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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Olympic Mountains and February Bird Count


Today Jason and I went down to the south end of the island to check out the red-tailed hawks. It was another wintery day with dark gray skies and cold winds. We spent some time hunkered down out of the wind watching the North Pair as they soared over the fields looking for prey. It was amazing to watch them kiting - just hanging in place without any movement at all. We didn't see them catch anything, although Garth (RTH1) made an attempt but apparently missed the little rodent or whatever it was he was after.

The most spectacular view was to the southwest, looking across the straits at the Olympic Mountains. While the slate gray clouds hung over the San Juans, the Olympics were lit up by pale sunlight and the view across to them was crisp and clear. Make sure to click on the photo to see a larger version.

Today also brings us to the end of the Great February Bird Count hosted by Northwest Nature Nut. The winner over at Pittswood Birds tallied a remarkable 46 species in their yard over the course of the month. I don't have quite that diversity here at our marina but I did tally a respectable 19 species over the month, the most surprising of which was a pied-billed grebe which I have never seen from here before. Here's my species list for the month, in alphabetical order:
  • American crow
  • Bald eagle
  • Belted kingfisher
  • Bufflehead
  • Canada goose
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee
  • Common raven
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Double-crested cormorant
  • Fox sparrow
  • Glaucous-winged gull
  • Great blue heron
  • Hooded merganser
  • House sparrow
  • Mew gull
  • Pied-billed grebe
  • Red-breasted nuthatch
  • Red-necked grebe
  • Song sparrow

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Still Winter

Well, our preview of spring is definitely over! No more sunny afternoons in the 50s for a while. Yesterday I went for a walk on the beach and got caught in the middle of a sleet storm. Then today, we woke up to about half an inch of snow. It's warmed up enough to start melting, but it's definitely still a reminder that we are still in the middle of winter!

The light snow was enough to bring the fox sparrow out of hiding and back to the feeder. I hadn't seen him since our last snowstorm. In addition to the hooded merganser I saw from the deck yesterday, that gives me two new species to add to my list in the last week of the Great February Bird Count.

Other than that, I've pretty much been hunkered down inside to stay warm and get out of the rain. There looks like there's a few clear days coming up in the forecast, so that will be the time to get back outside with the camera in hand.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mt. Young Lichens


Rain was forecasted for today, and while I heard some showers during the night, I woke up to dry skies with even a few hints of the sun peeking few, so I was drawn back outside. Since the clouds seemed to be parting I decided to walk up Mt. Young (also known more realistically as Young Hill - it's only 650 feet tall). The above photo is a view from a lookout just below the summit, looking over the northern most San Juan Islands towards the Canadian Gulf Islands.

For whatever reason there aren't a lot of birds on the Mt. Young Trail - mostly some chestnut-backed chickadees and the occassional call of a raven. On the top I was treated to an eye-level view of a soaring bald eagle, but on the trail I focused my sights lower and got back into hunting for lichens. You may remember my first lichen identifications based on an ID book I got for Christmas. Here are a few new (for me) species I was able to identify.


If you read my other post, you may recall that most lichens are easily identified by their genus, as many species designations are still unclear and taxonomies undefined. The above photo is of the genus Cladonia, and I'm pretty sure the species is Cladonia ochroclora. Cladonia is one of the largest Pacific Northwest lichen genera, characterized by two distinct parts: the small leaf-like scales of the squamules at the base and the erect stalk of the podentia. The podentia of many of the species have a cup-shaped apparatus at the top of the stalk, and my reason for concluding this is probably C. ochroclora is because there is only a very small indentation at the top.



Along a mossy hillside there were many specimens of this large, leafy lichen, and at the time I thought they were probably all the same species. On closer inspection of my photographs and after consultation with the field guide, there were probably at least a few different Peltigera species present in the area, like the one pictured above. While I'm not confident in my ability to analyze the microstructures to determine the different species, I was able to observe a common phenomena in this genus that is captured in the photo above. When wet, the lichen is a virbrant green color, but when parts of it dry out, it becomes a tan, drabbish green until moisture returns.


The final genus I identified is a member of Vulpicida. You would think such a bright, yellow-orange lichen would stand out on the forest floor, but it remains remarkably camoflaged primarily by being so small. All the specimens I've seen were loose on the ground, but they probably fell off of shrubs or the base of a tree because I don't think they grow on soil. While substrate is often a huge clue in identifying lichens, I'm sure of this identification because of the color. It is the only bright yellow genus of this morphology in the Pacific Northwest, and it attains its color (and received its name) for the poisonous pigment vulpinic acid. Examining a specimen under a hand lens reveals tiny, powdery soredia, which are asexual reproductive structures present on the surface of some lichens.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who's Looking At Who?

With the weather staying nice I had no reason not to go down and walk my new favorite loop near the red-tailed hawk pair. I'm beginning to wonder if these hawks aren't watching me as much as I watch them, as Ruth (RTH2) seems especially curious and always circles above me a few times every time I'm there. I'm no longer sure if I find her or she finds me!

Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing a bit, but taking a closer look at this photo confirms I'm not the only one doing the observing. Her head is turned down and her eye is looking right at me! Click on the photo to see a larger version, which also gives you a better look at those gorgeous tail feathers.


No matter where you live, one can still get bogged down in some of the issues that surround you in daily life, whether its chores or stress or dealing with people. I try to make a point every so often to really take a good look around and not take it for granted that I live in an amazingly beautiful place. The other day, in the middle of a walk in the warm sunshine, was one of these moments, and you can see how rough life is for me here in the on San Juan Island:


Also, a brief update on the orcas. All three Southern Resident pods have been seen in the area in February, an unusual time of year for them to be around. Not enough salmon where they usually are in the winter, or more salmon here now? It sounds a recent local salmon fishing derby was a big success, so maybe the whales around to take advantage of those fish too. Two new calves have been seen - designated J44 and L112 - but as of yet the mothers are not confirmed. Also, as was feared late last fall, it looks like male L57 is not with them at this time. To see some amazing aerial video footage, check out this clip of L-Pod from the King5 News Helicopter this afternoon down in Puget Sound.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on the North Pair Red-tailed Hawks

Today was another spring-like day with more successful observations of the North Pair red-tailed hawks. The two birds spent a lot of time soaring around, which made for some more great photo-ops. Some aerial courtship behavior gave some clues as to who the male and female might be, and watching both of them together made it very clear that you can successfully tell the two apart, at least in flight.

Here is a photo of RTH2 (Red-Tailed Hawk 2), with arrows pointing to the patagial marks at the elbows. These marks are a distinguishing characteristic of red-tails, but are one of the easiest ways to tell these two birds apart.

Now this next photo is a little blurry, but it shows the patagial marks on RTH1, and they are much thinner:
Now the two hawks can be told apart - excellent! But which one is the male and which is the female? Well, as with most birds of prey, the female is larger than the male, but this can be very hard to determine in the field. When they were both flying together, one of them looked bigger but it was hard to say for sure. Luckily, this is breeding season, and copulation is often preceded by aerial displays.

Keith and I were watching RTH2 soaring in circles. RTH2 seems to be much more camera-friendly so far, as nearly all of my best photos are of that hawk. But suddenly RTH1 came over the ridge, looking very different in flight as its legs were completely extended!


They continued circling each other, RTH1 keeping its legs extended. I was lucky enough to get this picture of the pair together in flight:


At one point RTH1 descended above RTH2, grasping at the back in what looked very much like pre-copulatory behavior. Since RTH1 also looked like the smaller hawk, I'm going to designate RTH1 the male and RTH2 the female!

Now, RTH1 and 2 are okay, but I'm going to give them additional names to help keep them straight in my head as well as when I blog about them. RTH2, the female, will be Ruth (RuTH, get it?). She's a beautiful, curious bird, and I have some great photos of her. Here's another one:


The male, RTH1, will be Garth (gaRTH...I'm easily amused). I haven't been as lucky getting good, close shots of him yet, but here's one I think looks pretty cool:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Red-Tailed Hawks: North Pair

Today was another gorgeous warm day, so I headed back to the south end of the island to check out some birds. I had three goals. 1) Try to get some photos of the red-tailed hawks that hang out down there, 2) Look for the western meadowlarks, and 3) Find a northern shrike. Guess what? I accomplished all three!

View of the bluffs above South Beach

I walked along the hillside above South Beach on a trail I amazingly hadn't ever been on before. Sure enough, there were at least 6-8 meadowlarks swooping along the dunes. Most of them were females, but I saw at least two vibrant males. There were also lots of robins and starlings down there, but suddenly I caught sight of something in flight with a very long tail. It perched momentarily atop a bunch of brambles, and I was able to confirm it was a shrike. It's only the third time I've seen a shrike on the island, and it was especially satisfying to see because I've heard of other recent sightings but it had been a miss for me on the last several attempts.

Male western meadowlark perched in some brambles

Finally, the red-tailed hawks. I hadn't seen any on my walk along the cliffs (although I saw a beautiful adult bald eagle perched on a bluff), but once I got back to my car I ran into Jason who was out looking for the hawks too. He had a scope set up on one of the perched red-tails, and over the next half hour or so I was lucky to get a couple of flyovers while I had my camera in hand.

There are definitely two pairs of red-tailed hawks around Mt. Finlayson at the south end of the island, and I'm going to call them the north pair, which is closer to South Beach, and the south pair, which is closer to Cattle Pt. lighthouse. The rufous morph red-tail is part of the south pair, and has so far been unphotographable. What I'm really interested in finding out is if it's possible to ID the other three light morph individuals by their markings. I'm pretty sure but not 100% positive that I had flyovers from both members of the north pair today, and pictures are below. What do you think - are they the same bird? Look at the dark brown streaking on the stomach, the dark shoulder patches, and the splotches near the "wrists". And does the top bird have some black on its beak missing in the lower bird?


This second photo just takes my breath away. What a beautiful bird....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunshine! Warmth!


Today the sun was out, and it wasn't just the cold winter sun - you could actually feel the warmth! It was only in the high 40s instead of the high 30s, but it was enough to be in just a sweatshirt without a jacket on over it.

Keith and I went down to the south end of the island to walk around and sit in the sun for a bit, and it definitely did me a lot of good. I've suffered from a bit of the winter blues, and today made it feel like spring might actually be around the corner. We also came across this cooperative black oystercatcher who let me sit with him for a while and take his photo. At one point some other walkers flushed a flock of about 30-40 black turnstones. What was amazing is that you couldn't see a single one of them before they took off or after they landed - their camoflage is among the best I've ever seen!

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

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Birds and Birthdays

I went out birding today with Jason and we saw a couple of cool things of note. One was a western meadowlark down near South Beach! Apparently, western meadowlarks used to be common breeders in the San Juan Islands until about 1960. It's unlear why they declined, because there seems to be some great grassland habitat for them here. They're no longer believed to breed here, and are pretty much just seen from September-April, although I've only ever seen one and it was last October. It's ironic that they're mostly a winter visitor to the islands now, because when I saw its bold yellow chest with distinct black V it made me think of spring!

The mew gulls at False Bay were up to their foot-paddling again, which is such a comical little dance to watch.

Down at the south end of the island is a pair of red-tailed hawks that we think probably have a nest down there since they're always in the same area, and a few weeks ago we observed them carrying grasses (nesting material?!). Today was the first day I really got a good look at both of them, and it turns out you can tell them apart because they are different color morphs. Red-tailed hawks come in all sorts of colors that were originally thought to be different species. At first I thought the dark one we were seeing was a Harlan's hawk (the darkest red-tailed hawk) but I forgot this morph actually has a black and white tail. Instead, we were looking at the relatively rare rufous morph, which makes up only about 10-20% of the red-tailed hawk population. Jason put digiscoping to the test and took a photo of the other "regular" red-tail with his digital camera through the scope we were borrowing. He'll post the cool shot he got on his blog.

I also wanted to remind you that this weekend, starting tomorrow, is the Great Backyard Bird Count! The purpose of the project is to get a snapshot of the birds across the US and Canada, and to give birders an excuse to spend at least 15 minutes a day monitoring what's in their yards. Some of us bloggers are participating in the (much much smaller) Great Bird Count of February just for fun, but its definitely worth taking a weekend to report what's in your yard for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Finally, you should join me today in raising a toast to the 200th anniversary of the birth of two very great men. Amazingly enough, both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on February 12th, 1809. They both changed the world in very different ways, but both for the better, in my not-so-humble opinion. I admire both these men, their genius, and their tenacity very much, and will be honor their legacy with a raised glass tonight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interspecies Communication

As I watched all the birds come and go from my feeder today, I found myself wondering what the different species think of each other. When we talk about interspecies communication we often mean between humans and another species, but really, different species are communicating and interacting right in front of us every day. The birds at my feeder are not predators and prey, but more mutual co-existers who indirectly compete for food.

For the most part, all the dominance hierarchies I see play out are within a species, especially among the dark-eyed juncos who I've noticed have an extensive repertoire of posturing behaviors they engage in to establish the best feeding positions on my deck. The other species are certainly aware of each other, though. Song sparrows, for instance, never have to pay attention to who is coming and going, but can just plant themselves in the middle of the tray and eat away. Chestnut-backed chickadees are among the more skittish of the lot, but even they can perch on the edge of the feeder with two or three other species around without rousing a response. Here are some photos from today, a couple of them showing how several different species hang out together around the feeder, and a few other cool or comical shots.

This belted kingfisher wasn't around for the seed feeder, but she perched on the same railing with a bunch of other feeder birds. Instead, her attention was on a school of bait fish just under the surface of the water below. Speaking of skittish birds, kingfishers are right up there - this is probably the closest I've been able to get for a photo:


Here's the same railing from a different angle, showing where all the birds line up for turns coming down to the deck and going to the feeder. This shot shows dark-eyed juncos and house sparrows, but sometimes there are as many as four species waiting together along the rail. I chose to post this one because of that amazing silhouette on the right side of a bird diving down off the trail and into the brambles below:


There are a lot of little trees and brush on the hillside adjacent to the houseboat, so several different flocks hang out there when they're coming to the feeder as well. Here's a photo of a dark-eyed junco and a house sparrow perched near each other - neither one of them are paying any attention to the feeder which is down to the right. The junco was looking at another bird, and the sparrow was actually in the middle of scratching, but this photo caught her in a comical position looking right at the camera:


Here's the scene that makes me wonder about interspecies communication between these birds. There are three species at the feeder here - two dark-eyed juncos, a house sparrow, and a song sparrow. They all feed together fairly peacefully but certainly look around at each other with (what I anthropomorphize to be) curiosity:


Finally, I think this is just a beautiful shot of a perched dark-eyed junco. I love the colors and the mixed clarity of the branches:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Friday Harbor Turns 100 and a Blurry Mink

Today marks the centennial of the town of Friday Harbor. Celebrations for the centennial are going on all year, but 100 years ago to the day, Friday Harbor was incorporated, and it remains the only incorporated town in San Juan County. It's kind of cool to be here on the very day that marks the anniversary. The San Juan Journal notes that Friday Harbor residents voted to incorporate their village by a vote of 70-55. That means the town itself has gone from 125 residents on February 9, 1909, to an estimated 2,082 residents on February 9, 2009.

My mom picked up a cool book at a library book sale a few years ago, called "Friday Harbor Then and Now". It was published in 1972 and reviews in sketches the last 100 years of the town. Below is map of what the town looked like about 100 years ago:


Also, on a different note, I had to share a cool sighting from today. Today was the first time I've ever seen a mink from the houseboat! Unfortunately it was dusk, minks are really fast, and I was lucky enough to to have time to grab my camera and get a photo at all, let alone a clear one. So, since it's so exciting, I decided to post my blurry photo of the mink, which gives you an idea of how cute he was. They are amazing creatures I know very little about, but now I intend to learn more about these ferret-sized critters that we only get brief glimpses of as they scurry along the rocky shorelines of the San Juan Islands.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Orca Web Cams

Update October 2011: As this post remains popular for people looking for orca web cams, I've gone through the checked all the links. The only one that is now inactive is the Center for Whale Research webcam, which may be restored by next season. The best web cam for viewing Southern Residents is the controllable Race Rocks web cam - see below. You can also see lots of other wildlife like seals, sea lions, and sea birds from this cam.

Google Analytics is a great tool for monitoring traffic to your website. For instance, I've learned that a lot of people seem to find my blog while searching for orca web cams. While of course nothing even comes close to seeing the whales live, I know a lot of people like to monitor the whales from far away. I thought I would share some of the web cams I know about where it is possible to see whales, plus a way to listen for the whales.

First of all, the Center for Whale Research web cam (edit October 2011: this webcam is temporarily down, but video highlights can be seen from this link) is great because its located on the west side of San Juan Island overlooking Haro Strait, one of the Southern Residents' most common traveling routes in the summer months. You can also control the movements of the camera yourself.

Another great one is the Race Rocks Camera 5, which is another video remote-control camera. Race Rocks are located west of Victoria in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the main route the whales take when coming in and leaving to the Pacific Ocean.

These first two are the best, because they are controllable video web cams with a proven ability to see and follow the orcas. But, here are a few other still cameras (that update very minute or so) that overlook areas the orcas often travel, though they are untested as far as I know for actually seeing the orcas. You'd probably see the whale-watching boats first, then know to look for the orcas in many of these:

Island Cam has one that overlooks Rosario Strait from Anacortes. It may be possible to see orcas from this one in the summertime, because they frequently travel in Rosario Strait past Anacortes as they circumnavigate the San Juan Islands. Another good potential Island Cam is this one that looks west from Hannah Heights, which is a little south from Lime Kiln on San Juan Island.

Here's a webcam overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Gordon's Beach in Sooke, BC, another place the orcas travel past on their comings and goings from the San Juan Islands. The same network of BC web cams has another good one near Ogden Point, BC, further east in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

A lot of people ask about what happened to the web cams that used to be up at Lime Kiln Lighthouse, and if they're ever going to come back. Those cameras were bought and maintained under a grant The Whale Museum had for the Sea Sound project, and after that funding was used up there wasn't any way to maintain the cameras. So, for the foreseeable future, there won't be any web cams at Lime Kiln.

You don't necessarily have to be in Washington or BC to see the Southern Resident orcas, especially this time of year! On January 21st and January 24th, L-Pod was seen from the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, Oregon. This whale watch center mostly focuses on following the gray whale migration, but they spotted L-Pod twice last month! As more people know what to look for to identify the Southern Residents, it's becoming more and more apparent that L-Pod and likely K-Pod spend at least part of their winters off the Oregon and California coasts. There have been California sightings of both K- and L-Pods as far south as Monterey, California on several occassions over the last few years.

Finally, you can also remotely follow the Southern Resident's movements acoustically, via orcasound.net. Here you can find a network of hydrophones (underwater microphones) streaming live on the internet. The best hydrophones to listen to are Lime Kiln, Orca Sound (a few miles north of Lime Kiln on the west side of San Juan Island), and Port Townsend for when the whales come and go through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Not only will you have a chance to hear the orcas, but you can monitor their underwater environment and hear everything from the rushing tides to freighters to scuba divers.

I hope this helps you out in following the orcas from near or far. Definitely let me know if you have any success seeing or hearing them!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gull Walking in the Sky and Other Photos

It was a nice, calm day today. With the sun out and no wind, the temperatures in the high forties actually felt warm. I decided to go out and shoot some photos this afternoon. My first stop was False Bay since the birding has been so great there. The tide was out, so the "bay" was really just a huge mudflat with some great feeding puddles for the gulls. The mew gulls were out en masse, and although I didn't see any foot-paddling, they were all marching about the puddles and seemingly finding a lot to eat.

I really like this first photo because it blurs the distinction between water and sky. Since the water was so calm it was reflecting the sky quite nicely, and to me it looks like the gull is walking in the sky. It's only the rocks in the top of the photo that bring your perception back to reality by reflecting in the water.


Since I was shooting into the sun, the lighting was harsh and the colors didn't really come out in many of my photos. Without vibrant colors and with almost a silhouette effect on the gulls, I thought a black and white photo might turn out cool. Here's one I thought worked well - notice why I used the word marching to describe what the gulls were doing.


I never have much success shooting landscape shots with a mountain in the background, because it's hard to get everything to expose properly. If any of you other photographers have any tips on getting the mountain exposure right, I'd love to hear them! Still, I thought this shot with grazing sheep in the foreground turned out kind of cool. It looks better in a larger version, and as always you can click on the photo to see it bigger.


Finally, before I was heading home, the late afternoon sun was looking beautiful through the clouds and back-lighting the trees. I wanted to add another element to the photo to make it more interesting, and the closest thing at hand were these cows. I had to jump across a ditch, crouch down, and shoot the photo through a fence, but I think it was worth the extra effort. There are actually three cows in the shot - notice the mom and calf nose-to-nose under the trees in the right side of the image.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Great Bird Count of February


I've been inspired by the Northwest Nature Nut to participate in the Great Bird Count of February. A group of bloggers has signed on to the "competition", to list all the birds you see from your yard during the month, and most of us will be keeping running lists going in our blog sidebars. Here on my floating home, I don't think I'll have nearly as many species as others with more traditional backyards, but I should probably be able to add some unique species others won't get, such as some grebes or mergansers. So, keep tabs on the side bar to see how my February list is progressing!

The above photo is of a chestnut-backed chickadee that was visiting my feeder just before the February bird count began, on January 31st! If you don't feel like counting yard birds for a whole month, also during the month of February is the weekend-long Great Backyard Bird Count from February 13-16, a national event put on by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In 2008, backyard birders recorded 634 species over the weekend!