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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 — Barrow’s & Common Goldeneye

When Mike Hamilton sent out this photo of the two goldeneye females, I was immediately anxious to do a column on the two ducks. Unlike most birds, ducks breed in the winter, so these two females are in breeding plumage. According to most people I know, it’s pretty difficult to distinguish between the two kinds of goldeneyes, so if you think we have made a mistake, please let us know. The Barrow’s is on the left, and the Common on the right.

Grays Harbor Birds — Common Murre

Several times I have received a call from someone wanting to know about the “penguin” on the beach; they know it is bizarre, but that’s what it looks like. I then explain it is a Common Murre…I don’t even have to go see it, but I do anyway, usually to meet the person that has found it and to assess the condition of the bird. If it is standing around on the beach, it’s in trouble. As you can see in Gregg Thompson’s photo a healthy bird stays in the water.

Grays Harbor Birds — Western Scrub Jay

First, a disclaimer; when I moved to the Harbor in fall of 1998, I did NOT bring any of my favorite birds with me…honest! Those birds from California have made it up here on their own, and it does seem as though more and more birds native to SoCal are showing up in the Pacific Northwest. The Western Scrub Jay is one of them, and I am always thrilled when I see one. This handsome bird was photographed by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds — Peregrine Falcon

In my previous city life I used to watch a pair of endangered Peregrine Falcons hunting pigeons over downtown Los Angeles. From my second floor window across the freeway I could see the puff of feathers when the pigeon was hit and thought how lucky I was to get to see such a magnificent hunter. Little did I know that 13 years later I would move to the Pacific Northwest where I see these birds all the time, and they still amaze me with their fierce looks and intent stare. The subspecies out here on the beach are larger than their L.A. counterparts, and to see them up close is a real joy. I took this photo of an adult bird; I hope you enjoy it.

Grays Harbor Birds — Bewick’s Wren

One of two wrens common to Grays Harbor during the fall and winter seasons that charm us with their singing, the Bewick’s Wren is the larger and most often seen. The Pacific Wren is the other. The Bewick’s song contains more buzzes and burrs and is shorter in length than the Pacific, but is just as captivating and a real pleasure to hear. I often sit outside listening to “my” yard birds, and the Bewick’s Wren is one I see and hear nearly every time, though I confess I hear it scolding me more than singing. This photo was taken by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds — Great Horned Owl

I think everyone knows what a Great Horned Owl (GHO) is, as most of us grew up with this bird somewhere nearby. When we think of the sound an owl makes, it is usually the call of the GHO we think of or imitate. Many of us grew up reading Winnie the Pooh, and knew Pooh’s friend Owl, a Great Horned Owl.