Showing posts from September, 2012

First Junco

Like the swallows to Capistrano and the buzzards to Hinckley, the Dark-eyed Juncos return to South Fidalgo Island every fall.  I caught this lone female bird at BirdCam-One this past week.  While it is not my best BirdCam photo, the occasion of the first Junco's appearance is too important to pass up.  Another chime of the cosmic clock has sounded.

Over October, they will become one of our most abundant wintering birds.  In March, they will begin their migration to breeding grounds at higher elevations.  By the end of April, they will all be gone again.  Meanwhile, this charming little sparrow will provide us a bit of warmth through the winter.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon Junco) Junco hyemalis

Pecking Order

An adult Gull is relaxing and enjoying some morning sunshine.  His perch is an old piling near Ala Spit, off Whidbey Island, Washington.

When joined by a juvenile, the adult assumes a more alert stance.  The juvenile takes a groveling, submissive posture, as if to say, "please, do you mind if I join you."

The adult will have none of it, however, and evicts the juvenile from the piling.  The youngster has learned a coming-of-age lesson about pecking order in the world of gulls.

Heron Saves the Day

I drove across Deception Pass to Whidbey Island this morning to see if I could spot any wildlife.  My first stop was Ala Spit where I spotted a "parcel" of Black Oystercatchers, six in all.  The sun was right behind them which ruled out a decent photo.  They were not going to let me get close, either.

The next stop was West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  I took a stroll around the Sand Dunes trail.  As usual there were a lot of gulls and crows, but not much else going on.  Even my reliable old friend the Douglas Squirrel, the "Mayor of West Beach,"  was nowhere to be seen.

Heading back to the parking lot, I spotted something moving behind the reeds growing at the edge of Cranberry Lake.  I practically walked right into a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) patrolling the shallows at the edge of the lake.  They have the habit of freezing in place when alarmed.  This makes them great photo subjects.

I was amazed how close the heron was allowing me to approach.  …


My neighbor sent me this photo for help with identification.  I know it's a Flycatcher, but I am not sure what kind it is.  The photo was shot on South Fidalgo Island at the northern end of Puget Sound in Washington State.  My best guess is Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) but that is only a guess.  Can anyone help identify this Flycatcher?  My neighbor and I thank you for your help.

UPDATE:  In comments to the post, both Dan McShane and Jill's friend Ian Paulsen have confirmed that this is indeed a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  I also contacted the Seattle Audubon Society and this was their response:
...I believe I agree with you that the photo is of a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  As you know they can be notoriously difficult to i.d., but this one so nicely shows a slight crest, an eye-ring that tapers to the back of the head (or The white eye-ring extends to the back in a teardrop shape. ), and the buffy wing-bars of the juvenile. Seattle Audubon publishes the great…

Slugfest: Ariolimax columbianus

After a month and a day with no measurable rainfall, it finally rained last night.  My weather station recorded 0.07 inch (1.8 mm).  Some are surprised to learn that during July and August, the Pacific Northwest is one of the driest places in the country.  My garden is testament.

After early morning overcast, the skies quickly cleared.  It looked like a good day to check out Deception Pass State Park nearby.  Now that school is in session and most of the tourists are gone, may I declare that the park is all mine again?

I crossed the Deception Pass Bridge and headed over to West Beach and Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island.  I found it breezy with surf rolling in off the Strait of Juan de Fuca, an aftermath of last night's rain system.

I set off on the Sand Dunes Interpretive Trail.  As usual, a couple dozen gulls were in Cranberry Lake for their morning swim.  Northwestern Crows were patrolling the outer dunes.  There were no Canada Geese this day, but their legacy remains.  Their,…


In nature, it is not always "Peace in the Valley."  It's hard to know why these Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) appear to be quarreling.  They are known to be territorial during the breeding season, but that's over now.  I believe they are first season juveniles, but that's a guess.  I am used to seeing more gray striping around the eyes.  Over the last two months, I have been seeing a lot of juveniles at this BirdCam station.


Arguably, the film Predator gave us one of the greatest movie creatures ever.  It took cunning and some luck for Arnold to defeat it.  Our wildlife gardens can also contain predators that are as malevolent and ruthless as that alien creature in the movie.  Domestic cats that are allowed to run free are known to exercise their predatory instincts.  One blogger did the math and came up with an estimate of 1.7 billion birds killed by outdoor cats annually in the United States.  If you think that is an overestimation, divide it by 1,000 and the number is still too large.

If cat lovers are not feeling a little concerned by that number, perhaps they will take notice of these figures:
Free-roaming cats live 1 to 3 yearsIndoor/outdoor cats live 6 to 8 yearsIndoor only cats live 20 years or more
My neighborhood serves as an example.  When I first moved here, there were several cats, perhaps a dozen, that roamed the area.  I came to recognize them, Black Spot, Scruffy, Gray Stripes, Calico, Sc…