Over Christmas Break we had a chance to join the weekly Wednesday birding trip at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. It had been clear and cold for several days, and we 30 degrees when we arrived at 8am.
We joined a very large group of birders and walked through different parts of the refuge to see what we could see. The birds were slow to warm up, and didn’t get very active until the sun came over the ridges. Ice covered many of the ponds, decreasing the amount of waterfowl we saw. We learned about the difference between Cackling Geese and regular Canada Geese, and saw many red-tailed hawks.
Bald eagles were in trees all over the refuge; they are always a joy to observe. One tree had 6 or 7 eagles in it! The best birds of the day were a peregrine falcon calling in the woods, with a full crop of food visible in a scope; a Virginia rail in the reeds; a kestrel in the wetlands; and the great-horned owl sitting on her nest.
The kids lasted about 3 1/2 hours before they were complaining and ready to go, which I think was pretty good. It felt so good to be in the bracing air and sunshine. This was the last birding trip of the year for me, and I ended the year with 129 species altogether (plus various gulls that I haven’t been able to identify.) This was the first year I’ve kept track of the number of species I’ve seen, so I look forward to seeing how this year compares with others in the future. We walked about 3.5 miles.
It’s really worth making the effort to join other people for birding. Birders in general are willing to share views through spotting scopes, share tips for identifying birds, and are especially encouraging toward children. My kids thought it was fun to get up while it was still dark and drive while the sun was rising. It was a fun experience.