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Birds of the Western Slope July 27, 2016

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Photo by Bill Schmoker © Chestnut-backed chickadee, photographed near Tacoma, Wash.


How strange it all seems! I know that it's morning, but everything looks hazy . . . fog? Yes, I guess so. I can hardly see across the street. Everything is muted, quiet but I know that people are getting ready to go to work. If I listen, I can hear a car motor . . . I wonder how close it is. When we arrived last night, I could see that the entire street was lined with houses and cars and people and trees. But the fog seems to have erased them!

I've walked out to the kitchen area and I look out the back window. More fog . . . but wait, it seems to be lifting now. I can see the shrubs along the back fence. Other things are coming into view now: the neighbor to the right is pulling out of the garage and someone is walking down the alley.

There's movement in Bernice's Japanese maple. It's a tiny, little bird. Watch. Now it's over on the evergreen (some kind of spruce I'd guess, but this place is filled with evergreens!). The behavior makes me think of chickadee . . .

could it be? Now it's walking almost upside down. It's a chickadee! Now I can see the rufous coloring along its side. It hops around and I can see the rufous coloring on the bird's back - it's a chesnut-backed chickadee!

Grab the binoculars off the kitchen counter . . . the facial markings are correct. Dark crown and chin with a white line from the bill to the back of the head, black bill and legs. I watch my new bird in amazement. It's a "life-bird" for me and I'm still wearing my bedroom slippers! This trip for the shorebird festival has been a winner for me! Martha and I have talked and worried about the trip for nearly two years, and it's all come to fruition now! And here we are in the state of Washington and I've got a life-bird already!

Chickadees. Let's see how many I can remember. At home in Colorado there are the black-capped and mountain chickadees. In the southeast there's the Carolina and in Mexico is the Mexican. To the north there are the gray-headed, the boreal and the chestnut-backed. All are in the genus (group) called by the Greek poecilochrous meaning of various colors.

The town of Hoquiam began as a lumbering and fishing town. The name "Hoquiam" is a Chehalis Indian word meaning "hungry for wood" and refers to the driftwood at the river's mouth. But Gray's Harbor is nearby so I'm never sure of where I am! It really doesn't matter . . . it's shorebird time!

Read more from:
Surface Creek
Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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