It was so great to get to Seattle last weekend and meet area Kossacks! And the trip to Skagit was nothing short of amazing — so many cool birds up there. It was lucky that the gyrfalcon was being seen; I’d hoped for it but definitely wasn’t counting on it.
That didn’t happen.
When I signed up for this date a month or so ago, that was my plan — President’s Day weekend in Seattle to visit a friend who was there for the year, and plan an outing with all of my imaginary friends in the area and then write a really cool diary about the visit. (“Imaginary friends” is how I affectionately refer to those I only know online … so far.) But the plans fell apart, though I do still hope to get up there in the next few months.
Since I didn’t get to meet the Seattle Choristers and see those cool Pacific Northwest birds with them, maybe we can share a few birds that I bet anyone who’s reading this in the lower 48 can see and pretend we’re all birding together.
Skagit holds the promise of rare raptors like Gyrfalcons and Snowy Owls, and plentiful sightings of Bald Eagles. But along with all of those, there will be some redtails. Because there are always some redtails. They are in every state in the lower 48, year round, though they do depart the far northern edges of the country in winter. You could make a good case for Redtails over Bald Eagles for the national bird.
As we continue our walk, wherever we are, there are a lot of birds just off the path and kinda hanging out at the edge of the bushes. Oh, Juncos! Of course. This time of year, they’re literally everywhere. I’ll bet pretty much everyone reading this (in the US, anyway) has seen one within the last week, if not within the last hour.
You don’t see a lot of woodpeckers on most birding days, but it seems like there are always a few. Maybe even more than one species — but Downy Woodpecker is likely to be in your woods no matter where you are.
My inspiration for writing about our “mutual friends” was being surprised by recent lifers mentioned by some of the experienced birders here — how was it possible they’d never seen a [bird that I thought was widespread] ? Then I’d look at a range map and it would all make sense.
More than one of the surprising lifers was a shorebird, but then I realized… duh, no shore, no shorebirds. And even if you have a shore, if it’s on the other coast — or the Third Coast — then it’s a whole different cast of characters. About the only shorebird that I could think of that spends a lot of time in all of our states is the Killdeer. It’s only around in summer in the northern states, but still way more widespread than most of its cousins.
It’s bright red and has a cheerful song. That could describe the Robin at the top of this page, who is pretty much everywhere in North America, and year round in most of the lower 48. Or it could describe the House Finch, who used to be a west coast bird until the pet trade helped them expand to the east coast. In any event, we’re going to have a bright red bird singing somewhere around us today.
Some of the widespread species are so familiar to us that we don’t even need to see the whole bird to know who we’re looking at. If you passed a pond and saw this scene, you could just add two Mallards to your eBird list without waiting for them to poke their heads up. Of course they’re part of our bird walk today!
Hard as it is to believe for some younger birders, those crows we’re watching were pretty scarce 20 years ago. West Nile Virus devastated corvid populations across the country and crows were hit exceptionally hard. Populations declined by 95% in some places; in a few places mortality was almost 100%. But once they were able to develop some immunity as a population, they were able to bounce back relatively quickly. A bird that can feed itself on the byproducts of human society has a rich resource available.
Great Horned Owls may be tough to spot, but if you’re out at the right time of night you can hear them hooting away almost everywhere in the country. Their range map, is coast-to-coast, north to south, year-round with only the high Arctic outside bounds. Nothing is too hot, nothing is too cold.
There are a few widespread species that I wanted to include here, but sheepishly realized that I don’t have any photos of them — most notably Song Sparrows. I’m sure I do have some photos, I just haven’t renamed the files so I could find them. Oops.
So what’s new in your part of the world? What are you seeing that we aren’t all seeing?