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Greg Miller's Big Year Tour Series

WASHINGTON: Pacific Northwest

Alaska-2017-8647

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2019 :: September 15 - September 21

TRIP LEADERS

TOUR COST

From: $1,850 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Seattle, WA (SEA)

GROUP SIZE

3-7 Participants

AVAILABILITY

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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Highlights of WASHINGTON: Pacific Northwest

  • Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sounds
  • Murrelets and Auklets
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker, Varied Thrush and Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Description of WASHINGTON: Pacific Northwest

This is an amazing tour! We will hit 8 of the Top 10 Birding Hotspots in the State of Washington. We will start at the northerly tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in Puget Sound, Washington’s top birding hotspot. Over 160 species have been recorded in the month of October. This includes more than 20 species of waterfowl, 4 species of loons, 6 species of grebes, 13 species of gulls, all 3 jaegers, and an amazing 6 species of alcids. One of the greatest allures here is the possibility of seeing alcids—birds usually only found at sea by boat—from dry land. We’ll be looking for Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, and Rhinoceros Auklet. Ancient Murrelet winter here and we’ll be on the cusp of their arrival here. Wow! What a start!

We will drive along the north edge of the Olympic Peninsula and bird at the northwest corner of the state at Neah Bay where we will look for more alcids, gulls, and waterfowl. We’ll back through the Kitsap Peninsula and out to the Pacific Ocean at Grays Harbor. This place is not only terrific for waterfowl and gulls, but is a powerful magnet for shorebirds.

Finally we’ll head back up to the southern end of Puget Sound and bird one of the best National Wildlife Refuges in the State—Nisqually. We’ll finish up birding some of the very best local hotspots in the Seattle area.

Some of the birds we’ll search for in addition to the birds listed above include Red-breasted Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, Hutton’s Vireo, Varied Thrush, Northwestern Crow, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Heermann’s Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Western Grebe, Parasitic Jaeger, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Harlequin Duck, and Northern Shrike.

The scenery will be stunning! We will almost always have majestic mountains in view. And the fjords of the Puget Sound will make you feel like you are in a different land. And then there is the enchanting Pacific Coast along the Olympic Peninsula. The beauty is so rich and beautiful it just might make your eyes tear up. And I do hope you like eating good, fresh seafood!

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Itinerary

Length of Tour

7-days/6-nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrivals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA)

Day 2 – Kent Ponds; Gog-Le-Hi-Te; Point No Point
Day 3 – Neah Bay; Cape Flattery; Waatch River Valley; Ediz Hook
Day 4 – Theler Wetlands; Ocean Shores
Day 5 – Ocean Shores; Grays Harbor NWR; Hoquiam STP; Westport; Tokeland
Day 6 – Nisqually NWR; Marymoor Park; Magnuson Park; Discovery Park
Day 7 – Departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA)

Full Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA. (SEA)

Arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA)Orientation at dinner. Night in Seattle, WA. If all our flights arrive early we will have some time to bird local Seattle hotspots.

Day 2 – Kent Ponds; Gog-Le-Hi-Te; Point No Point

Kent Ponds is a 300-acre site of grasslands, cottonwood groves, and impoundments. This old wastewater treatment site is now a part of flood control and wildlife enhancement. We’ll check the area for waterfowl and gulls. We may pick up our first Glaucous-winged Gulls here. Peregrine Falcon and Northern Shrike could be here, too, as well as Fox Sparrows (Sooty) and Golden-crowned Sparrows.

The Port of Tacoma’s Gog-Le-Hi-Te Mitigated Wetlands was a former landfill. Our primary focus here is gulls. Ten species have been reported to eBird in October at this location. New gulls here may include Thayer’s and Mew Gulls. And if we’re very lucky, Slaty-backed Gull. This species delighted birders in the month of October in both 2013 and 2014.

Next we’ll head north to the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in Puget Sound. This is the top birding hotspot in the State of Washington. Over 160 species have been recorded in the month of October. This includes more than 25 species of waterfowl, 4 species of loons, 6 species of grebes, 13 species of gulls, all 3 jaegers, and an amazing 6 species of alcids. Needless to say, we’ll spend some time here to take in as much as possible. One of the greatest allures here is the possibility of seeing alcids—birds usually only found at sea by boat—from dry land. We’ll be looking for Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, and Rhinoceros Auklet. Ancient Murrelet winter here and we’ll be on the cusp of their arrival here. Parasitic Jaegers are the most regular of the jaegers at this location. The potential to find a really good bird here is high. Night near Port Angeles, WA.

Day 3 – Neah Bay; Cape Flattery; Waatch River Valley; Ediz Hook

We’ll be birding out at the extreme northwestern point in Washington. Today will be our most realistic chance at seeing Northwestern Crow. Many of the birds at Neah Bay are similar to Point No Point. In fact, this is the fourth best birding hotspot in Washington. Although some of these are unusual, we will have a higher probability of seeing Cackling Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Black-legged Kittiwake, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, and Varied Thrush. The alcids we looked for yesterday will be possible here, too.

Cape Flattery is the very tip. It borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea. Canada is a mere 25 miles to the north of us. And, we are about 80 miles (as the Northwestern Crow flies) south of Tofino, British Colombia, where the pelagic trips in the movie, The Big Year, were filmed. Here we’ll search for Harlequin Duck, Common Murre, Black Oystercatcher, Black-legged Kittiwake, and a distant shot at finding a Sooty Shearwater. Tufted Puffins can be seen with a telescope out on Tatoosh Island from May through mid-September, but by the end of the month they are gone. We’ll look anyway and hope to get lucky. All it takes is one…

Waatch River Valley is nearby and our last stop out here at the point. Greater White-fronted Goose and Cackling Goose are both possible here. While retracing our route from the morning, we’ll stop at Ediz Hook.

Ediz Hook is a 3-mile long sand spit jutting into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is our prime location for Harlequin Duck on our tour. Night near Port Angeles, WA again.

Day 4 – Theler Wetlands; Ocean Shores

Theler Wetlands is located at the head of an estuary and has both fresh and saltwater marshes, riparian areas, and forested wetlands. The Seattle Times referred to this location as “a birding wonderland”. We will get a chance to test it out. On our itinerary, this locale has the top probability for Red-breasted Sapsucker. That would make a nice addition to the trip list.

Our next destination will be coastal again—this time, Ocean Shores near the mouth of Grays Harbor. Grays Harbor is a well-known magnet for shorebirds. A total of 31 species have been recorded here in eBird in October alone! Ocean Shores, like its name, borders the Pacific Ocean. The Westport Pelagic trips depart from Grays Harbor to look for seabirds. Unfortunately, our tight itinerary will not give us time for that on this tour. But if you ever return, you should plan on taking one of these trips. The birding can be unforgettable! Brant, American Golden-Plover and Pacific Golden-Plover, and all 3 scoters are possible here. Rock Sandpiper is a long shot. Some of the outstanding October finds here at Ocean shores include Emperor Goose, King Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, Eurasian Dotterel, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Curlew Sandpiper. What a list! Night near Ocean Shores, WA.

Day 5 – Ocean Shores; Grays Harbor NWR; Hoquiam STP; Westport; Tokeland

We’ll have better light this morning looking out over the Pacific Ocean and birding the shores. The Oyhut Wildlife Area is the spot to look for Brant and the golden-plovers as well as a chance to see Lapland Longspurs and Northern Shrike.

We’ll sort through shorebirds and waterfowl at Grays Harbor NWR. Maybe we’ll find a Eurasian Wigeon or a Cackling Goose here. If we haven’t already found Black-bellied Plover, this is a good spot for them.

The sewage treatment plant at Hoquiam can turn up some great species. We’ll stop and check it out. According to birders in Washington this may be the most-birded sewage treatment plant in the Northwest. We’ll sort through waterfowl, shorebirds, and grebes. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be incredibly lucky like birders in the past who have found a vagrant like a Tropical Kingbird? (true)

On the south side of Grays Harbor on the way to Westport is Bottle Beach. It’s a great spot for shorebirds. We’ll look for Red Knot. Rarities like Bar-tailed Godwit and Ruff have been seen here.

Westport has a number of hotspots. We’ll look for things we didn’t find at Ocean Shores. The jetty is a good place to get one more chance of seeing alcids from shore like Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet, Marbled Murrelet, or even a remotely possible Tufted Puffin. Seeing a flyby Black-legged Kittiwake is possible here, too.

Our final stop for the day is Tokeland. Our best chance of finding a Bar-tailed Godwit is here. And…wait for it…American Crow. Yep. We have a chance to bag two species of crows on this trip. This also our best spot to find Clark’s Grebe. Of course, Western is far more common. Brant and Cackling Goose are to be looked for as well. Night in Olymipia, WA.

Day 6 – Nisqually NWR; Marymoor Park; Magnuson Park; Discovery Park

Another one of Washington’s Top 10 birding hotspots is Nisqually NWR. This is a good place for geese. Trumpeter Swans show up later in the month. In all, 27 species of waterfowl have been recorded here in October. We will search for Virginia Rail and Marsh for our year list. Northern Shrike, Violet-green Swallow, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Spotted Towhee, and Western Meadowlark.

We will finish our day navigating Seattle area traffic to visit some of the very best city parks. Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA is one of those spots. It’s an old and really popular park. But it also has a good bird list. This is one of the better spots on our itinerary to pick up Common Merganser, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pacific Wren, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Evening Grosbeak, Violet-green Swallow, Townsend’s Warbler, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Magnuson Park is close. This may be our best chance at finding California Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, and Barn Owl. We may see a lingering Vaux’s Swift here as well.

Discovery Park is a little west of Magnuson Park. Many species have been recorded here. But for our itinerary it is best for Hutton’s Vireo, Varied Thrush, and Red Crossbill. We’ll have one more chance to look for Rhinoceros Auklets from here, too. Night in Seattle, WA.

Day 7 – Departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA)

Tour ends. Departures from San Jose International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA)

Cost Details

Cost

Cost is $1,850 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Seattle, WA (Airport code SEA).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code ).

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $300 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

Accommodations

6 nights accommodation in standard US motels with ensuite facilities. We choose comfortable accommodations closest to the birding locations. Wherever possible, we support establishments that implement eco-friendly practices.

Activity Level

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Mostly easy birding, but some long drives.

Additional Information

Recommended Field Guide

Sibley Birds West (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds is also available as an App

 

Non-smoking Tour

Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

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