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Goose Stepping Crows

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I was back in Deception Pass State Park this week watching crows at West Beach again.


This pair of Northwestern Crows(Corvus caurinus) came marching by in an orderly, military manner.  Their steps were in perfect unison as if a marching band was playing.


Zooming in on the above photo reveals feathers and fibers being carried in their beaks.  I presume these are being collected for use as nesting materials.  This is apparently a cooperative effort by the pair.


Northwestern Crows could be classified as shorebirds. They nest and make their living around salt water beaches and estuaries.  It is common to spot them foraging for mussels, clams  and snails on rocky beaches at low tide.  They are distinguished from American Crows by a smaller size and deeper voice.

Up With the Crows

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Two days ago, we experienced a fairly significant wind storm.  It is an odd time of the year for this.  Such a storm is typical for November, but not April.  Early yesterday morning, I headed over to West Beach in Deception Pass State Park to see what the surf was like.  The conditions there can be just like open ocean.


Off the Strait of Juan de Fuca it was still windy in the park, with only moderate surf.  Next to Cranberry Lake, I encountered a pair of Northwestern Crows(Corvus caurinus).  One was perched on the bench of a picnic table.  He was preening wet, spiky feathers.  Apparently, he had just finished a bath in the lake.


"Do you mind?"

"Alley-Oop!"


Northwestern Crows are a bit smaller than their cousin the American Crow and have a deeper voice.  They nest and make their living around salt water beaches.  Like gulls, they will fly up and drop mussels, clams, and snails onto rocks (or concrete sidewalks) to break them open.  You might catch a couple dozen patr…

The Early Bird and the Worm

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The other day, I made an early morning visit to West Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  There is a short trail from the parking lot that heads over to the amphitheater and the beach on Deception Pass.  I wanted to see how the bridge looked.  On the trail, I ran into this fellow, an American Robin(Turdus migratorius).  I was surprised that he allowed me to get as close as I was without flying off.  He wasn't even paying attention to me.  Sometimes park critters become accustomed to having people around.


Then I noticed why he was standing his ground.  He was working on an earthworm for his breakfast.  They are one of the annelids or segmented worms.  From my observations, they are a favorite food of Robins.  When I am planting or digging in the garden, the birds will gather in a perimeter around me.  As soon as I leave, they will fly in to snatch the goodies I kicked out of the soil.  They have learned to observe and exploit my behavior.


Apparently, this Robin is part house cat. …

Seven Swans....Relaxing

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Actually, it was more like seventy swans relaxing yesterday along Best Road in Skagit County, Washington.  I had the 100-400 mm lens mounted on the camera.  From where I stood, this forty or so was all I could fit in the frame at 100 mm.  I spotted this group of Trumpeter Swans(Cygnus buccinator) while heading home after hiking on Fir Island.


Our mornings have been chilly since New Year's, with mostly sunny skies.  It was only about 26° F (-2° C) at the time of these photos.  That's frost on the grass adding a silvery tinge.

Tundra Swans(Cygnus columbianus) also visit this area in the winter.  If you get a close look, the two species are easy to tell apart.  The crown of the head on Trumpeters is flattened with the plane parallel to the beak.  On Tundra Swans, the crown is more dome shaped.  Tundras usually also have a spot of orange or yellow on the beak near the eye.

The grayish birds are juveniles.  They will turn white like the adults before the spring migration.  The fac…