North American Migration Count: Fidalgo Island & Swinomish Channel

Puget Sound Bird Observatory participated in the North American Migration Count for part of Skagit County. We counted the Swinomish Res and S Fidalgo Island from 8:30am to 7:30pm.

All day counters: Dan Froehlich, Mark Colombino.  Part-day counters, 8:30am to 2:30pm: Fiona Wilkinson, Sarah Krueger, Chris Kessler. We saw 85 species.  Noteworthy birds included Baird’s Sandpiper, Bonaparte’s Gull, Townsend’s Solitaire, and a probable nesting Northern Harrier (female flushed out of thick ground vegetation just across a drainage ditch on the Swinomish Channel flats).

Regarding Bonaparte's Gull:  Three gulls much smaller than the nearby Glaucous-winged/Western Gull hybrids observed through trees flying north over Puget Sound from the top of the bluff at Sharpe County Park.  I saw them from above only about 300m off the blufff and maybe 200m below me.  They were in full breeding plumage with black heads, short black beaks and wings with white leading edges.  Many have been around my home area at the ferry at Kingston recently.

Baird's Sandpiper: In the afternoon, Mark & I skirted the Swinomish slough, a set of shallow ponds along the edge of the Swinomish flats just South of the Swinomish casino and the Route 20 bridge, just north of Anacortes Telescope store.  The water area is difficult to access, but at one point we came upon open water with broad muddy margins after crashing through some brush.  Two shorebirds were only 30m away resting in a rather small muddy embayment and proceeded to forage in the mud about 8m from the edge where vegetation was tall.  We watched them for about 10 minutes. They had straight black beaks, slightly longer than head and robust for a peep; cheek patch and crown a touch buffier than remaining head; two rows of pronounced and even, dark-centered, cinnamon-edged coverts on wing slightly richer in tone than the buff distinctive for the rest of the feather edging; dark legs, blackish or blackish olive; a finely-streaked breast without a crisp border to the white belly (unlike Pectoral Sandpiper) and some streaking down the side, though not nearly as much as is typical of Western Sandpiper in breeding plumage. There was only the vaguest suggestion of a buff "V" on the back, unlike Pectoral or Least Sandpipers.  The basal color of the birds was unusually buffy and the overall shape was stretched lengthwise, meaning the wingtips were noticeably longer than the rump.  They were distinctly larger and buffier than the several dozen Least Sandpipers we encountered a few minutes later in the same slough and later still in a nearby muddy pond.  Shortly after seeing the pair, I encountered an identical bird alone on the flat of a nearby muddy broad drainage channel.  This bird flushed and gave Baird's characteristic gravelly flight chirrup on taking off.  This bird also showed the vertical dark bar on the rump. All three of these birds were in breeding plumage like the many birds I've seen breeding on the edges of the gravel pads in Barrow AK. Though surprised, I identified the pair as Baird's Sandpipers within the first 15 seconds of observation.  Further observation corroborated this initial identification.  Leg color wrong for Pectoral, Least and vagrant peeps.

Rump unlike White-rumped Sandpiper. Wing covert edging not bright enough for Western Sandpiper. Bill black and straight, moderate length, not drooping, nor bulbous at

tip, not fine. Breast streaking fine, not sharply demarcated, no chevrons, Wingtips much longer than rectrices. Plumage more buffy than grayish.

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