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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 — 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.

Grays Harbor Birds — House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

The House Finch is one of our most common feeder and yard birds, and can be seen almost anywhere in Grays Harbor. Unlike the other introduced/unwelcome outsiders (European Starlings and Eurasian Collared-Doves), this bird is quite popular with most who appreciate not only its red coloring (at least on the male) but also its long and cheerful song. This photo of a brightly colored male was taken by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds: Great Blue Heron

I would guess that everyone has seen one of these birds standing in a ditch or slowly stalking its prey, completely focused on whatever it has in its sight. I often see 10 or 12 of them standing in the water just below Highway 109 before it heads up into the s-curves at Grays Harbor City. I still watch them as they stand for long moments, waiting until just the right time to strike. They seldom miss. It’s all very Zen, and I can almost feel my breathing slow and my body relax as if in tune with the heron’s concentration. This photo by Mike Hamilton shows the successful catch of a tadpole, hopefully a bullfrog, a real pest in our neck of the woods.