twenty of us had a damp but reasonably nice walk at the Refuge with temperatures in the low 40's degrees Fahrenheit and breezy conditions. There was a Low 6.75ft Tide at 11:39am. Highlights included NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, GREAT HORNED OWL, DUNLIN and FOY YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, and WESTERN GREBE. Hunting season is over and the boardwalk is now completely open to the Puget Sound Viewing Platform.
Starting out at the Visitor Center Pond Overlook at 8am, an immature BALD EAGLE was perched in the single tall Douglas Fir Tree making waterfowl scarce at the pond. We did see SONG SPARROW and BEWICK'S WREN. The Northern Saw-whet Owl continues it's winter roost in a small Cedar across the entrance road from the east parking lot. The tree is easy to find as it is taped off, but with some careful effort there are several small windows between the scaly leaves where you can catch a glimpse of a talon, or belly feathers, or eyebrow from different vantage points. Please remember to stick to the trails and help preserve the Refuge sanctuary. While enjoying our difficult to see winter resident, a PACIFIC WREN was busy singing in the stand.
The Orchard was quiet with sightings of BROWN CREEPER, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, FOX SPARROW and the reliable seen RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER. Across from the Orchard at the entrance to the Access Road with the green gate we ran into a very nice mixed flock that included GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET and DOWNY WOODPECKER.
The flooded fields along the Access Road were good for nice observations of NORTHERN SHOVELER, MALLARD, GREEN-WINGED TEAL and CANADA GEESE. A nice sized flock, approximately 1,000 CACKLING GEESE, was observed leaving the Refuge earlier in the morning to fly up the valley for foraging. We also saw RED-TAILED HAWK and an Accipiter.
The west entrance to the Twin Barns Loop Trail was good for GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, SPOTTED TOWHEE, NORTHERN FLICKER and FOY YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, myrtle variety. A group of male RING-NECKED DUCK were in the pond and MARSH WREN and VIRGINIA RAIL was heard in the fresh water marsh. Along the north side of the loop trail, were the GREAT HORNED OWL nested in a snag previously, an adult bird now roosts in a horizontal position as if incubating eggs. Adjacent to the adult owl, a single goose egg has been pushed to the side, probably from last season. It's great to see our breeding pair of Great Horned Owls attempting to reproduce again this year.
>From the Twin Barns Overlook, we added NORTHERN PINTAIL, AMERICAN COOT and AMERICAN KESTREL to our list. Again this is a terrific spot to view waterfowl.
Out on the new dike or Nisqually Estuary Trail we observed GADWALL and RING-BILLED GULL on the surge plain. The flat grassy area around Leschi Slough has been good for WESTERN MEADOWLARK. NORTHERN HARRIER was seen in the fresh water marsh. Shannon Slough at the entrance to the board walk was great for very nice looks of GREATER YELLOWLEGS and a small flock of DUNLIN.
On the Nisqually Boardwalk Estuary Trail we had good observations of AMERICAN WIGEON, AMERICAN X EURASIAN WIGEON hybrid, HOODED MERGANSER, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON GOLDENEYE, GLOUCOUS-WINGED GULL, and WESTERN X GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL hybrid. The west bank of McAllister Creek is good for SPOTTED SANDPIPER, and we had flock of 30 LEAST SANDPIPER's with a few Dunlin working the east side of the creek along the boardwalk. The entire board walk is now open with the end of hunting season and from the Puget Sound Viewing Platform we picked up our FOY WHITE-WINGED SCOTER and WESTERN GREBE. There were approximately 300 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER's off Luhr Beach. We had good looks of COMMON LOON, RED-THROATED LOON, HORNED GREBE, BLACK BRANT, GREATER SCAUP, SURF SCOTER, and BRANDT'S CORMORANT. In Madrone Slough we watched DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, Red-breasted Merganser, COMMON MERGANSER and MEW GULL collectively feed on bait fish.
On our return, we added HAIRY WOODPECKER, from the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail.
We had 63 species for the day with two different species of owl. So far we have seen 81 species for the year. Mammals seen included Muskrat, Douglas Fir Squirrel, Harbor Seal and Eastern Gray Squirrel.
Until next week when I'll lead the walk again while Phil is away,