Washington: September Migration in the Pacific Northwest: Sep 06—14, 2006

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Departs: Seattle
Tour Limit: 7
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Black-footed Albatross

Black-footed Albatross— Photo: Barry Zimmer

The September Migration tour coincides with autumn migration’s wealth of seabirds, shorebirds, and songbirds along Pacific Northwest shorelines and offshore, plus excellent mountain birding through stunning evergreen forests into the subalpine zone.

September means superb birding in western Washington and nearby British Columbia. Migration is underway in many habitats. Wandering Tattlers, Black Turnstones, and Surfbirds forage over rocky shorelines, and this is a good time of year to catch up with such North American rarities as Pacific Golden-Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, or Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. A full day along Boundary Bay south of Vancouver, B.C. puts us at one of the best shorebirding spots in the Pacific Northwest, where spectacular numbers of shorebirds and ducks may be concentrated.

A pelagic trip on a VENT private charter is a major bonus, a chance to visit offshore realms that host many thousands of seabirds in one of the most productive ocean areas in North America, and a great opportunity to study seabirds in their element. We should encounter scores of Black-footed Albatross, South Polar Skua, beautiful Sabine’s Gulls, three or four species of shearwaters (including Buller’s and Pink-footed), Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Northern Fulmars, Pomarine and Parasitic jaegers, and alcids including Cassin’s and Rhinoceros auklets. Laysan Albatross and Flesh-footed Shearwater are seen on about half the trips, and Tufted Puffin on most trips.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee— Photo: Paul Reeves Photography/shutterstock


Starting in Seattle, we bird the Puget Sound lowlands for such Northwest specialties as Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hutton’s Vireo, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Golden-crowned and “Sooty” Fox sparrows. Departing migrants may include Black-throated Gray Warbler and Violet-green Swallow among others. Sooty Grouse, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Varied Thrush, Gray Jay, and Red Crossbill are often seen on the Olympic Peninsula.

Post-breeding Harlequin Ducks and Red-necked Grebes have returned to the protected bays, as have scoters and mergansers, and Pacific and Red-throated loons are often seen. The Strait of Juan de Fuca shorelines promise Black Oystercatchers, Brandt’s and Pelagic cormorants, and Pigeon Guillemots. Thousands of migratory ducks are arriving, and Merlins and Peregrine Falcons can be a regular sight.

Very good to excellent accommodations and cuisine; 1-2 miles of steady, level walking on most days; one full-day pelagic trip; comfortably moderate weather conditions.