Showing posts from February, 2011

February 23rd

Snowfall is not a common occurrence in the Puget Sound lowlands.  If we get any, it usually comes between late November and early January.  Sometimes we don't even get frost until late December or January.  Other parts of the US have been clobbered by repeated waves of heavy snowfall this winter.  In the Pacific Northwest, we have tried to keep a low profile, hoping to escape La NiƱa 's attention. When February arrived, we thought we had staved off any chance of snow for the winter, but no such luck.  On February 23, 2011 a Pacific low positioned itself off the coast in a perfect location to draw Arctic air down the Fraser Valley into Puget Sound.  At the same time, it pushed moisture from the ocean into western Washington.  This was a recipe for heavy snowfall and it came very quickly.  For a time, 30 miles of Interstate 5 was shut down in Skagit County north of Seattle where drivers where overwhelmed by the volume of snow.  Up to 14 inches/36 cm fell in some spots. Th

Heart Lake Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants ( Phalacrocorax auritus ) Heart Lake is another area in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands .  Recall our visit to Whistle Lake in December.  A network of trails takes hikers through undeveloped forest.  Heart Lake also has Cormorants, perhaps in greater numbers than Whistle Lake.  Cormorants will stretch their wings to dry them after diving for fish.  We also spotted Common Mergansers ( Mergus merganser ) and Buffleheads ( Bucephala albeola ) on the lake.  The lighting of this overcast day, however, made it difficult to photograph birds out in the water. On arrival at the parking area, we were greeted by the woodwind tones of Common Ravens ( Corvus corax ).  Raven is regarded as The Creator by local Native Americans in stories that remarkably parallel those in the Bible.  Along the trail, a Pileated Woodpecker ( Dryocopus pileatus ) called from off in the woods.  The sights, sounds and smells of the Heart Lake forest offer visitors an authentic North

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow (upper right) with Spotted Towhee It's always fun to catch a "first-timer" in a BirdCam photo.  This past weekend it was a Golden-crowned Sparrow ( Zonotrichia atricapilla ) that debuted at the BirdCam station.  South Fidalgo is part of their winter range which extends from northern Baja, up the Pacific coast through Vancouver and Graham Islands in British Columbia.  They breed in the subalpine interior of British Columbia, and through the southern Yukon into most of Alaska.  Even during winter, they are rarely seen on South Fidalgo in my experience.  This makes these photos even more pleasing.  Their cousins, the White-crowned Sparrows are more common here. Golden-crowned Sparrow (top left)  This fellow has some streaking on the breast which would indicate a juvenile.  In the breeding season, the golden crown would be surrounded by a distinctive black cap for both male and female.  According to iBird, a group of Golden-crowneds is call