An Amateur Birdwatcher's tally
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 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 ….
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!