An Amateur Birdwatcher's tally
March took an interesting turn in my birdwatching. Midmonth came the orders to stay home. Only leave for work or essential activities. Birding was not on the list of essential activities.
As I’ve stated before, drive by birding is a normal process for me. For 2 weeks I went the park and walked the dogs but practiced social distancing. That wasn’t good enough, though. So, I have been birding at home, and a few quick drivebys to and from my essential errands.
Swallows and red winged blackbirds are coming back, but they don’t visit my yard. All I have is a tiny bird bath for water. So, ducks and geese don’t come by often, either. I did get to see mallards, mergansers, buffleheads, pintails, wigeons, northern shovelers, and green teal ducks in the beginning part of the month. I got a picture of a tree swallow. Canada geese dotted some fields. Blue herons were abundant. Eagles were gone, and hawks not very common this month. But it was good to get out and go see what was there.
At my last visit to Flaming Geyser Park Katie and I strolled around searching for a sapsucker or woodpecker that kept clanking against metal signposts. We never found him. A batch of stellar jays were defending their fir trees from the robins. Later, the swallows will most likely win the battle and the jays will move away for a while. Three ducks bobbed along the Green River. Red wing blackbirds, swallows, and wrens occupied the marsh. It was a nice place and time. Katie enjoyed sniffing every tree and pole around. She’s not too interested in birds. I have known her to try to race a crow before. But she disapproves of my birdwatching hobby. I should only walk her.
Also, before the stay at home push my sister and I drove up to the blue heronry. I told that to a new birder and he wanted to know the address. I had to explain the herons didn’t register with the post office or city officials. They have a group of nests in a conservation here in King county near the animal shelter. Every year they return to communally raise their young. This is that time of year. We counted about 18 nests. There was even an upstairs and a downstairs in one tree! I got a picture of that.
After driving around the conservation we went over to Boeing Ponds and birdwatched. The pond was teeming with surf scoters, mallards, and buffleheads. Robins sang cheerfully. An Anna’s hummingbird entertained us. Wrens played by the water. It was incredible. I also saw a cute killdeer.
Then came the stay at home law. I get to telework again, so I at least have a job. I have a yard with a bird station so I’m lucky there. I started counting birds that I can see daily at home. The count is about 12-15 regular species! That includes crows and seagulls which fly by so it’s a bit of a stretch. But I love my little plethora of birds. House sparrows, white crowned sparrows, golden crowned sparrows, juncos, black capped and chestnut back chickadees, house finches, gold finches, scrub jay, starlings, flickers, and doves. I haven’t seen my hummers in a while. They seem to come through periodically. But I have their feeder set up for when they come.
Check out my gallery for new March pictures! While you’re at home, check out your own yard, patio, or windows for visitors from afar. Stay safe and pray for those who are suffering and those helping the suffering.
I'm ashamed of myself. I wrote most of my February article in February, but I never finished it. The Corona Virus, CORVID19, has gotten out of hand in my area. A lot of my attention has been focused around the virus and the events in my area relating to it. I contemplated not mentioning this, there has been such a lot of talk about the virus and it's ramifications. But it has affected my life considerably, as it has probably affected anyone reading this.
Yes, I have gone birding. I have done quite a bit of bird watching, both at home and in my typical drive-by fashion. The only crowds where I went were avian. I didn’t have to worry about contagion and infection, but what type of hawk I was viewing.
I didn't see too many new birds in the month of February. Much of the month was cold and dismal. There was unusual flooding which made my trips a little more adventurous. It is not recommended that one drive through a road full of water. I am usually cautious, but I did go through some shallow road ponds. Well, I rode. My sister usually drives.
Flaming Geyser State Park is one of my favorite places to birdwatch as I walk my dogs. I saw kinglets, Golden Crown kinglets at the park. They seem to be hanging out with some chickadees which surprised me. I went and visited the Weyerhaeuser pond for the first time ever and saw surf scoters. Those were the two new birds of my month. Very tiny kinglets and big scoters. I didn’t get pictures of either.
The birds frequented my feeders, bringing me some pleasure. It was a relief from the frightening news that even got into social media. I have gotten some of the timing down of my little feathered guests. The first visitors are usually scrub jays. Chickadees come soon after, followed by sparrows and juncos with finches. They welcome the flicker and starlings. The chickadees stay until just after noon. The sparrows and starlings stay until later. The flicker just hangs out at the suet for about thirty minutes. If the doves show up, they come just around the time of the flicker. The day is full at the feeder station! Juncos are usually the last to leave.
So far, March is shaping up much better than February bird wise. I hope to present a much more interesting tale for this months’ bird watching experiences. Meanwhile, check out my birding Gallery for a few new pictures to show that February was not as dreary as I feared.myyarncraftsplus.weebly.com/birding-gallery.html
January 2020, King County Washington. It was wet – icy wet. The sky was charcoal grey most of the time. This isn’t weather that makes me think – let’s go birdwatching! I want to turn all the lights on and snuggle under a blanket while reading or doing nothing more than being a cat bed for my Annie.
Yet my bird feeders called me – I fill them, and the birds come. I get to watch and take pictures. It’s win- win. I see the finches, chickadees, juncos, flicker, scrub jays, and sparrows. They brighten my day.
When I am in the car, whether riding or driving, birds flock together and draw my attention. Of course, I promise that I am not a distracted driver. I might not notice that the light has changed immediately as I am watching pigeons on the light pole or gulls circling beautifully a street over.
At stores and at work I parking lot bird watch. Though I feel that I’m not doing much with my hobby my list of identified birds defies that notion.
On the weekends my sister and I like to give our doggies extra walking time – in parks and rural places where we can bird watch. We travel to those places – doing drive by birding on the way.
Some roads are overflowing with water in the countryside. We plow through it. The fields are muddy. The dogs and I trot across anyway. Many waterways are full and flowing fast. We peer over them with awe. There are smells to be smelled and birds to be watched and pictures to be taken. Gulls and crows and starlings and pigeons dance and float over the city buildings. They amaze me.
No, I have not lost my enthusiasm for birding. This is my 3rd year of blogging about the hobby. I was surprised to go back through old posts and pictures. They give me a history I had forgotten.
In the first months of 2018 and 2019 I saw almost the same birds as January of this year. This year there was a notable exception – red winged blackbirds. I heard one this year – but have not seen them yet. They were common in the past years. Where have all the red winged blackbirds gone?
So far, I have not seen a sap-sucker yet either. Perhaps I will yet – I’m always optimistic. Meanwhile, my list has additions to the previous years – finches, Canada Geese, and a variety of ducks I probably saw before but didn’t identify at the time. Here is a list of January 2020 birds so far.
Chickadees Juncos House sparrows White crowned sparrows
House finch goldfinch towee flicker
Scrub jays Stellar jay crows gulls
Pigeons starlings kingfishers wren
Kestrel red tailed hawk bald eagle blue heron
mallards wigeons northern shovelers pintails
Canada geese Cackling geese
This is a new year. I am writing this post to finish the old, 2019. Wet is a good description of the middle of December in King County, WA. Weather fit for ducks. Also, great to see raptor birds. The trees are bare, and the big birds are up there – watching the world and looking for their next meal. In the 3rd week of the month I saw 4 eagles and 5 hawks plus 2 blue herons. In the 4th week of the month I saw 3 eagles, 4 hawks but no blue herons.
On week 3 the thrill of a lifetime occurred. We were driving along, birding, when we turned a bend. Just to our left, just a few feet up, on a branch over a river, was an eagle. I got several excellent pictures. The paparazzi was hot! I don’t think he ever noticed us. But we saw him!
The water receded some in the end of the month. I didn’t see any particularly unusual birds. Just crows, starlings, robins, red wing blackbirds, eagles, herons, hawks, kestrels, towees, juncos, sparrows (several types), chickadees, flickers, pine siskins, pigeons, Canada geese, mallards, wigeons, pintails, mergansers, and kingfishers. Still, I delighed in each species as I did my counts.
For the year 2019 I counted 68 species of birds. Most of them were common according to the King County bird checklist. I missed 31 common species so those go to the top of my to do list for 2020. I want pictures of those birds!
I counted 41 bird presentations on my website this year! Check out my final updates on the gallery page of this website. https://myyarncraftsplus.weebly.com/birding-gallery.html .
It was just a cold. But what an awful code was it! For a week I ached, slept, coughed, hacked, was hot and cold, and only moved with tremendous effort. My foggy eyes couldn’t even see out the window. I did not step outside once. No dreams pierced my broken slumber. This avid bird watcher didn’t see a single bird in days.
Finally, my wracking cough eased just a little, with the help of medicines and cough drops. My temperatures seemed to steady. Once could almost say I showed a hint of energy – but just a tad. I was not ready to go out and bird watch yet.
So, I geared up my strength and stepped into my yard, where the sun hit my face for the first time in a long while. I blinked. It was just a little bit of sun on a cloudy day. But it was far brighter than my sick room. I sighed and pulled my jacket close. Then I filled my bird feeders. I set out suet, a thistle sack, and regular food. Everything was empty, or near empty. I filled it all. I returned to my room and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours.
When I woke, my chair was facing the window. A pair of black capped chickadees started at the thistle and moved to a feeder. I smiled. Dee-dees are so cute. They were making happy calls. Four finches attacked the thistle. Beautiful. My neck lifted a little and my eyes blinked to be able to see better. A starling landed on the suet basket. “Darlin Starlin.” I muttered in my raspy throat before coughing some. Meanwhile a white crowned sparrow hopped under another feeder, which was staffed by a song sparrow, a house sparrow and a chestnut backed chickadee. I dozed.
When I woke two song sparrows were at a feeder. The finches were still on their sack. A flicker had taken over the suet. Two doves and a junco were hopping on the ground. Another sparrow was in the bird bath. It felt as though I had an aviary. I have never kept pet birds – not a good idea with my cats. But in this moment my heart swelled as I watched “my” birds at feast.
I guess I’m getting better. But staying at home and birding was as much fun, almost, as walking in the park with the dogs while birding. Maggie certainly enjoyed a morning of drowsing and cookies. But not for Katie. She went to the dog park and had a blast with her mom, my sister. I saw more birds from my window, though.
Instead of posting this weeks pics in the gallery, I'm making a brief video on Facebook. Enjoy.
After a great start in November, birding settled down for me a bit. There were joyous moments in my yard, mostly at the feeder. I did my normal day off birding expeditions. Have you noticed something about my bird watching? I do a lot of it sitting or traveling in a car. I call it drive by birding. It’s lazy, but it works for me.
Once a week my dogs, my sister, and I go for a walk in the park which is not like the daily walks of strolling down the sidewalks of our neighborhood. We go to somewhere in a car and then walk. They sniff and trot and greet other dogs and people. We bird watch.
On our drive to Flaming Geyser Park this week we saw a pair of turkey vultures. They are big, messy birds. But I like them. It was fun to get 3 good pictures of them. I don’t see buzzards often. On the same trip we saw 4 eagles and 2 hawks, one of them a redtail. That season is coming – raptor time. January is a great month to see hawks and eagles.
Then, at the park we saw Virginia rails. I’ve never identified them before, nor gadwalls, which were also in the marsh. A blue heron reposed nearby. He was a handsome fellow. So was an eagle, majestic though far away in my camera.
My own yard was bursting all week with chickadees (black capped and chestnut backed), sparrows (house, white crowned, and song), finches (house and goldfinches), towhees, juncos, starlings, flickers, and a dove. My telework stint came to an end, so I have to bird watch on my days off until the daylight comes back before and past working hours.
November was an impressive birding month in King County, Washington. It makes me look forward to December!
November started with a boom of birds. I expected little. The light is decreasing. My workday is not. But on Friday, the first of November 2019 I got off at 4:45pm. Early for me. I took advantage of it and went birding with my sister. We didn’t stop off for the dogs. This was going to be drive by, count some duck and watch the crows fill the evening sky birding.
A hawk stood proudly in a tree, looking for his dinner. He was a red tail, a big handsome fellow. We moved forward. Sounds of killdeer, Canada geese, and ducks filled the air before we could see the marshy field. A majestic trumpeter swan floated serenely. He was by himself amongst northern shovelers, cinnamon teals, and wigeons. Canada geese filled the field by the marsh. A bald eagle soared in, flipped around a few times and left without taking a meal. Thank goodness. I know they must eat but I prefer to think a rodent is better than a bird. A wild rodent, not someone’s pet.
After oohing and aahing, and much picture taking, we move on. Mallards mix with wigeons and pintails in the next field. We meet a dead end and turn. Past the dead end is a little river. My sister grabbed my arm and pointed, speechless and then stuttering. “It’s a, a, a.” “Blue heron?” I’m excited. “No, a bittern. An American Bittern.” I see it as it dives over some reeds in the water and vanishes. We wait hopefully but he doesn’t return.
The next morning, we had to go back. The swan was there, and the ducks, but no killdeer. More ducks. But no bittern. We were disappointed. We went back again with the same results in the evening.
Finally, on Sunday we went back to find the swan not there, but the bittern was. Finally, I got some pictures. Not good pictures. But something to show. I’m so pleased
My regular birding jaunt was limited – I walked Katie around Flaming Geyser park. We missed the robins. Wonder where the robins are? I haven’t seen any all weekend. I’ve also missed red winged blackbirds. But I saw a blue heron fly in. I got some wonderful snaps of a hawk and some crows. The bittern and swan both made my weekend. November is starting off with a boom of birds…
As the birds migrated in October 2019, I watched in awe. It happens every year. But every year is exciting. This month I spent a lot of time watching my own feeders. Four types of sparrows, 2 types of chickadees, starlings, juncos, finches, flickers, a towee, scrub jays, and hummingbirds all captivated me with their beauty and cuteness. For them it was business – empty the feeder, the suet, and the seed balls. Play in the fresh bird bath. Yell at the squirrels. Yell at each other. There is little better entertainment than watching a bird feeding station.
Yet I did go to Nisqually, a federal wildlife refuge in Pierce County, WA. The beginning of my walk was birdless. I walked for about 2 miles. Along this side is a riparian path. I sometimes see deer. But not this time.
Then the songbirds burst on the scene (with a few cute squirrels.) chickadees and sparrows, robins, wrens all sang for me. Then I got to watch a blue heron stepping cautiously forward, one slow step at a time. A sapsucker caught my eye but not my cameras’ eye as did about 10 golden crown kinglets. It was a surprise to me that there were no Canada geese about and only about 5 mallard ducks. I heard rumors of a pygmy owl but he or she wasn’t about during my visit.
For October 19th I found a rural area with a marsh and watched wigeons, mallards, Canada geese, and crows mixed with starlings playing on a rainy morning. It was relaxing – I sat in the warmth of my car and enjoyed the scenery. My bird list only held those 5 species, but I didn’t mind.
My favorite birding spot is also my favorite dog walking spot. Flaming Geyser state park regularly hosts kingfishers, stellar jays, and blue herons as well as ducks. In the last few weeks gulls have played in the Green River. I’ve enjoyed watching them. Robins were out in full force one weekend. I didn’t see one robin the next weekend. Also, I have missed the red winged blackbirds. The swallows are gone for the season. But as the foliage disappears for the winter, I hope to see more raptor birds.
So, the year progresses. Migrations have been very entertaining. What will November bring? Check out my gallery for more pics!
I can't say that I ever get bored wild bird watching. However, I learned that there are ways to spice up my bird watching/dog walking experiences by taking my 11-year-old niece. Talk about energizing. That young lady has more experience in excitement than I can remember having at that age.
While attached by leash to Maggie, my niece scampered across grass happily as they followed my dogs’ nose on a hunt probably first squirrel. She balanced along the end caps of parking spaces. She contemplated climbing trees. She hopped from rock to rock. It may have been more exercise than my fat little Maggie has had in months.
It was my turn to walk Katie. Katie likes to march with an occasional amble. Squirrel chasing isn’t on her agenda. Climbing on rocks and end caps isn’t on mine. My niece asked what it would do if I could fly up to the top of a tree that had a flat place on it. I said I would be able to see more birds. She wrinkled her nose. Boring.
Having an eleven-year-old enhances my imagination. What animals have lived in that hobbit hole in the tree? Katie would fit perfectly inside it. But Katie wasn’t interesting in checking it out. Maybe it smelled bad. My niece described birds she was sure she saw with identifiers of “orange and pink with a curved beak and blue eyes!” Her list would place her in South America or somewhere exotic. Then she got excited over a wren – a little brown thing that sang a pretty song for her.
But I am enjoying planting seeds of knowledge and interest in her and my 13-year-old nephew. At every opportunity I point out birds and try to name them. My nephew has a joke that crows are double winged double blackbirds. Guess that is his way of naming them. I don’t mind the humor – it’s not mean, just silly. Maybe I should point out that I get my names from books and websites. I think he already knows.
Really, why do we care what birds are called? I like the old T.V. show MASH. One episode has Radar, a young corporal who loves animal, correct a Major about guinea pigs verses hamsters. “Who cares?” Major Burns snipes. “They do.” Radar snaps back.
No, I don’t think my chickadees care what I call them, if I don’t call them late to breakfast. But they are distinctly different from sparrows and juncos and starling and hummingbirds. It matters to me. Between 10 and 11am I can be sure when I look out my window, I will see mostly chickadees. Later in the morning and early afternoon is lunchtime with the sparrows, who also like bath time in my bird bath. Scrub jays swoop in around 2pm and send everyone off to naps. My yard is then quiet for a while.
Oh, the energy of my niece! Or a bird. I read this week that millions of birds have vanished. The art of birdwatching will be different for the youngsters of my family. But I want them to enjoy it on some level. It’s important. On my recent venture I saw a kingfisher, a wood duck, a kestrel, a field of robins. Mallards serenely floated on the marshy water at Flaming Geyser. I heard a wren that sang a pretty song.
An open window led to a temporary invasion which upturned my bird watching for a few moments. Luckily, the invader was a honeybee and he did not sting me. Whew. He flew away.
It was a hot day and we had the air conditioning on. But with the window closed, we could not hear if birds were in the bushes. So, I rolled the window down. My visitor just wandered in. I squished against the seat as he inspected me for any good pollen. It’s been a while since I held my breath so long!
There were no birds. It’s August. Birds are sparse. Yes. I have a small parade in my yard at the feeding stations. First come the chickadees. They move so fast it’s hard to catch them with my camera! “Dee dee dee.” They announce. Friendly – no alarms. After a while they are replaced by house sparrows and sometimes other sparrows. This set of about 15 birds like to dine and indulge in the simple bird bath.
Scrub jays rush them off – officious and seriously they land where they want to be, and all other species should get out of the way. In a way the scrub jays remind me of my cat Alex. He’s a big, gentle bully. Where he sits, he fits. Scrubbers are the same. My yard is a birding paradise, not fancy but happy.
For my expeditions in this hot summer month, I have found few birds to watch or photograph. A kingfisher delighted me at Flaming Geyser Park. A very distant hawk did well though a professional would scorn my attempt.
I went to Auburn Environmental Park for the first time in years. I did a review on it sometime around 2010 when it first started. Wow! It has grown. It is less than a block of ecological delight. The rules sign was covered up by echinacea plants. But I know one rule – no dogs. Which is why I don’t visit often. Maggie and Katie weren’t with me. So, I took 10 minutes to explore. I found no birds in the middle of the day. Bummer. But I might return sometime. It looks delightful.
I posted a few more pictures to my birding gallery. Check them out.
I love birdwatching. It's relaxing and fun. Even though I've been birding for over 10 years I classify myself as an amateur birder. I plan to write a blog each month about my experiences. Hope you enjoy them!