American Dipper (photo by Evan Barrientos | Audubon Photography Awards).

Birdathon is an annual Birds Connect Seattle tradition. Participants raise money from friends and family, and then join the friendly competition to count as many bird species as they can. You can enjoy the photos and stories from many of the 2023 Birdathon participants on the Birdathon page: 

By Robin Lutton and Helen Pratt

During our Big Day for Birdathon, we had a flashback at the Umtanem Creek Trail: We spotted the Dusky Flycatcher. I instantly recalled the first time we saw this species–tending to young on a nest somewhere in Suncadia. We’d never have known without hearing it, as in the absence of a call or song, it is a challenging one to ID by sight alone, even for very experienced birders. Eventually our path took us to some burned areas in search the Lewis’s Woodpecker. This species almost completely eluded us, as it would be hours later after we’d almost given up that it flew along the roadside to a tree. Almost dismissing it as a crow at first, we watched until we could see its bright pink belly.

Western Kingbirds (photo by Mike Daniels | Audubon Photography Awards).

Helen using the sound ID on a phone (photo by Robin Lutton).

All during our Big Day, we loved the very quiet roads that made it easy to drive very slowly, or pull over on a whim–like when we sighted something yellow and larger-than-a-warbler fly into a nest cavity. This ended up being a pair of Western Kingbirds with large insects in their mouths. I just love spring for this reason. Those bird parents are busy and diligent, almost continually supplying their babies with their favorite tasty insect morsels.

Another ‘whim’ stop ended in a rare moment for us. During the daylight hours, Helen spotted a very light colored, low flying owl with long slender wings over a field. Did Great-horned Owls experience different light and dark color morphs like other raptors? After researching this sighting more carefully; it was then we realized we were seeing a Short-eared Owl. Another new bird! The day continued much like this, save for the stretch of I-90 from the pass to Lake Sammamish

A Black-billed Magpie was a surprise sighting on Robin Lutton’s and Henlen Pratt’s Big Day (photo by Amanda Ubell | Audubon Photography Awards).

One of the more surprising species recorded on our Big Day was perhaps the Black-billed Magpie—only in the sense that neither one of ever thought about it (as these are a common bird species and in the same family as Jays and Crows)—until it literally flew across the road right in front of the van near the Kittitas Reclamation District irrigation canals. It was equally surprising that the Magpie freely presented itself with so many raptors lurking nearby.   

Even more baffling than that unexpected Magpie was to see a Ring-necked Duck and two Lesser Scaups still hanging out at Union Bay Natural Area. Our local winter ducks have mostly migrated to their summer breeding grounds. But these individuals apparently still wanted to be counted on our list. We also spotted a female Bufflehead that seemed to be quite comfortable swimming around with four Canada Geese at Həʔapus Village Park on the Duwamish, one of favorite local birding spots. During this quick stop we spotted an Orange-crowned Warbler patiently waiting on a bare tree branch as we walked in from the parking lot, as if to say, “Here I am!”. 

One of the last birds added to our Big Day 2023 was one we would not have been able to see without the aid of a scope. Through binoculars, we first recognized it as an Alcid (a kind of web-footed diving bird), off Constellation Park in West Seattle. On closer glance, however, the shaped clearly resembled that of a Marbled Murrelet! I was sure glad we lugged the scope around for at least one bird ID. I don’t think we used it otherwise.  

More birdy magic than I can recount unfolded that 24-hour period.  It’s going to be near impossible to top this Birdathon Big Day with its many serendipitous moments. Until next time…just keep birding!  

Robin Lutton and Helen Pratt

Robin Lutton and Helen Pratt

2023 Birdathon Participants

Robin (mother) and daugher (Helen) are Birds Connect Seattle members who live in West Seattle. They enjoy spending time together birdwatching and adding new species to their Life Lists. Their Birdathon Big Day has become an annual tradition for them. 

Birding Sites Visited

Durr Road, Umtanum Creek Trail, Thorpe Road, Robinson Canyon Natural Area, Teanaway River Bridge, Bullfrog Pond, Gold Creek Pond, East Lake Sammammish  Trail, Union Bay Natural Area, Həʔapus Village Park, Harbor Ave/Beach Drive, Schmitz Preserve Park, and Constellation Park. 

Species Count

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Gadwall
  3. Mallard
  4. Ring-necked Duck
  5. Lesser Scaup
  6. Bufflehead
  7. Common Merganser
  8. California Quail
  9. Pied-billed Grebe
  10. Rock Pigeon
  11. Eurasian Collared -dove
  12. Mourning Dove
  13. Common Nighthawk
  14. Common Poorwill
  15. Anna’s Hummingbird
  16. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  17. Rufous Hummingbird
  18. Killdeer
  19. Spotted Sandpiper
  20. Pigeon Guillemot
  21. Marbled Murrelet
  22. Glaucous-winged Gull
  23. Caspian Tern
  24. Pelagic Cormorant
  25. Double-crested Cormorant
  26. Great Blue Heron
  27. Turkey Vulture
  28. Osprey
  29. Northern Harrier
  30. Bald Eagle
  31. Red-tailed Hawk
  32. Western Screech-owl
  33. Great-horned Owl
  34. Lewis’s Woodpecker
  35. Downy Woodpecker
  36. Hairy Woodpecker
  37. Northern Flicker
  38. American Kestrel
  39. Western Kingbird
  40. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  41. Wester Wood-pewee
  42. Willow Flycatcher
  43. Dusky Flycatcher
  44. Pacific-sloped Flycatcher
  45. Say’s Phoebe
  46. Hutton’s Vireo
  47. Warbling Vireo
  48. Steller’s Jay
  49. Black-billed Magpie
  50. American Crow
  51. Common Raven
  52. Horned Lark
  53. Tree Swallow
  54. Violet-green Swallow
  55. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  56. Purple Martin
  57. Barn Swallow
  58. Cliff Swallow
  59. Black-capped Chickadee
  60. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  61. Bushtit
  62. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  63. Pygmy Nuthatch
  64. Brown Creeper
  65. Canyon Wren
  66. House Wren
  67. Marsh Wren
  68. Bewick’s Wren
  69. American Dipper
  70. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  71. Western Bluebird
  72. Mountain Bluebird
  73. Swainson’s Thrush
  74. American Robin
  75. Sage Thrasher
  76. European Starling
  77. Cedar Waxwing
  78. House Sparrow
  79. House Finch
  80. Purple Finch
  81. Cassin’s Finch
  82. American Goldfinch
  83. Chipping Sparrow
  84. Brewer’s Sparrow
  85. Dark-eyed Junco
  86. White-crowned Sparrow
  87. Vesper Sparrow
  88. Song Sparrow
  89. Spotted Towhee
  90. Yellow-breasted Chat
  91. Western Meadowlark
  92. Bullock’s Oriole
  93. Red-winged Blackbird
  94. Brown-headed Cowbird
  95. Brewer’s Blackbird
  96. Orange-crowned Warbler
  97. Nashville Warbler
  98. MacGillivray’s Warbler
  99. Common Yellowthroat
  100. Yellow Warbler
  101. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  102. Townsend’s Warbler
  103. Wilson’s Warbler
  104. Western Tanager
  105. Black-headed Grosbeak
  106. Lazuli Bunting
  107. Short-eared Owl
Hummingbirds and Winter Weather

Hummingbirds and Winter Weather

If you have been feeding the hummingbirds and they have become accustomed to finding food in your yard, there are steps you can take to keep nectar available even during cold snaps.

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