phil jeffrey:: Washington/Oregon 2011 trip planner
Summer pelagics are rare - in particular there's a single Westport Pelagic on June 25th and a single Monterey Pelagic on June 24th so both are not possible, especially since I need recovery time from a pelagic. Most of the other species I wanted to see are closer to Westport than Monterey, this was somewhat of a no brainer. Therefore the trip was constructed to give me the best chance at maximising the number of new species found. I haven't been west in a few years and I have never really explored WA-OR anyway. My original plan reflected including northern California as well, but since Tricolored Blackbird occurs into OR (and sometimes into WA) that would be a lot of extra miles for no significantly new species, so I dropped the CA part of the trip.
Crucial to this trip was - as usual - the location of prior trip reports and monitoring of the main local area lists. RBAs aren't as fastidiously posted online in the WA-OR area, and RBAs typically include more of the rare Eastern birds than the ones I am interested in (Pacific Wren is not rare). The trip reports in particular showed that Sisters OR was an area of great potential, which is why I ended up going there quite early in the trip. The trip lasted 10 days, about 2,600 miles, and included one pelagic. The last two days were "slow" since I was worn out from the boat trip.
View WA-OR sites in a larger map
Traffic was only bad around the Seattle-Tacoma area where it was often spectacularly bad, particularly on I-5, even away from rush hour. I got stuck on one big jam around SeaTac in the middle of the afternoon for no obvious reason. Check Google maps for traffic when in the area - local roads would surely be more effective than the interstate.
|Pied-billed Grebe||Podilymbus podiceps||Prineville, OR|
|Red-necked Grebe||Podiceps grisegena||Des Moines Marina, WA|
|Laysan Albatross||Phoebastria immutabilis||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Black-footed Albatross||Phoebastria nigripes||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Short-tailed Albatross||Phoebastria albatrus||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Northern Fulmar||Fulmarus glacialis||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Pink-footed Shearwater||Ardenna creatopus||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Sooty Shearwater||Puffinus griseus||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel||Oceanodroma furcata||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Leach's Storm-Petrel||Oceanodroma leucorhoa||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Brown Pelican||Pelecanus occidentalis||Westport harbor WA|
|Brandt's Cormorant||Phalacrocorax penicillatus||Cannon Beach, OR|
|Double-crested Cormorant||Phalacrocorax auritus||widespread coastal, one or two inland|
|Pelagic Cormorant||Phalacrocorax pelagicus||widespread coastal|
|Great Blue Heron||Ardea herodias||riparian, coastal|
|Turkey Vulture||Cathartes aura||widespread|
|Canada Goose||Branta canadensis||a few mated pairs in riparian areas|
|Gadwall||Anas strepera||a few ponds|
|Mallard||Anas platyrhynchos||widespread in ponds|
|Cinnamon Teal||Anas cyanoptera||Willamette valley, OR|
|Ring-necked Duck||Aythya collaris||Prineville, OR|
|Greater Scaup||Aythya marila||Columbia River and Westport Pelagic quite far offshore|
|Harlequin Duck||Histrionicus histrionicus||Salt Creek CP, WA|
|Surf Scoter||Melanitta perspicillata||Salt Creek CP and Neah Bay, WA|
|Barrow's Goldeneye||Bucephala islandica||western Cascade lakes (Clear Lake, Fish Lake), OR|
|Osprey||Pandion haliaetus||uncommon, widespread riparian|
|Bald Eagle||Haliaeetus leucocephalus||common|
|Northern Harrier||Circus cyaneus||mainly Wenas valley, WA|
|Sharp-shinned Hawk||Accipiter striatus||Fern Hill ponds, OR|
|Cooper's Hawk||Accipiter cooperii||uncommon but widespread, including Sisters area|
|Red-tailed Hawk||Buteo jamaicensis||uncommon|
|American Kestrel||Falco sparverius||uncommon riparian-agricultural|
|Peregrine Falcon||Falco peregrinus||one in western Cascades, OR|
|California Quail||Callipepla californica||riparian-agricultural in Wenas valley and Prineville|
|American Coot||Fulica americana||Prineville OR|
|Killdeer||Charadrius vociferus||a few riparian areas|
|Black Oystercatcher||Haematopus bachmani||Cape Flattery WA|
|Spotted Sandpiper||Actitis macularia||a few montane riparian areas (OR)|
|South Polar Skua||Catharacta maccormicki||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Long-tailed Jaeger||Stercorarius longicaudus||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Heermann's Gull||Larus heermanni||Westport harbor|
|California Gull||Larus californicus||interior Columbia River, one at Cannon Beach OR|
|Western Gull||Larus occidentalis||mainly Cannon Beach, OR but also the more Western-ish of the hybrids at Westport|
|Glaucous-winged Gull||Larus glaucescens||northern WA seemd to predominantly be this "species", but hybrids obviously abound|
|Caspian Tern||Sterna caspia||coastal|
|Common Murre||Uria aalge||Cape Flattery WA, Cannon Beach OR, pelagic|
|Pigeon Guillemot||Cepphus columba||widespread inshore coastal|
|Marbled Murrelet||Brachyramphus marmoratus||Point No Point WA, Salt Creek CP WA|
|Cassin's Auklet||Ptychoramphus aleuticus||Westport Pelagic, WA|
|Rhinoceros Auklet||Cerorhinca monocerata||Point No Point, Salt Creek CP, Cape Flattery, Westport Pelagic WA|
|Tufted Puffin||Fratercula cirrhata||Cape Flattery, Westport Pelagic in WA, Cannon Beach in OR|
|Rock Pigeon||Columba livia||widespread|
|Band-tailed Pigeon||Columba fasciata||widespread uncommon in forests|
|Eurasian Collared-Dove||Streptopelia decaocto||widespread uncommon in agricultural|
|Mourning Dove||Zenaida macroura||uncommon|
|Short-eared Owl||Asio flammeus||Wenas Valley in sagebrush|
|Vaux's Swift||Chaetura vauxi||Oregon City, OR and Lost Lake, OR|
|Calliope Hummingbird||Stellula calliope||Calliope Crossing, OR and probable at Wenas Valley, WA|
|Rufous Hummingbird||Selasphorus rufus||uncommon but widespread montane, best views Capitol Forest, WA|
|Belted Kingfisher||Megaceryle alcyon||coastal|
|Lewis's Woodpecker||Melanerpes lewis||Sisters area OR, Wenas valley WA|
|Red-naped Sapsucker||Sphyrapicus nuchalis||Sisters area OR, Wenas valley WA|
|Red-breasted Sapsucker||Sphyrapicus ruber||Sisters area OR, Tacoma WA|
|Downy Woodpecker||Picoides pubescens||Sisters area OR|
|Hairy Woodpecker||Picoides villosus||widespread montane|
|White-headed Woodpecker||Picoides albolarvatus||Sisters area OR|
|Northern Flicker||Colaptes auratus||widespread montane/riparian|
|Pileated Woodpecker||Dryocopus pileatus||one fly-by at Port Angeles WA|
|Olive-sided Flycatcher||Contopus cooperi||Hurricane Ridge/Olympics WA, others heard in montane|
|Western Wood-Pewee||Contopus sordidulus||widespread - by far the most numerous flycatcher in drier habitats|
|Willow Flycatcher||Empidonax traillii||uncommon in scrubby montane, montane riparian|
|Hammond's Flycatcher||Empidonax hammondii||Reeher's Camp, OR (seen singing)|
|Gray Flycatcher||Empidonax wrightii||Calliope Crossing, OR (seen singing) - heard in Wenas Valley WA|
|Dusky Flycatcher||Empidonax oberholseri||widespread in denser Ponderosa forests|
|Pacific-slope Flycatcher||Empidonax difficilis||widespread in dark and dense wetter forests|
|Western Kingbird||Tyrannus verticalis||Prineville OR|
|Eastern Kingbird||Tyrannus tyrannus||various eastern Cascade riparian|
|Cassin's Vireo||Vireo cassinii||Metolius River, other Sisters OR areas, heard in Wenas Valley WA|
|Warbling Vireo||Vireo gilvus||Montane riparian|
|Gray Jay||Perisoreus canadensis||uncommon high montane|
|Steller's Jay||Cyanocitta stelleri||widespread|
|Western (California) Scrub-Jay||Aphelocoma californica||widespread but uncommon in Willamette valley, also seen in Bend OR|
|Clark's Nutcracker||Nucifraga columbiana|
|Black-billed Magpie||Pica hudsonia||eastern Cascade riparian, agricultural|
|American Crow||Corvus brachyrhynchos||OR, plus presumed American X Northwestern hybrids in Puget Trough|
|Northwestern Crow||Corvus caurinus||Olympics WA - claimed in La Push WA but probably also Neah Bay etc|
|Common Raven||Corvus corax||widespread sage brush and montane|
|Horned Lark||Eremophila alpestris||sage brush and alpine Olympic|
|Tree Swallow||Tachycineta bicolor||widespread|
|Violet-green Swallow||Tachycineta thalassina||widespread|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||Stelgidopteryx serripennis||a few|
|Cliff Swallow||Petrochelidon pyrrhonota||surprisingly widespread|
|Barn Swallow||Hirundo rustica||widespread|
|Mountain Chickadee||Poecile gambeli||eastern Cascades|
|Bushtit||Psaltriparus minimus||Portland and Oregon City, OR|
|Red-breasted Nuthatch||Sitta canadensis||montane|
|Pygmy Nuthatch||Sitta pygmaea||Sisters, OR|
|Brown Creeper||Certhia americana||montane|
|House Wren||Troglodytes aedon||montane riparian|
|Pacific Wren||Troglodytes pacificus||widespread in western Cascades and Olympics|
|Marsh Wren||Cistothorus palustris|
|American Dipper||Cinclus mexicanus||montane riparian|
|Golden-crowned Kinglet||Regulus satrapa||only one seen (!), coastal montane|
|Western Bluebird||Sialia mexicana||riparian|
|Mountain Bluebird||Sialia currucoides||Wenas Valley WA|
|Townsend's Solitaire||Myadestes townsendi||montane Ponderosa forest|
|Swainson's Thrush||Catharus ustulatus||widespread western Cascades, Olympics, mainly heard|
|(Hermit Thrush)||Catharus guttatus||one or two heard in high Cascades OR|
|American Robin||Turdus migratorius||very widespread|
|Varied Thrush||Ixoreus naevius||western Cascades, Olympics, roadside at Hoh Rainforest WA, Cascadia SP WA, Lost Lake OR|
|European Starling||Sturnus vulgaris|
|Cedar Waxwing||Bombycilla cedrorum|
|Orange-crowned Warbler||Oreothlypis celata||one each in montane WA, OR|
|(Nashville Warbler)||Oreothlypis ruficapilla||heard in Wenas Valley|
|Yellow Warbler||Dendroica petechia||widespread montane riparian|
|Townsend's X Hermit Warbler||Dendroica sp||male resembling hybrid seen at Columbia Gorge in OR|
|Yellow-rumped Warbler||Dendroica coronata||uncommon montane|
|MacGillivray's Warbler||Oporornis tolmiei||uncommon scrubby montane (mainly heard)|
|Common Yellowthroat||Geothlypis trichas||riparian|
|Wilson's Warbler||Wilsonia pusilla||common in scubby montane or wet forest edges|
|Western Tanager||Piranga ludoviciana||uncommon drier pine forests|
|Green-tailed Towhee||Pipilo chlorurus||Sisters area, OR|
|Spotted Towhee||Pipilo maculatus||widespread|
|Chipping Sparrow||Spizella passerina||montane|
|Vesper Sparrow||Pooecetes gramineus||sage brush in Wenas Valley OR|
|Savannah Sparrow||Passerculus sandwichensis||Deer Park valley WA|
|Song Sparrow||Melospiza melodia|
|White-crowned Sparrow||Zonotrichia leucophrys|
|Dark-eyed Junco||Junco hyemalis|
|Black-headed Grosbeak||Pheucticus melanocephalus||uncommon drier pine forests|
|Lazuli Bunting||Passerina amoena||Wenas Valley OR|
|Red-winged Blackbird||Agelaius phoeniceus||widespread|
|Tricolored Blackbird||Agelaius tricolor||colony at Prineville OR|
|Western Meadowlark||Sturnella neglecta||mainly Wenas Valley WA|
|Yellow-headed Blackbird||Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus||Prineville WA|
|Brewer's Blackbird||Euphagus cyanocephalus||widespread in agricultural, riparian|
|Brown-headed Cowbird||Molothrus ater|
|Bullock's Oriole||Icterus bullockii||riparian|
|Cassin's Finch||Carpodacus cassinii||Wenas Valley|
|House Finch||Carpodacus mexicanus|
|Red Crossbill||Loxia curvirostra||one at Calliope Crossing, OR|
|Pine Siskin||Carduelis pinus||montane|
|American Goldfinch||Carduelis tristis||widespread|
In what follows, bold species are life birds, (parenthetical species) are heard only. Life birds are only marked the first time I saw them. Year birds were too numerous to denote. This trip was strong on pelagic and alcid lifers, and the land birds made up a smaller proportion of targets. The weather was predictable by geography - mostly cloudy/overcast on the western side of the Cascade range, and mostly sunny on the eastern side of the Cascade range.
Birding in the dark and dense coastal and western Cascade rainforests proved to be difficult and frustrating at times, with the darkness compounded by overcast conditions making for bad lighting. This and the fact that some of the passerines only fed at the tops of trees made me decide not to spend too much time on really bad looks at warblers, instead concentrating on the birds I could see well. In particular the drier Ponderosa Pine forests of the eastern Cascades make for much more rewarding birding - they are open with less understory and you can actually get decent looks. Of course the species don't really overlap all that much, so if you want good looks at Hermit or Townsend's Warbler you're going to have to suffer, or catch them on migration (AZ) or as vagrants (NY). Thankfully Pacific Wrens, despite being split from the Winter Wren, are as pugnacious as their close relatives and more than happy to express their displeasure at you getting to close too them, often while perched up on some prominent limb. In the wet forests they were only outnumbered by Wilson's Warblers, with Swainson's Trush coming in third place.
The weather on Saturday was a heavy overcast with drizzle veering toward light rain. From monitoring eBird sightings I had noticed that some Murrelets had been seen in the sound around the SeaTac area so my first stop was at Des Moines Marina. The presumed American-ish Crows (or hybrid American X Northwestern Crow) were all over the place. At the marina the gulls seemed to be mainly Glaucous-winged in appearance. The inherent difficulty lies with the "Olympic Gull", the Western X Glaucous-winged hybrids. Up around Seattle and at the northern coast of the Olympics the trend was firmly toward the Glaucous-winged end although there's apparently data to suggest that all of these birds may well be hybrids. Around Westport it's apparently the center of the hybrid range. Around Cannon Beach OR they seemed a lot more Western-like. Previously I had seen a grand total of ONE Glaucous-winged. By the end of the trip I'd put that up in the hundreds. So I've opted for an operational definition - the palest birds whose primary color matched the mantle color are operationally defined as "Glaucous-winged Gull" and the dark mantled birds with blackish-tipped primaries are operationally defined as "Western Gull". Genetically it's probably a nightmare, but to the extent that Glaucous-winged exists anywhere in the lower 48 it's up around Seattle.
In the water at Des Moines Marina were Pigeon Guillemot and a distant small flock of dark alcids/ducks seen in flight. In retrospect they might have been Surf Scoter or Common Scoter, but I wasn't able to get near to them. Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, the crows were on and around the beach. White-crowned Sparrow was heard singing, and I glimpsed a Spotted Towhee singing from nearby wires. House Finch and American Goldfinch were feeding on the shoreline. From here I went a little further south to Saltwater State Park. It seems like many of the WA state parks and county parks have no fee associated with them, although after July 1st 2011 an annual or daily pass will be required. But at least in late June 2011 I didn't spend much on park fees. At Saltwater State Park the water held Pigeon Guillemot, Gulls, crows but no other alcids. I did find an unusual adult breeding-plumage Red-necked Grebe in the sound which is a little out-of-season for mid June. The local Song Sparrows were similar in voice to Eastern birds but much darker - a rich chocolate mixed with gray. Almost like the coloration of Sooty Fox Sparrow.
Leaving Saltwater SP I went into urban Tacoma and after some obnoxious traffic and directional misadventure I wound up at Titlow Beach Park. This was a regular urban park and loaded with people in the recreational areas on a Saturday afternoon. However it did also have a nature trail back into a wetter area with alders that was far quieter and where they were doing some habitat restoration. Eventually I heard the squeaky-toy noise of a Sapsucker and after some patient hunting along the trails got a decent look at a Red-breasted Sapsucker. This park had recent records for this species from eBird, so I had kept my eyes and ears open for it and came up with my first life bird for the trip.
A little more urban navigation led me to Point Defiance Park, where I scanned from the overlooks and found almost nothing in the water surrounding the point. Many areas of the park held a dense wet western rainforest. Along the roadside I saw Raccoons scavenging food from people (despite signs to the contrary) along with Song Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon race). At one of the overlooks I saw an Empidonax flycatcher that remained unidentified. However Pacific-slope Flycatchers were calling nearby and given the habitat it's difficult to imagine that this wouldn't have been a Pacific-slope. I also saw a recent Wilson's Warbler fledgeling. Many of the birds on this trip appeared to be feeding juveniles in the nest or recently fledged from it.
Despite my early success with the Sapsucker the main interest over the first two days was the small inshore alcids like Marbled Murrelet, so I didn't spend much time exploring Point Defiance Park once it became obvious that there wasn't much to be seen out on the water but instead left for the Olympic Peninsula itself. En route I finally saw my first White-crowned Sparrow perched on a light pole at a gas service station - I'd been hearing them but not seeing them easily. I made my way up to Point No Point and the small parking area at the lighthouse. I had envisioned that the lighthouse would be on a bluff but in fact this was all at sea level and I was viewing this part of the Puget Sound from the beach (actually by then it may technically have been the Juan de Fuca Strait). It didn't look promising initially, with Pigeon Guillemot and Glaucous-winged/Olympic Gulls, but then a small feeding frenzy of gulls starting bringing in alcids. Scope views showed these to be Rhinoceros Auklets which are close to the size of Pigeon Guillemots and with two long stripes on the head. The gull flock kept attracting more Auklets and one or two came close enough to shore to get good looks at the birds in breeding plumage holding fish in their bill (presumably gathering them for chicks). Then I noticed small alcids to the edge of the flock and found a small handful of Marbled Murrelets. From a distance they are generally dark but a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds illuminated a couple of closer ones rather nicely in their mottled dark brown breeding plumage. The murrelets seemed to stay away from the Gull-auklet feeding frenzy. By far the best views of Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet were had at Point No Point on the first day, where a little bit of late afternoon sun made for some good looks at both these life birds. Too far for any sort of photo but really nice illumination from the sun to the west in relatively calm conditions. This was to be by far my best look at Marbled Murrelet.
Since it was late in the afternoon and I had snagged my target alcids for the Olympics I simply made the westward drive to Port Angeles where I stayed overnight at the perfectly comfortable Super 8 - this is the cheapest of the motel chains there but there are other cheaper alternatives in town - I might have gambled on these were it not a Saturday night. There really aren't any other areas close to Port Angeles as alternatives, either.
On the descent I heard/saw (Willow Flycatcher), Wilson's Warbler and (MacGillivray's Warbler) in the scrubbier patches. Back down in Port Angeles I grabbed breakfast and headed up Hurricane Ridge on the main ascent into Olympic National Park. It was early enough in the day that the entrance station was closed (in fact I had bought a National Parks Pass for this trip which turned out to be totally unecessary). Low cloud limited visibility on the road above the entrance station until I climbed out of it to a cloudless sky. The Hurricane Ridge road was gated at the visitor center (the crest, I think) but it wasn't obvious why - the road beyond it was plowed and quite open on the stretch that I walked. On the alpine meadow above the tree line there were Horned Lark and American Robins. A Common Raven and a Gray Jay were hanging around the visitor center parking lot. I walked down the road past the gate in lieu of taking the trails which were too snow-covered to be useful. Along here there was a single Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler singing away and a few Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos. No sign of grouse, but then the lack of open trails made it difficult to go off-road in search of them.
I dropped down back through the cloud layer to the campsite that was just uphill from the visitor center. The campsite wasn't fully occupied - apparently mid June is still early for tourist season in the Olympics. The path to the amphitheater was the most productive: two rufous Catharus thrushes that looked like Veeries judged by Eastern criteria but were in the middle of classical Swainson's Thrush territory; (Swainson's Thrush) were also singing all around me; Dark-eyed Junco; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Gray Jay; and after a little effort a singing Pacific Wren. The first wren I saw was singing from a perch and the song struck me as related to but quite a lot less musical than the eastern Winter Wren. I found another Pacific Wren a little later on that was even more cooperative. I saw a chickadee that was probably Chestnut-backed by range but the cloud cover made for poor light conditions and I didn't get diagnostic looks. I didn't find this species on this trip, at least in part because of lighting issues.
Out of the Olympics now and west to Salt Creek County Park. This was a busy little recreation area on a Sunday with some camping sites and an overlook of the bay. As advertised I did find a Marbled Murrelet in the kelp off the rocks, but the views did not rival those of the previous day. Surf Scoter, Harlequin Duck and Pelagic Cormorant were also out on the water and a (Rufous?) Hummingbird buzzed by. In retrospect that was the last Marbled Murrelet I was to see on the trip.
What followed was a long, meandering and implausibly slow route to Neah Bay via the coastal road. This road had slow speed limits (35-45), was relatively twisty, and so consumed mind-boggling amounts of time to reach the extreme NW corner of the Olympic peninsula - in fact I didn't get there until mid-afternoon. In Neah Bay itself were more Surf Scoter and a single Common Loon. My destination was Cape Flattery and the coastal stacks off it's western shore. It's perhaps a half mile or so between the parking lot and overlooks and at times the going is not totally easy - it's at least mostly downhill to the overlook. I stopped at a preliminary overlook over a channel to the south and saw a large (female?) Peregrine Falcon swooping over the channel, and then located a rock ledge nest with four impending fledgelings. I think this is the first time I've seen a Peregrine nest in natural surroundings, especially at eye level. Out from the main overlook it was easy to find Common Murre since there was a large flock of them in the water and there was a lot of activity with them dropping into and off their nesting ledges. "Glaucous-winged" Gulls (and/or hybrids) were also nesting here, along with Pigeon Guillemot and Black Oystercatcher, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants. A few Rhinocerous Auklets were in the water. The puffins took more finding. Initially I saw the black dumpy shape of Tufted Puffin in the air as they returned to the nesting sites, but eventually I tracked down their profiles in the water at the tidal rips. These were pretty marginal views of the bird, which came off my life list and were put on my "Better View Desired" list immediately. But Murres and Puffins were my targets here. At one point an adult Bald Eagle flew by with a Common Murre in its talons.
By the time I left Cape Flattery it was late afternoon and I was radically behind schedule. I headed toward Forks and down to La Push. Given the quagmire of hybridization between American Crow and Northwestern Crow, the birds on the Olympic coast are considered the most Northwestern-like. So although I'm not totally convinced that Northwestern Crow is a real species I decided to count the crows in the docks at La Push as Northwestern Crows by range. This is not a satisfactory situation but given that there was a whole discussion on the Tweeters email list about this during this time, it's pretty obvious there's a lot of opinions and not a lot of facts. Certainly Northwestern Crow seems to be a plausible entity on the coast in British Columbia. Between Glaucous-winged/Western Gulls and American/Northwestern Crows one starts to wonder if everything just threw it's species allegiences out the door in the Olympics. There were a fair number of Bald Eagles milling around the harbor area.
I was puzzled by some strange "Vampire Treaty Line" sign along the road of La Push, but it all became obvious once I headed through Forks itself - this is the town that is the setting for the crappy "Twilight" series. Originally I had designs of picking up a postcard here, mainly because of its 10ft annual rainfall - but given the plethora of Twilight-related references in the Forks I just kept on going. If I want to indulge in vampire fandom I'll watch Sookie get bitten in that trashy and intermittently entertaining True Blood series on HBO. I kept on going about 12 miles south and toward the road for the Hoh Rainforest. First I turned onto a forest road (Willoughby Ridge) that paralleled the Hoh valley to the north, with ambitions of Sooty Grouse and Vaux's Swift, but although the habitat looked promising the low cloud closed in long before I got good overlooks of the valley, so I turned around on this narrow forest road and came back down to US-101. The time of day was starting to cause problems and I decided to cut my visit to Hoh valley short. I stopped short of the entrance gate and explored the Alder grove there with more (Swainson's Thrush) and not much else - Pacific Wren and nominal Northwestern Crows and yet another Bald Eagle. American Robins had taken to hunting the roadsides here, possibly picking up insect kill from passing cars. One or two "robins" looked atypical and I was able to pull over and take a closer look at one - a male Varied Thrush picking up insects from the middle of the road, with a Robin next to it for comparison purposes. Roadside was the only place that I saw Varied Thrush on this trip, although I did hear more elusive ones singing in the rainforest where the odds of seeing one is near zero.
Because of time pressure I made one more stop off US-101 as I headed south. At the beach access north of Kalaloch there was nothing interesting at the water except Bald Eagles, but I saw my first (and one of few) Swainson's Thrush for the trip, Cedar Waxwings, Song Sparrow and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers harassing a Hairy Woodpecker. Both Downy and Hairy were fully dark backed, as is the western norm, but these were also of the pacific races where the normally white underparts are quite buffy. I saw more of the black-and-white interior western races on this trip.
Because it was getting dark, raining and because I was tired I spent the night in Aberdeen rather than getting anywhere close to my goal of reaching Oregon for the night. Nevertheless I had managed 3 life birds on the first day into Port Angeles and 4 life birds on this day into Aberdeen so I was doing well with my target birds.
Immediately over the bridge into Oregon the terrain turned flatter and I went south through a more (sub)urbanized area of strip malls before I headed over a ridge and dropped down to Cannon Beach OR. Parking was initially difficult to find, and I waited out a rain shower before hiking to the beach. The Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is notable because you can walk right up to it at low tide. Nevertheless alcids, cormorants and gulls are happy to nest on it. There were Western-type Gulls and an immature California Gull on the beach. However what was most noteworthy was that the alcids popped off the rock and flew right over my head on their way out to feed. They were mostly Common Murre, but in contrast to yesterday's crummy looks at Tufted Puffin I got very good looks indeed at them perched and in flight. I also saw Brandt's Cormorant on the rocks, my first for the trip. Most of the gull pairings looked OK for Western but there was one obvious Western X Glaucous-winged pairing. Hybrids are probably running rampant here too.
I spent some time at Cannon Beach enjoying the spectacle and then cut inland along US-26 toward Timber. Along the way I stopped at a rest area and heard a Warbling Vireo and another passerine and became quite frustrated at my inability to find them. So I gave up and headed to Timber and cut back west along dirt roads to Reeher's Camp, which is a mixed day use and horse camp in the coastal forests. Here the usual mix of Pacific Wren, Wilson's Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher was in evidence. I made a go of finding Hermit Warbler in the pine canopy but they were simply too far up for the brief looks I got under the overcast conditions to be definitive. However I did get a look at a singing Hammond's Flycatcher whose song is quite different from Pacific-slope. Other things seen and heard here were Gray Jay, Dark-eyed Junco and (Western Tanager). En route out of Timber, before and during waiting in a long line at a road construction stop I saw Stopped Towhee and Common Raven.
Then I dropped down out of the mountains to a small marsh area west of Banks OR. Here I caught glimpses of the first Brewer's Blackbirds in the agricultural areas (they are apparently absent from the coastal ranges). In the marsh was Cinnamon Teal, Marsh Wren, Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch, Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing and (Common Yellowthroat). A little further south and west to Fern Hill Wetlands at Forest Grove, where the water birds were scarce apart from a small group of hybrid/barnyard Mallards. Great Blue Heron and Killdeer were the most obvious water birds otherwise. However I also found Eurasian Collard-Dove, Brewer's Blackbird, Tree/Northern Rough-winged/Violet-Green Swallows, Cedar Waxwing, a fly-by Sharp-shinned Hawk harassed by Starlings and the local RWBs and a look at two Red-tailed Hawks dive-bombing local Turkey Vultures. Surely this must have been for fun, because Turkey Vulture isn't a threat to Red-tailed. I elected to head south along the west edge of the Willamette Valley via local roads OR-47 and OR-99W. It was along these roads that I saw the first Western Scrub-Jays for the trip and American Kestrel on the wires. I turned east across the Willamette Valley and headed up into the western slope of the Cascades passing through Lebanon and Sweet Home.
I saw Osprey over the large lake east of Sweet Home (where I'd stopped for lunch) and then I followed the road as it twisted up the valley into the Cascades. In contrast to the previous weather it was getting quite sunny. I stopped at Cascadia State Park and birded around the entrance picnic area and the upper group picnic area. Close to the campground entrance I saw another roadside Varied Thrush that resisted my desire to photograph it, and (Pacific Wren). In the upper area the birding was quiet in the afternoon but I did finally see one of the Western Tanagers that I had been hearing. I was still on the west side of the Cascade crest, en route to Sisters, and it was already mid-afternoon again. So I made only a couple of other quick stops along US-20 on my route via Sisters to Bend OR. Bend is in the "high desert" in a region of sage-brush on the dry eastern slope of the Cascades. Sisters is in the eastern edge of the lower altitude pine forest before it transitions to sagebrush. The terrain around Sisters, which was my location for the next 1.5 days, was relatively flat for a mountain area and proved popular with bicyclists and a lot of other people using US-20 as a East-West corridor across the mountains. I checked into the cheap but uninspiring hotel in Bend and decided to make a sprint for the Tricolored Blackbird colony in Prineville. First problem was to get through/out of Bend quickly, so I took a back roads route through the brush out toward Powell Butte. I was racing sunset since it was already past 8pm and the sun was low over the mountains. I dropped into the river valley in Prineville off the edge of a butte and then cut again NW to the reported location of the blackbird colony. The sun literally dropped below a butte as I came up on the colony but there was ample light to tell the Tricolored Blackbird from the Red-winged. In fact the Tricolored were in their majority, singing their rather distinctive songs that seem to be half-way between Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds - much more grating and buzzy and less musical. With the sun down photography would have to wait for another day but on the drive back into Prineville to start back-tracking to Bend I saw two fighting male Ring-necked Pheasants.
One life bird almost seemed like an anti-climax compared to the previous two days. However I was looking forward to a couple of days in the sun on the eastern side of the Cascade crest around the Sisters area - I'd selected this area based on some trip reports and it was reinforced by postings on the OBOL list from previous days.
I decided to head to the nearby Camp Sherman a couple of miles downstream along the Metolius. Pulling into the parking lot at the bridge I soon found an American Dipper resting on the rocks quite cooperatively, although it was in the shade. Brewer's Blackbirds were around, which surprised me for an area with such little open space except right around the river itself. One or two Brown-headed Cowbirds were present also. While I was watching the Dipper for a while a male Black-headed Grosbeak dropped into the brush near the road bridge, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker started flycatching from the alders - apparently flycatching is much of what they do, since I saw them doing this elsewhere on this trip. A walk along the river-side trail didn't add much excepting elusive singing Yellow Warbler and Steller's Jay.
I returned to the Head of the Metolius to see if the forest warming up had changed anything. I heard a Cassin's Vireo around the parking lot and set off in search of it. I found it ranging rather widely in the forest but not difficult to track since it was singing frequently. I got to hear a wide range of vocalization and watch it slowly hunting insects in the pine tops. Decent looks enabled by the more open dry conditions in the east side of the Cascades. Also at the Metolius: Spotted Sandpiper, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Common Nighthawk hunting over the river. In fact as the day had warmed up there were large numbers of insects over the river.
A brief stop at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and the upriver trail didn't yield much - Yellow-rumped Warbler and Empidonax sp (Dusky-ish) but the Guard Post site along the river downstream of Sherman Camp was more productive - lots of Western Wood Pewee, White-crowned Sparrow, (Warbling Vireo), American Dipper, Yellow Warbler. Having worked a few sites along the Metolius and it getting hotter and slower in mid-morning I decided to head off to Calliope Crossing that wasn't that far away. Despite epic experiences with two immature male Calliopes in Fort Tryon in 2001 I'd never seen an adult male Calliope Hummingbird. Although I probably got a brief glimpse in Utah several years ago. On the road en route to Calliope Crossing I came across a pair of Western Bluebirds on wires in a meadow area, then pulled down the short dirt road at Calliope Crossing. This is a scubby riparian area through the forest with the stream fording the road. It wasn't difficult to find the Calliope Hummingbird - it was perched up on a thin twig on top of a bush downstream and fly-catching. Also present were Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Red-breasted Sapsucker (a pair nesting nearby), House Wren (nesting in an old woodpecker hole), Red-winged Blackbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrow, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch. A silent Empidonax came by that was probably a Gray (nest in the area). A Common Raven was heard in the distance. I was here for a little while tracking down species (the Willow Flycatchers took a while to show themselves) and watching the Calliope in my spotting 'scope. By now it was noon and I returned to Sisters got get lunch. One of the great things about this area is that the Metolius area is perhaps 10 miles west of Sisters and Calliope Crossing is about half that distance. Cold Springs Campground is about 4 miles west along a different road.
Cold Springs Campground is noteworthy for woodpeckers, so I was willing to chance my luck on those even if it was a moderately hot early afternoon. In fact while searching for the right place to park for day use I saw a White-headed Woodpecker working the picnic area. This isn't a very large campground and like other places I visited was mostly empty mid-week. Two small streams run through the area. Cassin's Vireo was sounding off from the Alders and I also saw Pygmy Nuthatch but passerine activity was not high. A (Dusky) Flycatcher was calling from the day use parking area. In addition to the White-headed I also found Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (Downy and Hairy both interior western races, as expected, so "monochrome"), and then both male Red-naped and female Red-breasted Sapsucker. In fact the Red-naped and Red-breasted were paired and feeding young in a nest hole far up in an alder, providing a vivid example of the hybridization that goes on in that area. Walking a little upstream along the trail from the first parking area I also found Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, Townsend's Solitaire, Western Wood-Pewee. I did travel further west along Route 242 but found it closed a few miles west of the campground - perhaps more snow ?
I spent the rest of the afternoon coaxing the car up some dirt roads toward the "GW Burn" up in the foothills of the Three Sisters, with the intention of making it a big woodpecker afternoon. The roads were fairly good but washboarded in places and the car didn't really respond too well to that level of vibration. I did rather a dilettante coverage of the GW Burn area, although I did walk around a little. Red-breasted Nuthatch was nesting in an old stump, Brewer's Blackbirds were taking advantage of the grassier open areas, Western Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak (nesting) in the riparian area. On the woodpecker front I saw mainly (Red-shafted) Northern Flicker, a possible Hairy, but then came across two single Lewis's Woodpeckers. Activity wasn't really enhanced by the mid-afternoon timing of my visit, but nevertheless as burns go this wasn't really humming.
Having spent much of the day intermittently watching the skies for Vaux's Swift, I turned my attention to blackbirds again and dropped out of the mountains and through Sisters and Redmond and once more out to Prineville. Using a different road (Route 370) from Redmond to Prineville it descended quickly into a riparian valley that was very picturesque - cattails and Red-winged Blackbirds were along this road but I didn't detect any Tricolored. The river here appears to drain the Ochoco Mtns. I did see Black-billed Magpie and California Quail along the road, and caught glimpses of birds that might have been Western Kingbird. Western Meadowlark were conspicuous by their absence. The Tricolored Blackbird colony in north-west of Prineville was still going strong and multiple birds posed for pictures - this time I actually got here whe the sun was out. I cut across the agricultural area north of Prineville, heading east, and did encounter a Western Kingbird that stayed on the roadside wires for a couple of pictures. Without pull-outs on this road the lack of traffic made this possible. In the easternmost point of the entire trip I stopped at the northern end of Barnes Butte Reservoir for a quick look. No Tricolored here but a few water birds made it on the trip list: Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Yellow-headed Blackbird as well as the more widespread Mallard, and Gadwall. Consulting BirdsEye to check for interesting birds nearby I noticed that Vaux's Swift had been reported over the river at Bend sometime during the day, so I returned out of Prineville via Redmond to Bend (where I was staying anyway). I spent the last hour of light at Sawyer Park checking every swallow (Barn, Tree and Violet-green), seeing Pygmy Nuthatch and Western Scrub-Jay but didn't find a swift. (Post-split note: I think the Western Scrub-Jay in Bend is more likely to be California than Woodhouse's but I'm not certain and it's on the boundary of the two. The Scrub-Jays I saw in the Willamette Valley would certainly be Californias.)
This was my last night in Bend OR before the push north and west.
Mid morning now and I briefly checked out Indian Springs Campground to see if I could find Williamson's Sapsucker. I was treated to a male Green-tailed Towhee singing near the entrance, but otherwise bird activity was unremarkable, even around the riparian area. Chipping Sparrow was also around the entrance. Another visit to Callope Crossing yielded the same species as the prior visit but a little wandering around provided Western Wood-Pewee (more common than all the other flycatchers put together on this trip) and a singing Gray Flycatcher or two. It provided fairly bad looks but this isn't the first time I've seen this species and the song is pretty distinctive (it's like a repetitive Least Flycatcher with much less of the western decoration that comes with Hammond's or Dusky Flycatcher songs).
I decided that I'd got enough out of the Sisters area and headed west along US-20. I stopped at Lost Lake (Canada Geese only), then turned south onto route 126. I stopped at Clear Lake where I saw Mallard and Barrow's Goldeneye - all females and some with ducklings. Sibley describes the bill of female Barrow's as being yellow most of the time, which would confuse the Hell out of you if you weren't aware that these bills are dark during the breeding season. Anyway, I only stopped at Clear Lake for the Barrow's (reported recently on eBird). I turned north again and stopped at Fish Lake out of curiosity. This had Barrow's too, and in this case it included at least two male Barrow's, always a nice bird to watch. Now came a tricky set of decisions - I wanted to find Vaux's Swift, the one remaining land bird lifer for this trip, but reports of it were scarce. Based on the OR birding trails and BirdsEye I decided to check for them downstream of Detroit. So going north on route 22 I crested a pass on the western slope of Mount Jeffersion and proceeded to drop into a river valley that rolled all the way into Detroit and further downstream. Now on the western edge of the Cascade crest it started to get cloudier, and a little west of Detroit Lake it clouded up entirely. I made a few stops along 22 before and after Detroit and found many swallows, a few Ospreys and one Peregrine Falcon but completely struck out on Vaux's Swift. I spent quite some time scouring the overcast skies at Fisherman's Bend where I found a lot of Swallows but no Vaux's. A quick perusal of the birding tour routes revealed that the only way to cut back to the eastern side of the Cascades involved some extended driving on Forest Roads, which seemed likely to translate to dirt roads which I didn't have a great deal of faith in my Chevy's love for. So I reluctantly dropped down into the cloudy Willamette Valley and made north up the eastern edge of the valley in the general direction of Portland.
I took the Cascade Hwy up through Sublimity (sadly I skipped Idiotville on this trip) headed toward Oregon City. I could tell I was getting closer to Portland because I was being tailgated by a Toyota Prius. On the edge of the greater Portland metro area I stopped along the river at Gladstone (swallows, no swift) and then headed down to Oregon City to research motels for a bit. At this point I noticed recent BirdsEye sightings of Vaux's Swift, tagged on eBird as "Private Location" but clearly near the Willamette River. I picked Clackamette Park as a possible riverside viewpoint and found it relatively busy, but still picked up Western Wood-Pewee and Bushtit in the trees. I was watching swallows over the lake when I decided to start doing sweeps of the sky - that first sweep netted me my first Vaux's Swift and subsequent sweeps found me as many as 3 in one go - I'm guessing there were a fair number in this area but they seemd to move in and out of the river. I didn't get any direct fly-overs but I did get decent looks. They were very Chimney Swift-like but possibly a little more fluttery in flight style.
I stayed overnight in a motel near Troutdale, staging for the following day's drive back to the east side of the Cascades.
After checking out of the motel I headed to the first interesting place on the south bank of the Columbia River - Angel's Rest trail, which ascends steeply up the hillside. I seemed not to be the first person on the trail, although foot traffic was light for most of the time. I didn't see or hear any Grouse but found: Wilson's Warber (with fledgelings), Dark-eyed Junco, Swainson's Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, a probable hybrid Hermit X Townsend's Warbler (full black bib with some green cheek patch), Brown Creeper, American Dipper, Pacific Wren, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Band-tailed Pigeon. Not a bad total but not my target birds (grouse). This trail was quite a workout so after I climbed back into the car I decided to drive for a little while. West along the banks of the Columbia to Hood River, where I drove out to the spit and saw swallows and one Greater Scaup - any doubt about identity was removed when it flapped its wings. It was quite windy at this point, perhaps reflecting the wind-tunnel effect of the Columbia Gorge (whose Natl Recreation Area I was traveling through). The hillsides along the river gorge had got notably drier and grassier and the morning's overcast had broken up so it was partly sunny. The Columbia River gorge is a very effective way of traveling west-east across the Cascades because it is a fairly linear and fast 60 miles.
I decided to make a last birding foray in OR by driving up the Hood River valley to Lost Lake. This turns out to be a private facility and visiting it cost me $7 - something the birding trail guides did not correctly indicate (neither the $ nor the ownership). Birding there was very quiet, especially in the forest, with (Pacific Wren), Dark-eyed Junco, Wilson's Warbler, Steller's Jay, and a few cruising Bald Eagles over an otherwise empty lake. The best two birds of this area were two flyover Vaux's Swift and a few Varied Thrush at the side of the road, glimpsed mainly as they headed back into the forest. There were no pull overs to wait for the birds to return. Due to roadwork and the slow nature of the roads this was a time-expensive side trip where time might have been better spent elsewhere. I returned to Hood River and east to The Dalles. By now the pines had vanished from the hillsides which appeared dry and grassy with few small trees in sheltered drainages. The Columbia River was dammed here (hydroelectric?) and California Gulls were cruising along the roadside. East of The Dalles I turned north across the river and into WA at US-97, after passing the Deschutes River as it drains into the Columbia - the outflow of the water I'd seen in Prineville and Bend.
Stopping to shoot boring pictures of the wind farm up the hill at US-97 I noticed that somebody appeared to have created a Stonehenge-esque structure on the hillside in the distance. Signage a little further on indicated that it was the Stonehenge War Memorial, which is really [expletive] odd if you're someone that has touched the original Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in the UK (in the old days you could wander through the place, which is no longer true). I spent a little time there before I was suitably weirded out. A photographer I encountered there said that he had spent 5 weeks on the coastal side of the Cascades and had 5 sunny days in 5 weeks. Back on US-97 I wound through dry grassland up to a low pass with dry ponderosa pine forest and back down into dry grassland again. The going was fairly fast and since it was hot and windy in the afternoon I had no real desire to spend time searching for elusive bird species in some of the spots in this area. Instead I stopped at Toppenish National Wildife Refuge after dropping down into the Yakima River valley. Facilities were minimal here, enhanced by the fact that the gate to the visitor center closes at 4pm. I walked to the overlook near the entrance parking lot and found: Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Tree/Barn/Cliff Swallows, Western Meadowlark. Bald Eagle and Northern Harrier were hunting over the marsh and pursued aggressively by Red-winged Blackbirds. The road to the south side of the NWR passing through sagebrush produced Black-billed Magpie and more Western Meadowlark but was otherwise unproductive - from the looks of the maps it may have paid to check further along this road for water birds. C'est la vie. Just south of Toppenish a Cormorant headed west along the river that was almost certainly Double-crested (Pelagic and Brandt's are surely coastal).
To end the day I continued on US-97 into Yakima and stayed at a Motel 6 on the north edge of that small city. Before sunset I made a drive into the Wenas Valley area to the north-west of Selah. This riparian valley on the east side of the Cascades had good sightings from recent weeks. In the lower valley I saw Black-billed Magpie, Killdeer, California Quail, Western Meadowlark, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker. As I would into the upper valley I picked up Western and Eastern Kingbirds. As the pavement ended I took the N. Wenas Valley Road towards the Ellensburg pass for a little way. Passing through a narrow brushy riparian area I saw a hummingbird that was probably a Calliope (not seen well), a family of COmmon Ravens, Cedar Waxwing, Townsend's Solitaire, Lazuli Bunting calling from the hillside, before I turned around and headed back to the hotel at sundown (in retrospect I might have checked the Wenas Valley campground for Northern Pygmy-Owl instead).
Back down the road and I spied Vesper Sparrow just before turning onto Audubon Rd (dirt). This road starts off well, becomes deeply rutted and quite bumpy as it descends into the river valley. Some water across the road wasn't very deep, and the road smoothed out just after that. I think I heard Veery here in two locations, although Swainson's Thrush were elsewhere in this valley. I parked near the deserted campground and walked up the valley. Spotted Towhee and Chipping Sparrow (incl juveniles) were numerous. I walked up a steep track into the pine forest but didn't hear or see any grouse. Western Wood-Pewee were widespread here, Pine Siskins were in decent numbers, (Cassin's Vireo) and (Pacific-slope Flycatcher) made for an interesting mix of western and eastern Cascade species. Yellow Warbler, Steller's Jay, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Cassin's Finch, Townsend's Solitaire rounded out the list. Grouse were my targets and I struck out once again. I had no real expectations of finding the Owl, although it had been reported. On the drive out along Audubon Road I heard (Nashville Warbler) from the hillside.
I drove back up N. Wenas River Road over the top of Ellensburg Pass. The road was mostly easily drivable with one or two rough patches as it rolled into the riparian valley then up over another pass. Along this stretch: Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, House Wren, more Lewis's Woodepeckers, road variable condition. The traffic was very light which let me do a little bit of (otherwise risky) roadside shooting. Over the second pass the road dropped abruptly through dry sagebrush into a very broad riparian valley at Ellensburg, where the entire world appeared to be stopping to get lunch. Since I had to stage for the following day's pelagic I went west over Snoqualmie Pass on the interstate, pausing only briefly since it was shrouded in low cloud, then south via Auburn to I-5. Here the traffic was execrable (as it often seems to be in the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia axis) and it took me a good hour to travel a relatively small number of miles from Auburn to Olympia. Finally I hopped onto the road to Aberdeen where I shopped for supplies and crashed early in the evening prior to the following day's Pelagic. With less traffic issues I could have either explored Gray's Harbor or Nisqually NWR (near Olympia) but getting enough rest and shopping for the pelagic were priorities here.
More and more Sooties rolled by, and then the first of the Pink-footed Shearwaters. These were not as numerous as Sooty Shearwater and I saw less than 50 and only got one pretty crappy photo of one. They reminded me a lot of Cory's Shearwater from the Atlantic side. Not long afterwards the first Black-footed Albatrosses showed up. These are an easy ID, relatively, given their huge size and overall brown color. A little later we came upon a small cluster of shearwaters which let us get good views at Sooty (mostly), Pink-footed, and a motley array of Northern Fulmar in different colors from dark gray to pale gray to a few light ones (cf. the Atlantic coloration). These Fulmars were all in some sort of molt. In this group a single Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel turned up, proving to be the first of many seen as we got further from shore. A few miles from shore the skies cleared, and the ride was fairly smooth although a couple of people got sick. By this point I had amassed 4 life birds in something like two hours, so it was looking fairly promising to reach my expected total of 6-7. Just past this shearwater cluster we found a bird that caused some excitement on the boat - a Laysan Albatross which is a comparative rarity on these pelagics but was seen on the previous Westport trip. It's possible that the spring's tsunami have displaced many of them from their breeding grounds.
(click on image for larger)
As we reached the edge of the continental shelf and headed further out, shearwater numbers dropped. Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel numbers were sporadic but slowly increasing. Then a triplet of Long-tailed Jaegers headed over the boat. One appeared to be a full adult with a quite long tail and at least one of the others was a dark immature. I'm not sure about the third. Ironically this now makes Long-tailed as the most numerous Jaeger that I have seen. A little later I got frustrated as I missed the first couple of sightings of Cassin's Auklet - a small gray alcid that usually was seen heading away from the boat. However eventually I got a look at one before it turned in front of the bow, and later on I saw others in flight for better views. I actually saw one in the water and was pointing it out when a Leach's Storm-Petrel trumped it as it flew by the boat showing its white rump. These birds are longer-winged than the more familiar (to me) Wilson's Storm-Petrel and have a flight style that is a little reminiscent of a nightjar. A few miles off the continental shelf we turned around, but not before we sat idle in the water and chummed off the stern. In came a bunch of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and one or two Leach's as we sat in the water and watched them hunt the cod-liver oil slick for morsels. Pretty good views of both.
As we turned for shore we went back through the area that was good for Cassin's Auklets once more and I saw one that was so heavy from eating it couldn't take off to evade the boat, instead scuttling through the wake as we just missed hitting it. Shearwater numbers picked up slowly, and another Jaeger came by but didn't stop - this one looking like something on the Parasitic-Long-tailed axis but with an uncertain ID. I got a little blase at this point - it was more tens of Sooty Shearwaters, more Black-footed Albatrosses, more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels. I was getting tired from dosing on bonine and the warm conditions until a great deal of excitement on the boat as we reached the trawlers on the shelf edge again. Here, amongst the many Black-footed Albatrosses was an immature Short-tailed Albatross - a real rarity with 2,400 in the world. It was also only one of the few times 3 albatross species had been seen on a Westport pelagic. It was so rare it didn't even show up in Sibley so I had no idea what to look for - but it's a huge brown bird with a massive pink bill, so once you've seen it the ID is not difficult even at range. It hung around for a while but didn't respond to us chumming small fish to bring it into the boat. It's more of a squid eater anyway.
It was still a bit of a haul from the shelf edge to port, so I went back to napping in the sun until another shout went up. This one got me to my feet to see a South Polar Skua chasing a Western (hybrid) Gull from bow to stern, then cooperated by turning around and chasing it back over the boat for some very good views and a couple of photographs. The Western Gull got quite irritated with the Skua, and in fact they were a pretty good size match, so the Skua went on its way. Nine life birds in one pelagic, including two rarities !! Outstanding. And I didn't even get seasick, although I didn't feel perfect and was quite tired for the remainder of the day.
I stayed overnight in some fairly crappy cheap motel (Best Night Hotel in Aberdeen WA) because I was too tired to drive further - I basically collapsed on the bed and slept for 12 hours.
What there was: Band-tailed Pigeon with a song that sounded like an owl doing an impersonation of a European Cuckoo; MacGillivray's Warbler, the only ones I saw all trip; Willow Flycatcher; (Pacific-slope) and distant (Hammond's Flycatcher); Pacific Wren; Orange-crowned Warbler; Steller's Jay; (Western Tanager); Black-headed Grosbeak. I chased a couple of singing small passerines at the tops of pine trees and got absolutely no diagnostic looks at them. In line with prior experience I expended a certain amount of effort but I have limited enthusiasm for crappy looks at birds I've seen well before. I actually ended the trip without Hermit or Townsend's Warblers or Chestnut-backed Chickadee (although that chickadee in the Olympics campground had to be a Chestnut-backed). The best birds of the morning were multiple Rufous Hummingbirds. The first few were doing what they had done all trip - give be fleeting views as they screamed past me. But one female perched up for a few seconds, and then a little later I had one come check me out. It must have been about 6 inches off my left ear because the drumming of the wings was quite loud. When I turned to look it then flew past me so I didn't get the "face off" that I had with my first ever Rufous in Glacier NP back in 1989. Still, they are great bird.
After the Capitol Forest I decided to bag it for birding for the day and take an afternoon off to go explore a little of Portland. 120 miles to the south I had an absolutely delicious pork belly sandwich at the Bunk Bar and Sandwich shop in the industrial area, preceded by a vegan chocolate mini bundt cake elswhere. On the drive down Mt Saint Helens was actually in the sun for a change, showing the huge scar on the north side from the summit collapse during the eruption of 1987. I drove 150 miles back north to overnight at Tacoma, staging for the flight home the next day.