Yellow-breasted Chat, Fort Lewis, WA
Thanks to Denis DeSilvis for leading a memorable and exciting Seattle Audubon Field Trip
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Field trip report posted on Tweeters by Denis
Date: Sun, 31 May 2009 20:25:00 -0700
We were basking in the glow of hearing and (finally) seeing a NORTHERN BOBWHITE at the Muck Creek bridge, and were strolling south looking to get a good view of a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, when Daoud (he that also spotted the WESTERN KINGBIRD) said that there was a Common Yellowthroat in just below the flycatcher (Willow) on a shrub about 200 yds SE of the bridge. "Funny, peculiar sounding call if that was the yellowthroat," thought I as I set up the player for a possible response from a Lazuli Bunting. The "yellowthroat" sang again and nearly every one of the eight of us on the field trip to Fort Lewis immediately said "YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT." Yep, that's what it was. We watched it for several minutes while one of us (Tor) attempted to take a photo. Unfortunately, the bird started to get "flighty" and wouldn't hold still long enough to get a digiscoped shot. Finally, when it crossed over the road and up into a fir, it sat and sang long enough for Tor to get both a series of still photos as well as a video. For at least 10 minutes we had excellent views of this totally unexpected, and quite gorgeous, uncommon visitor to this part of the west side. NICE! (The possibility exists that two Chats were in the area, but I'd have to go back to confirm that.)
The WESTERN KINGBIRD was spotted along Story Road, just west of Lake Nisqually. We all had very good views of this bird as it perched, preened, and sortied out for insects.
Earlier that morning, we had started at Range Control on Kaufmann Ave, where we picked up VAUX'S SWIFTS, as well as some VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS over the building.
Proceeding to the Second Division Range Road, we walked the junction between the hillside and road along the east side of Training Area (TA) 4, which again proved to have a variety forest and edge birds: WILLOW FLYCATCHER, AMERICAN ROBIN, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, SONG SPARROW, DARK-EYED JUNCO, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, CHIPPING SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, CASSIN'S VIREO, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, WESTERN TANAGER, CHESTNUT-SIDED CHICKADEE, BAND-TAILED PIGEON, RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, KILLDEER, COMMON RAVEN, DOWNY WOODPECKER, RED-TAILED HAWK, TREE SWALLOW, WESTERN BLUEBIRD, and SAVANNAH SPARROW. Further down the road, we found a pair of AMERICAN KESTRELS, the female of which fed on what might have been a jumping rat or mouse (don't know many of the fur-bearers on the Fort). (I had expected to see this falcon pair here, but failed to find them on two days this past week.)
Turning right on Story Road, in addition to the WESTERN KINGBIRD, we picked up MOURNING DOVE, BALD EAGLE, and HOUSE WREN (at least three individuals of this latter species). Backtracking along the bluff that edges the south side of TA 5, we pulled atop Observation Post (OP) 8, where, on this absolutely gorgeous day, we had spectacular views across the 91st Division Prairie to the south, and at Mt. Rainier to the east. On the way up the hill we found a CALIFORNIA QUAIL, while atop we spotted a BARN SWALLOW and a singing BEWICK'S WREN.
Back on the range road, we headed east, finding a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK along the way. Lunch was atop the bunker at OP 3, nearby to which we sighted CEDAR WAXWING, PURPLE FINCH, and SPOTTED TOWHEE.
The Muck Creek bridge had the usual NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, TREE, CLIFF (one individual I sighted while looking for the Northern Bobwhite), and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS. Unfortunately, the only duck we found (all day) was a lone male MALLARD. The WOOD DUCK and about 10 young I saw on Wednesday and Friday were likely displaced by someone that was fishing well east of the bridge. We also found RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.
We first heard the "secondary" call of the NORTHERN BOBWHITE, then the more usual "bob-white" call. And I already mentioned the YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, but I'm happy to mention it again.
At Lewis Lake, the OSPREY was on the nest platform at the NE side of the lake, and we had good looks at a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER that apparently has a nest-hole in the cottonwood near the boat launch on the west side.
Brandenburg Marsh proved a bust for PURPLE MARTINS (PUMA), and we found no other PUMAs at Chambers Lake or other areas. (I heard one at Johnson Marsh on Friday.) Where the two pairs went that seemed intent on nesting at B'burg Marsh I have no idea, but TREE SWALLOWS are the only occupants now. We had responses from at least two close-by VIRGINIA RAILS (VIRA) here, as well as a more distant SORA. While calling a VIRA, an obliging MARSH WREN popped up and sang from atop a cattail. We also found a PINE SISKIN near the other end of the continued waterway that flows into B'burg Marsh.
At Chambers Lake, we added a vocalizing PIED-BILLED GREBE.
The total species today: 60. Missing were such usual birds as Warbling Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Wood Duck, and the aforementioned Purple Martin.
Thanks to our super "spotter" Tiffany, who first nailed sightings (or soundings) on a bunch of the forest birds, as well as to Henry, Helen, Alia, and Jonathan, who, along with Daoud (the kingbird and chat catcher) and supposed non-birder Tor (great photo of the Chat!), all seemed to have a great outing on a great day at Fort Lewis.
For those who keep lists, here it is for the day:
May all your birds be identified,