Date: 11/21/19 4:33 pm From: Shep Thorp <shepthorp...> Subject: [Tweeters] Billy Frank Jr Nisqually NWR Wednesday Walk for 11/20/2019
thirty of us had a beautiful cool crisp Fall day at the Refuge with fog or overcast skies in the morning converting to sun by late morning. Temperatures were in the 30's to 50's degrees Fahrenheit with frost on the boards to start, making for slick conditions. We had a High 14.14ft Tide at 12:21pm for a great tidal push and spectacular show of thousands of waterfowl. Highlights included collared CACKLING GOOSE, continuing RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, PEREGRINE FALCON pair devouring duck breakfast, FOY TRUMPETER SWAN, and new bridge between Observation Tower and McAllister Creek Viewing Platform on the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. The boardwalk estuary trail is reopened up until the closure gate at the last 700 feet for hunting season until February 1st.
Starting out at the Visitor Center Pond Overlook at 8am, we had great viewing of WILSON'S SNIPE, RING-NECKED DUCK, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIGEON, BUFFLEHEAD, MALLARD and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. The Barn Owl that was roosting in the Visitor Center the previous week has not returned for additional sightings.
The morning started off slow with the cold temperatures and little bird movement. The Orchard was good for DOWNY WOODPECKER, RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER, (SOOTY) FOX SPARROW and SPOTTED TOWHEE. As part of weed control, the Refuge has removed significant amounts of Himalayan Blackberry bramble from around the Orchard changing the behavioral patterns of the GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW, which are regularly seen around the Parking Lot, Access Roads, and Dike Roads. An immature RED-TAILED HAWK and NORTHERN HARRIER were hunting the flooding field adjacent to the Entrance Road.
The Access Road was good for CHESTNUT BACKED CHICKADEE, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. We had good numbers of NORTHERN PINTAIL in the flooded fields south and west. The flooded field west of the Access Road and south of the old McAllister Creek Access Road was great for CACKLING GEESE - 300+, WILSON'S SNIPE - 7+, and NORTHERN SHOVELER. One of our Cacklers had a yellow neck collar with black writing with a keyhole shape (horizontal) and 9% (vertical) that will be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. We try to report all our band sightings.
One of the best shows of the morning was a pair, male and female, of PEREGRINE FALCON, on a snag in the surge plain scoped from the old McAllister Creek Access Road. The female Peregrine was eating a duck with the male perching guard, the pair undisturbed by any harassing Bald Eagles.
The west side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail was good for GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, BROWN CREEPER, DOWNY WOODPECKER, SONG SPARROW, BEWICK'S WREN and PACIFIC WREN. The front part of our group got great looks at the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK hanging out around the Maple Tree Stand next to the Twin Barns. The Refuge habitat with all of our gravel roads and dikes, provides many barriers for prey species like Garter Snakes and Voles. I believe the Red-shoulder Hawk and the Great Blue Heron are successfully benefiting from this edge habitat.
The Twin Barns Overlook was good for WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO (OREGON VARIETY), AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN PINTAIL and NORTHERN SHOVELER. We had additional decent looks at the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK.
Out on the dike or Nisqually Estuary Trail, a pair of BALD EAGLES, is renovating a nest in a large Cotton Wood Tree approximately 1/2 mile north along the west bank of the Nisqually River, just south of the old Ring Dike. The tidal push was a spectacle with at least 6,000 waterfowl in the surge plain east of Leschi and flooded marsh west of Leschi Slough. Over 2-3,000 AMERICAN WIGEON with 3 EURASIAN WIGEON seen. Over 1-2,000 AMERICAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL and 2-300 NORTHERN PINTAIL. There were plenty of MALLARDS and NORTHERN SHOVELERS, and a few GADWALL. The flooded marsh on either side of the boardwalk had good numbers of BUFFLEHEADS. The BALD EAGLE, PEREGRINE FALCON, RED-TAILED HAWK and NORTHERN HARRIER were all actively hunting. We enjoyed decent numbers of shorebirds, GREATER YELLOWLEGS 15+ and DUNLIN 300+. We also had good looks at RING-BILLED GULL, MEW GULL, CALIFORNIA GULL, and GLAUCOUS WING X WESTERN GULL Hybrid. Three TRUMPETER SWANS flew over the Refuge.
With the bridge repaired between the Observation Tower and McAllister Creek Viewing Platform, we were able to enjoy the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail and pick up nice sightings of HOODED MERGANSER, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, and BELTED KINGFISHER. Just off the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform we observed about 60 LEAST SANDPIPER, perched up in the dried out Grindelia or gum weed during the high tide. From the closure gate at the end of the board walk we could scope COMMON LOON, PACIFIC LOON, BRANDT'S CORMORANT and DOUBLE CRESTED CORMORANT.
On our return on the east side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail we added HAIRY WOODPECKER, TOWNSEND'S WARBLER, and MERLIN to our days count. There were 30 KILLDEER seen in the muddy field just south of the Twin Barns. The best place to look for the Great Horned Owl is along the north section of the Twin Barns Loop Trail and the east section in between the beaver dam and the twin benches. The owl is most frequently seen on the inside of the trail.
All in all, we had 68 species for the day, with 167 species for the year. TRUMPETER SWANS were FOY. Mammals seen included Eastern Gray Squirrel and Harbor Seal.
Until next week when we get to do it all over again, happy birding!