Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shorebird Calisthenics, the Seattle Skyline, and a Vigorously Bathing Puffin

Over Labor Day weekend we traveled north to Seattle for our first visit. Mostly, we hit the tourist traps (how could we not?), which brought us to the top of the Space Needle, as well as to the EMP and Chihuly museums. We tried to bird a bit during a short boat voyage out on the Puget Sound, but our main target was Orca. While we weren't lucky enough to find any this trip (ample reason for coming back again), but we were treated to several Caspian Terns and a handful of Osprey, the original Seahawks.

Heermann's Gull

Our other must-see destination was the Seattle Aquarium, which, along with lots of other great exhibits on creatures of the Sound, has a small but lively area dedicated just to seabirds. Inhabitants included auklets, murres, and guillemots, but it was a Tufted Puffin that stole the show with its "vigorous bathing," as Maureen described it.

Tufted Puffin

We didn't make a serious effort to bird until Monday morning, and all signs indicated that Discovery Park was THE place to be. The park is huge, and if we'd had all day to explore I'm sure we could have turned up some great stuff. Unfortunately, we squandered what little time we had just getting our bearings, and trying to find any trails that would take us out to the water so we could do some serious shorebirding. We'll certainly have to try Discovery again on our next visit, but looking over eBird reports before we left town, it was clear we needed to make one last stop.

Steller's Jay

We don't seem to have any trouble turning up small numbers of Black Turnstones from time to time, but never more than a dozen. It's proved more challenging for us to see Surfbirds well, and in fact we'd only ever seen one, and it had been exactly a year and a day earlier. Now we were faced with possibly seeing 50 turnstones and nearly 100(!) Surfbirds. Needless to say, we were sold on the need to make a little detour, but how good a look could we actually get?


Black Turnstone

Pretty damn good, it turns out. We arrived at Don Armeni Boat Ramp in the late afternoon, and lugged our gear up onto the sidewalk. Just as we were deciding whether to turn left or right, we saw a couple of Black Turnstone a few feet away, directly in front of us. And there was a Surfbird. The three of them flew off a little ways, and we worried they were about to leave us for good. On the contrary, they were leading us directly to the motherlode.

There were easily 30 of each, lazing on the rocks, peacefully intermingled excepting the occasional squabble. We were set up along the rim of the Puget Sound, and directly across the water from us was the entire Seattle skyline. So our last view of the city was ripped straight from a postcard, and our last memory was of hanging out with scores of awesome shorebirds. Not bad for a first visit.



  1. Come back and I can recommend places to hit for birds depending on the season!

    1. That'd be great, thanks! This was our first trip, and we're definitely excited to visit again soon