Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's the Point Washington State?

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Seattle to attend the national conference for Ceramic Artists. Of course, it was also the perfect opportunity to visit my son (in grad school at UW), get some excellent grub, and do a bit of Puget Sound birding.

Since I was staying downtown, Dan (my son) and I decided to take the ferry from there over to Bainbridge Island and then drive up to Point No Point on the Kitsap Peninsula, returning on the Edmonds Ferry via Kingston.

A Birder's Guide to Washington describes this spot thus: "Strong currents churn up plankton and small invertebrates when tides are running. Large concentrations of Pacific Sand Lance and Pacific Herring gather in the tidal rips at these rich feeding areas, in turn attracting high numbers of marine birds."

On the way up, Dan saw a sign pointing us to Chief Sealth's (Seattle is named for him) grave and wanted to take the detour to see it. Though we never got to the cemetery, we DID come across a Suquamish tribe Pow-Wow at Agate Pass.

Knowing sea birds would wait, we stopped in, listening to drumming and seeing young tribe members dressed up in traditional outfits for the celebration. Dan bought some smoked salmon from a tribe member who catches and smokes the fish himself. I invested in a carved bone necklace and a pair of silver earrings. We then had some lunch at the Agate Pass Cafe (highly recommended) and perused a small tribal craft shop, before moving on.

Point No Point was all it promised to be. We parked in one of the two public lots. We were fortunate, since the weather was cold, windy, and drizzly, so not many people were there. We walked past the small lighthouse, onto the beach which curved around the point.

Immediately, we saw why the book recommended this spot. There were Loons, Grebes, Ducks, Gulls, and three Harbor Seals who were curious about what we were looking at.

If you follow this blog, you know I don't have an expensive camera. I'm more interested in observing birds first and taking photographs afterward. Happily, Dan is the opposite, so we were able to get some middling photos of several of the birds we saw. Please take into account, the photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix camera at anywhere between 20 - 40x.


Pacific Loon

Common Goldeneye getting ready to dive

Red-breasted Merganser

We loved how the Merganser would look underwater to see what was there before diving.

Surf Scoter

All in all, combining the drive from Winslow to Kingston, with the productive stop at Point No Point, we saw a total of 24 species, with 4 lifers. This, in spite of my son asking "What's the Point??" (see photo below):

"What's the Point"

The list (lifers in bold type):

Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Eurasian Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Lesser Yellowlegs
Bonaparte's Gull
Pigeon Guillemot
Rock Pigeon
Northwestern Crow
Tree Swallow
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird

Addendum: Earlier in the week, we took a short walk through the southern portion of Discovery Park. Being a day of "acceptable" Seattle weather (not raining), it was busy, which probably affected our bird numbers. However, I add the below list for a sense of completion (out of taxonomic field guide order):

Brown Creeper
Hooded Merganser
Dark-eyed Junco
American Robin
Varied Thrush

Next birding foray: Magee Marsh, Ohio!!!
Hooded Merganser

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