BIRD WATCH: Catch the action along the coast for prime-time viewing

Low tides make for perfect bird-watching conditions, especially as gulls congregate.

THE TIDEFLATS ALONG the coast right now suggest the entire West Coast gull population has gathered in the Grays Harbor region.

Extreme low tides make the water’s edge look like it is a mile away, and this is where the gulls are congregated.

From past experience, I know that other coastal areas are also inundated with these flocks.

Where the Hoh River meets the ocean, the beaches are white with gulls and gull feathers are everywhere.

This is the time of year when this year’s young and their parents create some terrific gull watching.

Mixed in with the large gull numbers were impressive Caspian tern numbers as well.

These beautiful terns were given the worst of voices, so you always know when they are around.

Their hoarse squawking was a constant sound throughout Ocean Shores.

My sister’s new motor home was an excuse to do some birding in that vicinity, and even though it felt a little early for fall migrants, the birding was interesting.

Best of all, the weather was good.

Caspian terns standing on the tide flats under a blue sky with fluffy white clouds screamed “Take a photo!”

My favorite sighting for the trip wasn’t spectacular, but it brought back good memories.

There is a place not far from the shore, and in a wooded residential area that for one reason or another attracts olive-sided flycatchers.

At least five years ago, my late husband and I were walking in this area and had some of the best flycatcher birding ever.

I suspect it is the stand of dead and dying spruce trees that attracts them.

History repeated itself.

First one bird was spotted on this street corner, and then there were three perched together on one of the snags.

They weren’t calling “Quick, three beers,” but they stayed in the tree until we moved on.

Flycatchers are very patient when waiting for bugs.

A surprise on this trip were the sandpipers.

Near Damon Point, we watched flock after flock fly over that spit.

Hundreds of what I assume were Western sandpipers flashed by on their way to another feeding area.

They were small, flew like the wind and treated us to their flash-dark, flash-white maneuver.

The entire flock rolled from side to side as one bird.

Shorebird populations will continue to grow as the days roll by.

Extreme low tides can make for interesting birding as they push the feeding birds toward the high tide line.

Ocean Shores provides not only interesting shorebird watching, but the bushes and grasslands also yield many good birds.

They were calling around our campsite in nearby trees.

These included the Swainson’s thrush, Bewick’s wren and yellow-rumped warblers.

Birding along this part of the coast wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world-famous Bowerman Basin near Hoquiam and Aberdeen.

Motor home or not, Jeanne wheeled her way to the sewage ponds so we could check out the birds.

More Caspian terns were hanging out in this popular watering hole, but there were also large numbers of gadwall ducks, Canada geese and several pied-billed grebes.

This spot will grow and more interesting as the weeks slip by.

Red-necked phalaropes are one of the most interesting birds to look for on these ponds.

They are migrating from distant northern breeding grounds, and this is an excellent opportunity to see these ocean-going birds near the shore.

California, Heermann’s, mew, Western and herring gulls make up the large numbers out on the tide flats.

It isn’t necessary to be able to identify them to enjoy them.

Their sheer numbers and constant flying overhead are great entertainment.

Add to them the terns, and it’s a wonderful time to make a late-summer trip to the coast.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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