See this triplist in printable PDF format with media only on page 1.
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!
-- Terry and Karen
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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 GOOSE (Chen caerulescens caerulescens)
Snow Geese fall like snowflakes against a gloomy sky. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
BRANT (BLACK) (Branta bernicla nigricans)
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator)
TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus)
GADWALL (Anas strepera)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
Northern Pintails -- THOUSANDS of Northern Pintails -- dotted the waters of area ponds. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus)
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi)
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis)
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (Bucephala islandica)
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)
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.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica)
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)
HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)
A Cackling Goose stood out among his snowy flockmates. Photo by participant George Kimberly.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
The handsome Port Wilson Lighthouse stands against snowy Mount Baker. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
BLACK TURNSTONE (Arenaria melanocephala)
Seeing a drake Eurasian Wigeon, side by side with his American cousin, was a treat. Photo by participant Ann Camp.
SURFBIRD (Calidris virgata)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba)
MARBLED MURRELET (Brachyramphus marmoratus)
RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)
MEW GULL (Larus canus)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)
HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)
THAYER'S GULL (Larus thayeri)
Surfbird. Photo by participant George Kimberly.
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto xanthocycla) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus)
ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte anna)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens)
Belted Kingfisher. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)
WESTERN SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica)
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
NORTHWESTERN CROW (Corvus caurinus)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
A warm and welcomed rest between birds and seafood! Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (Poecile rufescens)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
PACIFIC WREN (Troglodytes pacificus)
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
Black Oystercatcher. Photo by participant Ann Camp.
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
FOX SPARROW (Passerella iliaca)
DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis)
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)
Deception Pass, into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
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)
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
NUTTALL'S (MOUNTAIN) COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus nuttalli)
CHICKAREE (Tamiasciurus douglasii)
"Don't move!" Karen takes one for the team. Photo by guide Terry McEneaney.
NORWAY (BROWN) RAT (Rattus norvegicus)
HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena)
NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)
NORTH AMERICAN RIVER OTTER (Lontra canadensis)
NORTHERN FUR SEAL (Callorhinus ursinus)
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)
MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)
Totals for the tour: 105 bird taxa and 9 mammal taxa