I've been out birding for at least a couple hours every day so far in 2014, and as a result the year list has progressed slowly but steadily. January 2nd it rained all day, which made for very few birds during my walk at English Camp. I had more luck driving along White Point Road where I found a Cooper's hawk (62), my only year bird of the day. I did, however, also find a Eurasian form of the green-winged teal - a common teal. Not a separate species according to the ABA, but still the first time I've seen this race in the county and a cool find.
|Eurasian green-winged teal with a horizontal white stripe on its back instead of a vertical white stripe at the shoulder|
The weather was nicer on January 3rd, so I walked around Three Meadows Marsh and turned up a red-breasted sapsucker (63), downy woodpecker (64), brown creeper (65), a couple of Bewick's wrens (66), and a small flock of golden-crowned kinglets (67). At Jackson Beach I found one of the greater yellowlegs (68) that eluded us on New Year's Day:
I also returned to American Camp, where it was warm enough that I decided to thoroughly enjoy the first sunshine of 2014 by sitting on this hillside for a while:
On my way down to the water, a trio of deer where determined to cross the path in front of me - they did so pretty close and at a run!
I also had a western meadowlark (69) fly along in front of me, and on my way back up the hill, I located the northern shrike (70) that was also a miss on the first of the year:
I also had to stop and photograph this guy in his beautiful winter coat before heading home:
Yesterday, the 4th, I picked up a short leg of our local Christmas Bird Count circle that still needed covering. In the process, I found a hermit thrush (71), a small group of bushtits (72), and a Hutton's vireo (73) in with a mixed flock of woodland species. I also found seven killdeer (74) in a field with several hundred European starlings and over 50 American robins.
Today my original hope was to go over and bird Skagit County, where a bunch of "gimmes" await. When that wasn't going to work out, I settled for a morning hike over on Orcas Island. Surprisingly, I didn't add any species on the ferry ride over or during our hike on Turtleback Mountain. There was a chilly breeze blowing and the ground was icy in places, but the scenery was sure stunning!
It was the Orcas ferry landing while waiting for the return boat that turned up the bird I was most hoping for - a Steller's jay (75). One of the few species I can get on Orcas but not San Juan Island! As an added bonus, I also found a pair of fox sparrows (76) and a ruby-crowned kinglet (77). While looking at the kinglet and associated chickadees, creepers, and nuthatches, I heard a strange call I couldn't place. The closest thing I could come to was a western tanager - I even played the call and it seemed like a match - but surely there wouldn't be one of those here now?! They did find one in Skagit county recently, but I couldn't ever get a view of the bird hidden in the canopy so there's no way I'll let myself count it. The mystery will have to remain!
There was a group of crows hanging out near the parking area, and there were a couple of crows that were different enough that I'm going to call them American crows (78). Usually the only crows we see in the county are northwestern crows. Supposedly their range doesn't overlap with American crows, but of course that's a fuzzy line, with many regional birders thinking the northwestern is just a race of the American crow. They do remain separate species for now, however, so I usually count crows on the island as northwesterns and crows seen further south as Americans. The major difference between them is size and voice, and today I had two sitting right next to each other, both calling. The voices and sizes clearly matched accordingly, so I decided to count my American crow now. I wish I had my camera on me at the time, because I would have loved to get a video clip and see what others think! But by the time I got my camera and returned, I was left with just one crow. Which kind are you?
While I saw more birds on the way over, the ferry ride back actually proved more productive for the year list turning up some Brandt's cormorants (79) and a single rhinoceros auklet (80). (For those keeping score, Dave sits at 72 and my dad at 84, but there will be a lot of moving and shaking in this early going!) The most photogenic birds, however, were the pelagic cormorants on the dock pilings at Orcas - look at those colors!
I also had to get the camera out to capture the scene looking towards Mt. Baker as we rounded Shaw Island heading for Lopez on the way home:
It's back to work tomorrow, so I'm sure the birding will slow down, but I'll still of course be looking!