Monday, November 7, 2016

A New Bird (to me, anyway!)

The last time I added a new bird to my Life List was May of 2015.  Since I've already seen all but a handful of the species that regularly occur in Washington, and I rarely travel out of state, my chances of seeing something new are pretty slim--unless a rarity turns up someplace I can easily get to, as this lovely Snow Bunting did.

Snow Buntings like to hang out in the Arctic during Spring and Summer, where they breed.  In Fall/Winter they migrate down to lower Canada and the northern U.S. where they prefer open plains.  In Washington state, they can more typically be seen on the eastern side of the Cascades but occasionally one pops up on the west side's coastal areas.  Sightings in Seattle are rare.

This one turned up at Discovery Park by the lighthouse, where a birder spotted it hanging out near the path.  I heard about it late Friday afternoon, when I was not interested in making the half-hour drive out there during rush hour.  On Saturday it rained all day.  But Sunday had a clear forecast, so off I went.

I was first in line for the special parking permit needed for one of the few spots down by the beach--otherwise it's a 1-1/2 mile walk one way with a big hill.  I chatted a bit with another birder (George) while getting the permit, and met up with him and his two friends Terry and Tina down at the beach.  The bird had last been reported north of the parking lot and Terry and Tina and I were ready to head off that way when sharp-eyed George saved the day--not by spotting the bird, but by spotting the other birders south of the parking lot.

It's always easier to spot birders than birds, and when we got to them, sure enough, they had the bunting in view--whew!

It was calmly foraging and preening about ten feet from the path.  The bird did not seem at all disturbed by our presence, and we happily watched it for a good twenty minutes.

It was one of the most perfect sightings of a new bird/rarity I've ever experienced -- good light, close views, great photo opportunities, and pleasant company.

Oh, and of course, it was also a truly lovely little bird!

After we had our fill, I tagged along with George and Terry and Tina, very congenial birders, as they walked past the light house and around the bend to check out the beach and the Sound.

We walked together for about an hour, and we spotted quite a few good birds on the water -- Surf Scoters, a White-winged Scoter, Double-crested Cormorants, Horned Grebes, and a Common Loon.

A great day with great birds and fine company!

I also took a couple of short vidoes of the bunting -- enjoy!



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