The flight (s) went smoothly, no baggage was lost, and all the kids were hyped up when we arrived in Seattle. I was hyped up even more- I had just seen a lifer from the plane window, though not a lifer to get excited about- Northwestern Crow. These birds look identical to American Crows, there only differences being range, a very minor vocal change, and some DNA changes scientists found in a lab. Whatever, there would be much better lifers to come. After checking into our motel in Lacey, WA, we headed out to our first taste of this areas flora and fauna- the famous Nisqually NWR.
Upon arrival a swarm of nesting Barn and Cliff Swallows were flying into nests by the visitor center, and while we were looking over a small pool behind the center, a Rufous Hummingbird buzzed by the flowers nearby. These awesome little guys would be everywhere as we explored on throughout the trip. We then started on the main trail, which began in lush deciduous woodland. Many Birds were singing, hidden from view, and the only songs we recognized were those of birds on the east coast, stuff like Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Veery. I was able to find a few Chestnut-backed Chickadees. We moved on, going through a swamp with skunk cabbage 3 feet tall, and finding birds like Brown Creeper, Western Wood Pewee, “Sooty’ Fox Sparrow, and Wood Duck. The Wood Duck had ducklings, which was cool to see. Nice looks at a foraging Raccoon was another good find. As we began making our way out to the bay we found 2 Band-tailed Pigeons in a dead tree, the best look we would have the whole trip of these birds. Soon my friend Connor found a gorgeous male Western Tanager. This was great, not only because it was a great looking bird, but it had been my biggest miss on last years Utah/Wyoming trip.
We then made it out to the meadows and bay. The marshes were unfortunately flooded due to water control, which made for an eerie scene with the dead trees sticking out of the water. In the meadows there tons of Savannah Sparrows and we all got nice looks at a Bald Eagle perched in the open. Once on the boardwalk there was not much activity except for lots of Great-blue Herons and a bunch of flyover Caspian Terns. By this point the sun was setting and we had to hurry back, but we stopped by the remaining marsh and saw both Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, Wilson’s Snipe, and Dad and Grit only heard an American Bittern doing it’s basoon like call. As we were driving out an unmistakable Western Scrub Jay flushed and flew along the car. This was a bird that was listed as RARE on the Nisqually checklist. Pretty Cool. It was a great start to the trip and everyone was excited for what would come next.