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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Birdy Update

I have all kinds of birds sightings and photos I've been saving up and wanting to share, so I figured I would do them all here in one post. First of all, back when I went to Lopez Island I eluded to a bizarre finding at Shark Reef Sanctuary. It started right under this snag, where I saw all kinds of feathers spread all over the place:

I figured a bald eagle had likely caught a bird and eaten it on this perch, and that would be the end of the story. But looking around a little further, we surprisingly found the head of the bird it had eaten - a rhinoceros auklet! Very bizarre...

Also on Lopez Island I took this photo of a gull carrying a shell down the beach. I have seen some pretty ingenious gull foraging tactics lately. Gulls in this area were dropping shells on the road, hoping they would either break open or perhaps get driven over and opened up. The other day with the huge flock of Bonaparte's gulls, we saw birds deftly plucking shrimp right off the surface of the water. Back at home, we have observed a young glaucous-winged gull learn to catch crabs by patrolling the rocks.

Also at home, I've been focusing on getting some hummingbird pictures at the feeder - look for an upcoming post on hummingbird acrobatics - but while waiting for the hummer to return this chestnut-backed chickadee sat nearby waiting for me to go back inside so it could return to the sunflower seed feeder.

A group of Washington ornithologists was recently up on San Juan Island and reported some amazing finds on their trip, including many sightings that would be year birds to me and some species that I've never recorded on the island. An e-mail inquiry revealed that many of their IDs were by call, or at least that's how they located the birds, which has encouraged me to try and improve my ability to bird by ear. Specifically, getting better at vireos, flycatchers, and warblers would be helpful.

When I went out a few days ago, I saw my first cliff swallows (151) of the year flying over a lake with barn, tree, violet-green, and northern rough-winged swallows, so it was my first five swallow day of the year. I also succeeded in hearing a warbling vireo (152) down at American Camp, though I would very much like to see the bird as well! I had some time to go out birding yesterday as well, but was somewhat thwarted by the wind and rain showers. The best find of the day was a pair of Caspian terns patrolling Jackson Beach:

On today's trip out (also in the wind and rain), birds were pretty few and far between, but we did find a nice flock of a few hundred Bonaparte's gulls up at East Point. Everytime I've seen them this spring (and I've seen way more of them this spring than in previous years) they've been flying, but today some of them were at rest on the rocks or floating in the water. I wonder how long they'll stick around before continuing north?

Finally, I've been checking in occasionally on this very cool barn owl webcam. Back at the beginning of April, you could see the female, Molly, with her newly hatched chicks in the nest (one of them is that fluff ball on the left):

This morning, I was very surprised to see how much the chicks have grown since my last visit. They are very large and comical-looking right now as they are between the fuzzy down of a baby and the first feathers of a fledgling. It's definitely worth checking out!


Warren Baker said...

Got to used to the calls and songs of birds Monika, it will up you list by 30%

What ate the Auklet then ?

Monika said...

I'm familiar with quite a few calls already, but I know I have some weak areas that will definitely help me pick up some more species if I improve!

It was a bald eagle that ate the auklet, it just left the head behind!

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - did you see that article about the different species of orcas in the Southern Ocean based on their mitochondrial DNA and recognisable facial pattern & different diets? At least three species down there and reference to your Transients being possibly related to one of them. Intiguing stuff and a nice bit of niche separation too. Good ol' Charlie D worked it out without the aid of genetics ...or did he just nick the idea from Mr wallace?



Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi again - forgot to mention your bird calls try this site if you haven't already If you have a choice of two or more species you think a call or song might be from plug em into the search engine and let your ears do the rest - brilliant site got just about everything we get on the European page should imagine the N. Am pages will be just as complete - - which reminds me must listen to Pacic-slope Flycatcher later!