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Showing posts from November, 2011

Fraggle Rock

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Under an approaching windstorm on Thanksgiving Day, Fraggles and Doozers take a rest and teach us how to understand and embrace diversity.  In Outer Space, the Silly Creatures call these Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) and Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucenscens).  I watched the two species for about forty-five minutes and never witnessed any sign of hostility or disagreement.  Gulls are notoriously difficult to ID, so I could be wrong about it.  Maybe someone more adept at gull identification will chime in.  At the time, I estimate there was a good 20 knot sustained wind.  From the photo, can you guess the direction it was blowing?


The location is Deception Pass State Park, Washington facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The rock is just offshore from the West Beach parking lot.  Anyone who has visited the park will recognize the spot.  I am told the Oystercatchers fly over from nearby Deception Island to rest here.  I have come to call this Fraggle Rock for want of a be…

Red-tailed Hawk

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This was the first glimpse.  At a distance I thought it was a Cooper's or Northern Goshawk.  Instead, it turned out to be a western juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).  This morning, I returned to the Skagit State Wildlife Recreation Area on Fir Island to see if there was anything interesting going on.  I spotted this guy in the trees on the north side of the Spur Dike Trail at Wiley Slough.  As I hiked along the dike, this camera-shy bird would fly off.  He kept moving ahead of me until I finally lost track of him.

Fir Island provides ideal habitat for the Red-tailed Hawk.  It is mostly open, agricultural fields interspersed with small clumps of trees.  The birds will use the trees, light poles and road signs as perches for spotting prey.  They can also hover on wind currents, referred to as "kiting."  Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles and even fish.  Their range is extensive and includes most of North America, Central America and the West…

A Rose Among Thorns

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A Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) finds food, camouflage and protection in a Nootka Rose thicket.  This denizen of Deception Pass State Park enjoys a breakfast of rose hips along the Rosario-Bowman Bay Nature Trail.  He is also called Pine Squirrel and Chickaree, but Douglas Squirrel is preferred.  He is yet another namesake of the great Scottish botanist David Douglas joining Douglas Fir, Douglas Spirea, Douglas Iris and about eighty more plants and animals.

Lefties

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After breakfast and a bath, it's time for a snooze.  At Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park, these Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) have perfected the technique of the one-legged nap.

Birds of a Feather

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Last winter we met the Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) of Fir Island, Washington.  They are back again, of course, following the migratory urges which have compelled them for millennia.  Their home is Wrangel Island, a tiny dot in the Arctic Ocean just off the Siberian coast.  Every fall, they make the 2,500 mile (4,000 km) journey to North America where they will spend the winter.  While here, the 30,000 to 70,000 birds of the Wrangel Island flock will divide their time between the Skagit and Fraser River deltas.  You can set the calendar by their arrival in mid-October.  This annual event literally puts Fir Island in the Skagit River delta on the map.


In summer, the farms of Fir Island produce crops which include feed corn, broccoli, cabbage, wheat, potatoes and cucumbers.  After harvest, winter wheat and other cover crops are planted to provide habitat for the geese.  Until the following spring, the geese are given right of tenancy to the island.  The flocks will freely move …