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Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Whale and Bird Filled Weekend

Although the weather still won't quite commit to summer, the wildlife-watching has been fantastic on San Juan Island and is very much starting to reflect the changing seasons. The excitement for me this weekend started on Friday afternoon when the T101 group of transient orcas passed by Lime Kiln. While it's becoming more common to see transients from shore from San Juan, it's still not too common to see them this close off the west side!

Male transient orca T102 - born the same year as me!
The T101s are an impressive group because it's a female and her three adult sons. Often you'll only see one or maybe two males that stick together in one family unit. I hadn't personally seen these guys in 8 years, so it was neat to see them again!

T101A and T101B

J-Pod had been up north since they came through on Sunday May 7th, and it was very nice of them to wait until Saturday morning to come back south. It was also nice to get a break in the rainy morning weather to see them! They were very spread out both east-west and north-south across Haro Strait, so we only got good looks at about half of them from Lime Kiln, but we weren't complaining!

J16 Slick

The whales were "all mixed up" too, meaning they weren't in their family groups, so IDs were a little more challenging! The J16 family group was split up near the lead, in the middle, and at the end!

J36 Alki and her son J52 Sonic

We've had so much bird activity in the yard it's been possible to just hang out outside and turn up 20 species over the course of half an hour. One of the dramas that's been unfolding this spring is use of our nest boxes, including following a male house wren has he started building a nest alone, attracted a mate, and then defended his home from some violet-green swallows who were interested in taking over!

A male house wren begins to build a nest, persisting to place these seemingly too large twigs into the hole

The singing pays off! The male keeps close watch on a female as she adds softer materials to the nest he's started
Fight! The male wren defends the nest box against a pair of violet-green swallows that are interested in moving in
One reason I went outside Saturday evening was to check up on the wrens, as the nest box has seemed very quiet since the swallow incident, although we did see the wrens continuing to build up the nest later that day after the swallows had left. I'm hoping they've just gone more into stealth mode, perhaps as the female is incubating eggs, because we haven't noticed them entering or exiting the nest box in a few days, although we did hear the male signing yesterday.

While there wasn't much happening near the nest box (though I did observe a quiet chickadee enter to feed some begging chicks in the neighboring box), there were plenty of other birds to observe in the yard last night! Here are just a few of the things I saw:

Warbling vireo - new yard species and photo year bird #158
Bewick's wren singing his little heart out
Hairy woodpecker on the suet feeder
Rufous hummingbird on the lookout to defend "his" feeder
Yesterday afternoon J-Pod seemed indecisive about heading west, as we could still see them milling out near Discovery Island from Lime Kiln, but head west they finally did, so without any whales in the area this morning we again turned our attention to birds, and we found more than 35 species on a walk at Three Meadows Marsh. Included in the list were 4 more photo year birds, three of which I had been hearing in the last week or two but hadn't seen or had an opportunity to photograph.

Common yellowthroat - photo year bird #159
Yellow warbler - photo year bird #160
The other odd sight was this barn swallow that was trailing something behind it. At first I thought it was a plastic bag, but it seemed rather to be something fabric-like, with a string tied around the bird's tail or body. It seemed to be flying pretty well, though was laboring a bit more than the other birds. Hopefully it finds a way to free itself!

1 comment:

Vera said...

Poor swallow! I really enjoyed the post, as usual. I'm so happy that you are seeing so many birds and whales. Living the good life, eh?