An Amateur Birdwatcher's tally
I never expect much in August while bird watching. The Canada geese, ducks, and many other birds take a break from King County, Washington. I miss them.
To start the month of August I saw chickadees, chipping and house sparrows, juncos, finches, and scrub jays at my feeders. They like the bird bath I set out and the sprinklers I run once a week as well as the food.
I saw a humming bird twice, which was a delight. It caused me to mix up a fresh batch of hummer food (1/4 part sugar with water.) Humming birds are regular but not constant garden companions so they please me when I see them hovering. But I was amazed to see my most recent little lady perched on a wire! They always seem to be in motion but she was still for almost 2 minutes!
On the second Sunday of the month I visited my favorite bird watching park, Flaming Geyser state park. I love the drive as much as the walk at the end – with my dogs, Katie and Maggie. Starlings and swallows are gathering, probably to exit the area soon. They are currently taking over farm country. I can understand why farmers don’t like them –they can be nuisance birds like pigeons in the city. But starlings have sweet voices and they’re so energetic I have to like them. Pigeons are wonderful to take pictures of and I can’t imagine a city scape without them.
At the park we were stumped by a bird. He was big enough to be a hawk, though he didn’t have markings and his demeaner was different from that of any hawk we’d seen. I got enough pictures to determine he was dark all over, and he had a large solid beak. He displayed interest in the tree he was resting in, examining the moss. Possibly looking for insects? My sister and I were baffled.
“He’s not any of these hawks.” She handed the book to me. No, he wasn’t a hawk. I took some more pictures. The dogs whined. They were ready for their walk! Look! Another dog is walking. Look, look! “We’re checking out the bird first.” I said firmly. I took some more pictures.
My sister took the book back and flipped through. “I have an idea.” She said. It paid off. The picture she showed was of a raven – not a super common bird in this part of King County. It was our bird. We were very pleased.
The rest of the venture was routine. We saw a kingfisher, and chickadees, and a pair of ducks. “Last week we saw two blue herons!” My sister was wistful. But this week we saw none. There were no visible robins, though I was sure I heard some by the river. They seem to go away this time of year as well.
Starting August wasn’t as unsuccessful as I feared, bird wise. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching – and photographing them.
You can’t take me anywhere. Not without my noticing the birds. Shopping. Doctors. Work. Yard sales. Birds are just about everywhere which makes watching them an awesome hobby. Who needs electronics in the car? I do use GPS sometimes. But usually I am too busy birdwatching.
This month I seem to have been on the move a lot. Yard sales. I saw a hummingbird and got a good picture of it. Perhaps it’s not too wise to go around taking pictures of stranger’s houses. Who knows what anyone thought of that if they saw me? But I can’t resist a pretty bird. And I was careful not to get any photos that would invade the homeowner’s privacy. I made sure to narrow in on the bird and its feeder.
Then we went to Walmart. Usually one can count on seeing starlings, gulls, crows, and brewers’ blackbirds. We saw them – and something I have never identified before. American dippers were mixed in with some starlings. Later in the week – I saw another American dipper at work! He was enjoying some blackberry bushes.
At this time of year, it's not uncommon to witness raptor birds soaring across fields and roads. It's not even unusual to see pairs and trios of hawks and eagles. As I mentioned on Facebook, these are usually difficult to get snap photos of. But they are exciting to watch. In the summer heat it’s rare to see Canada Geese, though I found some in a field. It’s also hard to find ducks. Starlings and swallows are common. I see plenty of them in my travels. I noticed house finches nesting in the light poles of 2nd Street of Auburn, WA. A block later is full of pigeons because of the train.
Finally, I don't have to go anywhere to watch birds. I have feeders and bird baths in my yard. My neighbor does too. I only must look out a window or step out on the porch of my home to enjoy this hobby. Sometimes, I find I am the watched. Just the other day I looked out of my window while I was working to see your chipping sparrow staring at me. Wonder how he would describe me? On second thought I don’t want to know!
As usual, I’ve loaded some new photos on my bird gallery page. Enjoy!
“Kestrel.” We said together, eyeing the bird on the wire. It flew away, but not far. I refocused my camera. My sister refocused her binoculars. The bird was on a dumpster in Flaming Geyser park. He had his back to us. “Pretty.” I breathed. He was red.
“I don’t think he’s a falcon.” My sister said, straining to see through the binoculars. I was busy snapping photos. “No, maybe he’s a hawk. What’s the other one?” “A pigeon. No, a dove.” She announced. Bizarre. A dove resting near a hawk? The hawk flew up to the wire where the dove sat.
Silence in the car. A tiny bit of fear of what we would see next enveloped us. The hawk landed on the wire beside the pigeon. They – not kissed but leaned forward and did a little birdie hello. We glanced at each other. “Huh?” Clearly, this was not a hawk. We pulled out the Sibleys.
Still unconvinced, we looked first in the raptors section. But nothing matched our bird. The page to pigeons fell open. “There it is.” It was a brown rock dove. Hanging out with a pied rock dove. In over 10 years I have never identified brown rock doves. I didn’t know they even existed. I know about them now.
The brown rock dove wasn’t my only new bird in July 2019. I also saw a western wood pe-wee. It was also in Flaming Geyser Park. At first, I saw it bathing in the river. I was awestruck. This was different, a grey bird the size of a robin. Maggie let me take several pictures, though she was bored. This was her dog walk, and she wanted to walk!
Later I saw the western wood pe-wee in the marsh area of the park. I showed it to my sister, who is my fellow bird watcher. She couldn’t identify it either. I used Whatabird to look it up later.
My chipping sparrows moved on, so my rental property is empty. The next-door finches are still hanging around and the hummer shows up randomly. I keep the feeder fresh for him.
So, the birding adventures stay exciting through the first week of July. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
How do I know when summer starts in Washington? The daisies come up in Flaming Geyser park. They’re taller than both my dogs. As I watch for birds, the girls enjoy roaming through the “forest” of daisies. Of course, we always check them for ticks afterward.
Swallows begin to congregate in the month of May. Starlings also gather. Gulls almost disappear, as do Canada geese. These are normal happenings in King County Washington at the beginning of summer. The month of May 2019 may have been they most exciting month bird wise this year. I enjoyed the local birding as usual. I got a good picture of 2 Eagles in a tree. Also, I got a good picture of a variety of water birds swimming on a marshy, country field. After I developed the picture, I discovered American pipits. This was a first for me. I was very excited. The picture isn't all that great, but I can identify the pipits.
For about 4 weeks in a row, I watched a killdeer in a field. Frankly I think she must have had a nest. As far as I could tell she was alone, and she stayed in the same vicinity. Her lonely cry was haunting.
Then, in a group of gulls my sister noticed 2 black headed shore birds. I snapped a good number of pictures of them. They turned out to me common terns. This is another new for me bird.
I had a pair of renters this year. They forgot to leave their payment though. Maybe they figured that all the pictures I took filled their obligations. They were chipping sparrows. It was a pair, and they used my little rental house. I never got to see nestlings. I did try to leave them some privacy although they were in my driveway. They weren't shy. They delighted in the berries and bushes in my yard. So, I guess I was doing a bed and breakfast rather than just a simple motel.
Next door, the neighbors attracted some house finches. I enjoyed getting pictures of them too. Both the neighbors and I had hummingbird feeders. We attracted at least 1 hummingbird, an Anna's hummingbird.
So May turned out to be very well. Now I'm looking forward to finishing up June. Check out my birding gallery!
American pippits swimming with ducks in a marshy field.
In May 2019 I did a lot of local birdwatching. My favorite spot was in North Auburn, Washington, on a street near Emerald Downs. It has fields, tree stands, and marshy areas. In other words it is a bird area.
This was an abundant early spring. We saw Mallards, Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Green Wing Teals, Pintails, and common Mergansers all on the same block. Canada Geese strutted the fields and floated peacefully among them. It was a water bird bonanza. I especially delighted in the Green Wing Teals because I had only identified them once before in my birding career.
I saw a common yellow throat, a group of robins, and tree swallows galore. This was birding at it’s best. Then I saw the Killdeer and the sanderlings. It was my first Killdeer sighting of the year and the first sanderlings ever. I snapped pics as though my life depended on it. Check out my birding gallery!
The goldfinch pair circled the thistle sock hanging off a lilac tree. More than the sun shining and find temperatures they signaled spring. It was a delight to watch them mix with our sparrows, juncos, and chickadees. This happened on Saturday.
The bits of bright blue in silver sparkled over the Marsh at flaming geyser park. “Is that a kingfisher?” no, there were too many of them. The swallows are back! about 10 tree swallows fluttered over the mostly still water and mixed with the Red Wing black birds. A single mallard duck floated happily below.
It was a beautiful day for the park. Maggie and I walked. My sister walked Katie. And a sweet Canadian goose couple wandered across grass and water alike. The weather was nice and warm. The sun shone beautifully. Personally I think spring is here.
All our usual suspects appeared on my list this weekend, plus the swallows and finches. We saw crows, pigeons, mallards, blue Heron, Robins, a kestrel, an eagle, starlings, Red Wing blackbirds, Canada geese, swallows, sparrows, juncos, and chickadees as well as the goldfinch pair. Check out my updated birding gallery!
Dozens of nests sat in over a group of 20 or so trees. Blue herons reposed in most of them. It is an awesome sight to find a heronry. Generally these birds are solitary. However, they may nest together for safety and convenience. To see them in such a group is amazing.
We have been watching such a community for several years. It is behind the King County animal shelter on the Green River conservation area. Every year since we discovered it, we have gone to spy on this wonderful site. There is no real parking spot for this place so we can't pause more than a few minutes. That's long enough to take a few pictures. Then we drive around to the conservation. It's a fabulous place to see Raptor birds and ducks. Robins and red wing blackbirds, starlings and other familiars to me enjoy this place. Finally, we drive across the street to the Kent Boeing ponds. More ducks serenely float, swim, and bob on sparkling water.
This was my adventure birding this past week. We don't do it often because the girls (dogs)aren't allowed on the conservation. But the list for this experience is impressive.
1. Blue herons
2. 2 Hawks
3. bufflehead ducks
I'm still not getting too many great pictures do to that broken arm. But I look forward to next year when I can do better. Or maybe I'll go back in a few weeks ….
Did you participate in the Great Backyard Birding count? I did. Two days last weekend I counted birds in the area. It was interesting, though I didn’t come across any unusual birds. I enjoy doing feeder watch and GBBC counts. It makes me feel like a part of a community. Also, I feel I am contributing to science. I am not a scientist, but I can help real professionals with data about birds, where they are, how many and what they are doing.
So, on Saturday, I visited one of my favorite spots near Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA. I’ve spoken of this rural like spot in my blog before. I saw three types of ducks, a Hawk, a blue Heron, a Robin, and a whole bunch of crows. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and all the crows were settling in for the night. Also, there was a batch of Canada geese surrounded by hundreds of starlings. I wished that there was killdeer but, though I looked hard, I saw none. That was my first count.
Then, on Sunday, I went out to Flaming Geyser Park. Of course, I took my dogs, as usual. Maggie and Katie had not been out to the park for 2 weeks because of the snow. Katie particularly was excited. Flaming geyser park is her favorite place in the world except for home.
We counted five species even before we left home. At the feeders were white crowned sparrow's, house sparrows, juncos, scrub Jays, and chickadees. As we drove through the city streets, we saw pigeons, Seagulls, and crows on lawns and lamp posts. A big red-tailed Hawk also perched on a lamp post off the freeway. That made 9 before we started our birding properly.
Along the way, we saw 2 blue herons, mallard ducks, Canada geese, another Hawk- not sure what kind, and Robins mixed with starlings. The temperature stayed steady at 36 degrees. Much of the water, in ponds and in the fields and in the streams, was iced over.
But Katie and I walked in the park. The songs of 2 Red Wing blackbirds followed us throughout the stroll. The ferns were frozen, disappointing my little dog who absolutely loves those ferns. I thought I saw a wren, but I wasn't sure, so I didn't count it. We wandered for about 30 minutes, more dog walking then bird watching.
A kingfisher hung out over the marsh. A blue heron stood in the icy water undisturbed by the chill. Here in the park, snow still rests on the ground. Little Katie Hops and leaps like a Jack rabbit. She doesn't seem to mind the white stuff. But it is awful chilly. So, we pull back into the car and head home.
For the past several weeks we've witnessed to 2 kestrels on wires but this week they are missing. 17 species of birds aren’t a bad deal. Later, at Walmart, I watched blackbirds and snapped some pictures. But I didn't count those in my Sunday list because it was later. Check out my gallery of pictures on bird paparazzi.
This week, author Pamela Murrey broke her right wrist. She is right handed so some of her posts over the next few weeks maybe delayed.
My birding notebook
It was a snowy weekend. We could not get out of the driveway for much of it. So I filled my feeders and watched for the breakfast crew. Here is the start of my birdwatching experience. Later, I added pigeons, crows, gulls, and starlings. It was a slim week. But the snow is good for all in the long run.
I started updating my bird journal. This year I want to be on the lookout for birds common in King County, WA that I don't see much. I'm using check lists to figure out what I have seen and then check off what to seek. This weekend gave me a chance to start that project on paper. Maybe this next weekend I can get back out with my dogs for some real birding!
As I said last week, I bird watch in a different way that a lot of experts do. Parking lot birding, for example, can entertain me for hours. I use my camera far more than I use binoculars, especially the zoom. Some days I meander through, counting birds. Last week I identified more birds on Saturday than I did in my actual birding journey on Sunday!
On Saturday, I saw 3 types of sparrows, 2 types of chickadees, juncos, scrub jays, stellar jays, mallards, two types of hawks, seagulls, crows, robins, pigeons, a flicker, Canada geese, starlings, an eagle, and a blue heron! Quite a birding day!
In a quick jaunt to Flaming Geyser park on SundayI saw:
Seagulls. House sparrows
Red tail hawk. Pigeons
Blue heron Mallards
2 hawks in a tree. Robins
1 starling - which is very odd in farm country! Starlings can be nuisance birds in the country like pigeons can be in the city. They like a crowd. Did this lone bird not get a memo? Everyone else met on the wires in Kent? We'll never know.
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 a week about my experiences. Hope you enjoy them!