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WHAS - Bird Lists and Wildlife Sightings

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.

 

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