Washington State Big Day - May 15, 2011

Published by Ryan Shaw (rtshaw80 AT hotmail.com)

Participants: Ryan Merrill, Ryan Shaw, Michael Woodruff, Charlie Wright


On Sunday, May 15th Ryan Merrill, Michael Woodruff, Charlie Wright and I finished up our 2011 Washington State Big Day. We were attempting to break the record of 201 species seen in a single day within the state. We did a very similar route to our attempt last year on the same date; starting at White Pass on Hwy 12, then heading south on Hwy 97 birding Toppenish, down towards Goldendale and Lyle in Klickitat County, then on to Ridgefield NWR and northwest to Tokeland and Westport.

First a little back story: Our attempt last year was done without any prior scouting of the areas we were birding, add in the fact that most of the areas we covered on this route were unfamiliar to most of us. We ended the day last year with 197 species, a decent total based on the circumstances. We had some very big misses –Ruddy Duck, Common Merganser, Caspian Tern, Semipalmated Plover, Accipiter of any species, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Swainson’s Thrush, Hutton’s Vireo, Bushtit, Say’s Phoebe, Gray Flycatcher, Brewer’s Sparrow and Lincoln’s Sparrow etc.. So this year we decided to take it more seriously and do some scouting.

Ryan Merrill scouted the coast from Rainbow Falls in Lewis County to Tokeland where he had a Red-breasted Sapsucker spot nailed down along with some good shorebird reports from Tokeland. Michael scouted out the Hwy 97 corridor from Goldendale to Toppenish where he found a few of our misses such as Say’s Phoebe, Gray Flycatcher and Brewer’s Sparrow. Charlie and I scouted the White Pass to Toppenish route on Friday May 13th were we found locations for Bushtit, and Lincoln’s Sparrow among many woodpeckers including White-headed, Williamson’s and Red-naped Sapsuckers.

We also wanted to fine tune our route so that we could spend more time birding on the outer coast. Last year we arrived at the coast somewhat late and didn’t have much time to scope the ocean before dark. We ended up getting several birds after dark last year such as Greater Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper and wanted to avoid that as much as possible this year. So our goal was to be ahead of last year’s pace leaving Eastern Washington heading to the west side.

Back to the Big Day:

We arrived at the Tieton State Airport marsh east of Rimrock Lake off Hwy 12 just before midnight. We started our day as the clock turned to 12:00AM and owled the marsh area in the constant cold rain. Last year we had a Long-eared Owl here. This year, the rain subdued our owling, only hearing a calling Sora, our first bird of the day. We ended up owling various spots in the Rimrock area where we did have a Northern Pygmy Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and a Spotted Owl, all encountered during brief periods of no rain. Misses included Common Poorwill and Flammulated Owl.

At 5:00AM we began our first daylight birding at Clear Lake; Camp Dudley Campground. It was pretty wet and miserable with all four of us shivering madly, wondering what the heck we were putting ourselves through. We did pick up booming Sooty Grouse, Pacific Wren, Hermit Thrush and Varied Thrush. No sapsuckers that Charlie and I encountered on Friday scouting, or empids either. We ended up missing Dusky Flycatcher for the day which was one of our more surprising misses.

Next stop at 5:48AM was again at the Tieton State Airport marsh. Charlie and I had a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers here on Friday, we struggled to get one this time as we were leaving. We did add several birds to our tally while again shivering in the constant rain…oh the rain, it was cold. Cinnamon Teal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Spotted Sandpiper, House Wren, Least Sandpiper, Downy Woodpecker and Townsend’s Solitaire, MacGillivray’s Warbler all put in appearances.

1.5-2 miles up Bethel Ridge Road was our next stop at 6:32AM. Here we picked up a gorgeous male Black-backed Woodpecker, which we didn’t get while scouting here on Friday. We also saw our staked-out Lincoln’s Sparrow right where it was on Friday. However, we did miss Red-naped Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker, both of which we had multiple of at this location on Friday. Missed them both for the day!

Driving Hwy 12 east bound we kept checking the Tieton River for Dippers and Harlequin Ducks. The river was raging brown and high, much higher than it was on Friday as a result of the constant deluge we were currently experiencing. We did find 3 Harlequin Ducks on some rocks in the river, 2 males, 1 female.

Bear Canyon was our next stop at 7:20AM. We did not see the pair of Golden Eagles we had on Friday at this location and the passerine numbers were definitely down because of the rain. We did get our staked out Bushtit, a big miss from last year. Nashville Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers put in appearances but no White-throated Swifts.

We were behind our pace from last year and struggling to add the mountain species so we decided to head straight for Toppenish. We picked up Eurasian Collared Dove driving through Naches and also our only Prairie Falcon of the day. An Eastern Kingbird, our only one of the day was seen by a few as we drove down Hwy 97.

We started birding Lateral C Rd of Toppenish at 8:15AM. The rain was intermittent now but we were still hit by a few good squalls. We picked up Virginia Rail, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great Egret, all of the Swallows, Wilson’s Phalarope, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, a lone Common Goldeneye, and White Pelican. We drove this road until the junction of Pumphouse road where we turned to bird the 9 mile stretch back to Hwy 97. Pick-ups from Pumphouse Road include the lingering Eurasian Wigeon, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Savannah Sparrow, 3 Loggerhead Shrikes and Bullock’s Oriole. At the end of this road we had picked up enough time where we were about even with last year’s pace.

We stopped at Tule Road just south on 97 from Toppenish for Sage species. It as quicker stop then last years’ and yielded us Brewer’s Sparrow (missed last year), Sage, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrow, and Horned Lark. Onto BIA Rd 148 a bit farther south gave us our only Yellow-breasted Chat of the day and picked up Lazuli Bunting and Rock Wren.

A few more miles down the road hwy 97 crosses a small riparian creek. There is a sign on the east side of the road that said Pine Springs. This was an excellent stop picking up Lesser Goldfinch (male and female), a surprise for us, still in Yakima County. We also had our first Western Wood-Pewee of the day. Michael also got on our first Bewick’s Wren of the day.

Driving along Hwy 97 still in Yakima County, we picked up a Cooper’s Hawk and Common Merganser (both missed last year) along the river and stopped at the county line bridge and picked up American Dipper. We stopped at Brooks Memorial Park but the weather was still pretty nasty and in the 10 minutes we were there it didn’t net us anything new.

We were still a bit ahead of schedule at this point so we went for a few extra stops that we didn’t do last year where Michael found a few of our target species that we missed in 2010. Along Box Canyon Road, we found a Gray Flycatcher, a farm house along Hwy 97 had our only Say’s Phoebe of the day, and a few stops up Rimrock Road yielded our only Western Bluebirds and Swainson’s Hawk plus the addition of a White-breasted Nuthatch.

We gassed up in Goldendale and headed for the cliffs just east of Lyle along the Columbia Gorge. These basalt cliffs are where we found White-throated Swift, Canyon and Rock Wrens. We had a repeat this year getting all 3 again. We made a quick stop in Lyle and found a Calliope Hummingbird at a feeder. It was 12:44PM when we arrived at Balch Road. We were able to get our targets here very quickly, picking up Acorn Woodpecker, Wild Turkey and Ash-throated Flycatcher. Also several singing Black-throated Gray Warblers and an impressive movement of Western Tanagers with at least 50 individuals moving through in our short period we were stopped.

We crossed over to the Oregon side of the gorge to proceed to Ridgefield more rapidly. It definitely helped our case as we were an hour ahead of our pace last year. We arrived at Ridgefield River S unit at 2:30PM and the hill going down to the main driving loop was just filled with birds. We could have spent all day checking the flocks out. In our short period here we had 2 Nashville Warblers, many Yellow, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped and Wilson’s Warblers. A few Swainson’s Thrush were observed as well. Thanks to Randy Hill who arranged access to usually off limits parts of the refuge, we were able to pick up the Black Phoebes near their nest. We spent an hour and 25 minutes birding the refuge. Longer than planned but it was just so good and productive. We picked up many new species for the day including: Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, American Bittern , Red-necked Phalaropes (4), Long-billed Dowitchers, Great Horned Owls, and Purple Martins. Michael also had a Bank Swallow.

It was finally time to switch drivers so Ryan Merrill took over for me and we drove up towards Rainbow Falls State Park in Lewis County. We picked up a drive-by Peregrine Falcon and Band-tailed Pigeons on the way. We arrived at Rainbow Falls State Park at 5:15PM and spent about 10 productive minutes birding as fast as we could. We picked up Hermit Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Hutton’s Vireo and Purple Finch.

We left for the coast, made a quick but unproductive stop in Raymond at the STP (where last year we had a Glaucous Gull) before birding along the Hwy 105 pulloffs along Willapa Bay. The tide was WAAAY out but we still managed to pick up Brant, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plover, a single Ruddy Turnstone, Common Loon, Red-breasted Merganser and Whimbrel. The last field before coming into Tokeland, where last year we picked up Pacific Golden Plover was productive. No Golden Plovers but there was a flock of 25 Cackling Geese and 16 White-fronted Geese.

We arrived at the Tokeland Golf Course at 7:05 and ran out to the edge to look into the bay. A large flock of Red Knots were fairly close and we obtained nice looks at Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, more Black-bellied Plovers and Whimbrel, a single Long-billed Curlew and a few Marbled Godwits. We then hurried over to the marina looking for Willets, but found none. However, Super Birder Charlie became very, very excited looking at a flock of godwits in the marina, calling out HUDSONIAN GODWIT! The flock flew up briefly and we all got on the bird in flight. It came back down right where they started and we drove over to the boat launch where we observed it for as long as we possibly could before having to move on. A gorgeous bird, definitely the bird of the day!

With light fading, we decided to bypass Grayland beach and head directly for the Westport Jetty. Arriving at 8:10PM, we had roughly 45 minutes left of useable light. At least the weather had cleared up, with very little wind and broken clouds that let in more light. We had a huge flock of Common Terns out the mouth of the harbor, at least 900. Harassing them was 1 Parasitic Jaeger. We picked up several Black-legged Kittiwakes in the harbor mouth, a few Bonaparte’s Gulls and a lone Mew Gull. Also added to the day list were Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, all 3 cormorants, Brown Pelican, Red-throated and Pacific Loons.

We still needed Rocky shorebirds so we went to the Marina to see if we could find any roosting. We drove out to the end of the road by the new condos and looked over at the rocks and had 3 Wandering Tattlers fly by. 2nd year in a row we picked up Wandering Tattler at dusk! We did however fail to find any Black Turnstones or Surfbirds.

We attempted to find some heard only shorebirds without success before heading for Newskah Rd near Aberdeen. Here we picked up our last bird of the day, a pair of Barred Owls that came in to our imitations. We tried a bit more to find Western Screech Owls but decided to call it a day at 11:00PM.

A successful day, considering the brutal weather conditions we fought through and froze through for most of the day!

A big thank you to Andy Stepniewski who gave many suggestions and tips to our big day route and to Randy Hill for his willingness to come out on his own time to assist us on our quest at Ridgefield. And thank you to all the birders who answered e-mail questions regarding locations to species reported and to everyone putting data into eBird, which we used extensively to fine tune our route.

Species Lists

Total – 208 – First location noted.

1. Greater White-fronted Goose – Pastures east of Tokeland
2. Brant (Black) – Willapa Bay
3. Canada Goose (moffitti/maxima) – Clear Lake
4. Cackling Goose (taverner’s) – Pastures east of Tokeland
5. Wood Duck – Balch Road
6. Gadwall – Toppenish – Lateral C
7. Eurasian Wigeon – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
8. American Wigeon – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
9. Mallard – Tieton State Airport Marsh
10. Cinnamon Teal – Tieton State Airport Marsh
11. Northern Shoveler – Toppenish – Lateral C
12. Northern Pintail – Toppenish – Lateral C
13. Green-winged Teal (American) – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
14. Redhead – Ridgefield NWR
15. Ring-necked Duck – Tieton State Airport Marsh
16. Greater Scaup – Columbia River – Cliffs near Lyle
17. Lesser Scaup – Ridgefield NWR
18. Harlequin Duck – Tieton River
19. Surf Scoter - Tokeland
20. White-winged Scoter - Tokeland
21. Common Goldeneye – Toppenish – Lateral C
22. Barrow's Goldeneye – Tieton State Airport Marsh
23. Bufflehead - Yakima
24. Common Merganser – Hwy 97 S. Yakima Co.
25. Red-breasted Merganser – Willapa Bay
26. Ruddy Duck – Ridgefield NWR
27. Chukar – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
28. Ring-necked Pheasant – Toppenish – Lateral C
29. Sooty Grouse – Clear Lake
30. Wild Turkey – Balch Road
31. California Quail – Toppenish – Lateral C
32. Red-throated Loon – Westport Jetty
33. Pacific Loon – Westport Jetty
34. Common Loon – Willapa Bay
35. Pied-billed Grebe – Toppenish – Lateral C
36. Western Grebe – Willapa Bay
37. Sooty Shearwater – Westport Jetty
38. American White Pelican – Toppenish Lateral C
39. Brown Pelican – Westport Jetty
40. Brandt's Cormorant – Willapa Bay
41. Double-crested Cormorant – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
42. Pelagic Cormorant – Westport Jetty
43. American Bittern – Ridgefield NWR
44. Great Blue Heron – Toppenish – Lateral C
45. Great Egret – Toppenish – Lateral C
46. Turkey Vulture – Tule Road
47. Osprey – Toppenish – Lateral C
48. Bald Eagle – Toppenish – Lateral C
49. Northern Harrier – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
50. Cooper's Hawk – Hwy 97 – Southern Yakima Co.
51. Swainson's Hawk – Rimrock Road – Klickitat Co.
52. Red-tailed Hawk – Toppenish – Lateral C
53. American Kestrel – Toppenish – Lateral C
54. Peregrine Falcon – Hwy 6
55. Prairie Falcon - Naches
56. Virginia Rail – Toppenish – Lateral C
57. Sora – Tieton State Airport Marsh
58. American Coot – Toppenish – Lateral C
59. Black-bellied Plover – Willapa Bay
60. Semipalmated Plover - Tokeland
61. Killdeer – Tieton State Airport Marsh
62. Black-necked Stilt – Toppenish – Pumphouse Rd
63. Spotted Sandpiper – Tieton State Airport Marsh
64. Solitary Sandpiper – Toppenish – Pumphouse Rd
65. Wandering Tattler – Westport Marina
66. Lesser Yellowlegs – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
67. Whimbrel – Willapa Bay
68. Long-billed Curlew – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
69. Hudsonian Godwit - Tokeland
70. Marbled Godwit - Tokeland
71. Ruddy Turnstone – Willapa Bay
72. Red Knot - Tokeland
73. Sanderling – Willapa Bay
74. Western Sandpiper - Tokeland
75. Least Sandpiper – Tieton State Airport Marsh
76. Dunlin – Willapa Bay
77. Short-billed Dowitcher - Tokeland
78. Long-billed Dowitcher – Ridgefield NWR
79. Wilson's Snipe – Toppenish – Lateral C
80. Wilson's Phalarope – Toppenish – Lateral C
81. Red-necked Phalarope – Ridgefield NWR
Phalarope sp. – Westport Jetty
Calidrs sp. – Westport Jetty
82. Black-legged Kittiwake – Westport Jetty
83. Bonaparte's Gull – Westport Jetty
84. Mew Gull – Westport Jetty
85. Ring-billed Gull – Willapa Bay
86. Western Gull – Willapa Bay
87. California Gull – Columbia River – Lyle Cliffs
88. Glaucous-winged Gull - Raymond
Glaucous-winged x Western Gull hybrid – Willapa Bay
89. Caspian Tern – Willapa Bay
90. Common Tern – Westport Jetty
91. Parasitic Jaeger – Westport Jetty
92. Common Murre – Westport Jetty
93. Pigeon Guillemot – Westport Jetty
94. Rhinoceros Auklet – Westport Jetty
95. Rock Pigeon - Naches
96. Band-tailed Pigeon – Hwy 6
97. Eurasian Collared-Dove - Naches
98. Mourning Dove – Toppenish – Lateral C
99. Barn Owl – Ridgfield NWR
100. Great Horned Owl – Ridgefield NWR
101. Northern Pygmy-Owl – Rimrock Area
102. Spotted Owl – Rimrock Area
103. Barred Owl – Newskah Road
104. Northern Saw-whet Owl – Rimrock Area
105. Vaux's Swift – Hwy 97 S. Yakima Co.
106. White-throated Swift – Lyle Cliffs
107. Anna's Hummingbird – Tokeland
108. Calliope Hummingbird - Lyle
109. Rufous Hummingbird – Ridgefield NWR
110. Belted Kingfisher – Ridgefield NWR
111. Lewis's Woodpecker – Pine Springs Pull off
112. Acorn Woodpecker – Balch Road
113. Red-breasted Sapsucker – Rainbow Falls SP
114. Downy Woodpecker – Tieton State Airport Marsh
115. White-headed Woodpecker – Tieton State Airport Marsh
116. Black-backed Woodpecker – Bethel Ridge Road
117. Northern Flicker – Tieton State Airport Marsh
118. Pileated Woodpecker – Rainbow Falls SP
119. Western Wood-Pewee – Pine Springs Pull off
120. Hammond's Flycatcher – Pine Springs Pull off
121. Gray Flycatcher – Box Canyon Road
122. Pacific-slope Flycatcher – Ridgefield NWR
123. Black Phoebe – Ridgefield NWR
124. Say's Phoebe – Hwy 97 Klickitat County
125. Ash-throated Flycatcher – Balch Road
126. Western Kingbird – Toppenish – Lateral C
127. Eastern Kingbird – Toppenish – Lateral C
128. Loggerhead Shrike – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
129. Cassin's Vireo – Tieton State Airport Marsh
130. Hutton's Vireo – Rainbow Falls SP
131. Warbling Vireo – Pine Springs Pull off
132. Steller's Jay – Bethel Ridge Road
133. Western Scrub-Jay – Pine Springs Pull off
134. Black-billed Magpie – Toppenish – Lateral C
135. American Crow – Toppenish – Lateral C
136. Common Raven – Bethel Ridge Road
137. Horned Lark – Tule Road
138. Purple Martin – Ridgefield NWR
139. Tree Swallow – Tieton State Airport Marsh
140. Violet-green Swallow – Toppenish – Lateral C
141. Northern Rough-winged Swallow – Toppenish – Lateral C
142. Bank Swallow – Toppenish – Lateral C
143. Cliff Swallow – Tieton State Airport Marsh
144. Barn Swallow – Tieton State Airport Marsh
145. Black-capped Chickadee – Pine Springs Pull off
146. Mountain Chickadee – Bethel Ridge Road
147. Chestnut-backed Chickadee – Ridgefield NWR
148. Bushtit – Bear Canyon
149. Red-breasted Nuthatch – Tieton State Airport Marsh
150. White-breasted Nuthatch – Rimrock Road
151. Brown Creeper – Tieton State Airport Marsh
152. Rock Wren – BIA RD 148
153. Canyon Wren – Lyle Cliffs
154. Bewick's Wren – Pine Springs Pull off
155. House Wren – Tieton State Airport Marsh
156. Pacific Wren – Clear Lake
157. Marsh Wren – Toppenish – Lateral C
158. American Dipper – Yakima/Klickitat Co. Line Hwy 97
159. Golden-crowned Kinglet – Rainbow Falls SP
160. Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Pine Springs Pull off
161. Western Bluebird – Rimrock Road
162. Townsend's Solitaire – Tieton State Airport Marsh
163. Swainson's Thrush – Ridgefield NWR
164. Hermit Thrush – Clear Lake
165. American Robin – Clear Lake
166. Varied Thrush – Clear Lake
167. European Starling - Naches
168. Cedar Waxwing – Ridgefield NWR
169. Orange-crowned Warbler (lutescens) – Bear Canyon
Orange-crowned Warbler (Orestera) – Bear Canyon
170. Nashville Warbler – Bear Canyon
171. Yellow Warbler – Tieton State Airport Marsh
172. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) Tieton State Airport Marsh
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) – Pine Springs Pull off
173. Black-throated Gray Warbler – Balch Road
174. Townsend's Warbler – Tieton State Airport Marsh
175. Hermit Warbler – Rainbow Falls SP
176. MacGillivray's Warbler – Tieton State Airport Marsh
177. Common Yellowthroat – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
178. Wilson's Warbler – Ridgefield NWR
179. Yellow-breasted Chat – BIA Rd 148
180. Western Tanager – Bear Canyon
181. Spotted Towhee – Tieton State Airport Marsh
182. Chipping Sparrow – Clear Lake
183. Brewer's Sparrow – Tule Road
184. Vesper Sparrow – Tule Road
185. Sage Sparrow – Tule Road
186. Savannah Sparrow – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
187. Grasshopper Sparrow – Tule Road
188. Song Sparrow – Tieton State Airport Marsh
189. Lincoln's Sparrow – Bethel Ridge Road
190. White-crowned Sparrow (Puget Sound) - Tieton State Airport Marsh
White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel's) – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
191. Golden-crowned Sparrow – Bear Canyon
192. Dark-eyed Junco – Bethel Ridge Road
193. Black-headed Grosbeak – Bear Canyon
194. Lazuli Bunting – BIA Rd 148
195. Red-winged Blackbird – Tieton State Airport Marsh
196. Western Meadowlark – Toppenish – Lateral C
197. Yellow-headed Blackbird – Toppenish – Lateral C
198. Brewer's Blackbird – Toppenish – Lateral C
199. Brown-headed Cowbird – Tieton State Airport Marsh
200. Bullock's Oriole – Toppenish – Pumphouse Road
201. Purple Finch – Rainbow Falls SP
202. Cassin's Finch – Tieton State Airport Marsh
203. House Finch – Pine Springs Pull off
204. Pine Siskin – Bear Canyon
205. Lesser Goldfinch – Pine Springs Pull off
206. American Goldfinch – Toppenish – Lateral C
207. Evening Grosbeak – Tieton State Airport Marsh
208. House Sparrow - Naches

Misses: (Either seen while scouting or expected based on last year’s results) Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Golden Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, American Avocet, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Marbled Murrelet, Flammulated Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Long-eared Owl, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, American Pipit, Red Crossbill.