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Field Guides Tour Report
Best of the Pacific Northwest 2016
Feb 13, 2016 to Feb 18, 2016
Terry and Karen McEneaney

A male Surf Scoter, one of the many thousands we saw during the tour. Photo by participant Ann Camp.

The 2016 tour started out with pouring rain and ended with much more promising sunshine. Although it was one of the wettest Februarys on record, we did not let the weather slow us down -- and our perseverance paid off. It took a while, but we finally got to see the great sights of the Pacific Northwest, including the mountains, state parks, and birds.

We ended the tour with 105 species of birds and nine species of mammals. We saw more than 120,000 individual birds, with more than 30,000 Snow Geese (in discrete flocks at four different locations) comprising the bulk of the birds seen. Other impressive bird numbers included the following estimates: 7,000+ Trumpeter Swans, 4,000 Tundra Swans, 20,000 American Wigeon, 8,000+ Surf Scoters; 20,000 Mallards, 14,000 Northern Pintails and Northern Shovelers, 300 Common Goldeneye, 300 Red-breasted Mergansers, 120 Red-throated Loons, 400-500 Bald Eagles, 50-80 Red-tailed Hawks, 15-20 Rough-legged Hawks, 5,000 Mew Gulls, 8,000 Ring-billed Gulls, 10,000 Glaucous-winged Gulls, 4,000 Dunlin, and a whopping four dozen plus Marbled Murrelets.

Bird sighting highlights for the tour included Eurasian Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-throated and Pacific loons, Cackling Goose, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Lesser Yellowlegs, Rhinoceros Auklet, Short-eared Owl, Anna’s Hummingbird, Thayer’s Gull, Mew Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Scrub Jay, Northwestern Crow, Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, Hutton’s Vireo, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Red Crossbill, Purple Finch, and surprising female Common Yellowthroat.

We got to see many of the dark morphs or subspecies of birds associated with the damp, dark, coastal habitats of the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound. These included: Merlin (F. c. suckleyi), Peregrine Falcon (F. p. peali), Steller’s Jay (C. s. stelleri), Fox Sparrow (P. i. fuliginosa), Song Sparrow (M. m. morphna), Spotted Towhee (P. m. oregonus), Western Scrub Jay (A. c. superciliosa), and Purple Finch (H. p. californicus).

Northern migrants such as Northern Shrike, Snowy Owl, and Bohemian Waxwing did not show up this year, presumably due to the wet yet mild winter weather conditions. Although I found a juvenile Gyrfalcon during pre-tour scouting, the bird could not be located due to flooded fields (and -- presumably -- changing prey). Never have we seen more standing water in the Skagit! Our best observations of bird behaviors/sightings included: dozens of Marbled Murrelets, easy to see because of the glass–like waters and excellent viewing conditions; very close views of Trumpeter and Tundra swans; Glaucous-winged Gulls dropping shellfish from the air; Snow Geese returning to feed in the fields; the raptor extravaganza of harriers, buteos, and eagles; seabirds by the hundreds -- if not thousands; and wonderful views of a suckleyi Merlin and a pealei Peregrine. The sheer number of birds was phenomenal. Our mammal list was good too. The rarest included three River Otters running on land and swimming in salt water, a Northern Raccoon traveling during the middle of the day, and a half dozen Northern Fur Seals passing by lighthouses.

In addition to the excitement of the sheer numbers of birds, the seafood was sensational and the camaraderie great. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to show you what we believe is the best of the Pacific Northwest!

Safe travels!

-- Terry and Karen

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

Snow Geese fall like snowflakes against a gloomy sky. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

SNOW GOOSE (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) – Observed approximately 30,000 in 4 different flocks: Samish-Padilla, LaConner, Fir Island, Port Susan.
BRANT (BLACK) (Branta bernicla nigricans) – 1,000-2,000 individuals. Mainly of the Black race (nigricans), but 18 individuals of the Gray-bellied (bernicla) form on day 2(Semiahmoo).
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii) – At least 3 individuals.
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) – 7,000 individuals. Many.
TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus) – Approximately 4,000 individuals.
GADWALL (Anas strepera) – 200-400 individuals.
EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope) – Safe to say over 100 individuals. In one pond alone 59 individuals counted. So many were in the area. Numbers appear to be increasing annually.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana) – 25,000 individuals
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – 8-10,000 plus individuals
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata) – 300-400 plus individuals

Northern Pintails -- THOUSANDS of Northern Pintails -- dotted the waters of area ponds. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) – 14,000 plus individuals
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) – 60-80 individuals
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata) – 10,000 seen in 5 days
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi) – 1,000-2,000 found in 5 days
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis) – About a dozen individuals found
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula) – 300 individuals
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (Bucephala islandica) – A little less than a dozen individuals found-mostly drakes
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Harlequin Ducks weren't quite as plentiful as some of the other waterfowl species we saw, but they sure made an impression when we found them! What a gorgeous duck. Photo by participant George Kimberly.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator) – 200-400 individuals
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis) – 400-600 individuals mostly on Crockett Lake near Coupeville
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) – one individual
Gaviidae (Loons)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata) – Estimated 120 individuals
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) – Estimated 20 individuals
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer) – 100-200 individuals
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus) – 200-400 individuals
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena) – 100-200 individuals
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

A Cackling Goose stood out among his snowy flockmates. Photo by participant George Kimberly.

BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) – Not as many as other years
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus) – Many
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) – 200-300 individuals
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – Quite regular and numerous
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus) – Dozens
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) – 400-500 individuals

The handsome Port Wilson Lighthouse stands against snowy Mount Baker. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis) – Many--80-100 individuals
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus) – A couple dozen individuals
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – Never have I ever witnessed one coot
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani) – Under a dozen individuals
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – 7 individuals
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – 1 individual
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Seeing a drake Eurasian Wigeon, side by side with his American cousin, was a treat. Photo by participant Ann Camp.

BLACK TURNSTONE (Arenaria melanocephala) – 45 individuals in one flock and 1 in another
SURFBIRD (Calidris virgata) – Close looks at 4 individuals w/ one Black Turnstone (Edmonds)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – 4,000 or so individuals--flying in very unique mesmerizing yet pulsating flocking behavior
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) – Under 1,000 many found
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba) – Several dozen
MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyramphus marmoratus) – About four dozen individuals-great viewing conditions-smooth water
RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata) – 80-100 individuals
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) – Dozens in Puget Sound-well over 100 individuals
MEW GULL (Larus canus) – Estimate over 5,000 individuals in 5 days
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis) – Estimate over 8,000 individuals in 5 days
CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus) – one individual-Deception Pass
HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)

Surfbird. Photo by participant George Kimberly.

THAYER'S GULL (Larus thayeri) – One individual day 1
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens) – 10,000 plus individuals
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto xanthocycla) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
Strigidae (Owls)
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus) – one individual
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna) – 4-6 individuals
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

Belted Kingfisher. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens)
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – A great look at an adult female of the "black" suckleyi race
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – Found 3-4 individuals of the dark coastal Pacific NW race F.P. pealei
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni) – At least one individual up close and personal
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri) – A few individuals of the dark coastal race C.s.stelleri
WESTERN SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica) – One individual of the Pacific group A. c. superciliosa
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
NORTHWESTERN CROW (Corvus caurinus) – Dozens
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – Less than a dozen
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

A warm and welcomed rest between birds and seafood! Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (Poecile rufescens) – A dozen or so
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana) – one individual
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
PACIFIC WREN (Troglodytes pacificus) – Many
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)
Regulidae (Kinglets)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

Black Oystercatcher. Photo by participant Ann Camp.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) – A few individuals found-both adult males and females
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) – A lone adult female mixed in witha Marsh Wren and Song Sparrows (Samish Flats)
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
FOX SPARROW (Passerella iliaca) – of the Sooty fuliginosa race
DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla) – Many
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia) – Many

Deception Pass, into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus) – of the dark oregonus race
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
PURPLE FINCH (WESTERN) (Haemorhous purpureus californicus) – Less than a half dozen with smudging flanks of the californicus race
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


"Don't move!" Karen takes one for the team. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.

CHICKAREE (Tamiasciurus douglasii)
NORWAY (BROWN) RAT (Rattus norvegicus)
HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena)
NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)
NORTH AMERICAN RIVER OTTER (Lontra canadensis) – Three individuals running on land and swimming in Admiralty Inlet--very close views
NORTHERN FUR SEAL (Callorhinus ursinus) – Great looks of two pods of 3 and 4 individuals in Admiralty Inlet-pointed heads-beautiful brown fur
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina) – Dozens
MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)


Totals for the tour: 105 bird taxa and 9 mammal taxa