DNCB Outing No. 2018-44 to Whidbey Island, Port Townsend/Fort Casey/Deception Pass and Rosario Beach

DNCB_Whidby Island_2018-10-30

9 DNCB at Whidbey Island – photo by Roger Meyer

Check out the photo evidence on our DNCB Flickr site.

“Optimists”… with weather reports for clouds and showers and a 110 mile drive ahead (2 hours and 11 minutes ), undaunted, Delta Nats Mike, Terry, David and Noreen, Roger 2, and Roger 1 (myself) left Petra’s to meet Pat, Brian, and Colin at the Peace Arch parking area to decide on “weather” or not to proceed!  After discussing all the negatives, we piled into two vehicles and headed south.  There were two open lanes at the border, but no other vehicles, and not much traffic on the way.

While David chose to take the Burlington route to Fidelgo Island, I decided to take the scenic Bow/Edison/Padilla Bay route (there were some groans from the back seat).  In the future I will refrain from using the term “short cut” in lieu of “alternate route”!  To be fair, we were still 15 minutes early for the 10:10 ferry to Port Townsend!  The route we took, though, allowed us to see several large flocks of Snow Geese that we wouldn’t have seen from the busy main route.  The weather all the way down was cloudy with even more clouds as we made the turn away from Anacortes and climbed upward on Fidelgo Island towards Deception Pass.  As we turned west at Coupeville, and headed down to Fort Casey, the clouds started to lift, and by the time we reached the ferry terminal we had bright sunlight!

Just a note about the ferry: for a distance similar to the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route, the senior fare was US$1.70!  Tickets purchased with a credit card require a “zip code”.  For Canadians we give the 3 numbers of our postal code followed by two zeros (V4K4V2 becomes 44200).  We purchased two tickets, left the ferry at the Port Townsend side, and then re-boarded with the second ticket!

Unfortunately, there was a chop on the water, and a heavy breeze, making the spotting of birds on the water difficult.  At the terminal, we had a few 1st winter, and non-breeding adult, Bonaparte’s Gulls.  On the  pilings to the south we could see large numbers of cormorants, but the bright sunlight made it difficult to identify species.  Species seen on the way over and back included Heermann’s Gulls, Marbled Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, a Red-necked Grebe, and cormorants species.  On the pilings at the Port Townsend side, there were numerous cormorants that we spent considerable time trying to identify, and decided that most of them were Brandt’s.  I think looking at our photos later will confirm that!  The return trip was calmer, and we added a Belted Kingfisher. at the terminal, to our list.

Departing the ferry, we walked through the Fort Casey campground and had our bag lunch at a table at the waters edge.  We had seen a number of White-crowned Sparrows on the way, but not much else.  Following lunch, we walked up the hill to have a look at the gun emplacements and remaining fortifications.  We had hoped to see the California Quail from the previous outing there, but none were to be found.

Heading off to Deception Pass, the only pause was to try and get some photos of the American Kestrel that was perching on wires on the roadside to Coupeville.  It was a beautiful male, but not too cooperative at posing for us!

At the Deception Pass campground, we drove directly to the West Beach and parked at the farthest point north as we did on our previous visit.  We hadn’t seen any birds as we passed by Cranberry Lake!  On the rock outcroppings in the water, there were large numbers of Heermann’s Gulls and Black Oystercatchers.  Above us, a small flock of Gashawks* from nearby Ault Field were singing their “Sound of Freedom” call! (see footnote* for description of Gashawk)

On one rock we sighted a Black Turnstone, but it was accompanied by another solitary (not Solitary) Sandpiper which one of the other birders confirmed to be a Surfbird!  We all agreed that this was the “Bird of the Day”!

One of the ladies from the other birding group informed us that she could distinguish male-from-female Black Oystercatchers by examining minute marks in their pupils!  Right!  I think Brian, or David, would be able to explain those details.  Other birds on the water included Harlequin Ducks, Red-necked Grebes, and lots of cormorants in the middle of the pass… we saw these as we looked north-east across the pass towards Rosario Beach, which was our next destination.

Leaving Deception Pass Park, instead of doing our usual walk along the beach and through the woods, we headed across the bridge to Fidelgo Island and made a left turn off the highway onto Rosario Road, and turned west at the second intersection to go down to Rosario Beach.  We (ok… so it was me) made one mistake, turning at the first intersection, which took us down to Bowman Bay.  From the correct parking lot, we walked across a spit leading to a round trip up onto Lighthouse Point providing a view south-west across the pass to where we had just come from at the Deception Pass Park.

In the brush on the side of the trail side, we encountered a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets that frustrated the  photographers by refusing to stay still long enough for a decent shot.  Looking south, we had a closer look at the flock of birds which we now identified as Red-throated Loons.  Unfortunately, when the photos were examined at home, the loons became Double-crested Cormorants!  I’ve never seen a flock of them, heads turned upward, and all facing the same direction, like that… sure looked like loons, right Noreen?  From the top of the cliff at Lighthouse Point you can look down at large Bull-kelp beds and also have a panoramic view north and south along the coast!

With the trip concluded, we headed for home.  At the border there were no cars at all,  and we sailed right through getting back home by 5:00 pm!  What started out as an “iffy” situation turned out to be a fine day.  As usual, Terry’s organization was flawless… so “THANKS, Terry”!  Terry mentioned that the previous trip last fall was a week earlier and had produced many more species.  The water was calmer then though, and the chop experienced this year may have been a contributing cause to the lower number!  So, maybe schedule a week earlier next year?

Next DNCB Outing, on Tuesday, November 6, we will go to Iona Regional Park.  Leave Pera’s at 7:30 am, meet at Parking Lot near washrooms around 8:15 am.

Sorry you missed the trip this year, Tom, but I’m sure you’re having a great time on “Rottnest Island”… I think you need to elaborate on that one!  Your fans need a bit more information re your activities, bird-wise that is, as we need it for our:  Tom on Top of Down Under segment.  As you might expect, the Roseate Spoonbill count has been down since you left.  Several member keep asking about you – well, a few – well, Lorna actually, as she’s amassing quite a collection of pb sandwiches for your return!

Report by Roger Meyer

*Gashawka jet engine-powered species making loud screeching sounds while making touch-and-go landings at the nearby Naval Air Station day and night.  There used to be a sign on the highway, under two large retired planes, that said, “the Sound of Freedom”.   I think it was to make the locals feel guilty about complaining about the constant noise!  https://www.quietskies.info/flight-schedule

About dncb

DNS: Delta Naturalists are a group of nature lovers whose aim is to foster interest in the natural history of the Fraser delta by sharing and enjoying nature and promoting environmental awareness and conservation. DNCB: Delta Nats Casual Birders is a group of Casual Birders who go Birding at different locations each week, usually within the Lower Mainland or in nearby Washington State.
This entry was posted in *DNCB, American Kestrel, Black Oystercatcher, Bonaparte's Gull, Brandt's Cormorant, Deception Pass, Fort Casey, Harlequin Duck, Heermann's Gull, Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot, Port Townsend, Red-necked Grebe, Red-throated Loon, Surfbird, Whidbey Island. Bookmark the permalink.

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