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A Very Rare Spring Sighting

Don't Forget the Birds
Photos of Cinnamon Teal by Jeff Adams.

Jeff Adams sent in some good photos of a pair of Cinnamon Teal along the shore just north of the Cove Hotel May 1.  This gives Vashon only its second record for this small duck.  The first sighting for Vashon came from Russell Rogers, a biologist for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, spotted a Cinnamon Teal at a marsh in central Vashon, probably Fisher Pond or Mukai Pond, on 27May1993 as part of the breeding bird atlas work occurring at that time.  Jeff Adams’ record presents us with the first photos and definitive location, though it is a strange one.

The typical habitat for Cinnamon Teal consists of small ponds with dense aquatic vegetation.  They rarely show up on saltwater.  Cinnamon Teal used to be the most common teal in Washington State but habitat change changed that situation in the last half of the 20thCentury.  Large reservoirs created by agricultural changes and dam building in Eastern Washington tweaked the freshwater/wetland habitat balance such that Blue-winged Teal, which like larger wetlands and water bodies, went from very rare to fairly common.

Vashon has a number of small ponds, so I’m not sure why Cinnamon Teal only have two sightings for the Island.  Most of the small ponds don’t have much in the way of native aquatic vegetation, which may account this duck’s rarity here.

Migration seems to be late this year.  There are quite a few winter birds delaying their departure and summer birds arriving later.  Of the winter birds, Rich Siegrist noted a Hermit Thrush May 10 and I heard and saw Varied Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglets into the first week of May.  Orange-crowned Warblers and Common Yellowthroat were particularly late this year.  Some birds came early like the single Barn Swallow Brenda Sestrap found in her barn (what a surprise!) April 7.  The biggest swallow, the Purple Martin appeared about two weeks later with Rich Siegrist discovering them back in the first week of May.  Mourning Doves may becoming more common on the Island, Marie Blichfeldt, Ron Simons and Pam Dawdy all some them multiple times at widely separated locations in late April and early May.  I’d be very interested in hearing about any potential nesting activity.  If you have a returning or interesting bird to report or a question about local birds, call me at 463-7976 or email at

I'm also available as a guide for finding birds around the Island and the Puget Sound region.  This is a great time for a birding tour.  With the warmer weather finally starting to arrive, bird activity by returning nesters is really beginning to ramp up.  If you’re interested for yourself or you have birding friends or relatives coming, give me a call or visit my website at to find out more.