Washington, United States - 3rd - 5th February 2012

Published by Noah Gaines (skater_ako1 AT hotmail.com)

Participants: Noah Gaines, Dennis Vollmar



A full trip report with photos can be found on my website

While waiting at the new Santa Barbara airport, I took the WHITE-TAILED KITE flying over the runway as a good omen. The flight from SBA to SEA TAC was uneventful and I arrived at 11:30 to meet Dennis Vollmar and drive to Tacoma.


Drive SE to Ocean Shores where we easily located the accommodating EMPEROR GOOSE behind the cinema. It was always in the presence of a CACKLING GOOSE, 2 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, and a ringed CANADA GOOSE. Dennis dubs them “The Misfits”.

The parking area to Damon Point was already jammed with cars and a steady stream of people was walking the 1.5 mi sandspit to the point to see the SNOWY OWLS. At one point, I counted 7 in a single scan. The Owls were quite content and everyone present had smiles plastered on their faces and showed respect to the birds.

On the way back, we picked out the QUEEN EIDER from the SURF and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS (7).

After lunch we searched unsuccessfully for the crow, and found a contender. This crow was quite easy to pick out from the rest as it was smaller and had a distinctively abrupt and vertical forehead compared with the others. Photos were obtained. Ultimately, we headed out the jetty. It is a wide jumble of large rocks and extends quite far out into sea. The sea was a continuous battle of hugemongous waves crashing into the land. We scuttled out and had point blank looks at SURFBIRD, ROCK SANDPIPER, and BLACK TURNSTONE as they foraged and bathed completely unperturbed by the violent ocean.

We then searched the town looking through crows but finding no American we could turn into a Northwestern Crow. We resorted to chumming with French fries out of the car. This turned up a moderately smaller and different sounding crow. We also checked the beach and turned out a few more contenders. However, upon driving out of town, we followed a stream of NORTHWESTERN CROWS to the playing field. We were able to observe a group of ~100 at close range and their different vocalizations and even flight patterns (faster wingbeats) were quite apparent when compared with the parking lot gulls.

On the drive back to Tacoma, we took advantage of the last hour of sunset and birded some an open floodplain/farmland turning up a few commoner species.


Early morning saw us cruising through beautiful snow capped peaks east of the city. At Confluence Park/ Walla Walla Park in Wenahatchee, we relocated the VERY distant YELLOW-BILLED LOON. Good duck diversity was found here including a EURASIAN WIGEON. BALD EAGLES were a common site along the Columbia River as we continued north. Dennis even located a furtive BEAVER along the shore.

Driving on Union Valley Rd. North of Chelan, we ran into some Oregonian birders. Dennis and my toots did not bring in a pygmy-owl but they attracted the trio of nuthatch species and several RED CROSSBILLS amongst other birds. At mm 6.4, the other birders had relocated the NORTHERN HAWK-OWL! However the bird was VERY far away and the viewing from the road was not terrific. Luckily, I talked to the local landowner who gave me consent to walk out towards the bird. After trudging through the snow for some time, I was able to obtain much more satisfying scope views. I was overwhelmed with excitement as the owl dropped into a steep fast dive and became bombing straight at me. The bird swooped up to the top of the nearest pine tree and seemed completely unconcerned about the lucky human below him. Again he took off but this time he dropped down and followed the road. I soon lost him but Dennis reported being quite startled as the meteor of a bird came barreling straight towards him and missed him by only a few feet. In the words of Dennis, “I could have hit it with a tennis racket”.

The southern end of Cameron Lake Rd was surely one of the most remote areas I have ever traveled. Birding here was feast or famine and for the most part, the driving consisted of sloshing along the wet, muddy road viewing endless open land. The birds that punctuated this journey were some of the choicest of the trip. Both a juvenile and adult NORTHERN SHRIKE were seen well. Near a dazzlingly icy field, we both marveled at the size and beauty of an enormous mixed flock of HORNED LARKS (200) and SNOW BUNTINGS (75). Further on down the road I spotted our first hawk for the road on a crossbeam. As we pulled up, it became immediately apparent that this was not a buteo but a big blocky GYRFALCON! We studied it for a while before it flew off, not to be seen again. The paved and wooded northern half of the road turned up a few RED CROSSBILL amongst more common montaine species.


This morning, we rechecked the Colombia River near Wenahatchee but could not relocate the loon for a closer look.

Along the drive back west, we finally connected with a frosty ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK along the side of the road. Nearby was a small herd of AMERICAN BISON. While checking the town of Cle Elum, we aroused the suspicious of several local townsfolk but our search payed off big time with a tight flock of 7 COMMON REDPOLLS feeding on birch catkins.

The last stop of the trip was at a community park in the city of Renton (east of Seattle) where we were able to add a juvenile and two adult THAYER’S GULLS to the list. The views here were outstanding and this was a great stop to soak in the beauty of this state. I left with a yearning to return one day and check out the city.

The flight from SEA TAC to LAX was uncomfortable and the flight from LAX to SBA was cancelled. I arrived, exhausted, at 1:30 am, tired and happy.


Walking to work this morning, a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK streaked past me and perched in a eucalyptus adjacent to my work. This was the perfect end for the weekend.

Species Lists

1 Pacific Loon
2 Common Loon
3 Yellow-billed Loon
4 Horned Grebe
5 Western Grebe
6 Pelagic Cormorant
7 Double-crested Cormorant
8 Great Blue Heron
9 Tundra Swan
10 Greater White-fronted Goose
12 Snow Goose
13 Canada Goose
14 Cackling Goose
15 Wood Duck
16 Mallard
17 Northern Pintail
18 Gadwall
19 American Wigeon
20 Eurasian Wigeon
21 Northern Shoveler
22 Green-winged Teal
23 Lesser Scaup
24 Greater Scaup
25 Ring-necked Duck
26 Canvasback
28 Surf Scoter
29 White-winged Scoter
30 Common Goldeneye
31 Bufflehead
32 Common Merganser
33 Red-breasted Merganser
34 Hooded Merganser
35 Bald Eagle
36 Northern Harrier
37 Cooper's Hawk
38 Red-tailed Hawk
39 Rough-legged Hawk
40 American Kestrel
42 California Quail
43 American Coot
44 Black-bellied Plover
45 Killdeer
46 Surfbird
47 Black Turnstone
48 Rock Sandpiper
49 Dunlin
50 Sanderling
51 Mew Gull
52 Ring-billed Gull
53 Herring Gull
54 Thayer's Gull
55 Glaucous Gull
56 Glaucous-winged Gull
57 Western Gull
58 Rock Pigeon
59 Eurasian Collared-Dove
62 Belted Kingfisher
63 Downy Woodpecker
64 Northern Flicker
65 Northern Shrike
66 Loggerhead Shrike
67 Steller's Jay
68 Clark's Nutcracker (H)
69 Black-billed Magpie
70 American Crow
72 Common Raven
73 Horned Lark
74 Barn Swallow
75 Black-headed Chickadee
76 Mountain Chickadee
77 White-breasted Nuthatch
78 Red-breasted Nuthatch
79 Pygmy Nuthatch
80 Golden-crowned Kinglet
81 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
82 American Robin
83 European Starling
84 Yellow-rumped Warbler
85 Spotted Towhee
86 Song Sparrow
87 Dark-eyed Junco
88 White-crowned Sparrow
89 Golden-crowned Sparrow
90 Snow Bunting
91 Red-winged Blackbird
92 Brewer's Blackbird
93 Red Crossbill
94 House Finch
95 American Goldfinch
96 Pine Siskin
98 House Sparrow