WHAS - Bird Lists and Wildlife Sightings

Please send information about wildlife sightings to our Wildlife Sightings Chair.

To see some recent Washington State bird sightings go to the Tweeters list. To subscribe to Washington State Tweeters or to get more info about Tweeters visit WA Tweeters.

Sandhill Crane (WDFW Image)


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - June Update

Least Flycatcher - Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Least Flycatcher - Image courtesy of Wikimedia

By Russ Koppendrayer

Through the first twenty-nine days of June we had only added Common Nighthawk and Red-eyed Vireo to our year list, both of which are traditional late arriving migrant nesting species in Cowlitz County.

Then on the last day of June our second ever record of Least Flycatcher was found along Hummocks Trail in the Mount Saint Helens National Monument. This species is one of the look alike members of the genus Empidonax or commonly shortened to empids by birders. A recording of the unique che-bek calls of this individual was obtained for documentation. Least Flycatcher is common in woodlands east of the Rockies in the northern tier of states and well up into southern Canada, and a few make it into northeastern Washington to nest every year. While having one in southwest Washington is not unheard of, this is the only individual found west of the Cascades in 2021 to the best of my knowledge.

Download the pdf here.


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - May Update

Black Tern - Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Black Tern - Image courtesy of Wikimedia

By Russ Koppendrayer

We had a nice month of May with newly returning migrants found on a regular basis. Mixed in with the more expected species were a couple that are rarely found in Cowlitz County.

Very early in the month the third county record of Lewis's Woodpecker showed up on Port of Kalama property and put on a nice show for a few birders for at least two days. While it can look plain black in flight this woodpecker is quite striking when seen well. Dark green back and head gives way to a red face with a white throat and upper breast with a red/pink belly. Quite an unusual look for a woodpecker that also has an unusual favorite feeding style for that family. It will find a high perch to survey the area and then sally forth to catch large insects that it spots in flight. A foraging technique more common to flycatchers than woodpeckers.

Late in the month a Black Tern put on a show at Coldwater Lake for a single birder while feeding over the lake. This individual seemed to be part of a rare incursion of this species into western Washington as there were quite a number of reports both north and south of us. Most years this species is completely absent west of the Cascades. While this was a treat for the individuals that got to see them, hopefully it doesn't mean there are problems for them in their usual haunts and they are searching new territory. Time will tell.

Download the pdf here.


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - April Update

Whimbrel - Image courtesy of USFWS (public domain)
Whimbrel - Image courtesy of USFWS

By Russ Koppendrayer

For the most part we had a very typical month of April, with a new species being added to our list every day or two as migration picked up steam. With only one exception these ranged from species that will soon be abundant to ones that travel through in small numbers and are seen most years, but sometimes completely missed. The exception was a small flock of eight Whimbrels that were seen in the Woodland Bottoms establishing only the third ever record for Cowlitz County.

Whimbrel is quite a distinctive large sandpiper with a long, decurved bill. The only similar species expected in our area would be Long-billed Curlew which has an even longer bill, and also has cinnamon brown under wings and buffy underparts as opposed to the more gray/brown look of the Whimbrel. This year's birds were only seen in flight at about tree top level, and the 2015 group of fifteen birds were also in flight, while the first county record consisted of a flock of over thirty Whimbrels that spent six days of late May 2012 feeding in a farm field in the Woodland Bottoms. Here they would find enough food to fuel their next leg of their migration from possibly coastal Mexico to northern Alaska. Migration is such an awesome spectacle to watch and we have another month plus to enjoy this spring.

Download the pdf here.


2021 Cowlitz County Bird List - March Update

Great Gray Owl - Image courtesy of Wikimedia/jok2000
Great Gray Owl - Image courtesy of Wikimedia/jok2000

By Russ Koppendrayer

The annual smelt run took place almost entirely in March this year. The hordes of these tiny fish coming up into the rivers of Cowlitz County to spawn is an extravaganza of the natural world. Though tiny the smelt provide the nutrition for waves of sea lions, hundreds of Bald Eagles and tens of thousands of gulls. Among these gulls, in recent years birders have been finding the occasional Lesser Black-backed Gull, a species associated with Europe and Asia. The east coast of North America has seen an increase in appearances of this gull species over the last few decades, In more recent years there have been a few found in Washington as well, including individual birds following the smelt here in 2016 and again in 2020. Imagine our surprise this season when at least three Lesser Black-backed gulls were found among the massive gull roosts. A winter plumage adult was photographed at Willow Grove, and both a juvenile and a breeding plumage adult were spotted in the Woodland area. The adult was enjoyed by numerous birders as it roosted on the roofs of Woodland businesses while not dining on smelt in the nearby Lewis River.

Just as astounding was the first county record of Great Gray Owl, submitted with photographs to eBird. While eBird does not publish locations for records of this sensitive species, we do know that they like to hunt in open meadow areas surrounded by forest. Known Pacific Northwest nesting areas are the Okanogan Highlands east of the Cascades in northern Washington, the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington and Northeastern Oregon, and the Cascades in southern Oregon. Occasional birds seeking new territory or on some other pursuit are found outside of those areas and it is always wise to be on the alert for this possibility, although thorough documentation is best if you want to be believed.

Spring migration is going to really ramp up in the next couple months with new species arriving almost every day, one of the more exciting times for birding. Hope you enjoy.

Download the pdf here.


Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey

By Darrel Whipple

"Well, eagles aren't going to like this place!" remarked Mike Tweedy as we turned around in disappointment at the gate of the county shooting range near the mouth of the Toutle.

Indeed. The place was loaded with dozens of vehicles apparently owned by recreational shooters, but also by folks plying their skills -- well, actually their kids' skills -- at moto-cross, creating an insufferable din as the bikes bounced and flew around a course over the extensive mound of sand dredged from the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers.

No sooner had we started back toward the Cowlitz River to continue the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey, when we saw two bright adult eagles posting watch in the two nearest trees to the moto-cross cacophany! What. were. those. eagles. thinking?

It reminded me of Prof. Mayhew's Second Law of Animal Behavior: An animal will be where you find it. (Mayhew's First Law was: An animal will do what it damn well pleases.) Go figure.

Anyway, it was a great day to run the survey -- Saturday, February 20, 2021 -- and we had a respectable final count of 21 eagles. Seven of them were sub-adults, birds still in their first three years of life, not having attained adult plumage. It's good to see that the population may be replacing itself in our region, after many decades of nesting failure attributed to DDT or PCBs in the food chain. The Silver Lake nests are notably successful recently, as five of our observed sub-adults today were found there.

Most of our sightings were near nests or territories where I had found them in prior years' surveys, even though we often had to scan distant conifers to find them. Mike was good at spotting that little speck of white on a hillside of green.

Other species that were highlights of this day's outing were American Kestrel, Bufflehead and Tundra Swan.

We were conducting the 43rd Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey sponsored by WHAS, roughly following a vehicle route that was prescribed in 1979, when WDFW and other entities kicked off a ten-year eagle population study in the state. This year's survey yielded 11 adults and 5 sub-adults in the north latitude-longitude block (Coweeman mouth to the I-5 bridge over the Cowlitz) and 3 adults and 2 sub-adults in the south block (Coweeman to Kalama Marina).

Each block is about eight by twelve miles in size, and the route covers approximately 120 miles. The survey hours were 7:45 am to 3:30 pm, with temperatures in the 40s and an occasional shower.

The total of 21 eagles has been par for the course over the last few years. (Last year was a notable exception: we had 74 eagles on February 25, 2020, attracted from all over the region by the late smelt run!)



Upcoming Events

Aug 14;
WHAS Annual Picnic
Sep 10-11;
Puget Sound Bird Fest
Sep 23-25;
Wings over Willapa Festival
Oct 08;
Board Meeting