Monday, November 17, 2014

January Sparrows

Golden-crowned Sparrow

We have been getting January weather for the past couple of weeks.  Sub-freezing temperatures, blue skies and sunshine are typical for early January.  This is not typical for November which is usually our rainiest month.  Days on end of blue skies and sunshine in November is simply weird.  Local wildlife is also looking a lot like January.

The breeding range of the Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) is British Columbia, the southern Yukon and western and southern Alaska.  Then they spend the winter in southwestern B.C., along the western US coast to northern Baja California.  They are regular visitors to my feeders at this time of the year.  They are fond of safflower seed.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

I spotted this bird yesterday in the Kukutali Preserve patrolling the south beach near Flagstaff Island.  Green stains on the beak reveal finding something good to eat there.  This is the bird's winter plumage.  In the breeding season, it has a black cap that surrounds a bright yellow crown.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

The Nootka Rose thicket along the shoreline provides an abundant food source for many types of birds, including the Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Song Sparrow

The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is probably our most common winter sparrow.  Unlike the Golden-crowned, however, this one is also a year around resident.  I photographed this bird last weekend in the sand dunes at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  Both species seem to enjoy seaside living.

Song Sparrow

Our local birds tend to be darker and redder than in other parts of North America.  Another characteristic probably gave them their name.  This bird loves to perch and sing and they do this anytime, anywhere, all year around.

Another good spot to find these two sparrows is Fir Island in the Skagit River Delta.  They are both among the easiest to photograph.  They tend to perch and remain still long enough to catch a shot.  Sometimes I wonder if they stop to watch us while we are watching them.

Rainy weather is supposed to return day after tomorrow.  It will probably finish out the month.  This bright interlude has been a welcome break from what November usually brings us.  Our January sparrows seem to have enjoyed it as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Parcel of Oystercatchers

Black Oysters

A group of Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) is called a parcel according to iBird Pro.  I found this group resting on Fraggle Rock this morning.  Recall, this is the name I gave to the rock just offshore at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  I have never been able to find an official name for it.

Fraggle Rock

This is a favorite late morning resting spot for shorebirds, especially gulls and cormorants.  During the fall and winter, Black Oystercatchers also like to congregate here.  They come to rest and socialize.  It is always a peaceful gathering.  I have never seen any squabbling among the different species here.

Homo ignoramus

Humans, of course, bring another story.  While I was taking photographs, these people started throwing rocks at the birds.  They didn't stop until every bird was driven from the rock.  Apparently, they thought that was appropriate behavior.  The birds were gone and my photo session was over.  That kid learned a perverse lesson from her parents today.  I hope his head got badly sunburned.

Black Oystercatchers

Undaunted by the assault, the laid back, tolerant Oystercatchers started to come back.

Gulls, Oystercatchers and Cormorants

After hiking around the Sand Dune Trail, I returned about 90 minutes later.  Those people were gone and another gathering of birds had assembled.