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Friday, March 8, 2013

Anticipating Spring

As the calendar turned to March, and the days get noticeably longer, I find I'm more than ready for some of the things I associate with spring on San Juan Island: a little more sunshine, wildflowers, and spring migrants. I was all ready to go on the first Saturday in March, but unfortunately woke up to drizzly weather that stayed all day. Not to be entirely deterred, I went out and walked around Three Meadows Marsh and did some birding in the rain.

When taking a first glance at the marsh, there weren't many (or any) bird in sight. Closer scanning with the binoculars and a walk all the way round turned up a respectable 10 species of waterfowl. The highlight of the walk, however, was hearing two or three different Virginia rails. Also heard were both marsh and Pacific wrens and a lot of red crossbills. The species total for the one hour walk was 24.

Sunday was much more what I hoped for weather-wise: sunshine! It was windy and chilly, but that didn't matter as much. I could just feel myself beginning to recover from the winter-long vitamin D deficiency as I walked along the bluffs at Cattle Point. If I just looked at the scene in front of me and ignored my partially frozen ears and fingers, I could imagine this being a tropical beach below me:

That daydream only kept me warm for a few minutes, though, so I headed to the other side of the dunes to get more out of the wind. On the windy side the only notable sighting was five bald eagles (one adult, four immature) playing in the wind. Two of the immature eagles were chasing each other around at top speed, which was awesome to watch. There were a wider variety of birds to be seen on out of the wind, however. In the trees I found a pair of mourning doves - still an uncommon species on San Juan Island, though I seem to be finding them more regularly here:

In the same clump of trees I found a small flock of bushtits (year bird 117) and hear a pair of Bewick's wrens (118) singing. A few minutes later, while scanning the channel, I got my first definitive look at a Brandt's cormorant (119) this year. I'm sure I've seen them during my other visits to Cattle Point, but they're usually too far out in the channel to see any field marks, instead ending up on my day list as "cormorant species". The species total for this outing was again 24.

During the week I didn't have a chance to get out much, but one day this very pale, scraggly looking great blue heron came for a visit right off the front porch:

It was kind of a gray week, but today, Friday, the sun came back out so this afternoon after work I went for another walk at English Camp. I was particularly hopeful to add at least one spring migrant to my year list, but alas there were no osprey building a nest, warblers singing in the treetops, or swallows cartwheeling over the bay. Patience, patience - they'll be here soon! It was a beautiful walk regardless.

 There's enough different on my new camera that I still feel like I've got a lot to learn, so I played around with a few different things while aiming my lens at some of the more common species that I admittedly sometimes take for granted and don't photograph at all.

While standing at Bell Point watching five black oystercatchers in flight over the bay, I realized the Douglas fir I was standing under seemed to be crackling. Right over and around me was a small flock of red crossbills feeding on seeds out of the cones, seemingly unbothered by my near presence. Despite being so close to them, I couldn't get a very clear look at them. This is about the most of any bird that I saw - see the crossbill?


Crossbills seem to be really abundant on the island right now. They're often hard to get a good look at, but if you are familiar with their call, you can hear them everywhere. They were just one of the 26 species I saw at English Camp this afternoon.

The red-flowering currants were in bud, which means the rufous hummingbirds should be here any time now. This shot in particular reminded me that even though I'm ready for it to be here NOW, spring is indeed on the way:


Vera said...

I was so excited to see another great post from you. Yes, spring cannot arrive soon enough!

Kate said...

Excellent post and beautiful pictures. As much as I enjoy 'some' aspects of each season I am not anxious to see the next one.