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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A few recent sightings

On Sunday there were reports of part of J-Pod heading in (east) from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Hopeful to maybe catch them on the west side of San Juan Island, I went out to the Land Bank Westside Preserve in the afternoon. There weren't any whales, so I walked around the property and did a little birding. In the south cove were four harlequin ducks, and the bald eagle was in his usual snag to the south as well. A few glaucous-winged gulls hung out around the shoreline, but otherwise the water was pretty quiet. To the north I could see a pair of black oystercatchers on the rocks, and they eventually took flight with their characteristic whistling calls. On the trail that winds through the blackberry brambles I came across a flock of nine golden-crowned sparrows:

I went down to South Beach hoping to find another year bird, but the water was pretty quiet down there as well, and there were no shorebirds on the beach. I did find a few surf scoters, a couple of horned grebes, and a trio of red-breasted mergansers.

At this point I got an update from a friend that the whales were still heading in, so I decided to stop by Land Bank one more time. Right when I pulled up and lifted my binoculars I saw two blows and the distinct dorsal fins of a male and female orca. These weren't the incoming J-Pod whales, however, but two transient whales! (Maybe T20 and T21 who have been around?) They were miles away heading south from Beaumont Shoal and soon disappeared into the late afternoon gloom. I waited another 20 minutes or so, but the residents never made it in, nor did they later judging by the lack of vocalizations on the hydrophones that night.

Yesterday was a wild windy day, with heavy rain last night, and then more wind this morning. It hasn't been weather conducive for going out birding, but when I was driving home through town just a little bit ago I saw a Eurasian collared-dove (124) in somebody's front yard! It looks like these guys are spreading around the island in a hurry, as this is my first sighting in town, though I haven't seen any in their regular perches near False Bay or Cattle Point yet this year.

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