.

It takes about 45 minutes of additional driving to reach McGurk meadow. This is the place that a great gray was seen by other birders 3 weeks ago when I first tried for the owl at Yosemite but came up short. We hiked the 15 minutes down to the meadow from the road, arriving at dusk. We ran into another birder who had been searching the meadow for over an hour but had not seen an owl. He joined up with us, and we went to the place where the owl had been seen 3 weeks earlier.

We settled down on a couple of logs, and began to hear a female great gray calling up the meadow. Its call was getting increasingly louder, so we knew it was working its way towards us. Earlier that afternoon I was talking to a friend about going after the owl, and she told me that at dusk we would have it fly by us. Sure enough the great gray flew about 30 feet above our heads as it moved down the meadow. In the essentially moonless nite you clearly could see that it was a great gray by its size and shape, but it was mostly just a silhouette against the cloudless sky. After about 30 minutes of stumbling around in the dark in an effort to follow its call but not seeing it again, we hiked back out to our car, and went back down to Oakhurst for the nite.

This morning Wes and I went back into Yosemite before sunrise. We arrived at Glacier Point after 1st lite, and I took the top picture of Half Dome. We went to the Point first in an effort to see some sooty grouse, but none were about that early, so we went back to McGurk meadow to try to get photos of a great gray. On our way down to the meadow we did get a nice look at a black-backed woodpecker, but after 30 minutes in the meadow we found no owls.

We then went to a different site that I had also tried 3 weeks ago to no avail. As soon as we stepped out of the car we heard a female calling, and then a male responding. We walked out thru the meadow, thru a band of trees, and entered a smaller 2nd meadow. As we came into the next meadow the male owl flushed and flew further down the meadow. We then starting hearing juveniles calling for food. After about a 100 yards of walking we found the juveniles, and soon the 2 parents flew into nearby trees. The middle and bottom photos are of each of the parents (click on photo to enlarge).

We hung out with the family group for about 30 minutes, following them further into the woods. Wes said it was the absolute best great gray owl sighting he had ever had. I had first seen great grays in Minnesota back in January of 2005 when so many had come down out of Canada that you could see 1 every mile as you drove down the highway. But this encounter was so special because of the family group, our closeness to the birds, the different calls of the male, female and the kids, and the beautiful sunny morning.

The past 2 days for me qualify as another "red letter day". Being able to bird with Wes, who is such a good birder, was a real treat. And finally seeing the great gray owl after putting in so much time in Minnesota in January and again in June, plus looking in July in Oregon, and 3 weeks ago at Yosemite. The great gray had become my toughest bird of the year. It is also a "red letter day" because the owl was the last of the really tough birds for me to find during this big year. All the rest of the birds that I might see during the rest of 2010 will not require days of looking as the owl did. So you could say I am now definitely on the downhill side of this yearlong birding and travel adventure.

18 more birds were seen for the week, and the owl brings the YTD up to 686. After retracing my drive route from yesterday, I am back down near San Diego tonite because this morning a rare vagrant--the red-throated pipit--was found just outside of San Diego. I will be at the site early tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A beautiful Day on the Grande out of San Diego

Today I left the San Diego harbor at 6 AM sharp on the Grande. I have never been on this particular boat, or done a pelagic trip out of San Diego, so I was looking forward to what the day might bring. Coming out past the kelp beds and rounding Point Loma as the sky was lightening up we began to pick up waves of black-vented shearwaters plus a few pink-footed and 1 sooty shearwater.

Our main target areas for the day were the 9 mile bank and the 30 mile bank. The Grande is a slow boat, so we needed all of the 12 hours allotted for this trip. It was overcast for most of the morning, but then cleared and was a lovely, sunny day for the rest of the afternoon.

The highlight of the day was 2 or 3 huge rafts of black and least storm-petrels. The top photo shows one of the large groups in a feeding frenzy (click on it to enlarge). The bottom photo is a close up of 3 black storm-petrels pattering on the water plus what appears to be a least flying to their right. The total number of storm-petrels was estimated at 10,000+.

We were all carefully scanning thru the mass of storm-petrels because a week earlier a trip had found these same rafts of birds, and mixed in were 2 white-rumped SP's. After getting back to the dock, the photos taken were studied and 1 of the white-rumped birds was determined to be a wedge-rumped storm-petrel, which is incredibly rare in US waters. After about 30 minutes of circling the rafts a white-rumped SP flew in close to the boat, but photos showed that it was a leach's storm-petrel.

The rest of the day was fairly quiet birdwise. We did see all 3 jaeger species; common, forster's, elegant and royal terns; sabine's, western, heerman's and california gulls; pelagic, double-crested and brandt's cormorants; a few cassin's and 1 rhinocerous auklet; and lots of pacific white-sided dolphins. My hoped for target birds were the wedge-rumped, a blue-footed booby or a craveri's murrelet, but none made an appearance today.

28 more new birds were seen today for the week, and the black-vented shearwater raised the YTD to 685. I am staying another nite here in San Diego before making the 8 hour drive up to the San Francisco Bay area tomorrow to be ready to go out on another pelagic trip scheduled for Monday. I also want to congratulate Bob Ake, the birder from VA who is doing a full ABA big year. Right now he is up in Barrow, AK where he picked up 3 more new birds for the year, and he was on the boat last week and saw the wedge-rumped SP. These 4 birds raise his YTD up to 710, plus he has not yet added the 2 birds from the split earlier this year, so he is really at 712. Way to go Bob! Stay tuned!

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Longer Ruff-less

The past 2 days I have been birding at the south end of the Salton Sea which is about 120 miles east of San Diego. This is my 3rd visit here this year, and as the title of this post indicates, I finally tracked down a ruff. One has been seen randomly over the past 2 months in the same general area with ground zero being near the corner of Garst and Shrimpf roads. One of SOCAL's top birders--Guy McCaskie--reported seeing it Wednesday when he did an all day bird survey at the south end of the Salton Sea.

I had looked at several locations all afternoon yesterday, but did not find it. I did see lots of birds with the best shorebird of the day being a pectoral sandpiper. Wes Fritz called me about 6:30 to tell me that Guy had seen a ruff Wednesday. I rushed over to the spot and scanned for it for about 15 minutes before it got too dark to look any longer. So I spent the nite down in El Centro and was back looking again about 7:30 this morning.

It was a very nice early morning with little wind and plenty of birds feeding. Mostly I was sorting thru long-billed dowitchers, american avocets and black-necked stilts, killdeers, and a few peeps in search of the ruff. After about an hour I finally found it but it was a good 100 yards out. I watched it for about 5 minutes, and then it walked out of the edge of the water and disappeared into the grass. I then slogged out thru the mud to try to get another look, but could not relocate the bird.

I birded some other nearby spots, returning regularly in hopes of another sighting, but it did not return. At 11 AM I decided to start my drive to San Diego where I am spending the nite. The photos above are of a say's phoebe (top) and a burrowing owl (bottom) which I took yesterday. Remember to click on the photo to enlarge it.

Yesterday was the end of week #40, and 118 birds were seen for the week. Today I saw 57 birds to begin the new week, and the ruff raised the YTD to 684. I will be going out tomorrow on the Grande, an 85 ft boat, to try for some more new pelagic birds for the year. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back in Southern California

It is Wednesday evening and I am sitting in my motel room in Palm Springs, CA. I spent all day flying from NC to Los Angeles, and then driving 2+ hours out to Palm Springs. Since there are no rare birds that I still need being reported right now in SOCAL, I am planning to spend tomorrow birding the Salton Sea to see if I might be able to find something of interest.

As I said in a recent post, I also want to comment on the non-birding part of my big year at this 3/4's point. For starters, I still am having fun pursuing all the different elements of my 2010 travel adventure. I have seen many friends, some of them more than once as I have criss-crossed the country. I have been able to slow down at times and "smell the other roses" of this year, but probably not quite as much as I had originally intended. The balancing of the birding agenda and the rest of the travel adventure has tilted more towards the birding than I had thought it might. I believe this is a function of how much I like to be out birding in general, and more specifically because of the success I have had in finding so many birds.

As a result, my hunt for great hamburgers and pizzas has not been as extensive as I had planned. As I said earlier, I feel much better overall about the quality of the wood-fired pizzas that I have thoroughly enjoyed eating than I do about the hamburgers that I have consumed. I still have 3 months to improve on this and hope that the quality of the hamburgers yet to be eaten prove to be better than they have so far. And of course I want the pizzas to stay at the same high level.

As far as "fine dining" during the year, I have had some very good meals, most recently in Las Vegas. And I anticipate a few more before the year is out. What I have once again come to more fully appreciate is just how fortunate I am to have some truly outstanding restaurants right where I live in North Carolina. And as good as the food I have eaten at places like Cochon in New Orleans, and Bouchon and Rosemary's in Vegas, the best meals of the year have been those I shared with my wife at the Magnolia Grill in Durham, NC.

The only thing about the big year at this juncture that is "getting old" is the constant driving required to get between birding spots. I had originally thought I would drive 40-45,000 miles for the year, but I am already at 58,000. By year's end it will be around 65,000 miles. And the flying miles will probably be about the same. While I usually like driving, I have to say that this year has definitely pushed me over the limit. I will be very glad to be back to a normal year of driving in 2011. And I know of no one who particularly enjoys air travel anymore.

Over the past 2 days 7 more new birds were seen for the week. With the Salton Sea's birding abundance, the number should climb tomorrow. There is an updated travel map. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Talking Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

It is Monday late afternoon here in Chapel Hill and I am feeling a bit worn out from my redeye flight home last nite from Seattle. Yes, it's true, I made a 48 hour round trip out to the greater Seattle area in search of a horned puffin and some sharp-tailed sandpipers that were reported there on Friday. Both birds are on my "highly rare" list for the lower 48 states, plus a ruff had been seen in the same area in the past week. So Saturday morning I flew to Seattle, arriving about 6 PM, and drove about an hour north to Mt. Vernon to spend the nite.

Yesterday I woke up about 5:30 AM, but not to bird. I wanted to watch some of the Ryder Cup golf being played over in Wales. The golf played by the Euros was quite good, but unfortunately the Americans were off their game. So I headed out about 7:30 AM to visit the Skagit Game Range. I met 2 local birders and we all enjoyed watching 3 sharp-tailed sandpipers feeding in amongst a large group of mostly long-billed dowitchers. They were at least 75 yards away, but they literally "popped" visually mixed in with the dowitchers--smaller size, prominent rusty cap and white eye line, orangey breast area, bright white below and warm brown wings. Being a life bird for me, my only wish was that they had been closer to us.

From there I drove about an hour to a lookout point called Libbey Beach located on Whidbey Island. I spent the entire afternoon scanning for the horned puffin that was seen there on Friday. I was joined early in the afternoon by John Puschock, a birder who lives in Seattle that I have been emailing lately about the birds I will be looking for later in the year in the greater Seattle area. We saw a good variety of seabirds including harlequin ducks (top and bottom photos above) and surf scoters (middle photo above--click on photo to enlarge). Other birds seen included red-throated, common and pacific loons; red-necked, horned and western grebe; white-winged scoter; brandt's and pelagic cormorants; marbled murrelets; rhinocerous auklets; and common murres, but nary a horned puffin. About 5 PM we packed it in for the day.

For the week 58 birds have been seen, and the sandpiper raised the YTD up to 683. I will be heading back to California on Wed. morning. I did not see a ruff up in Washington, so I will still be on the look-out for one later this week probably down at the Salton Sea. Stay tuned!