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Field Guides Tour Report
Best of the Pacific Northwest 2013
Feb 2, 2013 to Feb 7, 2013
Terry McEneaney

What the northwest lacks in winter snow is compensated for by the abundance of Snow Geese, thousands of which turned some of the agricultural fields snowy white. (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

The Field Guides Best of the Pacific Northwest: Skagit Valley and Puget Sound tour was wanderbah. Although we could have used a break in the storm patterns, the birding was quite good and the seafood in a different league; like seabirds, we dined daily on seafood.

We ended up with 103 species of birds, and 7 species of mammals, which was nearly identical to the species richness we encountered in 2012. There were some birds we missed, other new ones we picked up, typical for any tour. Our rarest birds for the trip were a lone Pacific Golden-Plover accompanying two Black-belled Plovers only 40 feet away, and a lone Tufted Puffin while traveling the ferries. Highlights of the tour also included: Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll, American Bittern, Cackling Goose, Glaucous Gull, Thayer’s Gull, Northern Shrike, and a lone and unusual blue morph (“blue goose”) Snow Goose for this area. Our rarest mammal turned out to be a nocturnal wildlife species found in the middle of the day, namely an opossum. The Snow Goose, Snowy and Short-eared owl, waterfowl, loon, raptor, and alcid spectacle was impressive. We saw thousands of birds, and we had a great time despite several weather fronts. And the seafood wasn't bad either.

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to show you the birds of the Best of the Pacific Northwest. Until we meet again, travel safely!


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) – Found around 33,000 individuals in three major flocks. One smaller flock with marked individuals were from Wrangel Island Russia, a remote arctic island between Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea. These birds summer in Russia and winter in the Pac NW. Also saw a rare "blue morph" also known as a "blue goose". Relatively rare to uncommon in these parts.
BRANT (BLACK) (Branta bernicla nigricans) – Not as many as other years. A few thousand individuals perhaps.
CACKLING GOOSE (MINIMA) (Branta hutchinsii minima) – Saw 5 individuals. These darling dark diminutive geese were accompanying a large flock of Snow Geese.
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) – A few hundred individuals perhaps.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) – Found over 6,000 individuals. Quite numerous and quite regularly.
TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus) – A few individuals.
GADWALL (Anas strepera) – Hundreds.

Pelagic Cormorant is one of three species of cormorants we encountered on the tour. (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope) – In excess of 30 individuals, 21 in one flock alone.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana) – Tens of thousands.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) – Tens of thousands.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata) – One to two thousand.
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta) – Tens of thousands.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca) – Several hundred.
CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria) – A flock of 30 or more.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris) – Approaching 50 individuals.
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila) – A hundred or two.
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) – Seen four out of five days. Over 100 individuals.
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) – A couple dozen. Many were paired.
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata) – The most numerous scoter for the trip , probably several thousand.
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Melanitta fusca) – A dozen or two.
BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana) – Less than a dozen.
LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis) – Two to three dozen total.
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola) – Over a few hundred.
COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula) – The most numerous of the two goldeneyes--in excess of 200.
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (Bucephala islandica) – Three to four dozen individuals.
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus) – Could count on one hand--both males and females.
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser) – A dozen or two.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator) – Hundreds.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis) – A handful-less than six.
Gaviidae (Loons)
RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata) – Several hundred. Seen more in other years.
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) – Less than one hundred. Seen more in other years.
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer) – 50-100 individuals.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) – One individual.
HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus) – 50-100 individuals.
RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena) – Over 100 individuals.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) – Not as many as other years.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus) – Hundreds.
PELAGIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) – More than other years---a couple hundred.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus) – One lone individual flying.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – Two-three hundred. Many feeding on voles.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

The group scans the sea from a typically scenic coastal locale. (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) – Several hundred-and all age classes. A clinic in eagle ID.
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus) – 50-100
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis) – Well over 100.
RED-TAILED HAWK (HARLAN'S) (Buteo jamaicensis harlani) – 2 dark-morph Harlan's.
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus) – 60-80 individuals of all color persuasions.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) – A couple.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – 4-5 all of the dark Pacific NW Peale's race pealei.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – Well over three to four thousand.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – 2 individuals accompanying a Pacific Golden-Plover.
PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis fulva) – The rarest bird on the 2013 PacNW tour. One individual in winter attire very close to the van and accompanied by two Black-bellied Plovers for comparison. The birds stayed 10 minutes then flew off.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus bachmani) – Less than one dozen.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina) – Several thousand, many being harassed by raptors, others doing warm-up flights.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
MEW GULL (Larus canus) – Well over 1,000 individuals.
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis) – Well over one thousand individuals.
HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus) – By the thousands.
THAYER'S GULL (Larus thayeri) – A lone individual---near Coupeville ferry.
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens) – Well over one thousand.
GLAUCOUS GULL (Larus hyperboreus) – One individual-Skagit Valley.
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) – Several hundred individuals.
PIGEON GUILLEMOT (Cepphus columba) – Over 100 individuals.
RHINOCEROS AUKLET (Cerorhinca monocerata) – Less than one dozen.

Though a common species along the west coast, the Glaucous-winged Gull is rarely seen away from coastal regions. (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

TUFTED PUFFIN (Fratercula cirrhata) – Relatively rare in winter, but found in the deepest and most open part of the sound. One lone individual seen by a small group of us to the north and close by and off the first ferry.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Too many to count. [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto xanthocycla) – Well over 100. [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – A fe wat a feeder.
Strigidae (Owls)
SNOWY OWL (Bubo scandiacus) – 5 beautiful individuals-mainly juveniles and one male. If you count the head of another male,it amounted to 5 and 1/4 individuals. Great for any tour.
SHORT-EARED OWL (Asio flammeus) – In excess of 20 individuals.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – A half dozen or so.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens) – A couple of these dark or dusky Pac NW types.
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus) – Several.
Laniidae (Shrikes)
NORTHERN SHRIKE (Lanius excubitor) – One individual--very close to the van.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri) – The very dark Pac NW form or morph stelleri.
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos) – Hundreds.
NORTHWESTERN CROW (Corvus caurinus) – Love their sound-- well over several hundred individuals.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax) – Under two dozen--here and there.
Paridae (Chickadees and Tits)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus) – Under a dozen.
CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE (Poecile rufescens) – A couple dozen or so.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) – One or two individuals.
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

The Northwestern Crow- is it a good species, or just a Pacific coast variant of American Crow? For now it remains a countable species, but perhaps not for long. (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii) – Less than a dozen.
PACIFIC WREN (Troglodytes pacificus) – Less than a dozen.
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris) – A few here and there.
Regulidae (Kinglets)
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) – A few.
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) – A couple.
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) – Thousands. [I]
Bombycillidae (Waxwings)
BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) – Two fleeting flocks. Less than 100 total.
Emberizidae (Buntings, Sparrows and Allies)
SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus) – Great views of this dark race oregonus.
AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (Spizella arborea) – One or two.
FOX SPARROW (Passerella iliaca) – All were of the "sooty group". Got great looks.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia) – Most were very dark.
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys) – Well over 100 individuals.
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla) – Several dozen maybe more.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis) – Dozens-all identified as "Oregon Group".
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus) – Hundreds.
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta) – Less than a dozen.
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus) – Thousands.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater) – Less than one dozen.
Fringillidae (Siskins, Crossbills, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Carpodacus mexicanus)
COMMON REDPOLL (Acanthis flammea) – 80 plus.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – Many. [I]


Virginia Opossum is at the northern limit of its range here, and we were more than a little lucky to spot this normally nocturnal mammal here, especially so in broad daylight! (Photo by guide Terry McEneaney)

VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (Didelphis virginianus) – The rarest mammal for the trip. On a branch in a tree in the middle of the day. WOW!
SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus) – One.
WESTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus griseus) – Two or more.
CHICKAREE (Tamiasciurus douglasii) – Also known as Douglas's Squirrel.
HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena) – A dozen or so.
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina) – A couple dozen.
MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus) – Less than a dozen individuals.


Totals for the tour: 103 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa