Category Archives: Birds

New Year, New Day

First day of 2015 and we are visiting the Skagit Flats, located just north of Mt. Vernon, Washington. Bordering Puget Sound and the Skagit River the surrounding lowlands are a prime wintering ground for waterfowl, raptors and other birds.

Mt Baker from Skagit flats

Mt Baker from Skagit flats

What a beautiful day to start the new year. First stop was to enjoy thousands of Snow Geese feeding on a field of grass.

A loud bunch, they were constantly bickering with each other over a choice morsel.

One caught our eye. This goose had a neck band, labeled x4.

Neck band, X4

Neck band, X4

Later that evening we submitted a sighting report to the Bird Banding Laboratory located at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Researchers trap and band many species of birds. Data is used to study the dispersal, migration, life span and population changes. The banding lab manages this data. They will enter this sighting into their database and send us a detailed report of this bird which was submitted to the lab at the time the bird was banded.

Short Eared Owls were hunting prey and harassing each other. They put on quite the airshow.

Short Eared Owl

Short Eared Owl

We saw Peregrine Falcons, Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and Herons, just to name a few.

Many people were out walking, biking and birding. This little guy, though not a bird dog, was also enjoying the day.

Skagit.01.01.2015.11

There are 364 days left in 2015. Get out there and be amazed…

Winter solstice reflections

Shortest day of the year, but what a lovely start.

Solstice sunrise

Solstice sunrise

You can’t take a warm and sunny day for granted this time of year. Our destination was the marshy confluence where the Okanogan River flows into the Columbia River in north central Washington. There is a great walk along the dike that separates the river from the marsh.

A perfect day to stroll along the dike and enjoy being in nature. Bald eagles where hanging out near a Cormorant rookery.

Eagles in Cormorant rookery

Eagles in Cormorant rookery

This adult had been hunting ducks and was drying its wings in the sun after getting them wet in the river. The eagle then took a short test flight to make sure his/her wings were dry.

Solstice.12.2014.09Solstice.12.2014.10

A kingfisher successfully hunted a small fish.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Ring-necked and Bufflehead ducks lazily floated on the water that had been frozen at Thanksgiving.

Ring-necked ducks

Ring-necked ducks

Goldeneye duck

Bufflehead duck

Hundreds of coots were rafting together in the water. An eagle flew out to hunt the stray birds on the edge. The coots saw the eagle and as if of one mind formed a very tight circular ball, protecting everyone from an individual eagle strike. The eagle gave up and returned to shore.

Coots rafting

Coots rafting

The sun sailed across the southern sky as if in a hurry to give way to night. Late in the evening returning home, we happened upon an old abandoned homestead. It was at the end of life, just like this year. As 2014 gives way to 2015, a new year is born.

Solstice.12.2014.16

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy and successful new year.

Get out there and be amazed…

Birding at 60

Not age, miles per hour!

A reported sighting of  Pine Grosbeaks sent us on a birding adventure throughout the Methow Valley. Eighty miles in five hours harvested a great list of sightings.

Driving down the highway at 60 mph looking for birds is tricky, so the passenger is the spotter. Any bird that appears out of the ordinary prompts a pull over for further investigation. Binoculars are a must, a good spotting scope comes in very handy.

The usual inhabitants garnish a comment not a pullover. In the Methow these would be crows, ravens, magpies, juncos, quail and flickers. And on our 80 mile romp, we saw many of each. With practice your eye instantly pattern matches bird silhouettes to ones you know and ones that are different. It’s the different ones you stop to check out.

We saw many Bald Eagles, both adults and subadults, Red-tailed Hawks and Kestrels. Often we stop for these diurnal raptors. They are our specialty and we never tire of observing their behavior. Some were hunting from power poles, feasting on road kill deer, and perched along the river

The talk is about the bird you would like to see. We were chatting about the Northern Shrike and amazingly we saw two. Scattered among the Red-tailed Hawk sightings were two beautiful Rough-legged Hawks.

Right at the reported spot, we sighted a dozen Pine Grosbeaks. Males, females and juveniles, all hanging out in a big cottonwood tree. We do not see them often and they were quite the treat.

But the fun was not over. A funny shape perched on the top of a branch got our attention. Northern Pygmy Owl!

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl

The dogs were getting bored so we stopped for a hike. Another Northern Pygmy Owl sighting. We were flabbergasted at seeing two of these tiny owls in one trip. Clinging to a fir-tree was a White Breasted Nuthatch. Cute beyond cute. We heard a pounding noise and just around the bend was a Hairy Woodpecker working an Aspen tree for bugs.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

On the return trip home we spotted a flock of three dozen wild turkeys and two Cooper Hawks. One was a juvenile female and the second was an adult male. Both hunting orchard mice from fence posts.

Even as I write this story, the adventure has not ended. Cindy calls out from the living room “What are those birds in the service berry bush?” I didn’t believe it, turns out they were … Pine Grosbeaks.

Pine Grossbeaks

Pine Grossbeaks

Get out there and be amazed…

Goeduck water squirt

We went to Edmonds, WA for a walk along the scenic waterfront in search of a reported Snowy Owl. Wind was brisk and the owl was not to be seen.

We did notice a boat arriving after a day of geoduck harvesting.

image

Meeting the boat at the dock was a buyer and his two sons, who immediately went for a goeduck each.

imageimage

The kids were fascinated with them and so were we.

Get out there and Be Amazed…

Crabapple Bird Feast

North Central Washington. First day of Spring. 6:30 am, 23 degrees F.

“The early bird gets the worm”. In this case its the Robins who get the last of the crabapples. There is not a lot to eat this time of year. Difficult to pull worms out of a frozen ground.

Crabapple Robins

But this crabapple tree is a life source. Just a few weeks ago it was loaded with thousands of tiny crabapples. Now just a few dozen remain. Mostly Robins, but a few Steller Jays and Nutcrackers have picked over the fruit on this tree. Smaller birds such as the Junkos and Sparrows are not attracted to this menu. They go for the birdseed thrown onto the ground.

I picked this one for a taste test.

Crabapple

In the fall these crabapples will pucker up your lips. Now, after a few cycles of freezing and thawing, they are firm and have a slightly sweet taste. Quite edible by my standards.

 

Even as the tree is plucked clean, you can see the new buds emerging. In just a few more weeks the cycle begins again. There will be thousands of beautiful blossoms. Each a future crabapple for next year’s Robin feast.

Crabapple tree May Day 2

Be Amazed…

Singing Springing Songbirds

You might be thinking that spring will never ever get here. Forget about that groundhog. Pay attention to the birds in your backyard. They know spring is on its way.

Grey Jay

This morning I walked out back and the sound of songbirds greeted my ears. Songbirds, mostly males, begin their annual dawn chorus just as spring is beginning to arrive. The theory is they are defending their territory and trying to attract a mate.

No matter the reason, what a surprise when you notice those songbirds singing for the first time. Just stop and listen for a few minutes. Feel the joy of knowing that winter will soon give way to spring. Its just around the corner.

We all share the winter,

You, me then the spring.

Again we hear the songbirds sing.

Experience nature and Be Amazed…