Showing posts from July, 2011

Baby Pictures:  Northern Flicker

Blogger's "Next Blog" link at the top of their pages makes it possible to randomly explore other Blogger sites.  I always hope to discover some new nature blogs.  Instead, I seem to always end up mired in other peoples' baby pictures.  No offense, but it's not what I'm looking for.  In response, here are some of my own. These are the fledged young of Northern Flickers ( Colaptes auratus ) caught by the Birdcam  at various ages.  Mom always seems to be nearby.  This is a good example of what a useful tool the Birdcam really is.  It catches scenes I have never seen in real life.  It's nice to get these unique shots of one of my favorite birds. Northern Flickers occur in two color forms defined by the undersides of their wing and tail feathers.  While I do see both pure Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted birds in the yard, most of my Flickers are Red/Yellow hybrids with orange shafts.  This year's crop of chicks seems to be continuing that patte

Northwestern Crow

In an earlier post , I commented that one bird I never expected to catch with the Birdcam was a crow.  Nevertheless, they have become daily visitors to the backyard Birdcam station.  The Northwestern Crow ( Corvus caurinus ) is a regional denizen of shoreline habitats.  In fact, spotting a small crow near the beach is considered an identifying characteristic.  They are a bit smaller than the American Crow and have a hoarser voice.  Their range is coastal Alaska, British Columbia and Washington including Puget Sound. I have a pair that nest somewhere nearby.  I see them foraging on the beach almost every day.  One day last winter, I noticed them perched on a driftwood snag.  There was something odd about their behavior that caught my attention.  Suddenly, with a single swoop, they launched themselves and flew up to the feeders on my front patio.  They obviously knew where they were headed.  Each bird took turns at the platform feeder while the other checked out the planters.  I w

The Dinosaur in My Yard

My Pileated Woodpecker friend ( Dryocopus pileatus ) continues to visit the Birdcam suet station.  For some reason, I am only seeing a male bird and I assume it is the same fellow each time.  Males have a red mustache and forehead.  These parts are black in the female.  I don't know if he is a bachelor or if his mate is simply too shy to visit the yard.  Perhaps she is busy with nesting duties.  I hope he is not a bachelor.  Pileateds are monogamous and non-migratory.  I believe he nests in the Red Alder woods across the road.  I hear him calling and drumming there. I have an endless fascination with these beautiful birds.  The first time I spotted one visiting the yard, for some reason, I knew I was home.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  More than other local birds, observing them reveals their dinosaurian heritage .  When I see them gliding through the trees, I think of a flying reptile.  They look just like Rodan .  Their eyes belong to the velociraptors in J

Birdcam Debut:  Hummingbirds

Catching Hummingbird shots with the Birdcam has turned out to be a tricky task.  First, if the background is too busy these little guys are easily lost in the image.  The same happens if it's too close to the birds.  They are also faster than a speeding bullet and always in motion.  After some learning and adjusting, I finally got a couple of fairly decent shots.  We have two species common locally.  Above is a Rufous Hummingbird female ( Selasphorus rufus ).  Below is my best photo so far of Anna's Hummingbird ( Calypte anna ), also a female.  I will keep trying for better shots.  Despite what the references and range maps say, I had Rufous Hummingbirds buzzing around the yard in January.

"Tranquility Base Here..."

This summer, Bald Eagles ( Haliaeetus leucocephalus ) have been making regular visits to the hunting perches in my yard.  They don't appear to be hunting.  Mostly, they just seem to be loafing.  I wonder if they come to take a break from the kids. I always know when they are around.  They announce their arrivals with their chattering calls.  " Hey Dave, come out and take our picture. " Recently, they have been coming in pairs.  This is George and Martha, I believe.  Since Bald Eagle females are larger than the males, Martha would be on the right. Did you know that "bald" in their name does not mean hairless.  It comes from Middle English ballede referring to white on the heads of animals, as blazes on horses.  The Indo-European base word is bhel , "white," which comes into Old German as ballo and Russian as belo .  "Piebald" is a related word.  The scientific name literally means "white-headed" ( leucocephalus ) &quo

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher ( Haematopus bachmani ) The most charming shorebird in the Pacific Northwest is the Black Oystercatcher ( Haematopus bachmani ).  Don't expect frequent encounters, however, as they are quite rare.  If you spot one, consider it a privilege.  Although not classed as endangered, it is estimated that only 10,000 to 12,000 birds inhabit their entire range.  Because of these low numbers, they are listed as a "species of high concern" according to Audubon .  Their range is extensive, the outer North American coast from the Aleutians to Baja California and the inland Salish Sea as far south as Whidbey Island. This is tiny Flagstaff Island, part of the Kukutali Preserve and Deception Pass State Park.  It sits in Skagit Bay offshore from my home.  Rocky headlands with gravel beaches on isolated, non-forested islands describes the preferred habitat of the Oystercatcher.  At low tide they will forage for shellfish, especially limpets and mussels.  The