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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sailing to Jones Island - Plus a Bird and Sea Lion Update

There has been so much to blog about with all the trips I've been out on the water and the whales in the area that this is my first chance to share photos from a sailing excursion I went on last week. A friend of mine from high school brought his sail boat up from Seattle and luckily his stop in Friday Harbor coincided with one of my days off. In the morning I went down to the docks and hopped aboard his 27' sail boat, Joshua, and we headed north up San Juan Channel.

Amazingly enough this was my first time ever on a sail boat, and needless to say it's much slower going than our high-powered tour boats. But when your goal isn't wildlife viewing, speed isn't as important, and there's something very peaceful about gliding up the channel on the power of the wind and really taking in your surroundings.

Our destination was Jones Island, a 190 acre state park about four miles north of Friday Harbor. It's an island we regularly go past on our whale and wildlife tours, but like many of the smaller San Juan Islands it's a place I hadn't actually set foot on. Here's the Joshua at the dock on the north side of Jones:

There's a nice trail around the island that we hiked before eating a picnic lunch. We saw the camping facilities and a couple of the fairly tame deer that live on the island. I enjoyed the views, which gave me a different perspective of San Juan Island and a lot of the other areas we routinely travel around and through.

All in all it was a great way to spend a day and catch up with some old friends. Thanks guys!

Now for a couple of other brief updates. I haven't had a chance to do much terrestrial birding but while out on the water yesterday I spotted a flock of about ten red-necked phalaropes (159), a species I hadn't counted on seeing until the fall migration. We see hundreds of these odd little shorebirds in August and September, but according to my book Birding the San Juan Islands only a few fly through on their way north. I hadn't ever seen them here in the spring before, but the ones I saw yesterday were here just at the time reported in the book: mid-May.

Last month I posted the history of Oscar, the branded California sea lion that has been hanging out on the buoy outside Friday Harbor. After confirming that this was the same animal as last year, I sent my sighting to the NOAA researcher and he asked if I had seen any other branded sea lions. After going back through my photos I found this branded Steller sea lion, photographed on April 18th on Whale Rocks at the southern end of San Juan Channel:

Even though I wasn't able to read the brand marking, the researcher was and kindly sent me this animal's history. He was tagged as a pup in southern Oregon in 2003, making him seven years old. He has been re-sighted nine times, almost all of them in Washington, including several times at Tatoosh Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and once in Puget Sound. It's cool not only to be able to contribute to the research on sea lion movements, but also to learn a little bit of the personal history of some of the animals we see out there.


Warren Baker said...

Its always interesting to be able to follow an animals ( or birds) life history.

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - how do they meke those brands - they look big, suppose they have to be so as to be read. Phals are always nice espeialy in summer plmage - not something the Safari sees very often at all. We're still ahead though - just