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Grays Harbor Birds: Barn Swallow

Aave you ever been a bit early for an appointment or meeting and wondered where you could spend a few moments enjoying some unexpected down time outdoors? Look no further than your local sewage treatment pond. Not all are as accessible to birding as the one in Hoquiam, but if you want to see a great diversity of birds, try parking along Airport Road. and keep a list of birds you see. You will be pleased with the numbers of swallows, including the Barn Swallow, shown here in a photo by Mike Hamilton. I like to stop and watch as I drive into town the “back way,” or on my return to the coast.

Grays Harbor Birds — American White Pelican

I often get calls from locals to tell me about something they are seeing that is a bit out-of-the-ordinary, and so it was recently when a gentleman I know called to ask how unusual it would be to see a white pelican in Ocean Shores. I told him they do pass through but are not very common, and asked where he saw it. He said it was on the roof of the Shilo Inn. So I had to go look and sure enough it was a white pelican, though not the one in Gregg Thompson’s photo.It is hard to miss this bird.

Grays Harbor Birds — Purple Finch

As one of the more common of our native birds, one would think this should have been one of my earlier columns, but I had a dickens of a time getting a photo; they are very wary and hard to get close enough for a decent photo. This was taken by me and isn’t the sharpest, but the color is true to the bird. They are pretty hard to miss!

Grays Harbor Birds — Rufous Hummingbird

I keep a folder with all my bird articles in bird alphabetical order; that way I don’t accidentally repeat a bird. I could have sworn I did a Rufous Hummingbird, with a great photo of a very colorful male, but it’s not in the folder, so enjoy this photo by Gregg Thompson and something slightly different in the write-up.

Grays Harbor Birds — American Pipit

During the recent Grays Harbor Shorebird &Nature Festival, a woman showed me a photo she had taken of a non-shorebird that had dropped down in front of her out on the Sandpiper Trail. She wanted to know what I thought it was, and with just a short hesitation I blurted out “American Pipit.” It’s not that I have seen a lot of pipits, but they are fairly distinctive and unlike most other Grays Harbor birds with which I am acquainted. This photo by Gregg Thompson shows one in non-breeding plumage.

Grays Harbor Birds — Western Sandpiper

If there is one bird that epitomizes the birds of Grays Harbor, the Western Sandpiper would be the one. This bird is the most abundant shorebird in Washington, seen on most beaches on the outer coast from July through May. They are lumped into a group of small shorebirds called peeps, which includes the Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Add the larger and paler Sanderlings and you have the most common birds seen running in front of the waves on the beach.

Grays Harbor Birds - Pine Siskin

Here is a mystery; when doing the research on this bird I found Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the Latin name Spinus pinus, while the western sources and one eastern (Crossley) use the Latin Carduelis pinus. Since I use all the references I can find I choose to use Carduelis, lacking any further information as to why they are different. Meanwhile, enjoy this lovely photo by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds: Greaer White-fronted Goose

While doing research on this goose I was struck by the range maps showing where it breeds and where it spends the rest of the time. This goose breeds on the tundra from Russia, Siberia, through Alaska, Nunavut, and into Greenland. Then it winters down the west coast into Mexico, and up the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Grays Harbor Birds — Northern Shoveler

Once seen, this duck is rarely mistaken for any other thanks to its large bill; for those of you of a certain age or over, think Jimmy Durante. It may change plumage but that distinguishing bill is a dead giveaway no matter what season it is seen. The female’s plumage may appear drab, but again the bill gives a clear I.D. This photo by Mike Hamilton shows a male in breeding plumage.

Grays Harbor Birds — Trumpeter Swan

This is our largest native swan, and never fails to get the oohs and aahs deserving of stars of the fields. I used one of Mike Hamilton’s group photos to show you what to look for out in the fields. The adults are white and the immature swans are gray through spring migration of their second year. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Grays Harbor Birds — Whimbrel

Take a good look at Gregg Thompson’s great photo of this Whimbrel. What a noble-looking bird. One of the amazing thing about shorebirds is how each one has a bill specifically designed for the job of getting food; each one probes for food at various depths in the mud and sand, as well as nooks and crannies among the rocks. The Whimbrel is an interesting bird as well, as you will see.

Grays Harbor Birds — Dunlin

This time of year, winter, the shorebirds we see on the beaches and around the edges of the harbor are in what is often called “drab” plumage, non-breeding. So when you see a large number of shorebirds hunkered down at the waters edge, it is sometimes difficult to identify the species. This photo was taken by me just a few days ago and features just one species, the Dunlin.