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Friday, May 27, 2011

Finally Starting to Feel Like Spring

Yesterday I went birding with my friend Phil around the north end of San Juan Island. It was mid-day so there wasn't a lot of activity, but we still heard and saw some good species. It started at Sportsman's Lake with my first Swainson's thrush (181) of the year. At British Camp, we heard both Townsend's and black-throated gray warblers, Pacific-slope flycatchers, and a Cassin's vireo. There was a male hooded merganser on Westside Lake, where we also heard an olive-sided flycatcher. Walking the nearby upland trails turned up one black-headed grosbeak among the many singing robins.

What's really noticeable right now on the island is how GREEN everything is, like Cattle Point as seen earlier this afternoon:

Offshore was a large congregation of birds - mostly rhinoceros auklets and glaucous-winged gulls. I wonder if there were any tufted puffins mixed in? It was too far away and backlit for me to tell, but there have been recent sightings in that area. I saw three species of swallow - northern rough-winged, violet-green, and barn. There were lots (20+) of brown-headed cowbirds, American goldfinches, and European starlings. Other highlights included a belted kingfisher, a pair of bald eagles, three very noisy black oystercatchers, and five harlequin ducks.

There were also several ochre ringlet butterflies (Coenonympha tullia):

Flower-wise, there's lot of vetch, lupine, and chickweed in bloom. I also found some chocolate lilies and this Idaho blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense):

Also, I hope you can give me some input on something I've been thinking about. The rule, as designated by official taxonomists like the IOC, is that common bird species names should be capitalized. The reason is to avoid ambiguity - ie, there are lots of blue jays but only one species is called the Blue Jay, there are lots of tanagers in the west but only some of them are Western Tanagers, and so on. I personally don't capitalize common names because it goes against the basic rules of grammar and doesn't apply to other types of animals. We don't write Harbor Seals and Orca Whales, so why should write Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Dark-eyed Junco? The only time I put capital letters in bird names is when another grammatical rule dictates that a word should be capitalized, most often because it is a proper noun. You'll notice that above I did write Cassin's vireo and American goldfinch. Anyway, the debate can go on and on, but I want to know what my blog readers think. Please vote in the poll at the top right of the blog, and if you have additional comments, please leave them on this post!

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