Late summer along the southern coast of Washington State is a great time to witness the magic of bird migration. Beautiful beaches spanning miles and miles shimmer with flocks of shorebirds.
Well over 20 species of shorebirds are expected on this tour, ranging anywhere from Wandering Tattler, Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird and Black Turnstone to Pacific Golden-Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Baird’s Sandpiper are possible.
We’ll venture out onto the open ocean with the highly respected company Westport Seabirds for a pelagic birding trip. While aboard the comfortable fishing boat we’ll scan through thousands of Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters for uncommon species like Flesh-footed and Buller’s shearwaters. Black-footed Albatross are usually common while the rare Laysan Albatross would be a treat. With a little luck we’ll have an excellent study in skuas, including South Polar Skua as well as Parasitic, Pomarine and Long-tailed jaegers. Alcids, the tiny northern equivalent to penguins, should include Cassin’s and Rhinoceros auklets, Marbled Murrelet, Pigeon Guillemot and perhaps the comical Tufted Puffin.
Most pelagic bird tours out of Grays Harbor at this time of year encounter a nice selection of cetaceans. With luck we’ll see barnacle covered Gray Whales, majestic Humpback Whales and perhaps even Killer Whale.
In addition to all this fantastic shorebirding and seabirding, we’ll explore local patches of forest for Pacific Wrens, Hutton’s Vireos, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Red-breasted Sapsucker and Brown Creepers to name a few species. Songbird migration should be at its peak so expect a nice variety of warblers, flycatchers, sparrows, thrushes and more.
Day 1 Group to assemble in Seattle where we’ll get acquainted with each other over dinner. Night in Seattle.
Day 2 In the morning we’ll make the transfer from Seattle to Westport, perhaps spotting a Western Scrub-Jay along the way. In Ocean Shores we’ll explore the Point Brown Jetty for Surfbirds, Black Turnstones and Wandering Tattlers. When anchovies mass together off the jetty, huge numbers of Brown Pelicans, Heermann’s Gulls and Western Gulls gather as well to feed on the fish. Gray Whales, Harbor Porpoises, Harbor Seals and both California and Steller’s Sea-Lions also take advantage of the abundant food supply. After lunch we’ll head for Damon Point where birds gather on rocks just offshore, offering close viewing opportunities. Pelagic, Brandt’s and Double-crested cormorants perch side by side and White-winged and Surf scoters and Pacific Loons feed just beyond the breaking surf. A walk along the point usually produces good numbers of a variety of shorebirds including huge flocks of Western Sandpipers, some Semipalmated Plovers and perhaps even a Pacific Golden-Plover. After a visit to the fantastic Ocean Shores Interpretive Center we’ll visit Bill’s Spit to search for more shorebirds. If the big shorebird flocks are present our chances of seeing a Peregrine Falcon are excellent. Spend night in Westport.
Day 3 Today we’ll spend the day aboard the Monte Carlo exploring the deep waters along the edge of Grays Canyon for seabirds. Black-footed Albatross, Sooty, Pink-footed and Buller’s shearwaters, Fork-tailed and Leach’s storm-petrels, Northern Fulmar, Parasitic, Long-tailed and Pomarine jaegers, South Polar Skua, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine’s Gull and Arctic Terns, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros auklets, Tufted Puffins and Common Murres are all strongly possible. As is the rule with pelagic, you never know what else could show up! Perhaps we’ll find a Humpback Whale or a Blue Shark! Night in Westport.
Day 4 Our day will begin at extensive beaches south of Westport where the endangered Snowy Plover breeds. At Tokeland large flocks of Marbled Godwits are peppered with Whimbrel and Willet. Rarities that show up almost annually include both Bar-tailed and Hudsonian godwits. We’ll explore the Johns River Wildlife Area where flooded fields can hold species like Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpiper and perhaps a rarity like Ruff or Sharp-tailed Sandpiper! Also a must in the area is Bottle Beach where we’ll scan through flocks of Black-bellied Plover in hopes of finding Pacific Golden-Plover or Red Knot amongst other things. Night in Westport.
Day 5 After a bit of morning birding in the Westport and Ocean Shores areas for anything we’ve missed, or just want to see again, well make our way back towards Seattle where tour will conclude in afternoon at around 5 PM.
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