Notes from the Field (Winter 2010):

Date: February 25, 2010
Beach: Long Beach
Observers: Dan Varland, Brian Sterling, Dick Brower and Jo Westcott.




Raptor count:
Bald Eagle Peregrine Falcon
8 adults,
2 juveniles
1 adult,
3 juveniles



Raptors Banded:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon D/5, H/5



Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon V/V



female Peale's Peregrine Falcon
V/V. We were very pleased to re-capture this individual, a female Peale's Peregrine Falcon that we first captured and banded at Long Beach on January 19, 2003. She will be 8 years old this spring, and is the second oldest of the banded peregrines that we have been able to re-sight. The oldest is a male with color band 8/7. He was 9 years of age when we last saw him in 2006 at Ocean Shores (see http://www.coastalraptors.org/fieldnotes06winter.asp). According to the Bird Banding Lab, the oldest peregrine on record from banding is 19 years. The BBL actually has records for two peregrines that lived to this age (see http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bBL/homepage/long3120.cfm#Falcon). Brian Sterling photo.


V/V's leg bands.
V/V's leg bands. Brian Sterling photo.


Close-up of the Fish & Wildlife Service band
Close-up of the Fish & Wildlife Service band, which we anodize red to denote a falcon we band at Long Beach (see http://www.coastalraptors.org/marking.asp). Brian Sterling photo.


D/5, a first-year female Peale's peregrine captured and banded today.
D/5, a first-year female Peale's peregrine captured and banded today. Brian Sterling photo.


Back view of D/5.
Back view of D/5. Brian Sterling photo.


Close-up of D/5's brand new bands.
Close-up of D/5's brand new bands. Brian Sterling photo.


H/5, a first-year female Peale's peregrine captured and banded today.
H/5, a first-year female Peale's peregrine captured and banded today. Brian Sterling photo.


Back view of H/5.
Back view of H/5. Brian Sterling photo.


Dick Brower with H/5 just before release.
Dick Brower with H/5 just before release. Brian Sterling photo.


A coyote walks at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula.
A coyote walks at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Dan Varland photo.


coyote surveying the beach from driftwood
The coyote surveying the beach from driftwood. We very rarely see coyotes during our surveys, probably because they are mostly nocturnal animals. Dan Varland photo.



Date: February 22, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Varland, Carrie Larson, Julia Bent and Mary O'Neil.




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle
2 juveniles 3 adults



Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon W/Z, A/4



Close up of a falcon's legs and faded color bands
With time color bands can get so dirty that their codes become unreadable. That was the case with A/4 this morning. We re-captured her to find out who we were watching through the scope, then to clean her color band. Typically, already-banded birds are re-captured once each year to collect blood and feather samples. We had done this with A/4 last September, so today's effort was for band cleaning only. Carrie Larson photo.


Julia Bent cleans A/4's color band.
Julia Bent cleans A/4's color band. Carrie Larson photo.


2-year-old male Peregrine Falcon feeding on a starling.
W/Z, 2-year-old male, feeds on a starling. Dan Varland photo.


Falcon perched on driftwood with wings extended for flight
W/Z lifts off. Dan Varland photo.




Date: February 17, 2010
Beach: Grayland
Observers: Dan Varland, Tom Rowley, Dale Larson, Sandra Miller.




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle
1 adult,
1 juvenile
2 adults



Raptors Banded:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon V/3



Snowy Plovers seeking cover in tire tracks at Midway Beach south of Grayland.
Snowy Plovers seeking cover in tire tracks at Midway Beach south of Grayland. Tom Rowley photo.


Banded Snowy Plovers
Three of these plovers are banded. Banding of this state and federally listed species is done by biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We were able to read the color band combinations on four individuals; our observations will be reported to the federal Bird Banding Lab and to the agency biologists involved with the banding/research project. Tom Rowley photo.


This individual is missing a foot. Tom Rowley photo.
This individual is missing a foot. Tom Rowley photo.


Old shipwreck on beach
Old shipwreck south of the Warrenton-Cannery Road beach access. Tom Rowley photo.


An adult female Peales Peregrine Falcon
An adult female Peales Peregrine Falcon captured and banded with color band V/3 on the beach today. Tom Rowley photo.


taking tissue sample from the roof of the mouth.
We take a tissue sample from the roof of the mouth. The sample will be tested for avian influenza at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Puyallup, Washington. V/3 is the second individual we have sampled for this disease. Tom Rowley photo.


V/3 at release. Tom Rowley photo.
V/3 at release. Tom Rowley photo.




Date: February 11, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Bill Mayne, Jo Westcott, and Mary O'Neil.




Raptor count:
Bald Eagle Peregrine Falcon
6 adults,
1 juvenile
1 juveniles



Bald Eagle perched on driftwood
Bald Eagle perches north of Ocean Shores.




Date: February 4, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Varland, Dale Larson, Bill Mayne and Joe Westcott.




Raptor count:
Bald Eagle Peregrine Falcon
3 adults,
2 juveniles
1 adult



Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon W/Z



Man holding falcon with wings spread
W/Z, a 3-year-old male Peale's peregrine re-captured on the beach today. We try to re-capture birds we've banded once each year to get blood and feather samples. Today, for the first time, we took a saliva sample to test for avian influenza (thanks to Jo Westcott). Jo and I will be working together to test the raptors captured during surveys for this disease. Bill Mayne photo.


Man holding falcon showing back of bird
Back view of W/Z today. He's in adult plumage and has been for some time.



W/Z on November 17, 2007, the day he was banded. W/Z was 6 months old at the time. That's my brother Andy on the left.


Falcon feeding on a gull
W/Z feeding on a gull it captured live on the beach north of Ocean Shores. This photo and the two that follow were taken by Mark Wilhyde on May 20, 2008. W/Z was a one year old at the time. He still wears his juvenile plumage. His molt to the adult blue-gray plumage begins at this age. W/Z shows signs of transition to adulthood in these photos: his cere and eye ring have turned yellow.


Falcon standing on sand.



Falcon standing on sand looking directly at viewer




Date: January 29, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Tom Rowley, Dave Murnen, Dan and Sandra Miller.
Comments: We set up to trap and band Bald Eagles today at the mouth of Conner Creek.



Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle
1 adult,
1 juvenile
3 adults



Bald Eagle perched on a driftwood structure
Bald Eagle perching. Tom Rowley took this photo and the others in the series below. The eagle left his perch, flew toward us, then out to the surf where he made a brief pass at a gull. He dropped out of sight behind a wave. Reappearing, he flew to shore where another eagle intercepted him and began chase. It did not appear to me that his hunt was successful until Tom's photos revealed he had a fish. That's why the second eagle entered the picture and began chase.

Bald Eagle swooping down toward camera - driftwood structure in foregroud


Bald Eagle flying low over crashing ocean waves


Bald Eagle flying low over crashing ocean waves


From over the ocean, Bald Eagle flying back towards shore


Bald Eagle in flight holding a fish


Bald Eagle swooping down towards another Bald Eagle






Date: January 27, 2010
Beach: Long Beach
Observers: Dan Varland, Bill Mayne, Jo Westcott and Sandra Miller.




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle Northern Harrier Species Unidentified
2 juveniles 1 juvenile 1 1



Raptors Banded:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon R/2



R/2, a first-year female Peales Peregrine Falcon.
R/2, a first-year female Peales Peregrine Falcon.

R/2 close up. Photo by Bill Mayne.
R/2 close up. Photo by Bill Mayne.

Bill Mayne and Jo Westcott with R/2.
Bill Mayne and Jo Westcott with R/2.

R/2 had a foot injury.
R/2 had a foot injury.

Close-up of the injury. It looks like it's well on its way to healing completely.
Close-up of the injury. It looks like it's well on its way to healing completely.

R/2 also had a central tail feather broken.
R/2 also had a central tail feather broken.

A worker on Willapa National Wildlife Refuge at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula  flattens dunes to create nesting habitat for the threatened Snowy Plover.
A worker on Willapa National Wildlife Refuge at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula flattens dunes to create nesting habitat for the threatened Snowy Plover.

Falcon feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican.
Four hours after banding R/2, we found her 4 miles north of where she was captured feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican. While it's not uncommon to see peregrine scavenging during surveys, we have never observed one feed on something this big. This photo and the four that follow document the behavior.

Falcon feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican.


Falcon feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican.


Falcon feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican.


Falcon feeding on the carcass of a Brown Pelican.




Date: January 24, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Jim and Carole Nagan, Dianna Moore and Suzanne Tomlinson.




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle
1 adult,
1 juvenile
4 adults,
1 juvenile



Raptors Banded:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon K/5



Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon A/4



K/5, a first-year male Peales Peregrine Falcon.
K/5, a first-year male Peales Peregrine Falcon.


Suzanne Tomlinson holding K/5 with Jim and Carole Nagan looking on.
Suzanne Tomlinson holding K/5 with Jim and Carole Nagan looking on.


Jim Nagan with a dead Black Brandt
Jim Nagan with a dead Black Brandt that we found on the beach while stopped to band the peregrine. This bird was unique in that it was wearing both a band and a radio-transmitter.


Close-up of band and radio-transmitter on the Black Brandt.
Close-up of band and radio-transmitter on the Black Brandt. The antenna was missing from the transmitter.


Headless carcass of Brandt.
The head was missing on the Brandt carcass. Without that, we weren't sure at the time just what we had. After I got home, I went online and submitted the band number, 1767-27009, to the USGS Bird Banding Lab. In a matter of days, we found out that the bird was a Black Brandt that had been banded as an adult on June 12, 2008 in Arctic Alaska. The banding site was where the Kogru River meets the Beaufort Sea. Google Earth shows the location nicely (use LAT 70.58333; LON -151.91667)




Date: January 23, 2010
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Dave Murnen, Sandra Miller, and Eliza Smith.




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle Northern Harrier Species Unidentified
1 juvenile 4 adults,
1 juvenile
1 1



Species Unidentified
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon K/2



a first year female Peregrine Falcon captured and banded on the beach today.
K/2, a first year female Peregrine Falcon captured and banded on the beach today. I believe this individual is a Tundra Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus tundrius), based on plumage characteristics and measurements. Of 137 Peregrine Falcons captured and banded to date, only four have been identified to this subspecies (the vast majority have been the coastal Peale's subspecies). Joe Buchanan, Tracy Fleming and I co-authored a paper on the occurrence of tundra peregrines in Washington.
Tundra Peregrine Occurrence in WA.pdf (4.3MB)


Close up photo of Peregrine Falcon head
Note the light breaking mark behind the gape. According to field guide author, artist and photographer Brian Wheeler, no other race of peregrine has this field mark.

Photo of back of Peregrine Falcon - wings spread
Light brown edges to back feathers is also a characteristic of tundra peregrines.




Date: January 16, 2010
Beach: Lake Quinault
Comments: Lake Quinault Lodge and Coastal Raptors teamed up to provide a Bald Eagle lecture and field trip. The lecture was held in the lodge. The field trip took us to a golf course up the lake where we were set up to capture and band a bald eagle using our netlauncher and salmon carcass from a local hatchery as bait. While our efforts to attract and band an eagle did not succeed, the group of 33 enjoyed themselves and learned a lot.

Miller's Obiter Dictum




Sandra Miller looks for eagles from a blind several hundred yards from the netlauncher site. Dan Miller photo.


The group looks for eagles at the golf course trapping site. Dan Miller photo.


I talk about eagle handling to the group. Dan Miller photo.


A demonstration of how our netlauncher works. Bill Dyer photo.




Date: December 23, 2009
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Charlie Varland, Ariel Varland and Dianna Moore.




Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon A/4



Raptor surveyors in Santa hats
Dressed for a Holiday Survey, Charlie and Ariel Varland joined Dianna Moore and me in the field this morning. Dan Varland photo.

Falcon perched on driftwood
A/4, a one-year old Peregrine Falcon we captured and banded in September 2008. Ariel Varland photo.

Red-tailed Hawk perched on driftwood with golden grasses in background
Adult Red-tailed Hawk. Red-tails are a rare sight on western Washington beaches; we've tallied very few of them over the years. Arial Varland photo.

Harrier perched on a stick on the beach watching photographer
Northern Harrier. Ariel Varland photo.

Red-tailed hawk feeding with a harrier watching on and a crow in the background
The red-tail we saw during today's survey feeding on a Surf Scoter while the Northern Harrier looks on. Ariel Varland photo.

Harrier on beach feeding with a crow approaching
Northern Harrier feeding on a Surf Scoter it found on its own. Both the red-tail and the harrier were scavenging. Ariel Varland photo.




Date: December 18, 2009
Beach: Grayland
Observers: Dan Varland, Dave Murnen, Brian Sterling and Dick Brower.
Comments: We saw no raptors during this morning's survey, a surprising result for a survey during any season but summer.



Snowy Plovers on beach in tire tracks.
Snowy Plovers in tire tracks at Midway beach south of Grayland. Snowy Plovers are listed as Endangered at the state level in Washington and as Threatened at the federal level by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Each spring a small number nest at Midway beach. Dan Varland photo.




Date: December 4, 2009
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland, Dale Larson, Carrie Larson and Lisa Krakowski




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle Northern Harrier
1 adult,
1 juvenile
1 juvenile 1



Beach erosion showing pavement crumbling and falling down to shore
The west end of Warrenton-Cannery Road where it meets the beach. This road used to provide beach access south of Grayland. It marks the south end of our Grayland study area.




Date: December 3, 2009
Beach: Ocean Shores
Observers: Dan Varland and Mike Walker




Raptor count:
Peregrine Falcon Bald Eagle Northern Harrier
2 adults,
1 juvenile
2 adults,
1 juvenile
2 adults,
1 age unknown



Marked Individuals Observed:
Species Color Marker Code
Peregrine Falcon A/4



Adult Bald Eagle flying with a dead seabird it had stolen from a juvenile Bald Eagle
Adult Bald Eagle flying with a dead seabird it had stolen from a juvenile Bald Eagle. Stealing another's food is known as kleptoparasitism.

Juvenile eagle in hot pursuit of its stolen breakfast!
Juvenile eagle in hot pursuit of its stolen breakfast!