New birds for the day – Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser – Neah Bay harbour
Today we travelled down the west coast of the Olympic peninsular, from Neah Bay to Quinault. A brief stop at the harbour produced the first new bird of the day – Hooded Merganser. Another one of those birds we thought had got away from us. We had a very entertaining and illuminating coffee stop with a delightful member of the Makah tribe, before heading south. This afternoon we birded the temperate rain forest, producing another potential new bird – a probable Sooty Grouse, and providing much better views of American Dipper and Varied Thrush. Our motel room this evening is situated just a few hundred metres from the worlds largest Sitka Spruce – close on 1000 years old, with a circumference of 60 feet!
A slightly better photo of Varied Thrush – seen this afternoon in the Quinault rainforest
New birds: Red-throated Diver, Northwest Crow
Northwestern Crow – Neah Bay
Woke up this morning, scanned the ocean from the chalet balcony and the first bird I found was a Red-throated Diver – new for the trip. Quickly followed by ‘crows on the beach’. In this remote corner of Washington State, the crows are considered to be Northwestern Crow, which breed from Alaska, south to British Columbia. A few have crossed the Straits of Juan de Fuca and colonised Neah Bay. Not reliably separable from American Crow, other than by location and something to do with bristle hairs! We did a nice six mile walk through the rain forest in a forlorn search for Pilated Woodpecker, before rain set in for the afternoon. On the drive back to our accommodation a very obliging Ruffed Grouse appeared at the roadside.
A rather more obliging Ruffed Grouse than our first one at Hatfield Lakes
The Indian Reservation on which we’ve been staying unfortunately lacked any effective WiFi, so I’m playing catch-up.
New birds: Rufous Hummingbird, Tufted Puffin, Ancient Murrelet & Red-necked Grebe
Record shot of Rufous Hummingbird – observed whilst checking in to our ocean-view cabin
This morning we drove west along the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Neah Bay – home of the Makah tribe. With the benefit of an early check-in at Holbuck Beach Resort – ticking up Rufous Hummingbird as we were filling in the Registration card, we unloaded our luggage and headed for the Cape Flattery trail in search of some oceanic species. Tatoosh Island, which lies just off-shore, is the most north-westerly point of the 48 (contiguous) States and practically our journeys end. With the aid of a telescope we could see several species of Alcids, off-shore, including Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet. With a bit of persistence we did managed to find several distant Tufted Puffin, which breed in small numbers on the island. Perhaps the bigger surprise came when we drove back to Neah Bay and scoured the harbour and surrounding waters for possible sea ducks. We quickly found White-winged and Surf Scoter, Greater Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Common Loon and Red-necked Grebe, along with Pacific Cormorant and Rhinoceros Auklet. A quick look over the outer harbour wall and a ‘black and white’ auk-like bird immediately caught my attention. I was pretty confident that it was an Ancient Murrelet – the identification later confirmed from photographs. Although this species does occasionally turn-up along the coast it’s much more likely to be found out at sea on a pelagic. A very welcome and unexpected addition to the list.
Tufted Puffin, seen off of Cape Flattery – record shot
Ancient Murrelet, Neah Bay, outer harbour
New species for the day: Varied Thrush & Pacific Wren
The view from Hurricane Ridge towards Mount Olympic – before the weather closed in
We were up early this morning for our excursion to Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park – 5,242 feet above sea level. Within ten minutes of arriving at the top, we were ticking-up on our first additional species for the trip – Varied Thrush. What a bird – despite the difficult viewing conditions! The supporting cast on the nearby alpine meadows included American Pipit – which we’d not seen since Big Bend, Horned Lark and Gray Jay. As the weather closed in we descended to Port Angeles and spent the afternoon visiting Mary Mere Falls and Elwha River estuary. At the former site we added another trip-tick – Pacific Wren and had better views of American Dipper, which we’d last seen in Yosemite NP. At the estuary we had a flock of Harlequin Duck off-shore and several migrating Cedar Waxwing. Tomorrow we’re in the Holbuck Beach resort at Neah Bay, with limited internet, so it may be a few days before my next post.
Record shot of Varied Thrush – what a stunner
At Mary Mere Falls we added another trip tick – Pacific Wren
The Victoria waterfront, prior to disembarking onto Canadian soil – another stamp in the passport
This morning we took the ferry to Canada. We did it mostly as a tourist thing rather than for birds, which we’d already been advised were likely to be few and far between. As it turned out it was uncharacteristically calm across the Straits of Juan Fuca and there were virtually no birds, certainly none that we couldn’t see from the shore, but the experience of disembarking onto Canadian soil and then standing in the US Customs line to get back was definitely worth it. I exaggerated when I suggested Canada for coffee – actually, by the time we’d cleared customs & immigration, it was too late to get coffee on the mainland so we had to have one on the boat on the way back! The afternoon was spent in a fruitless search for shorebirds along Three Crabs Road, Sequim. We also had an enjoyable walk around the National Wildlife Refuge at Dungeness, but again very few birds. It was only on our way back to the motel, to meet up with Rob & Gi, that we called in at Ediz Hook Road and found our new bird for the day / trip – Harlequin Duck.
Record shot of distant Harlequin Duck – our new bird for the day
Jane, on the board-walk, at Wildwood Recreation Site
Today we travelled nearly 400 miles north from Bend to Port Angeles, Washington State, – on the shores of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, which separates America from Canada. With so much time spent travelling we hardly did any birding, but we did stop off at the interesting temperate rain-forest reserve of Wildwood, off Hwy 26, and called in at the John Wayne marina at Sequim (apparently a favourite spot of the movie star, who then gave the land to the people). The latter site providing todays new bird for the trip – Marbled Murrelet. With that last big transition day behind us we look forward to sharing our final week in America with brother Rob and his wife Gi, over here from Australia, touring north west Washington State.
No new birds at Wildwood but nice views of Common Yellowthroat
Record shot of Marbled Murrelet – off-shore from the John Wayne Marina, Sequim WA
Trumpeter Swan – one of a trio of new species seen today. (These swans have been variously reported as Tundra and Trumpeter – I think the latter, but happy to be corrected if anyone would care to comment).
Our day pretty much followed the same format as yesterday, with the morning spent looking for woodpeckers and the afternoon exploring another local wetland. Early morning temperatures on the lower slopes of the Three Sisters were a little over freezing, with a cold wind and the occasional flurry of icy rain. We spent several hours standing around the ‘new burn’ areas of the forest, along the NFD Road 1018 – habitat of choice for two of the most difficult species of woodpecker – American Three-toed and Black-backed. We’d practically given up and decided to go and look for other species around Trout Creek Marsh, when half way along the trail, in a ‘new burn’ area, we came across a Black-backed Woodpecker. Brief but good views – alas no time to lift my camera before it was gone, was justifiable reward for our efforts over the past 24 hours and brought up my twentieth woodpecker species (flicker & sapsucker included) for America. We intended to take it easy this afternoon with a gentle stroll around a nearby waste-water reclamation scheme – Hatfield Lakes. Either we misinterpreted the scale of the map or it was wrong, but we ended up doing a two hour / five mile yomp! Although the birds of the adjacent brush were fewer and further between than we’d expected, the lakes themselves did deliver, with eleven species of duck and a trip tick & USA tick into the bargain – Trumpeter Swan. I’d just finished photographing a male Bufflehead when I flushed a large ‘game-bird’ from bushes by the shoreline. As it flew away I could clearly see that it was a Ruffed Grouse – my 500th species seen in America.
I’d just finished photographing this Bufflehead at Hatfield Lakes when I practically stood on a Ruffed Grouse – my 500th species seen in America