I made a trip out to Starrigavan late this morning in hopes of getting some decent photos of the Black Oystercatchers that have been out there recently. There were not many people there when I showed up, but by the time I left a little over an hour later, there were quite a few more folks around. Later in the day, I went to Marge and Tedin’s place to see if I could get a photograph of a Hoary Redpoll. Marge told me they have been seeing some in with the Common Redpolls around there yard.
Weather: Temperatures were cool, but not overly cold. It was around freezing when I went out to Starrigavan and was up in the upper 30s later in the day. Although the forecast was for mostly cloudy, it ended up being partly cloudy with the sun shining for much of the day. The sun is starting to get high enough that it shines on the beach in Starrigavan, though it does not appear to hit the estuary flats yet. Winds were pretty calm throughout the day.
Birds: When I first got out to Starrigavan, I spent some time talking with some folks who were watching and photographing the Trumpeter Swans. After they left, I took some pictures of the swans. They were working their wings from time to time, with one of the juveniles occasionally flapping across the estuary like it was trying to take off, but then stopping before really getting airborne. A little later I talked with a friend who mentioned seeing a dozen or so swans up in Fish Bay somewhat recently.
In addition to the Swans, there were many Mallards, quite a few Ravens, and some gulls that were taking advantage of the feed that people have been leaving for the birds. In amongst the mallards was a female Northern Pintail. I suspect it is the one I saw at Swan Lake earlier in the week. There may have also been some Green-winged Teal, but I’m not positive about that, as I never did get a very good look.
After watching the swans in the estuary, I moved over to the other side of the road to look for the Black Oystercatchers. There were several of the scattered around and I decided to walk over to where they were. Along the way, there were several Surf Scoters and Barrow’s Goldeneye feeding quite near the shore. I thought I might be able to get fairly close to them for some photos by walking in the woods and crawling out on the shore. However, the scoters started swimming away before I even had a chance to get down the steps off the road and into the woods. The goldeneye were less wary, but I decided to keep on toward the oystercatchers.
Black Oystercatchers are fairly wary birds, so I tried to keep a rock outcrop between myself and them, in hopes that they would not fly off. This strategy seemed pretty effective until a small group of Mallards between me and the oystercatchers all took off suddenly (probably because of my approach). This was enough to get all but one of the oystercatchers to fly out to a rock that was just a little bit off shore. They did not go far, but it was far enough that I couldn’t really get good photos. The one that remained was too nervous to stay for long by itself, and it joined the others shortly.
The light was nice, and I thought it would be worth waiting to see if the oystercatchers might come back, so I took a seat against the rock outcrop I had originally used to cover my approach. As I sat there, I was able to watch a Black Turnstone feed along the shore near where the oystercatchers had been. As I shifted around to get comfortable, it flew off to join another one that had flown with the oystercatchers. The calls and flight of the second Black Turnstone seemed to be enough to make another sandpiper from further up the beach fly off as well. I only got a brief glimpse of it as it was flying, but it seemed pretty clear that it was a sandpiper, not a turnstone or Surfbird. Sandpipers are generally only seen here on migration, so I watched to see where it landed so I could look for it later.
Not too long after I started sitting, the oystercatchers that had flown to the off-shore rock flew across the bay to feed on gravel bars near the road. I continued to sit for a half an hour or so, but the oystercatchers never did come back during that time. While I was sitting, a young Goldeneye swam back and forth near the shore. It seemed a little concerned about me, as whenever I moved a little bit, it would swim down out of sight a little ways. Eventually it came back, and as long as I didn’t move it continued on its patrol.
As it neared time for me to go, I decided to give up on the oystercatchers and look for the sandpiper. I was able to find it, and as best I can tell, it was a Dunlin. Although Dunlin are fairly common here during spring migration, they are very rare during the winter.
In addition to the birds mentioned so far, out on the bay I noticed a couple of male Hooded Mergansers, a couple of Loons, a pair of Marbled Murrelets, and some scaups.
My afternoon trip to Marge and Tedin’s yard in search of Hoary Redpolls, did not meet with success where Hoary Redpolls were concerned. However, I did get a chance to watch Pine Siskins up close, and that was pretty interesting. There were many Pine Siskins and redpolls about, but the Pine Siskins seemed most tolerant of my presence. There were a couple of Common Redpolls that were willing to brave my presence and the aggression of the siskins to approach the feeder I was near. Among birds that had noticable yellow (the males), there was one or two that had a lot of yellow in its feathers. They were all pretty aggressive toward each other as they were actively feeding.
There were also several Dark-eyed Juncos and Chestnut-backed Chickadees feeding around the yard.
On my drive home, I went over to the ramp on Japonski. I saw Long-tailed Ducks out in the middle of the channel. Four Pacific Loons were swimming and diving as they generally made their way north through the channel. There were several scaup around as well.