January 31, 2015 0 By Audrey

I had a total birdgasm when I got a close-up look at this fierce beauty:


My boyfriend and I took the Bolt bus from Portland up to Seattle to celebrate 4 fun years together. Before leaving, we discussed our expectations for the trip (because that’s what you do after 4 years together). Would we A: Spend the weekend visiting museums if the weather’s dreary? B: Visit shops and eateries and walk around Pike Place Market like we usually do? C: Lounge around like walruses in the Airbnb loft? Or D: Bird, bird, bird, because birds!

We compromised with E: Most of the above. My boyfriend shares my love of nature and adventure, yet he doesn’t quite share the same enthusiasm for birding (understandable). He would prefer to sit, observe, and journal about or illustrate nature around him – which I totally admire because I can’t draw worth a twig.

The weather cooperated, so outdoors we went. We first stopped at the Seattle Audubon Society for local birding recommendations. From there we traveled to Warren G. Magnusun Park Seattle’s second largest park, rich with military history….also, rich with birds.

We saw: Anna’s Hummingbird, Bufflehead, American and a Eurasian Wigeon (!), Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Scaup (too far away for me to identify Greater vs Lesser), Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, American Robin, and American Coot. Highlights:

The next day we visited Union Bay Natural Area and weren’t disappointed. This 74 acre park claims to be one of the best bird-watching sites in the city and I believe it. Walking in, not 10 feet from the parking lot something caught my eye perched low in an ornamental tree…was it?…no way…a hawk! Not five feet from our faces:

The best part, the bird wasn’t spooked by our presence so we were lucky enough to spend time observing and taking a variety of pictures. Even with such close proximity and crystal clear identifying features, my inexperience prevented a confident species call. I narrowed it down to an Accipiter genus, the banded tail, the smaller size, the streaks on the belly….in my mind it was either Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, or Goshawk. The pictures in Sybley field guide told me this was a juvenile.

I took a few dozen pictures to study and confirmed once home using WhatBird, it is in fact a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I’ve yet to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I believe they are smaller, with a less defined neck. The Goshawk has a more defined light “eye-brow.” Not a new species (I’ve seen one adult Cooper’s Hawk during the X-mas count), but still a cool sighting!

5 new species on this trip: American Goldfinch, House Finch, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Marsh Wren, Trumpeter Swan

Before birding I wouldn’t have sought out parks on a trip like this. It is a fun new perspective and a refreshing way to look at the city. I look forward to the next trip.