California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia Trip Report 2/3

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Subject: California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia Trip Report 2/3
From: "Paul G Dodd" <>
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 23:06:29 +1000
Just north of the town of Orick we stopped at a gravel processing plant on
the bank of a creek. Here we were looking for a vagrant warbler (we didn?t
find it), but we did add three birds ? Northern Rough-winged Swallow,
Red-breasted Sapsucker and Spotted Sandpiper. Amazingly, Ken managed to pick
the Spotted Sandpiper by call ? so it then became a matter of locating the
source of the call! Heading further north we reached the Redwood State and
National Parks, where we were looking for Pileated Woodpecker. By the time
we arrived it was 2:30pm and the woods were very quiet, so we dipped on the
woodpecker ? a bird we would not catch up with at all on this trip.

We had told Ken that one of our target species was Tufted Puffin. Ken told
us that they nested on a rocky island, Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge,
off Point St George near Crescent City at the very north-west of California.
We dropped Ken off on the roadside where he caught a bus back to Arcata, and
we headed north to Crescent City. We headed to Point St George and set the
scope up pointing to Castle Rock. After an hour of searching we eventually
found a Tufted Puffin sitting on the water ? a distant, scope view ? without
meaning to sound greedy, it was somewhat of a lesser view than we were
hoping for!


We headed north to Oregon. Passing through Grant?s Pass we had California
Quail crossing the road in front of us! Overnight was at Eugene, Oregon. In
the morning we went to the Cascades Raptor Centre at Eugene. This amazing
place contains about 60 individuals of more than 30 species of raptor, all
of which have been injured or are otherwise unable to be released. This is a
great way of getting close to these birds. Each day around lunchtime the
volunteers bring a couple of birds out for a show.

>From Eureka we drove north to Washington and spent the night in Seattle at
the luxurious W Hotel, and we spent the evening drinking our way through the
cocktail menu and eating sushi at the bar. The next morning at the border
crossing with Canada, we ticked a new species ? Northwestern Crow ? the
usual corvid we had been seeing south of this was the American Crow, and
Common Raven, but the coastline along Puget Sound and the northern part of
the Olympic Peninsula in Washington are strongholds of this species in the
United States.


Once over the border, we spent four days in and around Vancouver ? visiting
the city itself, including Stanley Park (Lost Lagoon and Beaver Lake) and
Lynn Canyon. We also headed up to Whistler, on a very cold and wet summer?s
day! The only new species for us was Yellow-rumped Warbler ? but a
fascinating place. We did see our first Skunk in downtown Vancouver! On our
last full-day in Canada we caught a seaplane from Vancouver to Victoria on
Vancouver Island, where we boarded a Zodiac for some more intimate
whale-watching. After a while on the water, we had Rhinoceros Auklet around
us, including three flying alongside for a while. Then we saw something else
? initially I thought it was another Rhino, but then we got a look at the
immense and colourful bill ? a Tufted Puffin! This one stayed around for
some photographs ? then flew, but not too far. We were so satisfied with
this encounter! We only managed one Humpback Whale, but we had some great,
up-close, views. Afterwards, we headed back towards Race Rocks where we saw
Elephant Seals and Sealions ? and on some nearby rocks we had amazing views
of a Bald Eagle ? a bird that I seriously thought we might dip on (actually
we saw it twice more in the latter part of the trip).


The next day, Thursday, we had to start heading south again for our date
with Debi Shearwater?s pelagic out of Half Moon Bay on Sunday. Rather than
head back down the very boring I5 interstate, we decided to explore the
Olympic Peninsula in Washington ? the easiest way to manage this was to
catch a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancover Island, then to drive
south to Victoria and catch another ferry to Port Angeles in Washington.
This would give us the benefit of a little bit of exploration of Vancouver
Island before heading back to the US. South of Nanaimo we headed off to the
west for a few kilometres, into the woods and did a little walk ? here we
found a Chipping Sparrow, the only new bird we added to our Canadian list
(we didn?t get this in the US). Catching the ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo
was a breeze compared to the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. You need
to get there two hours prior to departure, and it was needed ? questions
from US Border Security, passport control, customs, and so on ? in one of
the least attractive, fenced-off areas in Victoria!


We managed to see Rhinoceros Auklet on the US side of the Salish Sea from
the ferry, so we could add that to our US list. Once on US soil, we headed
west along the Olympic Highway (Highway 101) towards Forks. Just south of
Forks I saw a bird drop from a tree to the undergrowth on the ground ? I was
convinced it was an owl of some sort. We stopped and got our cameras ready ?
and sure enough, an owl flew from the ground back to its branch ? a Barred
Owl in daylight!  Heading further south we stopped adjacent to a beach with
waders and managed to scope them up in the drizzle. As we were looking at
the waders, a Bald Eagle came flying low to the ground and then just over
our heads! We continued south and then inland before heading back towards
the coast and towards our overnight spot, Ocean Shores on the Point Brown
Peninsula (west of Aberdeen). As we were heading west we crossed a fast
moving creek, and I said to Ruth, ?Shall we try for American Dipper??
American Dipper was a species that we?d been looking for since Arcata, with
no luck. We parked the car, and I calculated that we had about an hour of
light left. As we were looking under the bridge, two things happened very
quickly ? first I saw a slate-grey bird flying along the creek, maybe a
metre above the water ? and simultaneously someone stopped on the bridge and
yelled out of their car, ?Are you guys looking for deer?? He then went on to
explain to us in great detail how there were often deer here, and if we were
to come back tomorrow we might see some? Talk about bad timing! Ruth hadn?t
seen the Dipper and we were having to listen to someone that clearly liked
to see deer so he could shoot them. Finally he left, and we headed upstream
to look for the bird with no joy. We still had a few minutes of light left,
so I suggested that we use it looking from the bridge, where we would have a
view both up and downstream. Finally, looking upstream we saw the bird
perched and then flying across the creek and back to its perch. Not
spectacular views, but there was no doubting the ID.


We spent the night at a motel in Ocean Shores, and had quite a passable
Chinese meal (one of the few places still open after 9:30pm). The next
morning we went to the marina ? no new birds, but really close views of
Pigeon Guillemots. From there we went to Point Brown North Beach and walked
along the breakwater. We could see a telescope had been set up ? and
thought, there?s another birder here ? but could not see them. Then this kid
turned up and went to the scope, ?Oh, it?s just a kid?, I thought. NO! This
was a serious birder? A 13 year old called Casey ? clearly the Washington
State equivalent of Jack Moorhead! Casey pointed out the Ruddy Turnstones
for us ? not a common bird at this time of year. We asked if he had seen
Black Turnstone or Surfbird ? he said, ?There?s a Black Turnstone just
there?? Tick! But he had not seen any Surfbirds. He also pointed out a
couple of Wandering Tattlers, a bird we had only just seen recently in
Australia. Casey was heading to the sewerage works and the game reserve ? he
strongly recommended that we go there. So once we had checked out the waders
on the beach and had a further look around, we headed to the Oyhut Wildlife
Recreation Area (read ?Hunting Area?). It was hard going getting to the edge
of the lagoon, but we managed it. In the distance on the other side of the
lagoon we could see Casey ? so we slowly headed in his direction. He was
looking for a reported Chestnut-collared Longspur, a vagrant that had been
seen there recently. We agreed to help him look, and in return he pointed
out Hooded Merganser, Common Loon and a very nice Northern Harrier. We
didn?t find the Longspur, I?m not sure if Casey did after we left him, but I
hope so!


Heading back east and then south on the I5, I said to Ruth that I would
really like to see Mount St Helens (the volcano that exploded in 1980). The
volcano isn?t too far from the highway, and there?s a very nice Visitor
Centre (or rather, I?m sure it would be nice if it was open). The view from
the Visitor Centre to the volcano is amazing, but even more amazing was the
walk from the Visitor Centre, through the wetland and back through the
woods. We saw five new species in less than an hour ? including the
spectacular male Western Tanager ? a yellow and black bird with a bright red


>From the Mount St Helens Visitor Centre, we headed back to the I5 and south
to Eugene again. The next morning we headed southeast through Deschutes
National Forest to another volcano, Crater Lake. This is another spectacular
location, although somewhat touristy. Another five new species here,
including Ruth?s absolute favourite, Mountain Chickadee. We also managed to
see Clark?s Nutcracker, but dipped on both Grey Jay and Townsend?s Solitaire
(we would dip on both these birds for the remainder of our trip). Heading
south from Crater Lake we finally caught up with Black-billed Magpie, near
Upper Klamath Lake). As one thing often leads to another, in the site that
we saw the magpie, we saw a field full of gophers (presumably Black-tailed
Prairie-dog), and nearby we found North American Beavers!


We had dinner at the town of Weed (yes, really!) in northern California.
Here I checked my email and found that our pelagic from Half Moon Bay the
following morning had been cancelled ? the first pelagic in two years that
Debi Shearwater had cancelled. This caused a real dilemma ? unfortunately I
had booked and paid for accommodation at Half Moon Bay (and it wasn?t cheap)
? so should we continue there anyway, or lose our money and buy a cheap
motel somewhere? Ultimately we decided not to forgo our accommodation ? for
one night, at least. Fortunately also, Debi Shearwater had a pelagic going
out from Monterey Bay on Friday, the day before we were to leave for home. A
quick bit of emailing to Debi secured us a couple of places on that trip,
but then I had to rearrange our guide for southern California. Fortunately
he was reasonably flexible, so I managed to get Monday through Wednesday
with him.


So on the Sunday, instead of going on a pelagic, we started heading south
again ? knowing full well that we?d have to come back up this way in five or
six days? time. Not far out of Half Moon Bay, whilst travelling on the
coastal highway we came across another new bird for us ? a Sharp-shinned
Hawk, sitting and posing nicely on the telegraph wires. We broke our journey
by stopping at Año Nuevo State Park ? best known for its Elephant Seals ?
but also pretty good for birding. This site gave us our first encounter with
the common Western Scrub-jay (we saw continually for the rest of the trip),
but also gave us Bank Swallow ? the American name for Sand Martin. On a
little fresh-water pond we found a Horned Grebe. Try as we might we never
saw this species again and we totally dipped on its near cousin, the Eared
Grebe. Heading south, we ended up at Torrence, just south of LAX, and
prepared ourselves for three days of solid birding.


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