2017 Annual Skagit Trip

A tiny part of large flock of near in Snow geese, not the one “blue goose”.

Sunday Dec 3 Ken Brown organized and led the annual Skagit and Samish Flat’s birding trip. This year so many ABC’ers wanted to come that he spit the trip into two groups to avoid a long caravan in traffic on the flats. The first group met Ken at the Smoky Point Rest Stop at 7:30, and the second group met shortly after about 8 AM and Ed Pullen along with lots of other strong birders headed out to follow Ken’s route.

First we got off on the first exit north of the rest area, Exit 208, and went left through Silvana and then left onto Norman Rd. Shortly after getting onto Norman Road at a house with several feeders a nice variety of feeder birds were seen, including a White-throated sparrow by just a few of us when it showed very briefly. A Sharp-shinned hawk was fanning its tail to dry in a nearby tree, and a merlin perched on a distant tree top. Further down Norman Rd was our second falcon of the day, an American kestrel, as well as several groups of Trumpeter swans and lots of fly-over Snow geese.

Prairie Falcon on Boe Rd

Where Norman Rd intersects Marine Drive, we went directly across to Boe Road where we had great looks at a Prairie falcon, first located by Bruce Labar, as well as American Kestrel and Merlin, bringing Ken’s group to 4 falcons (Ed’s would get Peregrine later, but Ken’s group had one in travel), as well as American Pipits, both common buteos Red-tailed and Rough-legged hawks, a Cooper’s hawk Ken located tucked in a distant tree, lots of Bald eagles, Western meadowlarks, as well as more and larger flocks of Snow geese overhead.

Subsequent stops at Thomie and Edie Roads yielded more of the same, and in Ed’s group the Willet’s (back care as always) brought us back to see a Northern Shrike.

Northern Shrike in the thorny brambles

From here we headed north to Skagit County, traveling on back roads up to Fir Island. At Wylie Slough we found 6 Greater yellowlegs, Ed saw 12 Black-bellied plover fly by, and we sorted through large flocks of Pine siskins hoping for a Common redpoll, and though Ken found one brief look at a likely possibility, none of us could pull a redpoll out of the hyperactive flocks of 250+ siskins.

Our group at Wylie Slough

At Hayton Reserve we were treated to an estimated 8-10,000 Dunlin in a huge flock on the high-tide remaining mudflats. Two peregrines put on a show dueling for apparent territorial rights to the flock, while the Dunlin dazzled with evasive flocking behavior. A good variety of ducks, a Harlan’s Red-tailed hawk, 12 Greater yellowlegs and about 50 Long-billed dowitchers added to our day list.

It was getting late so we skipped the rest of the dike access areas on Fir Island, and headed for the Samish Flats. A potty stop at Bayview State Park added remarkably little action on the water, with Horned grebe, Common and Barrow’s goldeneyes, and a DC Cormorant the only new species.

The Samish Flats, with most of our time spent at the West 90, yielded more sunshine, a flock of an estimated 20,000 Snow geese with at least one nicely seen ‘blue goose”, more peregrines, kestrels, a single short eared owl flew in the distance as dusk approached but probably the most unusual bird of the day was a single Long-billed curlew in a large flock of Ring-billed gulls fairly close in on one of the muddy rivulets.
Overall a nice day was had by all, and Ed’s group totaled 82 species for the trip. (Ken can make a comment re his groups totals.)

Long-billed curlew at Hayton Reserve