Showing posts from June, 2012

It's Been a Busy Day...

The poet Robert Sund has anticipated my recent BirdCam Experience:

Summer Solstice

It's been a busy day.
     one hummingbird, then

For Allen Engle

Then, I did some experimenting with Photoshop's special effect filters:

Rufous Hummingbird

This week I set up a BirdCam for hummingbirds and I am finally getting some decent pictures of the little guys.  These are Rufous Hummingbirds (Salasphorous rufus).  I was puzzled why I was only seeing female birds in the photos.  Not a single male has made an appearance so far.  Then I found something interesting at the Seattle Audubon website regarding Rufous Hummingbird migration:
"In June and July, males leave the breeding grounds for higher elevations, from which they will later migrate south. Females and juveniles leave the state from late July through September, with most migrating in August." Apparently, all the male Rufous Hummingbirds have already left the area.  I will keep an eye out to see if I catch any stragglers.

On her approach to the feeder, she flashes her tail.  I think it's like lowering the flaps on an airplane to maintain lift while decelerating.  The rufous orange band on her tail differentiates her from our other hummer, Anna's Hummingbird (C…

More Cedar Waxwings

I was back on Fir Island yesterday hiking the dike at Wiley Slough.  In this wetland garden, I saw bouquets of blooming wildflowers and heard a symphony of birdsong.  All the parts of the orchestra were playing and every color of the spectrum was on display.  Once again, the Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were featured in starring roles.  The Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) which lines the dike trail is fruiting now and these fruit-loving birds were enjoying the buffet.  Nearby, the Coastal Hedgenettle (Stachys chamissonis) served as table decoration:



American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is the state bird of Washington, as well as of Iowa and New Jersey.  On Fidalgo Island, we see them from spring to late fall.  They are year-around residents of eastern Washington.

These are Birdcam photos and it has been surprisingly difficult to get decent shots.  The breeding plumage of the male is so intensely yellow that it tends to over-saturate, especially in sunlight.  The best Birdcam photos are produced in shade or under overcast skies.  Even then, they need a little Photoshop hocus-pocus to make them presentable.

This is a breeding season pair which allows comparing the plumage of the male and female.  The male on the right is bright, clear lemon yellow with a small, black cap on the forehead.  The female is drabber, grayish yellow-brown and lacks the cap.  In he winter, the males lose their black cap and become drab olive or brownish like the females.

The older binomial is Spinus tristis and this name is sometimes still used.  Ca…

Birdcam Back in Business

My two Birdcam photo stations have been shut down since mid-February.  Recall the problems I was having with Eastern Gray Squirrels and House Finches.  Too much success can be the worst dilemma of all.  I decided to give all bird feeding a cooling down period.  This week, I began setting up my Birdcam stations again.  Station No. 2 now has a brand new woodpecker feeder and I provisioned it with pepper suet.  I have been experimenting with it for a couple of months, and the Gray Squirrels have shunned it totally.

I was pleased to catch this photo of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on the first day out.  This is the bird that inspired me to purchase and install a Birdcam in the first place.  This is also my first photo of a female Pileated.  The black mustache and black forehead are the distinguishing marks.  Until now, I had only seen males in the yard.  Yes, friends, I am definitely back in business.

The Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is one of our summe…


Yesterday morning there was quite a ruckus in the front yard.  A Bald Eagle had settled on one of the hunting perches, but a local Northwestern Crow was having none of it.  I was surprised to find only two birds.  It sounded like a very noisy gang fight.

The eagles are often harried by smaller birds, in particular, during nesting season.  Even the little sparrows try to chase them off.  Smaller hawks, Ravens and crows are especially intolerant of eagles in their territories.

Despite their size, Bald Eagles are not bullies.  They are very peaceable birds.  They usually yield to the harassment and leave.  I have never seen them fight back or try to stand their ground.

This photo is the proverbial "lucky shot."  I was surprised when he launched.  There was no time to frame the shot or focus.  I just clicked the photo and hoped for the best.

Banana Slug, Hooray!

I am about to wax rhapsodic over finding a slug in my garden.  I know some may find that weird, but remember, this is the Pacific Northwest.  We're a little different here.

This lovely lady (or handsome gentleman, if you wish, you can use either since they are both) is Ariolimax columbianus, the Banana Slug.  If you're lucky, you can find him/her in the foggy, moist coastal forests from southeast Alaska to northern California.

These are not the garden pests that climb your Lupines, gobble up your Hostas or feast on your Petunias.  Those gray, red or black invaders are immigrants from Europe.  Our native Banana Slugs have a refined and gentle palate.  They are more likely to be found cleaning up decaying plant material from the ground.  According to Paghat's Garden, they prefer densely wooded places where there are lots of mouldering conifer needles to eat.  Mushrooms are their favorite food.

Why am I excited about finding one in my garden?  To begin, it is the first one …