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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter Birds on San Juan

I'll keep this post brief since I'm just briefly online at an internet cafe before catching my ferry off-island, but I wanted to share a few photos from birding around the island in the last couple of days....

Bufflehead are still everywhere, as expected during the winter months. In this particular flock, the males were doing a lot of head-bobbing (hence all their strange poses), probably in preparation for pairing off for mating this spring:

Probably my favorite shorebirds, this was one of a pair of black oystercatchers that weren't too skittish since I was using my car as a blind. Check out that limpet in his beak, which he had just pried off of a rock. How do they get the meat out of the shell, I wonder?

My third year bird for this short San Juan visit was the trumpeter swan (104). Swans are another one of those bizarre cases where trumpeter swans are regular island visitors while the similar tundra swans seemingly bypass the islands all together. Of course that fact wasn't enough to ID these swans, but luckily they were close enough to the shore of the lake to get a nice look. One definitive feature is the straight line on the beak from the nose to the tip, while tundra swans have more of a "ski slope" curve. These trumpeter swans also lack the yellow tear drop mark on the beak, though this isn't diagnostic since some tundra swans lack it also.

Now it's off to the ferry, as I'll be heading up to Vancouver, BC for a couple of Olympic days! Tomorrow I'll be going to the USA vs. Finland semi-final hockey game in hopes of seeing the US squad guarantee themselves a medal and advance to the gold medal game.

1 comment:

Chas said...

Hey Monica - I need to get in touch about an upcoming trip to Friday Harbor and suggestions for possibly chartering a boat to do a several hour tour around San Juan Island. This is associated w/ a scientific mtg at Friday Harbor Labs. Also have a couple birding questions. You can contact me at

thanks, Charles.