And on to Bottle Beach

Although I was elated to see the Wilson’s Phalarope in the morning, I rushed to get out of there because I wasn’t going to miss the chance to bird Bottle Beach under perfect conditions. As usual, I was way too early, there long before anyone else showed up, which was fine with me because I enjoy the beauty and quiet.

I was also very happy when birds began to show up. First came the Black-bellied Plovers, way out before the tide had come half way in.

Black-Bellied Plover

I started snapping shots early one when they were a quarter mile away, afraid that like last year they would never come very close. I was hoping my 500mm lens with a doubler would give me some decent shots. I ended up deleting all those early shots because they ended up coming quite close, particularly before other photographers joined me.

I also got even better shots of the Ruddy Turnstones

Ruddy Turnstone

that I’d seen for the first time ever the week before.

And the beach was full of Red Knots,

Red Knot

one of the prettiest shorebirds.

But, as before, the real highlight of the shoot wasn’t a particular bird, no matter how pretty it might be; no the real highlight is being surrounded by thousands of birds, mostly hard-to-identify “peeps,”


who pay absolutely no attention to you unless you do something foolish to frighten them.

Although you begin the shoot pointing your lens toward the bay, by the end of the shoot it doesn’t matter which way you point it — there are birds everywhere. It’s a feeling I seldom experience, but am always enraptured when I do.

Wilson’s Phalarope

When I was at Nisqually I mentioned that I wanted to see a Snipe, one of the few birds in my book on Puget Sound birds that I still haven’t seen after five years of birding. A volunteer suggested that she’d often seen them at John’s River, south of Aberdeen. Since I was planning on going to the coast this week anyway, I decided to go down early the next day to look for snipes.

Needless to say, I didn’t see a single one at John’s River on Thursday.

But that was okay, because I ended up seeing the best birds of the day there. For instance, I haven’t seen a Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

since they closed the five-mile loop at Nisqually. Nor have I been this close to a Yellowlegs since they closed the loop.


Most of all, I’ve never seen a Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

since they’re extremely rare here in the Pacific Northwest. And, although it was quite shy, it seemed perfectly willing to wade around the far side of the pond as I snapped pictures for the next thirty plus minutes.

Wilson's Phalarope

It was one of those “aha” moments that makes the long walks and the waiting worthwhile. The sheer beauty of the bird and its totally unexpected appearance made this the kind of magical moment I’ll remember, the big one that didn’t get away.

Back to the Coast

Usually I post pictures I’ve taken the next day, but with the sunshine and bird migration I’m suffering from a sudden wealth of choices. To make matters worse, I find it nearly impossible to sit inside when the sun is out. So, I’m at least a week behind in posting photos. Today’s photos were actually taken at the beach last Friday.

Since I got up so early I stopped at the wetlands before heading out to the beach. There seemed to be a lot more bugs than birds, but the marsh was bursting with the sound of Marsh Wrens staking their claim:

Marsh Wren

Since high tide was relatively late in the day, I started birding from the south end of the beach, Tokeland, not from Bottle Beach. I was hoping to see Loons or Western Grebes here, but I ended up only seeing Greater Scaup, at least I could see them out in the middle of the bay with the doubler on my 500mm lens.

Flock of Greater Scaup

I really wasn’t sure what I’d seen until I got home and could put the photos up on the screen.

Surprisingly there wasn’t a Godwit in sight. Instead, there were a lot of small shorebirds that I would normally expect to see on Bottle Beach. I started by photographing the Dunlin:


But as I was watching a Dunlin foraging in the rocks, I saw a strange bird enter far right and quickly changed my focus:

Ruddy Turnstone and Dunlin

As I sat watching it turn over rocks and shells, I realized it must be a Turnstone, though it wasn’t until I got home and looked in my book that I realized it was the much rarer Ruddy Turnstone.

Ruddy Turnstone

I stayed longer than I expected at Tokeland taking shots of the Turnstones,

Ruddy Turnstone

a good thing, too, because the wind picked up considerably as the day went on and very few birds showed up as a result, though the pelicans obliged with an eye-level flyby in Westport.


The Fog is Dispelled

Thursday just as I was about to accept the fact that it wasn’t going to ever clear up and I ought to leave, it started to clear up and I was able to get shots of the numerous Black-Bellied Plovers,

Non-Breeding Black-Bellied Plover

without their name-sake black bellies because they are in non-breeding colors this time of year. Perhaps that’s why they came so close this time, much closer than I’ve ever managed to get when they were in breeding colors.

I also managed to get several shots of what appeared to be Sanderlings,


a bird I’ve never managed to get a shot of before, though I don’t think this is the first time I’ve ever seen them.

There were also a lot of these small birds, what I think are Western Sandpipers,

Western Sandpiper

though I still find it difficult to differentiate between the many varieties of the sandpiper family particularly when they’re not in breeding colors.

I was pleasantly surprised when a small flock of Marbled Godwits joined the much larger flock of Black-Bellied Plovers.

Plovers and Marbled Godwits

I’m used to seeing them at Tokeland, but I’ve never seen them at Bottle Beach before.

I suppose I could have been disappointed by standing around in the fog for three hours, but the last half hour of sunshine seemed to completely dispel my earlier frustration.

There were no new sightings and the birds weren’t as colorful as they are during breeding season, but it was a delightful way to spend three and a half hours, alone in the mist as nature closed in around me.

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