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Showing posts from February, 2016

Kiket Island Towhee

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The Spotted Towhee(Pipilo maculatus) is one of my favorite birds.  They always look confident and happy and they love to sing.  Instead of fleeing, they will often sit still long enough to get a photo.  They seem to like watching us while we watch them.  This is another appealing trait for me.

Look for them along forest edges.  They can be seen year-around foraging in dense thickets of shrubbery or in leaf litter on the ground.  Sometimes you will hear them scratching in the leaves before you see them.  They will be looking for insects, spiders, seeds and fruits.  I caught this one in a Nootka Rose thicket on Kiket Island.  I think they might like those rose hips.  For bird feeders, the Towhees in my yard are especially attracted to safflower seed.

Spotted Towhees are the largest of the New World Sparrows (Emberizidae).  The black feathers reveal this bird to be a male.  The back, head and wings of females will be dark brown.  Found throughout the western states, birds in different r…

Eagle Morning

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Last week, I drove over to Fir Island to visit the Skagit Wildlife Area wetlands.  It had been closed for several weeks for construction of a new pumping station.  I was glad to be able to get in there once again.  This is part of a complex system of dikes and drainage sloughs that prevent Fir Island farmlands from being flooded by the Skagit River.  Fir Island is actually the Skagit River delta where it flows into Puget Sound.

This portion of the delta is a state wildlife refuge administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Mixed uses include hiking, duck hunting, bird watching and dog training.  It offers the unique feature of hiking out into the wetlands atop the spur dike.  There has been an ongoing program of restoration here to improve Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitat.  This has become one of my favorite places to explore and view wildlife.

On last week's visit, everywhere I looked, there were Bald Eagles(Haliaeetus leucocephalus).  There were …

Oystercatcher Hangout

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Solitary pairs of Black Oystercatchers(Haematopus bachmani) nest on solitary islands above the high tide mark.  A simple scrape in the rocks is all they require.  Locally they can be found around the rocky shores of the San Juans, Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.  Pairs are monogamous and return to the same nesting sites every year.

During the fall and winter, however, they give up their isolation and come together in flocks or "parcels."  One spot where this can be observed is at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  They can be seen mid to late mornings on the large rock just offshore from the parking lot.  I have unofficially dubbed this "Fraggle Rock."


On my visit yesterday, I watched as more gulls flew in to join the party.  I have never witnessed squabbling between gulls and Oystercatchers.  Mixed groups always appear amicable.


More gulls continued to fly in.  Peace continued, but it started to get too crowded for the Oystercatchers.  They began leaving, fly…