A day last week was like no other for birds on our Peninsula. There is a most exciting rarity in town, the rustic bunting.
According to Sibley (2014) it is a “very rare visitor from Eurasia.” Sibley goes on to say that it is usually seen in spring in far western Alaska, but that there are a few fall and winter records along the western states as far south as California. Birders from all over have been descending on Cape D to see this bird, including me!
I was thrilled to see it, but disappointed that I have, thus far, been unable to take its photo. The photo here is from Wikipedia.
The rustic bunting is feeding with a flock of Townsend’s warblers, dark-eyed juncos, golden-crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers and chestnut-backed chickadees. There seem to be a few flocks. Each is loud and noisy. One birder asked me whether Cape D was always this birdy. That is how amazing it is there right now. It is a birder’s paradise, but then so is the rest of the Peninsula.
After three hours of searching and enjoying the birds at Cape D, my friend and I decided to bird the Chinook Valley Road to look for the black phoebe, another newish bird in town which I wrote about earlier. In about two hours we logged 46 species. We began at Cape D and worked out way through the Peninsula to the north-end.
The Chinook Valley Road was phenomenal. Although we weren’t able to find the black phoebe, we saw many other species, including ring-necked pheasant, cackling geese, Canada geese and among one flock, two dusky Canada geese. Some of the fields are wet enough to have become “wetlands.” There we saw green-winged teal, American wigeon, mallards, bufflehead and pied-billed grebe. great blue herons frequented every wetland area we drove by. They were hunting for frogs and the like for their lunch.
The raptors were also out in force. A northern harrier was on patrol flying low over the fields looking for small mammals or small birds for its lunch. Red-tails were sitting high in the evergreens always on the watch for their lunch. One pair displayed before our very eyes. Their acrobatics were entertaining and exciting to watch. Bald eagles were also prominent. Two adults and two immatures were also on the alert for their prey. Whenever they flew over a field the ducks that were resting there flew up in a frenzy to avoid being taken for a meal.
Red-winged blackbirds, the birds of spring, were numerous, noisy and hogged the feeders we looked at along the way. Steller’s jays, dark-eyed juncos, spotted towhees, fox and song sparrows and chickadees rounded out the feeder birds.
We reached the north end of the Peninsula just in time to see Wilson’s snipe and killdeer at their favorite place in the wet fields around Oysterville. A few very small sandpipers, that birders call peeps, showed up to feed and rest as well. More King Tides are on the way… soon the raptors will be there too in force. Easy pickin’s perhaps?
What began as a “hunt” for the rare rustic bunting … a sparrow like bird with a long tail with white outer tail feathers, a raggedy crest, and a dark V on its breast (Sibley) turned into a very birdy day. The best ever for me in just a few hours! We are so lucky to be here on the Peninsula. As Christmas and the new year dawns we can be thankful for the gifts of nature we have here.
They are the best presents of all.
“Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.