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Monday, April 19, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything at the FHL Trails

Today ended up being a much nicer day than forecast, and since I was off the water today it was a great chance to go for a hike at the trails near the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs. As we drove up, I saw what I think was probably an early western tanager fly across the road, but it was just too quick for me to be certain, plus I know how keen I was to add another year bird. Unfortunately it flew up, up, and far away, so there was no chance for a better look. As it turns out, I wouldn't have to wait too long to add another species to the year list.

It wasn't far down the trail that we found ourselves in the middle of a nice pocket of birds. The first one I saw was a pileated woodpecker (142), and nearby was also a hairy woodpecker and a pair of northern flickers to make for a rare three woodpecker species day. The pileated woodpecker flew away quickly, but could be heard calling - it's probably one of my favorite bird vocals (it's just so loud as it echos through the trees!), and you can hear it for yourself here. In the brambles lurked chestnut-backed chickadees, spotted towhees, song sparrows, and dark-eyed juncos. A moment later a little brown bird boldly took a perch at the tippy-top of a high snag and began to sing its trilly, unpredictable song - a house wren (143)! I also had the camera ready to capture a rare glimpse of an orange-crowned warbler completely out in the open:

Most of the bird highlights came towards the beginning of our walk, though a bit later on I also heard my first pacific-slope flycatchers (144) of the season. After that, it was the other flora and fauna that captured my attention. Here is one of the dozen or so spring azure butterflies we saw (the only one that landed at all):

It was amazing how many different types of mushrooms were out, the most impressive of which was this huge shelf fungi:

While we walked out on the trail through the forest, we looped back along the shoreline trail, where a pair of garter snakes caught my attention. Instead of slithering away into the salal like most snakes do, this one wasn't too shy and just sat still for a while:

In the forest there were a few broad-leaved starflowers in bloom with plenty more on the way, but along the coastline the bright yellow buttercups were definitely at their peak, as were these fawn lilies:

There wasn't much happening out on the water, although I did spot a pair of harbor porpoise. Finally, before looping back into the woods, we came across a nice bright patch of algae....perhaps a type of sea lettuce? In a previous post I talked about Enteromorpha intestinalis, a type of green alga that grows where saltwater and freshwater comes together. There was clearly some freshwater seeping out of the rocks here, but I'm definitely not knowledgeable enough about seaweeds to know if this was it for sure or not!

It ended up being a much longer hike than anticipated, but it was a real naturalist's paradise out there today, with so many different things to look at!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Sounds like a great day out but 'pacific-slope flycatcher' you're makin that up??? Who ever heard of such a thing?
What is the Latin name of the Azure Blue? We have one here by that name which is fairly local/rare, Warren might get them on his patch but no where near us up north.


Davo (146...and counting)

Anonymous said...

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The K said...

Looks like a great day indeed. Also sounds like another opportunity to talk about species splitting with the Pacific-slope Flycatcher .

Warren Baker said...

just two behind ''big Dave'' now monika.

I wonder if those Azure blues are the same as one of our blue species, as dave says ?

Monika said...

The spring azure is Celastrina argiolus...similar to any of yours?

It's true, western flycatcher split into the pacific-slope and Cordilleran flycatchers, distinguished almost entirely by voice.

I added three more today Warren - I've gotta take the lead here at some point!