After a very dark and drizzly week the sun unexpectedly came out this weekend. It was great timing with my parents in town for a couple of days, so we got to go out and bird-watch in some decent weather. On Saturday we headed to the south end of the island, where I was keeping my eyes peeled for a snowy owl. Several have been seen on the island, but only briefly, as they all have seemingly moved on quickly. With lots of reports throughout Washington and nearby British Columbia, it seems like it's going to be another big irruption year for snowy owls. There was no sight of one along the Redoubt Road near American Camp, but I did relocate the rough-legged hawk I saw down there about a week earlier. It's not a great shot, but I wanted to document this locally uncommon bird:
Also in this area we found some western meadowlarks, a northern harrier, and a pair of bald eagles. Next we continued on towards Cattle Point, stopping to take a look at this red fox in its beautiful winter coat:
There were also four deer on the hillside of Mt. Finlayson, and when the sun came out I had to stop and take this photo of two of them:
At Cattle Point the highlight was a flock of about 30 black turnstones that landed on the rocks right below us. It was cool to look down on them chittering away as the waves crashed over the rock they were standing on. All the other usual sea bird species were around too, including surf scoters, harlequin ducks, a black oystercatcher, horned grebes, and red-breasted mergansers. We also saw a red-tailed hawk and a flock of about 200 starlings doing amazing aerial formations.
Next stop was Fourth of July Beach for a COASST survey. There weren't any stranded seabirds, but there were plenty more good bird sightings. The highlight for me was all the shorebirds, including another twenty or so turnstones, half a dozen black-bellied plovers, and two dunlin. There were also some song sparrows and Pacific wrens darting in and out among the driftwood.
Today we decided to bird more of the interior of the island. Our first stop was Sportsman Lake where we found several trumpeter swans, about 20 hooded mergansers, a good number of ring-necked ducks, and a few bufflehead, pied-billed grebes, double-crested cormorants, and American wigeon. There was also one common merganser. We next swung by Egg Lake, where there were a few more swans and a nice group of American coot. Here's the view across the dock at Egg Lake:
We continued out towards Roche Harbor and drove the White Point Road loop which takes you right down to the water of Wescott Bay. There were a few red-breasted mergansers here, so we got to see all three merganser species on the day. I also spotted two horned grebes and a pigeon guilemot. The reflections of the cumulus clouds in the calf waters were probably the most stunning sight at this stop:
It wasn't much further down the road that we stopped to view six California quail that were hanging out near the road. Often skittish, these guys were more accommodating, hanging out for a while as we took photos from the car:
Also on this stretch of road we found a big flock of pine siskins. It was pretty quiet bird-wise at the lagoon near Roche Harbor except for a couple of ravens and a kingfisher, but before heading back to town we made one more stop at the ponds south of British Camp which are often good for ducks this time of year. They didn't disappoint! We saw more swans, Canada geese, and a group of 11 greater white-fronted geese, only the second time I've seen this species on the island. In addition to a lot more ring-necked ducks, bufflehead, and wigeon, there were also our only mallards of the day, a pair of northern shoveler, and one more common merganser. With only a couple hours birding each day, we turned up more than 50 species on the weekend - not bad!