Sixteen DNCBers enjoyed a gorgeous Wednesday on our “away” outing to a number of parks on Whidbey Island. We saw several species, including pelagic birds that we don’t often see in the B.C. Lower Mainland. Check out the brilliant photos of the birds and vistas on our Flickr site.
We met at 7:30 a.m. at the Peace Arch Park parking lot for car pooling. Very commendable car-pooling as Roger had six in his van, Wazza had four, Colin had three, and three others met us at the Coupeville Ferry terminal for the 10:15 a.m. sailing to Port Townsend. There was a long line-up at the border until the U.S. Customs opened a few more gates at 8 a.m., so our 25 minute wait was not too unbearable. The drive down I-5 and then through the farms and villages to the Deception Pass bridge and across Whidbey Island to Coupeville ferry terminal took nearly two hours, but it was simply beautiful, and the conversation, including Roger and Mike regaling us with stories of their adventures in this area over the past 60 years, was stimulating and fascinating.
Before boarding the ferry, we wandered around the terminal and had some neat sightings; Pigeon Guillemots, Horned and Pied-billed Grebes in the harbour, Mourning Doves (rarer now with the invasion of Eurasian Collared Doves) and several Swallow species on telephone lines. We had 5 Swallow species this day, Tree, Violet-green, Barn, Cliff and Northern Rough-winged. Lots of Cormorants around too, the most common being beautifully identifiable Brandt’s rather than Pelagic or Double-crested that we regularly see back home. Pairs of spectacular Harlequin Ducks were also there.
On board, the 35-minute crossing to Port Townsend ($1.70 US each way for seniors) was incredible too. We all stayed at the bow, which was a bit chilly with the wind, but the vistas all around us were stunning, and then as we approached and passed the rafts of pelagic species, the excitement crescendoed. Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Red-breasted Mergansers and Red-necked Grebes were up-close-and-personal. Port Townsend and Roger’s Brothel, although picturesque, were uneventful as we simply re-boarded for the return trip. We finally organized a Group Photo on the return trip as we passed these same rafts of birds.
Back at the Coupeville terminal, we cased Crocket Lake where several waterfowl species were lingering; Bufflehead, Northern Pintail, Scaup, Killdeer and four Dowitchers. A brilliant pair of Northern Harriers cruised by, and some saw a Turkey Vulture, others saw White Pelicans. We started our walk through the RV Park and up the hill to Fort Casey. Lots of Sparrows (Song, Savannah, White- and Golden-crowned) and other little birds along the path and keen-eyed Masae spotted the Orange-crowned Warblers and Chestnut-backed Chickadees in the bushes. We heard but didn’t see California Quail. Richmond Brian’s eBird list shows that we saw a nice total of 64 species on this outing.
Now past noon, we relaxed on the remnants of the fort’s building roof and ate our lunch, surrounded by fantastic views, fields of golden yellow Mustard flowers, and nesting Violet-green Swallows. After lunch (for me a ham & cheese sandwich bought on the ferry with a G Water; boring but satisfying), we decided to go back down the hill to the cars and move to another park.
We headed back up Highway 20 and stopped at Fort Ebey State Park. It was neat driving through groves of big trees to a rocky beach, but not many birds and otherwise uneventful. We moved on to Deception Pass State Park and Cranberry Lake where we normally stop on these outings. Many of the same species seen here, but the highlight was a Whale spouting (possibly a Gray Whale). We could see Rosario Point across the bay, so we decided to go there.
Rosario was a new spot for me with a spectacular circular trail overlooking the bay. And we had some beaut sightings here too; raft of 30+ Common Loons, Black Oystercatchers, Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallows, Brown Creeper. Approaching 4 p.m., and most of us feeling a bit tired, we decided to say our good byes and head for home. Although much quieter than the morning ride, I stayed awake most of the trip back to Canada to savour the beautiful scenic drive along the Bayview Edison Road and Chuckanut Drive. Border was surprisingly smooth and I got home before 7 p.m. Another fantastic DNCB day.
The 16 were: Storytellers Roger & Mike, Organizer Terry, Warren (Wazza), Lynne & daughter Heather and Gareth, Colin & Stephanie and Ladner Jack Mac, Richmond Brian, PB Lorna, Ladner’s Bryan & Masae, loner VanCity Lidia, and me.
Next Wednesday, May 1, we will leave Petra’s at 7:30 a.m. for the UBC Botanical Gardens, meeting at the entrance around 8:15 a.m. Garden Volunteer Debbi H will be leading this outing. For more info on this and other outings, see our website at: www.dncb.wordpress.com. As always, your comments are welcome. Cheers: Tom
Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists Society