South Whidbey Island, WA

So here’s the embarrassing thing. I managed, while working on my LA birding account, not to return my sd card to my camera. And somehow, through umpteen times of turning the camera on and off today, managed to never notice the “no sd card” notice on the screen until I got back to my place and went to review the photos. Sigh… So I’ll provide a shot of the gorgeous sunset last night I took with my phone over Bush Point and that will have to do. 27788155_10155388013807817_1131764798395067437_o

I’d originally planned to be spending a few days in the vicinity of Bellingham, WA. But my plans fell through and since I had the airline tickets anyhow, decided to see what I might want to do in the Seattle vicinity for a long weekend. I ended up settling on Whidbey Island which is a little north and west of Seattle (and has the benefit of being reachable both by a quick and cheap ferry ride or a pretty and longer drive). I found a great little mother-in-law apt on VRBO and headed out.

Since my first full day here was a Sunday and I was still pretty tired after my workweek and then the travel, I decided to just roam south Whidbey today. I spent a little time cruising around Bush Point, went to South Whidbey State Park, visited a winery, went to Ft. Casey, and took about as many back roads en route as I could. I did some walking at South Whidbey State Park, and did a little beach walking at an Island County beach I came across, but I also did a fair amount of car birding. (I haven’t decided what to make of my rental Toyota Yaris yet, so I’ll write that review after I’ve given it a little more thinking time).

So today was a mix of habitats and times, and the list reflects that. From coastal to upland farm areas with Douglas fir and spruce forests in between.

The path to the beach at SWSP was closed due to a washout so I didn’t get any beach time there, but since I really wanted to go for a walk, I ambled through the closed-for-the-season campground (it’s very much winter on Whidbey, even if it feels like a nice spring day to this Alaska woman) to see what I could see. And am I glad I did.

First up, the varied thrush. They seemed to be everywhere. I couldn’t get very close (I kept bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t get the camera lens on them though apparently in hindsight, it wouldn’t have helped if I’d did since no SD card) but I saw tons of them. Such beautiful birds they are. With an occasional American robin mixed in. Also downy woodpeckers. Saw a few of those too. About halfway through my walk I was hearing drumming in a tall tree. After about 15 minutes of circling a cedar surrounded by several Douglas firs I managed to triangulate on the cedar as the source of the sound but could not see the bird. Have you ever been to the Washington coast? Those trees are really really tall. And the underbrush in these areas and the trees surrounding don’t exactly offer straight lines of sight to the upper canopy. After another 15 minutes of circling and staring I finally caught it on one of its drumming breaks and it turned out to be a northern flicker (red-shafted). I like northern flickers as much as the next person but I’d already gotten a great view of one early in the morning. I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to listen to the different woodpeckers drumming so I can learn the individual species tempos: this just totally reinforced my need to do so.

So you’ll understand if I say I was a bit petulant (I already saw a flicker today!) as I walked back to the parking lot, but the timing of my walk rewarded me. As I was reaching the point where the trail met the parking lot, several little birds swooped over and landed in and on several trees about 5 feet away from me. They turned out to be brown creepers. About a half dozen of them. I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of these guys as solitary so to see what seemed to be a small flock was just a complete treat. Also so close in that I really didn’t even need the binocs to make out what they were. They moved on and I walked about 10 steps more to see yet another small guy. I thought what the heck, maybe it isn’t a creeper, pulled up the binocs and no, it wasn’t a creeper. It was a golden crowned kinglet and this was the single best view I’ve ever had of one. He wasn’t hiding in greenery, he was on a dead branch and showing off his golden crown feathers at me. Maybe ten feet away. A truly terrific morning.

My count today wasn’t as high as my LA walks, 31 this time, but I also didn’t bird for four hours straight, so no real surprises there. Here’s the list (in order seen on my meanderings):

American robin, dark-eyed junco, European starling, fox sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, northern flicker (red-shafted), great blue heron, song sparrow, red-winged blackbird, American crow, rock pigeon, western grebe, pigeon guillemot, bufflehead, mallard, varied thrush, Pacific wren, downy woodpecker, redbreasted nuthatch, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, Pacific loon, common loon, surf scoter, glaucous winged gull, double-crested cormorant, redbreasted merganser, common goldeneye, pelagic cormorant*, northern pintail, killdeer.

Also harbor seals and black-tailed deer for the mammal side of things.

*I’m not very sure of that cormorant id. There were a pile of cormorants hanging on some pilings by the Coupeville ferry dock and most were clearly juvenile and adult double-crested cormorants. But there were just a few tucked in that looked noticeably smaller to me and didn’t have any light color on the face at all and pelagic is all I can come up with. I suppose it’s not entirely weird that I’d see a pelagic or two in the area, but I just don’t have a great handle on the cormorants when they’re not in clear breeding plumage and their ranges overlap.

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