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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

South End Birding

Back on San Juan Island, the weather has been mostly gray, breezy, and drizzly. I've taken advantage of the breaks in the weather to get out for a couple of walks at the south end of the island.

Since I have a new-found appreciation for clouds, that makes this time of year a little bit more bearable; there are a lot of varied and changing cloud types to observe, which you don't see much of during the blue sky, fair weather days of summer. My prize "find" has been this Kelvin Helmholtz cloud. Some Kelvin Helmholtz clouds can be far more beautiful than this one, but they're a rare and fleeting cloud formation formed by a wind shear. They're the breaking waves of the cloud world, formed in the same way water waves are at the shoreline. The upper part of the cloud moves with a faster velocity than the lower part, creating the appearance of waves. It's fairly subtle in this photo, but you can see the cloud waves seem to be breaking from right to left:


The birding near Cattle Point has been fantastic. During one 1-hour excursion, I saw over 30 bird species. The raptors were probably the highlight, including two immature bald eagles (one seen sitting on the Cattle Point Lighthouse in the photo below), two northern harriers, a red-tailed hawk, a peregrine falcon (year bird 217), and a sharp-shinned hawk (218) harassing some starlings. Other notable sightings were a gull trying to eat a flounder, a Steller sea lion successfully eating a salmon while gulls swarmed above him, a snake, and the antics of a group of about five flickers as they flew about cackling at each other.


Another walk at third lagoon turned up a dozen surfbirds, and lots of woodland birds. I saw my first big winter flocks of golden-crowned kinglets, and there were also lots of red-breasted nuthatches, Pacific wrens, and dark-eyed juncos nearby. We also heard a couple of red crossbills.

I returned to Cattle Point, still hoping to see my first northern shrike of the year after missing them in the early 2012 winter months. I wasn't disappointed this time (219), as one flew up in front of me shortly after getting out of the car. That was all I would see of it, though down on the rocks below the lighthouse I was amused by seeing a harlequin duck hanging out right next to an immature black oystercatcher:


Also on this trip I saw three black turnstones, a flock of about 15 horned grebes, and three Pacific loons. A little bit inland from the coast were some mourning doves, an Anna's hummingbird, and a pair of cedar waxwings.

1 comment:

Pauline Reed said...

This is like a paradise where you see lots of birds that are free everywhere. It appears like I'm in the birding in Western Australia when I visited this place. I felt so serene just to watch those flying creatures.