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Showing posts from April, 2013

Sharpe Park

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Today, I visited Skagit County's Sharpe Park for the first time.  I only recently discovered that it was there.  I found a network of old growth forest trails I can spend many hours exploring.  The headlands offer terrific views of the San Juan Islands across Rosario Strait.  I also found a large pond and wetland, tailor-made for wildlife.  The park is located on the west side of Fidalgo Island off Rosario Road.


The pond was my first stop and right off the bat I spotted two handsome male Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cuculattus) in the company of a male Ring-necked Duck (Aythaya collaris).  The peaked crown and a more decorated bill distinguish the latter from either the Greater or Lesser Scaup.  I saw no females of either species.


The Hooded Mergansers were eager to display their crests.  This makes me think there were hens somewhere in the area.  Like Wood Ducks, they like to nest in tree cavities near water.  I spotted at least two large nest boxes at the edge of the pond.  Th…

Tree Swallow

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Last week, I was pleased to see the Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) had returned to my favorite Fir Island nature site.  This is the Spur Dike Trail at Wiley Slough in the Headquarters Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area.  The dike provides easy, dry ground access deep into the wetlands of the Skagit River delta.  Tree Swallows migrate north from their tropical wintering areas earlier than any other swallow.

The scientific binomial Tachycineta bicolor literally means "fast mover with two colors."  Tree Swallows are indeed fast movers.  They typically feed by catching insects on the fly, soaring and swooping at lightning speed.  Unlike eagles and gulls which like to perch and pose for photos, these swift birds are difficult to catch with a camera.  They might land and perch for only a moment, then dash off on the fly again to the tune of their high-pitched calls.

Fortunately, one bird decided to stop and rest a minute.  Although the lighting was not the best, this gave me a…