Showing posts from November, 2013

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 include

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

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, Vancou