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Fort Flagler State Park, Marrowstone Island, WA
December 2020


Synopsis
After a LONG life in lockdown both from COVID and from raising our pandemic kittens, we finally were able to take advantage of some fabulous weather right before Christmas. We hiked, birded, and camped at the nearby Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island. Perhaps it was being deprived of being out locked down for such a long time, but we had a wonderful time walking the trails through the mature forests and along the bluffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound. On the clear days, we could take in the beauty of the snow capped Mount Baker, the Olympics and in the distance, Mount Rainier. The old WWI/WWII bunkers and structures added intrigue to the state park. 

The state park offers great views into the sound and strait for scoping seabirds (and approaching enemy crafts). During the brisk sunny day were many small groups and pairs of Ancient and Marbled Murrelets flying low over the flat waters and landing (with a dive). It was a marvel to see these tiny seabirds gather in impressive numbers during the outgoing tide. And as quickly as the murrelet had gathered on the waters, they just as quickly dispersed and disappeared. From the bluffs, we could also spot Long-tailed Ducks, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, an impressively large raft of Red-breasted Mergansers, Common and Pacific Loons, Horned and Red-necked Grebes. From the campground beach, Black Brant, Harlequin Ducks, Common Goldeneye, and all 3 cormorants could be seen along the shore and in the water. In the mornings before people began walking on the spit, the small spit hosted a large number of Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, and Black Turnstone. Once the shorebirds were flushed from the spit, the plovers and Dunlin took to the lawns around the campground and up on the bluff near the military housing. 

The dense forest was rich with birdlife as well, hosting large flocks of Pine Siskin, which feed on the Douglas Fir seeds. Dark-eyed Juncos, Fox Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees flitted in the dense salal and flocks of Varied Thrush kept to the dark forest floor. A Pileated Woodpecker was right at home with the many snags and a Red-breasted Sapsucker made work on a mature cedar.

We were also treated to the sights of a pod of Harbor Porpoise in the strait, many Harbor Seals patrolling the waters, and a vociferous group of California Sea Lions sunny on a small rock island. The clear (and freezing night) gave us great views of the "Great Conjunction" of Jupiter and Saturn. Through the scope we could make out Saturn's rings and Jupiter's four largest moons. It was a nice bonus for a winter stay in this nature rich park.

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Pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)























Pine Siskin feeding frenzy - eating Douglas Fir seeds

Bird List
Brant
Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Black Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Dunlin
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrelet
Ancient Murrelet
Rhinoceros Auklet
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren
Bewick's Wren
European Starling
Varied Thrush
American Robin
Purple Finch
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Townsend's Warbler
Critters:
Mule deer
California Sea Lion
Harbor Seal
Harbor Porpoise
Douglas Squirrel
Pacific tree frog

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page updated: 1/2/21