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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Weekend Wildlife

With my parents up visiting, it was the perfect time to get out and about with the cameras to see what could be seen last weekend. While we didn't see any whales, we did see lots of other wildlife, starting with the 50 or so Steller sea lions that have been hanging out at Green Point on Spieden Island. Unlike my last visit, this time most of them were in the water, and some of them were very curious!

Spieden's terrestrial wildlife was also out in abundance, with one group of Mouflon sheep taking advantage of the low tide to be down on the rocks at water level. We thought they were probably licking salt off the rocks, but a closer inspection of my photos showed that some of them were actually eating seaweed!

Sometimes you don't appreciate the photos you take until you see them on the computer at home - that was the case with this snap, which gave me a laugh when I saw the surprised-looking expression on this mama Mouflon as her baby nursed (click to see a larger version).

There were so many deer and sheep out enjoying all the green grass, but we also spotted one bald eagle surveying the scene.

This is a great time of year for watching sea birds, too, because they've transitioned into their summer colors, like this common loon:

Same goes for these pigeon guillemots, though they've been sporting their "summer" plumage since February:

Back on the home front, more signs of spring seem to be appearing on a daily basis. While looking for year birds across the island didn't turn up any, at the end of the day I added two right in my own front yard! A yellow-rumped warbler drew me outside, but this singing orange-crowned warbler stole the show.

Orange-crowned warbler, photo year bird #135
On Sunday, we headed down to Cattle Pass, one of our favorite places to scope out birds - literally. Here's my dad scanning Goose Island, shortly before we found a flock of nearby shorebirds.

At first it appeared the shorebirds were all black turnstones, a species I've seen a couple times this year, though it feels like more occasionally than usual. Without more turnstone encounters, I hadn't turned up their sometimes companion, the surfbird. Until now! Three surfbirds were in and among the turnstones, adding another year bird to the tally.

Black turnstone

Surfbird, photo year bird #136

Surfbirds and turnstones can be difficult to tell apart. Turnstones are darker with reddish legs, while surfbirds are grayer with yellow legs. In flight, their wing patterns are also distinct, with the turnstones (top and bottom) having the additional white striping compared to the surfbird (middle):

As much as it felt like spring this weekend, it's back to feeling like winter this week with chillier temperatures, lots of rain, and heavy winds. I thought it was March that was supposed to be in like a lion, out like a lamb? In any case, the taste of warmer, sunnier weather has me more than ready for more days outside with the camera again!

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