Day 54 – More Cape birding

New birds: Red-throated Diver, Northwest Crow

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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

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Day 53 – Neah Bay, home of the Makah Tribe

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

Day 52 – Hurricane Ridge & coastal birding

New species for the day: Varied Thrush & Pacific Wren

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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

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At Mary Mere Falls we added another trip tick – Pacific Wren

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Day 51 – Canada for coffee

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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

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Day 50 – Final transition day

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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

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Record shot of Marbled Murrelet – off-shore from the John Wayne Marina, Sequim WA

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Day 49 – Listing milestone reached

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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

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Day 48 – Keeping our peckers up

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Grab shot of our only new pecker today, the aptly named Willamson’s Sapsucker

We set off early from our ‘touch of luxury’ condo on the Eagle Crest Golf Course – we’ve got a whole floor of bedrooms and bathrooms we’re not using, for the delightful town of Sisters, in pursuit of woodpeckers. But a hard day in the field produced just four species, only one of which was new. Still, there’s always tomorrow! We did an early afternoon stint at Calliope Crossing – seeing both male and female Calliope Hummingbird which, after our woodpecker debacle, was something of a relief. An unexpected bonus came with the discovery of the wildlife delights of Black Butte Ranch – a privately run golf course and exclusive housing development. The nature trail was excellent, giving close-up views of some decent birds.

Other new birds for the trip, USA and World lists included, Calliope Hummingbird 

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and Fox Sparrow – another grab shot I’m afraid

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Afternoon at Black Butte Ranch provided superb scenery and close-up views of water birds. The nature reserve, adjacent to the golf course – both in the shadow of more snow-capped mountains

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We’ve seen Wilson’s Phalarope in several States, but never this close before

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I missed Sora in California, nice to see it so well in Oregon

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Tomorrow, keeping our peckers up, we’re back on the trail of those elusive woodpeckers.