Weekend Trip Reports

October 18, 2015: Scriber Lake Park

By Terry Nightingale
On October 18, I led a bird walk in Scriber Lake Park with Rosamaria Graziani and the students of her non-profit English school, who are of various ages and come from Snohomish County’s Hispanic community. Rosamaria acted as interpreter, translating the student’s questions and my answers. They were very curious, sometimes asking questions beyond my ability to answer, such as, “What type of bushes are these next to the trail?” We had a close encounter with a Spotted Towhee eating berries, got to hear the song of the Pacific wren, and watched a mixed flock of kinglets, bushtits, and chickadees pass by us foraging for small insects and grubs. The participants’ response was overwhelmingly positive and as a follow-up I am working on ideas for a winter waterfowl outing after the holidays.

January 24, 2015: Seward Park

By Terry Nightingale
On Saturday, January 24, twelve birders converged on southeast Seattle for a relaxing walk around the Bailey peninsula, better known these days as Seward Park. This gem of a park covers 300 acres on an undeveloped peninsula that juts out into Lake Washington, and includes a 2.5-mile flat, paved walking and biking trail around the peninsula's outside edge. For a future trip we'll plan to explore the forested interior of the peninsula, but for this trip we followed the outer trail that kept us close to the water.
Arriving at the parking lot, we immediately noticed the abundant waterfowl visible on the lake. Gadwall and Mallards were swimming close by the shore, and just a little farther out were four beautiful Common Goldeneye drakes, and a total of six Barrow's Goldeneye. It was a real treat to see them so close to one another and compare their similar plumage, including the white “swoosh” on the faces of the male Barrow's, in contrast with the white dot on the common goldeneye males. From a distant dock a group of Canada Geese began honking loudly, which was when we noticed the Bald Eagle flying away from our direction and toward the geese. In this case the eagle just kept on flying past them, but it was easy to understand why the geese might have been concerned.
Scanning a bit further out on the water with our scope, we found three Hooded Merganser females, and a handsome Common Merganser drake hanging out with two hens of his species. Double-crested Cormorants, one of them perched on a buoy in typical cormorant fashion, were also enjoying the lake's bounty, as were the five Horned Grebes we found first with the scope before one of them swam close enough to give us very nice views.
This first leg of the trail was also a nice place to observe the gulls. In addition to the most common gull in our area, the Glaucous-winged Gull, we found a group of fifteen Ring-billed Gulls, and two Mew Gulls, these last two species noticeably smaller than their glaucous-winged cousins.
About this time was when we realized we had wandered into what my colleague Jonathan calls a “chicklet flock”--that is, a flock of small, leaf-gleaner birds like kinglets and chickadees. Our first clue was the Downy Woodpecker, whom we first heard pecking on a tall tree by the lake and then spotted as she made her way up the tree. Walking down the trail a bit further, we heard and then saw Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Many of these common forest birds did something uncommon, which was to pass by us in the low bushes near the water, giving us close looks in our binoculars.
As we rounded the north end of the peninsula, we were able to look toward I-90, and noticed there were Buffleheads diving to feed and popping back up to the lake surface. Nearby them were beautiful Ring-necked Ducks. Again we spotted distant grebes and scoped them out, this time finding Red-necked Grebes. The waterfowl junkies among our group (your correspondent included), were delighted to see these additional and quite lovely species.
A few more forest birds awaited us as we made the final leg of our journey, among them a Brown Creeper, a Pacific Wren, and a Bewick's Wren. Soon after a flock of Red Crossbills flew overhead, we noticed a large raft of American Coots near the lake shore at a scope-worthy distance. Closer to us, in a protected cove, a Pied-billed Grebe was doing his best to hold still while perched on a log, doing his impression of a red-eared slider turtle like the one about three feet away from him on the log.
After a quick scan of the bird feeders at the Audubon Center, and a quick visit inside to chat with Gail Gatton, the director of Audubon Washington, and Joey Manson, the director of the Seward Park Audubon center, about half our group descended upon Seattle's International District for some Chinese cuisine.
All in all, a pleasant day with only a few sprinkles from the sky!