Showing posts from 2013

First Wild Beaver

This morning I hiked the trail from East Cranberry Lake to West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  It is a nice, easy, mostly level hike and a good way to spend a couple of hours in the middle of winter.  Despite the lakeside location, your feet will stay dry, which is always a must in my opinion.  Shortly after setting off, this marker indicated I was entering Beaver country.  The Beaver is North America's largest rodent, and the second-largest in the world after the Capybara.

I had never seen a beaver in the wild, unless you count the time when I was about eleven years old.  He was posing for pictures right in the middle of the bridge at Chief Joseph Dam in eastern Washington.  I am not kidding.  He mugged and posed and seemed to enjoy entertaining the tourists while they took his picture.  He would sit up on his hind legs and turn his profile to the cameras, first left, then right.  He was a big guy, more than two feet tall when he did this.  He acted more like someone's…

Harlequin Ducks and Friends

This seems to be a banner year for Harlequin Ducks(Histrionicus histrionicus) in Deception Pass State Park.  Off and on, I have seen one or two birds at a time.  Was I ever surprised to come upon this gang out on Urchin Rocks at Rosario Beach.  I have never seen so many at one time.

They nest along fast moving streams at higher elevations.  In winter, however, they love our rocky shores, according to Seattle Audubon.  They suggest the west coast of Whidbey Island and Rosario Beach on Fidalgo Island are two of the best places to spot them.  My experience is proving them right about that.

This group appeared to be resting and bathing.  The two males in the water would dunk their heads and splash with their wings while the others looked on and enjoyed the sunshine.

The best wildlife viewing in the park is on a weekday, off-season and early in the morning when it's quiet.  Just one other party and I had this whole section of the state park to ourselves.  That included all of Bowman B…

Return to Fraggle Rock

Over the past month or so, I have made several trips to West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  I have been coming to check this big rock just off shore from the parking lot.  It looks oblong from shore, however, the satellite map view reveals it to be fairly round in shape.

For want of a better name, I have dubbed it Fraggle Rock after the Jim Henson/HBO TV series from the 1980's.  Like in the TV show, it's a little world apart where different creatures live in a complex ecosystem.

I have discovered this rock to be a favorite resting place for sea birds.  Fall and winter seem to be the best seasons to view this phenomenon.  After 09:00 AM is the optimum time to view the birds.  By 10:00 AM, the crowds really begin to gather.

One of the species I have been looking for in particular is the Heermann's Gull(Larus heermanni) and here is one red-beaked fellow in all its glory.  They breed on hot desert islands off the west coast of Mexico according to iBird Pro.  In late sum…

Lesser Canada Goose?

I spotted this fellow resting at the edge of Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park.  There was something about his beak that caught my eye.  It looked smaller than I would expect for a Canada Goose(Branta canadensis).  I wondered if I had spotted a Cackling Goose instead.

When I got home and started studying the question, I found myself mired in a very complicated subject.  My Sibley lists six subspecies of Canada Goose, Aleutian, Cackling, Dusky, Richardson's, Lesser and Common.  National Geographic refers to "approximately seven named subspecies."  The phrase "approximately seven" would indicate a hesitancy to commit.  It also lists the Cackling Goose as a separate species, Branta hutchinsii.

Seattle Audubon indicates there are five subspecies that occur in Washington, Western, Lesser, Dusky, Vancouver and more rarely Giant.  It also lists the Cackling Goose as a separate species.

Finally, Wikipedia lists seven subspecies, Dusky, Vancouver, Lesser, Moff…

Unboxing the BirdCam Pro

There's a new BirdCam from Wingscapes called the BirdCam Pro.  It offers several improvements over the BirdCam 2 which it replaces.  Here are some first looks as a brand new one comes out of the packaging.

The BirdCam Pro consumer packaging provides a glimpse of the device through a window in the box.  Like the BirdCam 2, it is a motion-activated, point-and-shoot camera with an 8 megapixel sensor.  It can also be set for time-lapse photos.  Mount it pointed at a bird feeder or other target where birds or critters visit to capture their JPEG photos or short AVI videos.

The back of the box shows setup examples and features.  The box reveals that the camera has no internal memory like the BirdCam 2, but will accept up to 32 GB SD cards.  The '2' would only accept a 4 GB card.  The box also reveals that this camera is WiFi SD card compatible and will record sound as well as stills and video.

The device, manuals and accessories are organized in a second inner container.

A tape…

Hizzoner the Mayor

Last Friday, I was at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  I had a number of wildlife encounters that included several Bald Eagles featured in the previous post.  I also ran into an old friend, whose territory includes a small grove of Shore Pines next to the parking lot.  He is a Douglas Squirrel(Tamiasciurus douglasii), the native squirrel of Pacific Northwest coniferous forests.

The first time we met in this spot, it was early morning.  He was obviously cold and trying to warm himself in the morning sun.  He was remarkably tolerant of my close proximity.  This is probably a characteristic of park critters where there are often lots of people around.

On our second encounter, I dubbed him The Mayor of West Beach because of his pugnacious, take charge behavior.  Another creature had trespassed in his pine grove and he was having none of it.  He paused his eviction just long enough to come out of the grove to say hello.

The next meeting was more peaceable, and even a bit comical.…

Fishing at Deception Pass

It was quite a morning at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  There was lots of wildlife plus dozens of naval aircraft flying into N.A.S. Whidbey Island nearby.  Look for Ault Field on the map in the link.

I want to start with the Bald Eagles(Haliaeetus Leucocephalus).  There were at least half a dozen and they were fishing in the shallow waters near the tide line.  It was quite a spectacle with all the soaring and swooping.  When they made a catch, they would head straight for the trees in the Dune Forest behind the sand dunes.  Look under the foot of the fellow in the first photo to see his nice catch.

This was the first bird I spotted with a catch.  The fish is not so easy to see in this photo, but it's there.  When shooting wildlife, it is necessary to take the lighting and the camera angles that you get.

When they dove, they would disappear behind the foredune, then rise up again with a fish in their talons.  I have seen this before, but it's always exciting.

This …