Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Washington Trip

Sarah and I just returned from a big trip to Northwest Washington that featured amazing sights and near-perfect weather.

We hoped to learn more about the birds spending the winter in and near the network of saltwater bodies known as the Salish Sea.

We spent our first two nights in Port Townsend, one of my favorite places in Washington.

I love the town's Victorian buildings and the views of boats and snow-covered peaks in almost every direction.

The Olympic Mountains and North Cascades were illuminated during sunrise and sunset, respectively.

Around Port Townsend, we found loons, grebes, ducks, geese, murrelets, and gulls floating in Dungeness Bay, the Straight of Juan De Fuca, Admirality Inlet, Rich Passage, Rosario Straight, Deception Pass, Crockett Lake, and other pieces of water.

We spent the next two nights in the Skagit Valley town of La Conner, another great discovery.

La Conner is a small waterfront on the Swinomish Channel with great restaurants and quirky shops. And more boats.

Not far from La Conner, we found large flocks of Trumpeter Swans in farm fields,

Dozens of Bald Eagles,

and a Short-eared Owl hunting a tidal flat. The Short-ear had long been a nemesis bird for Sarah. She gave it thumbs up.

A stop in Stanwood, Washington produced three more Short-eared Owls (one above, flying to the right) along with two Snowy Owls which were far from us on the other side of a slough, but identifiable. Stanwood turned out to be quite the birding hotspot, as we also found Rough-legged Hawks, a Black-crowned Night Heron, a Black Phoebe, and many species of sparrows in the area.

We birded around Seattle and dined with friends during the final two days of our trip. Tired but satisfied after six long days of birding, we returned to Oregon with a greater understanding of Washington birds in winter and 100 species for the state. We are now reheating our house as we wait for a snow storm that may or may not strike Portland.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Birding By County

As Sarah and I traveled through Oregon this year, we compiled a list of the bird species we observed in each county.

We visited 20 of the 36 counties, most of which were in the western and central portions of the state.

Number of birds per county ranged from 147 in Tillamook, the coastal county we visit at least once per month, to three in Josephine, which we drove through on our way to Ashland. Our home county of Multnomah came in second and Washington County, our neighbor to the west, was third. Polk county squeaked into fourth thanks to our participation in the Dallas Christmas Bird Count.

We will continue to compile lists as we visit the remaining 16 counties and revisit the 20 we birded this year. Though I do not have a numerical goal of species per county, I do hope to generate a list of birds from every one. This will require a lot of travel on the dry side of the state.