04 January, 2010

Trip report: Seattle and Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, USA, 3-4/11/2009

My trip to Seattle and Snoqualmie National Forest was not a pure birding trip, but a combined vacation / geocaching / birding trip, as I primarily travelled to Seattle to meet my old friends. Still I was able to get some new lifers and enjoy the nature of Cascades. I was lucky with the weather, perfect sunshine and almost no wind at all. If you ever visit this area, please note that the weather is often very wet there, so waterproof clothing is really necessary. It’s also good to know that many National Forests in Oregon and Washington require day use fees. Please see the links in bottom of this article for more information.

Day 1. 3/11/2009

I arrived to USA from Canada by Amtrak Coach. I was hoping to see some owl during evening travel to Seattle, but no luck this time. In Seattle I met my friends Bryan and Heidi Roth, had a nice dinner with them. No bird observations yet, only one mammal, a Raccoon (Procyon lotor) at Capitol Hill. Well, a mammal lifer, though!

Day 2. 4/11/2009

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. at Bed & Breakfast Capitol Hill, very nice place, I can really recommend it! After breakfast I walked 4,8 kilometres from Capitol Hill to Fremont. Nice walk, but no lifers; Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus), Feral Pigeons (Columba livia), Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), Chickadees, some large gulls, probably Glaucous-winged or California Gulls, singing Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), some American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and some thrush, probably American Robin (Turdus migratorius). I tried to find the Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) from marina of the Lake Union, but had do luck with it here either (tried to find it from Point Roberts earlier).

Later in the morning I was on the highway 90 with Jeremy Irish and Kelly Bente, heading to Snoqualmie National Forest. Final location was close to Annette Lake Trail where our target, an extraordinary geocache was. Well, that’s not in the scope of this blog, so I will not write about it more here.

Annette Lake Trail is a serpentine path in the slopes of unnamed mountain between Humpback Mountain and Mt Catherine. Like in all northern hemisphere forests in this time of year, these forests were also quite silent. But not totally, couple of Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) flocks were feeding in tree tops, also Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens) were here and there.

Jeremy and Kelly, but no American Dipper

American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) was on my wishlist - I tried to spot it from the river that was running down from the mountain. The river looked perfect, but no dipper anywhere, bummer...!

I was also hoping for some Grouse, but no, no luck with them either. I was also looking for Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). There were fresh marks of its existence; lots of big holes in dead trees, exactly similar tracks that our Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) makes. But the king of North American woodpeckers was hiding somewhere else this time. Shame…

Ten minutes later I heard the sounds of Crossbills. But... I was expecting Red Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra), but these sounds did definitely not belong to them. White-winged Crossbills (Loxia leucoptera)! I found the birds, 3 of them, from treetops. Nice record! I’m familiar with this species from Finland, but even there where I live, it’s very irregular and I had not seen the species for years. When I look at the maps at Sibley, this was probably a good observation also in the State of Washington.

Downy Woodpecker, photo by permission of Wolfgang Wander, Wikimedia Commons

After few miles we were in the location of the geocache that we were looking for. While investigating its content, I heard an interesting sound close to us. A woodpecker, no doubt about it, but which one? This time it was Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), the smallest of North American woodpeckers. Nice bird indeed and a lifer to me. But suddenly the sound changed, woodpecker went quiet but some other bird was calling. I could not see it well; just some medium sized bird flew briefly between spruces. It was a Jay… and I had and idea which Jay it could be. Later I found exactly the same sound from Xeno-canto America, it was Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). Lifer again, but what a shame that I did not see it better, as I really like these Jays! Close cousin of Gray Jay, the Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus), is one of my favourite birds in Finland.

Photo by permission of Alan D. Wilson, Wikimedia Commons

While trekking back to the car, a large group of Chickadees were feeding in nearby spruces. One of the birds looked different; it was Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)! There I heard another familiar sound – a Treecreeper, but in this case it was the American cousin of our Treecreeper, the Brown Creeper (Certhia americana). I also saw the bird briefly but well enough. Two more lifers!

When we drove back to Seattle, I got the last lifer; Stellers Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). It landed to a tree in my eye-level right next to highway. What a beautiful bird it was!

Closer to Seattle I saw still one Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). And in the evening, after sunset when I had dinner with Jeremy & Samsy Irish at Ray’s Boathouse, Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was resting right next to restaurant windows, in top of pole. Nice end for the day.

Early next morning I started my flight back to Finland… I really miss Seattle and the mountain forests…

Must get back there some day, during early summer, with my whole family.

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