approximately 25 of us had an enjoyable day at the Refuge with a dry morning and wet afternoon. Highlights included BARRED OWL in the Orchard, NORTHERN SHRIKE in the fresh water marsh, and a good showing of waterfowl and shorebirds on the mudflats with a High 14.53ft Tide at 9:08am and Low 6.76ft Tide at 3pm.
Starting out at the Visitor Center at 8am, we had great looks of RING-NECKED DUCK, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, and MALLARD.
Bob Payne, one of our owl spotters, and Tim reported a BARRED OWL at the east entrance of the Twin Barns Loop Trail. Although we did not initially relocate the owl along this section, we did have a very nice mixed flock of BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, BROWN CREEPER, HAIRY WOODPECKER, BEWICK'S WREN, PACIFIC WREN and SPOTTED TOWHEE.
On are way back to the Orchard, we relocated the Barred Owl, in the stand between the two areas, with the owl flushing to the Education Center roof and into the Orchard. The bird appeared to be hunting, and at one point dropped to the ground from a fruit tree, but did not successfully capture any prey. Everyone had nice looks, it is not often that we get to see the Barred Owl at the Refuge with our resident Great Horned Owl. The Orchard itself was good for ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, NORTHERN FLICKER, DOWNY FLICKER, and RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER. Along the Entrance Road we observed GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, SONG SPARROW, FOX SPARROW and a VARIED THRUSH.
All of the fields along the Access Road are now flooded with good numbers of CACKLING GEESE, both minima and taverner's, CANADA GEESE, NORTHERN SHOVELER, NORTHERN PINTAIL, and GREEN-WINGED TEAL can be easily enjoyed. We had nice looks of COOPER'S HAWK and BALD EAGLE. Two DARK-EYED JUNCO, oregon variety, were seen at the green gate to McAllister Creek Road.
Along the west side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail we picked up PIED-BILLED GREBE, VIRGINIA RAIL and additional Fox Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker. The Twin Barns Overlook is now a great spot to scope waterfowl foraging in the flooded fields.
Out on the new dike or Nisqually Estuary Trail, the high tide pushed in thousands of waterfowl with good numbers of Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail. The surge plain is also a good area to see additional Gadwall. Where Leschi Slough goes under the dike we observed/heard WESTERN MEADOWLARK. Scoping the mudflats from this area we picked up dark morph RED-TAILED HAWK, a few NORTHERN HARRIER'S, hundreds of DUNLIN, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, and PEREGRINE FALCON. The mud flats and water's edge west of Leschi Slough on a high falling tide between 7 and 11 feet is great for MEW GULL, RING-BILLED GULL, GLAUCOUS WINGED GULL, and picking through the Dunlin to find a few WESTERN SANDPIPER. Lots of waterfowl foraging on the biofilm of the mudflats. On the inside of the dike trail we had our FOS NORTHERN SHRIKE, picked up 3 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, and AMERICAN BITTERN and VIRGINIA RAIL were seen.
The Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail was great for DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, HOODED MERGANSER, HORNED GEBE, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON GOLDENEYE, LEAST SANDPIPER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER along the west bank of McAllister, and BELTED KINGFISHER. The last 700 feet of the boardwalk is closed until January 28th for hunting season, but from the closure gate we worked on our speck identification with spotting scopes and picked up SURF SCOTER, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, COMMON LOON, and BRANDT'S CORMORANT. A singe immature BONAPARTE'S GULL joined us for the walk back, foraging for small fish along the McAllister Creek. It was great to see this little gull dive under water to catch prey from the boardwalk above.
The Nisqually Overlook was quiet, as well the remainder of the walk back, but by that time the rain was persistent.
A pretty nice day with 70 species seen and 166 species for the year. Mammals seen include Eastern Gray Squirrel, Columbia Black-tailed Deer and Harbor Seal.
Until next week when we meet again at 8am, happy birding!