Seattle Part I: Reliable Redpolls
A couple of weeks ago, Jen invited me on a birding day trip to Seattle with her and her pups. How could I resist those faces?!
To sweeten the deal, there were life-birds up for grabs. A flock of Common Redpolls was reportedly (reliably) camped out in the birch trees near Green Lake. Redpolls typically winter in the northeastern portion of United States, so this rarity would be a treat.
Along the way, we checked in on an unusually large group of Redheads at Weyerhauser Pond, just north of Tacoma. My first new bird of the day!
We got closer looks of a couple of “brunettes” too.
The morning temperatures started out chilly, but the forecast promised blue skies, warmth, and sunshine to come. Seattle graciously delivered.
A quick stop at Green Lake turned up empty for redpolls, so we drove farther north to Edmonds, Washington, with the intent on returning to the lake later in the day.
Edmonds has stellar views of the Olympic Mountains. And some pretty good looks of birds from the shore and from the pier too. Like another life bird for me, the Red-necked Grebe.
Some day I’d like to see grebes in their breeding plumage so they can really wow me. Speaking of wows, while walking along the pier we got the best looks ever of this Belted Kingfisher.
We inched closer.
I was in shock. I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open. Kingfishers usually spook easily, but this one paid us no mind. We watched as she darted in the water, grabbed a fish, and flew to a perch, where she then proceeded to furiously whack the fish repeatedly on a pole.
Here’s a video of nature’s awesome brutality.
The clang of the fish on the pole was oddly disturbing…and funny at the same time. One of the most hilarious birding encounters I’ve had, and I’m happy it was a shared experience.
From the pier, we saw Surf Scoters scooting along in the waters below. What a great look at that bizarre bill.
There were other tame birds in the pier waters, like this Horned Grebe.
And at one point, we watched a Common Goldeneye fight a crustacean that was no match for this diving diva, and she devoured it no problem.
What a great spot! Offshore, we caught sight of a bird in the same family as Puffins (Alcidae), the Pigeon Guillemot.
Also present were Pelagic Cormorants, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Western Gulls, and the cuddliest harbor seal.
Jen spotted a group of Brant flying by that I barely saw, but luckily got better looks of later at a viewpoint along Sunset Ave. This dignified goose earned the title of third life bird of the day for me.
Quality time was spent at Edmonds, but target birds remained on the list. On route back to Green Lake, we made a quick detour to Discovery Park, to find a Hutton’s Vireo, another lifer for me! No pictures of the vireo (that looks like a Ruby-crowned Kinglet), but I did get a recording of its distinctive song, “zu-wee, zu-wee, zu-wee“, before it dive-bombed us and hid back in the shrubbery. Pretty cool.
By this time we were losing daylight and quickly made our way back to Green Lake for another try at redpolls.
We found plenty of ducks, geese, people, dogs, and even people who had *seen* the redpolls, “they were right there on those birch, yesterday!” Unfortunately though, after two visits and trekking the entire 2.8 miles around the lake, we lost the bet and “dipped” on the redpolls. Redpolls 1; Us 0.
Birding is humbling, challenging, and rewarding all wrapped up in one fun-feathered package. Despite the redpolls, I had a blast and would do it all over again.
“What is life if not a gamble?“ – F. E. Higgins
Tweets and chirps,
What a fun trip! I wish I got to see Brant again for the first time. Love your blog!
Thank you, Sarah!
…out of your sightings the Red-necked grebe, Pigeon Guillemot, and the Hutton’s Vireo would all be lifers for me! That poor fish took a beating from the kingfisher….Hi Jake and Ralph!
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