Can you guess this rare bird? Hint: A group is called a ‘cloud’

One was spotted at Wiley Slough on Fir Island just last month, probably a fall migrant.

What bird is this?

❏ A male may be able to acquire up to six mates.

❏ Large foraging flocks move in a rolling fashion, birds from the back of the group fly over the rest for more feeding opportunities.

❏ A group of these birds is also called a “cloud” or “cluster.”

❏ Its call has been described as a strange mixture of honking, gurgling and strangling noises.

Give up?

According to, it’s the yellow-headed blackbird. One was spotted at Wiley Slough on Fir Island, last month, probably a fall migrant.

The spelling of Wiley (or Wylie) has led to some confusion, with good reason. Wiley Slough is at the end of Wylie Road, the latter named after a farming family that bought, in 1913, the homestead of John Wiley.

Similar spelling, no family ties.

Back to the yellow-headed blackbird, an uncommon to rare summer occurrence in Western Washington, usually in the Puget Trough, but common breeders in Eastern Washington. Their numbers may be increasing on the west side in fairly defined areas.

But they have bred at Fort Lewis (Pierce County), Deer Lagoon on Whidbey Island (Island County), Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Clark County), and Wiser Lake (Whatcom County), according to various sources.

Birdwatchers gather. The Sept. 14-16 Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds features speakers, guided walks, land- and water-based field trips and activities for children.

This year’s keynote speaker is professional nature photographer Kevin Ebi. He documented a year in the lives of the Puget Sound bald eagles, which do not migrate. His work has appeared in National Geographic and Smithsonian.

His talk starts at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Edmonds Plaza Room, 650 Main St.

Noah Strycker is a different kind of bird than Ebi. Strycker set out in 2015 to beat the record for bird species sighted in a single year. He succeeded despite blood-sucking leeches and a ultra-demanding travel schedule during his World Big Year. He’ll speak at 10:45 a.m. Sept. 15 in the Plaza Room.

I appreciate the efforts that the organizers have made to keep the fees to a minimum. Unlike many festivals that have charged a significant admissions fee plus additional fees for various events, the Edmonds festival does not charge an admission fee, and the event fees are modest.

Even the water birding trip is affordable, $10 for a two-hour cruise on small boats, courtesy of volunteers from the Edmonds Yacht Club.

For more information on the festival, including the event list, go to

Food for crows. Reader Duane Crawford brought up an excellent point about feeding certain birds, in this case, crows. It introduces a predatory bird that raid eggs in nests and the babies that hatch.

“My neighbor in Everett began feeding dog food to the local raccoons at night, which left crumbs that attracted groups of crows in the daytime. Many of my local feeder and ground feeding birds left the area out of fear of the marauding crows.

“Since the neighbor stopped feeding the raccoons (and crows), the crows have left and my songbirds and others have returned … Now if I could just stop my Cooper’s hawk from occasionally coming to my smorgasbord feeders, I’d be really happy.”

Out and about. Lynnwood birder Josh Adams, who in 2015 saw a brown booby in Edmonds, spent two days birding around Glacier Peak at the end of August. He put in about 32 miles and gained 8,500 feet in elevation.

In addition to his bird sightings, which included ravens being chased by a prairie falcon, Adams had an unexpected sighting.

He wrote in Tweeters: “I was astonished to get my (binoculars on them) and discover they were wolverines! I don’t think there is a mammal that I’ve wanted to experience in the wild more than wolverines, so this was quite a thrill.

“I watched as they swiftly ascended an extremely steep 6,000 foot mountain wall in just a couple of minutes and continued along the ridge toward White Mountain until I lost sight of them.”

Sharon Wootton: 360-468-3964 or

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