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Saturday, February 14, 2009

5 hours, 278 photos, 44 species, NA life bird #311

American robin on split rail fence

Today was a beautiful, overcast, but calm day and I spent five quiet hours driving around the whole island visiting all my favorite birding spots. I was inspired to do this when I learned for the Great Backyard Bird Count you can actually report all species you see - not just those in your yard - and I wanted to top the ~25 species day lists I've been getting. So off I went (camera in hand and determined to spend some time at photography, too) and ended up stopping at about eight different spots. The full list for the day as submitted to the GBBC is at the bottom of this post.

Roosting double-crested cormorants

As you can see by the title of this post, I succeeded at my goal of topping 25 species by seeing 44! One nice surprise was actually a flock of red-winged blackbirds. European starlings are great mimics, and do excellent impersonations of everything from red-winged blackbirds to red-tailed hawks, killdeer to California quail. They're so good that I don't trust my ability to ID birds by call when I've seen starlings around. There have been several times lately that I've thought I might be hearing some red-winged blackbirds and they just turned out to be a flock a starlings. Today, however, the impersonations were just *too* good, and a closer investigation revealed that they really were red-winged blackbirds this time!

Bold downy woodpecker that flew up to a tree near where I was standing

I consider myself a decent birder, with good visual ID skills of all the common local species, therefore it's not often I raise my binoculars and find myself without a clue as to what it is I'm looking at. It's an exciting feeling!! That happened today though, as another awesome surprise was a pair of pine grosbeaks, a new life bird for me (#311 in North America), and a rare species for the San Juan Islands. After a little observation the name "pine grosbeak" did come to mind, probably from flipping through the field guide making day lists and having some subconscious recollection of what they looked like. As soon as I saw the field guide pictures I knew it was a match, and it was just doubly confirmed by the very accurate text that described the pine grosbeak as a large, sluggish finch that is relative uncommon and surprisingly tame. Indeed, the pair was very approachable, and even though I spooked off the red-winged blackbirds and flickers that were in the same tree, the grosbeaks stayed and allowed me to watch them and snap some photos to my satisfaction. When I finally moved on about half an hour later, they were still foraging in the same tree even though I had walked right up to the trunk!

Female pine grosbeak

Canada Goose - 50
Trumpeter Swan - 11
Gadwall - 8
American Wigeon - 19
Mallard - 10
Northern Pintail - 6
Green-winged Teal - 5
Ring-necked Duck - 25
Lesser Scaup - 125
Harlequin Duck - 6
Surf Scoter - 12
Bufflehead - 40
Common Goldeneye - 2
Hooded Merganser - 4
Common Merganser - 4
Red-breasted Merganser - 5
Duck sp. - 150 - too far away at False Bay but prob. N. Pintail
Common Loon - 6
Red-necked Grebe - 2
Double-crested Cormorant - 20
Great Blue Heron - 8
Bald Eagle - 2
Red-tailed Hawk - 2 - including the rufous morph at the south end of the island!
Black Oystercatcher - 2
Black Turnstone - 2
Mew Gull - 20
Glaucous-winged Gull - 50
Gull sp. - 150 - too far away to see at False Bay but prob. Mew Gull
Pigeon Guillemot - 6
Rock Pigeon - 4
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 15
American/Northwestern Crow - 50
Common Raven - 3
Chestnut-backed Chickadee - 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 3
Bewick's Wren - 1
American Robin - 60
European Starling - 30
Spotted Towhee - 5
Song Sparrow - 4
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) - 15
Red-winged Blackbird - 25
Pine Grosbeak - 2
House Finch - 2
House Sparrow - 10


Vickie said...

That is quite and day! I know you will have fun sorting through all those photos.

The K said...

Congrats on #311. You're catching up!

Vera said...

Fun day! Great photos, especially the tree that the woodpecker is in(!). Congratulations on bird #311.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika

That's an impressive days birding I'm looking forward to seeing the pics! I've seen 19 of them and haven't been to North America yet! Can't quite believe you only got 2 gulls though.



Anonymous said...

Hi Monika,

It's my first time to your blog and I love it! What a great birding day you had plus the #311. Does a day get any better than that?

Unbelievably nice shot of the Belted Kingfisher. She is gorgeous. I know where a couple hang out but I can't get within what seems to be 100 yards of them to get a photo!

I don't have your email so I will ask you here. I am hosting the next "I And The Bird" blog carnival and would love to have you submit one of your birding posts (like this one) so others, who may not know you, can see your blog.

Please email me a response if your are interested.

Monika said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Dave, 19! That's amazing. I know, I don't really understand our lack of gull diversity. Of course, my lack of ability to ID different morphs probably contributes.

Larry, thanks so much for stopping by! I've sent you an e-mail.

Anonymous said...

What a great day you had and lifebird #311 to boot!