Greg Miller Big Year Tour Series

WASHINGTON: Pacific Northwest

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2021 :: September 19 - September 25
2022 :: September 11 - September 17
2023 :: September 10 - September 16

TOUR COST

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

GROUP SIZE

3-7 Participants

AVAILABILITY

2021: 1 space available
2022: 7 spaces available
2023: 7 spaces available

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

  • Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, & the Pacific Coast
  • Mt. Rainier & Olympic National Parks
  • Westport pelagic for seabirds like albatross, fulmar, and skua
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker, Varied Thrush & Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Sooty Grouse, Mountain Quail, & White-tailed Ptarmigan
  • 7 species of alcids possible including Tufted Puffin & Rhinoceros Auklet

Description of WASHINGTON: Pacific Northwest

This comprehensive 7-day tour of Washington focuses on the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic avian specialties and visits some of the most beautiful and scenic places in the Lower 48! Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Sooty Grouse, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Pacific Golden-Plover, Surfbird, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Harlequin Duck top of a list of over 200 species we are likely to encounter! A full-day pelagic trip with Westport Seabirds will have us out exploring the open ocean for Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, 4 shearwater species, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, South Polar Skua, all 3 jaegers, Cassin’s Auklet, Tufted Puffin, Scripp’s Murrelet, and both Red and Red-necked Phalaropes!

Our tour starts and ends in Seattle, where ancient glaciers carved huge fjords to create Puget Sound. We’ll loop the Olympic Peninsula, following the Strait of Juan de Fuca west then winding our way south along the seaside cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. The region’s largest patch of old-growth rainforest covers the rugged mountains of the peninsula. Rivers rush down to rocky beaches creating a diverse intertidal zone along the foggy coastline. Rock arches and sea-stacks meet massive cliffs to create the iconic scenery this region is known for. Complex forests provide habitat for 5 species of woodpeckers plus Steller’s Jay, and Canada Jay. We’ll visit subalpine meadows to search for Sooty Grouse, and check dark hallows for Pacific Wren and Varied Thrush. One of the greatest allures here is the possibility of seeing alcids from shore. These penguin-like seabirds are usually only found by boat, but deep water right along the Olympic Peninsula’s shoreline can make them easily viewable from the comfort of dry land. Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, and Rhinoceros Auklet are fairly common and the tiny, redwood-nesting Marbled Murrelet is possible too! Harlequin Ducks who nest along rushing streams high in the Cascades and Rocky Mountains will have recently completed their nesting season, and can be found wintering in large numbers around rocky beaches and lagoons along the coast. We’ll end the tour with a visit to Mount Rainier National Park. The 14,411 foot stratovolcano rises up dramatically from the surrounding wilderness. Birding the forests and meadows at the higher elevations can produce sightings of White-tailed Ptarmigan, Cassin’s Finch, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Red Crossbill.

From the foggy streets of Seattle, to the open Pacific Ocean, to the top of Mount Rainier, we will fully immerse ourselves in the birdlife and culture of the Pacific Northwest on this grand tour! For the ultimate West Coast land- and sea-birding experience at the peak of fall migration, combine this with our CALIFORNIA: Central Coast tour!

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Length of Tour

7-days/6-nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrivals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA). Discovery Park and Puget Sound hotspots. Night in Seattle.
Day 2 – Tahuya forest, Point No Point, Three Crabs. Night in Port Angeles.
Day 3 – Neah Bay; Cape Flattery; Waatch River Valley; Ediz Hook. Night in Port Angeles.
Day 4 – La Push, Quinault Rainforest, Pacific Coastline. Night in Ocean Shores.
Day 5 – Westport Pelagic Trip, Grayland Beach, Bottle Beach. Night in Ocean Shores.
Day 6 – Hoquiam, Capitol Forest, and Mount Rainier National Park. Night in Packwood.
Day 7 – Mount Rainier National Park and Snoqualmie National Forest. Evening departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA).

Full Itinerary

*Exact birding itinerary subject to change depending on current conditions, and an ever-increasing threat of wildfires may cause closures to some birding destinations. The exact day of the pelagic is also subject to change.

Day 1 – Arrivals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA). Discovery Park and Puget Sound hotspots. Night in Seattle.

Please plan for a morning arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA). For the afternoon, we’ll head straight to Discovery Park along the shoreline of Puget Sound and hit the ground running with a diversity of classic Pacific Northwestern species at this 534-acre park – the largest city park in Seattle. This is the site of former Fort Lawton and offers a nice collection of habitats on a point jutting out into Puger Sound. We’ll get our first views of both the Cascade Mountains to our east and Olympic Mountains to our west. The often glassy-calm and foggy Puget Sound surrounds us. Anna’s Hummingbird, Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, “Oregon” Dark-eyed Junco, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee can be found in the forested groves and grassy meadows. We’ll look and listen for flocks of Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, “Western” Purple Finch, and Evening Grosbeak overhead. Along the tidal beach we’ll find Mew Gull, California Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull and the regional specialty; “Olympic” Gull which are a hybrid of Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls, and are actually the most prevalent gull in the region. Horned and Red-necked Grebe are often floating out on the sound, and we might spot Common Loon and Parasitic Jaeger from here. Occasionally Harbor Porpoise and California Sea Lion can be spotted offshore. Orientation at dinner. Night in Seattle, WA.

Day 2 – Tahuya forest, Point No Point, Three Crabs. Night in Port Angeles.

We’ll set off early from Seattle to explore the Tahuya forests primarily in search of Mountain Quail. Other western species will be encountered throughout the morning including Steller’s Jay, Common Raven, Spotted Towhee, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Cassin’s Vireo, and Red Crossbill. This area on the west side of the Puget Sound is surrounded by a giant hook-shaped body of water known as Hood Canal which was formed thousands of years ago by glaciers. At the furthest reaches of the canal is Lynch Cove where vast saltmarshes and tidal flats provide habitat for Virginia Rails, gulls, Marsh Wren, Vaux’s Swift, and Violet-green Swallows. This is a very important migratory route for salmon, and we will likely see many gulls and Bald Eagles looking for a meal.

Next we’ll head to the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula at the north end of Puget Sound. At the oddly-named Point No Point Lighthouse we’ll visit the top birding hotspot in the State of Washington. Over 160 species have been recorded here in September. Dramatically swift tides congregate waterbirds right at the tip of the point for very close viewing. 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 are possible here. Needless to say, we’ll spend some time settled in to seawatch and try to spot a few of these great birds. One of the greatest allures is the possibility of seeing alcids – seabirds usually only found from a boat. We’ll be looking for Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, and Rhinoceros Auklet. The rare Ancient Murrelet may just be arriving here for the winter months. Parasitic Jaegers are the regular at this location, often chasing around migrating flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls and Common Terns. Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants are common. A short hike around the brushy and forested areas at the point can often turn up California Scrub-Jay, “Puget Sound” White-crowned Sparrows, “Sooty” Fox Sparrow, and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

Nest we’ll pass through Port Gamble and officially arrive on the Olympic Peninsula. We’ll finish the day birding at Three Crabs along the Strait of Juan de Fuca which forms the boundary of Washington and British Columbia. Various puddle ducks including Gadwall and Northern Shoveler can be found in the marshes, and thousands of gulls gather to roost on the protected beaches. Out on the water we might spot alcids like Rhinoceros Auklet. Shorebirds can be found on the sandy beaches here including Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, and the rare Pacific Golden-Plover. We’ll get our first taste of fresh-caught seafood at dinner, then spend the night in Port Angeles, WA.

Day 3 – Hurricane Ridge, Neah Bay, Cape Flattery, Ediz Hook. Night in Port Angeles.

Climbing into Olympic National Park’s mountains, we will begin our day along Hurricane Ridge. This wilderness area is one of the best places to find the regionally endemic Sooty Grouse. Vaux’s Swift, Violet-green Swallows, Mountain Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Golden-crowned Kinglet can be abundant. Around the subalpine meadows we should find Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Savannah Sparrows, and “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler. Many raptors can be spotted soaring from this incredibly scenic vantage point. Steller’s Jay and Canada Jay move along the forest edge in noisy family groups. A casual walk around one of the park’s campgrounds can often turn up Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, and Pileated Woodpecker.

For the afternoon we’ll set out for the extreme northwestern point in Washington. At Neah Bay and Cape Flattery we will search for Pelagic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, and Black-legged Kittiwake. The alcids we looked for yesterday will be possible here, too. Cape Flattery is at the very tip – the official northwestern-most site in the continental United States. It borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea. Canada is a mere 25 miles to the north of us, and easily seen when standing at the Cape. Here we’ll search for Harlequin Duck, Common Murre, Black Oystercatcher, Black-legged Kittiwake, and a distant shot at finding a Sooty Shearwater. Varied Thrush and Pacific-slope Flycatchers can be found in the seaside forests.

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. This 3-mile long sandbar curves out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is a prime location for Harlequin Duck on our tour, and sometimes there are dozens gathered in the harbor. Night in Port Angeles, WA.

Day 4 – La Push, Quinault Rainforest, Pacific Coastline. Night in Ocean Shores.

First thing in the morning we will make a quick stop to search the turbulent waters of the Elwha River for American Dipper. Back along the Strait, a quick stop at the mouth of Salt Creek can often produce nice sightings of Harlequin Ducks, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and maybe Marbled Murrelet! Lingering songbirds like Wilson’s Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler are often found flitting around in the scrubby, seaside vegetation. Then we will wind our way through Olympic National Park’s vast old-growth forests to the Pacific Coast. Keep a close eye along the sides of the road for Ruffed Grouse. Sometimes Band-tailed Pigeons gather in small flocks in the snaggy branches of dead trees. Speaking of trees, you’ll be blown away by the truly massive conifers along our route and in the Quinault rainforest we will see the World’s largest Sitka Spruce! Along the coast we are likely to find hundreds of seaducks migrating north along the coast. All three scoters are possible in addition to Pacific Loon, Common Loon, and Red-necked Grebe. There has been a successful reintroduction of Sea Otters here, and with some luck we might spot one or two!

Ocean Shores near the mouth of Grays Harbor is a well-known magnet for shorebirds. The jetty is a good place to try for Surfbird and Wandering Tattler. “Black” Brant, American Golden-Plover, Pacific Golden-Plover are possible here. Brown Pelican and 3 species of loon may be spotted in the surf. American Pipit are foraging around the parking lots and dunes! Some notably outstanding finds during past years have included Emperor Goose, King Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, Eurasian Dotterel, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Curlew Sandpiper. We will of course make detours to any staked-out rarities nearby! Night near Ocean Shores, WA.

Day 5 – Westport Pelagic Trip, Grayland Beach, Bottle Beach. Night in Ocean Shores.

If weather cooperates, we will do a pelagic trip with Westport Seabirds which will have us out exploring the open ocean for Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmar, 4 shearwater species, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, South Polar Skua, all 3 jaegers, Cassin’s Auklet, Tufted Puffin, Scripp’s Murrelet, and both Red and Red-necked Phalaropes! You never know what other rare and unusual birds might be lurking out at sea! In addition to these seabirds, marine mammals can be plentiful, especially Humpback Whale, Harbor Porpoise, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Harbor Seal, and both Steller’s and California Sea Lions. Massive Blue Whales and Fin Whales are uncommon but possible, in addition to Dall’s Porpoise, Elephant Seal, and Northern Fur Seal! This pelagic trip is a must, and will surely be the highlight of this whirlwind tour! Please check out the Westport Seabirds website for more of what to expect on this trip, and their tips for preparing for a pelagic trip.

For the afternoon, we will drive the sandy beaches at Grayland Beach for threatened (but adorable) “Western” Snowy Plovers plus other shorebirds like Sanderling, Dunlin, and maybe Red Knot. We can casually sort through shorebirds and waterfowl at Bottle Beach – maybe we’ll find a Pacific Golden-Plover, Eurasian Wigeon, or Cackling Goose here! If we haven’t already found Black-bellied Plover, this is a good spot for them. We will try to be back to our hotel a little earlier this evening so that people can rest after the long day at sea. Night in Ocean Shores, WA.

Day 6 – Hoquiam, Capitol Forest, and Mount Rainier National Park. Night in Packwood.

First thing in the morning we will visit Oyhut Wildlife Area and the sewage treatment plant at Hoquiam which can both turn up some great species and the occasional rarity. According to local birders this may be the most-birded sewage treatment plant in the Northwest! So we gotta stop there! We’ll sort through ducks, shorebirds, and grebes and try to pick out a few new species for our trip. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be incredibly lucky like a group of birders in the past who found a vagrant Tropical Kingbird there!? From here we will trek back inland, stopping at Capitol Forest for lingering songbirds including the regional endemic Hermit Warbler. During the late afternoon we’ll make our way into Mount Rainier National Park. This was the 5th national park to be established and preserves nearly 400 square miles of pristine wilderness in the northern Cascades. Mount Rainier itself rises up 14,411 feet and its glimmering snowfields and glaciers are visible from many miles away. Night in Packwood, WA.

Day 7 – Mount Rainier National Park and Snoqualmie National Forest. Evening departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA).

We will spend the morning exploring the higher elevations of Mount Rainier National Park. A hike through the alpine meadows from Sunrise can result in finding White-tailed Ptarmigan, Prairie Falcon, Clark’s Nutcracker, Cassin’s Finch, and Evening Grosbeak. Endemic mammals like Hoary Marmot and Cascade Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrel can be found up at the higher elevations too! Some of the more than 25 glaciers packed into Mount Rainier’s slopes are the biggest in the Lower 48!

We can explore a few Snoqualmie National Forest roads nearby for the chance at finding Pine Grosbeak, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Williamson’s Sapsucker. After lunch we will head back to Seattle. Please plan your departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, WA (SEA) for the late-afternoon or evening so that we can maximize our birding efforts on this final day.

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 SEA).

Cost Includes

Cost includes accommodations, entrance fees, and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary. Tips for our guides are appreciated.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

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.

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

Most walks will be easy, but we may have a few more difficult hikes over uneven terrain. Be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions with generally cool, damp, and breezy conditions along the immediate coast and hot, dry conditions further inland. This trip includes a half-day pelagic birding trip out of Westport, Washington. Please take precautions if you are prone to seasickness, and ask us for tips and tricks! This is an adventurous trip, but jam-packed full of great birds and other wildlife!

Recommended Field Guide

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

Sibley Birds is also available as an App

 

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.

Location Map