Birding with Visitors

I spent much of the day birding with Bill and Eileen, birders from Australia who had a few hours in town off the cruise ship (who had contacted me some time back about going birding). I met them downtown this morning (Bill told me that they would be easy to recognize, as the only birders on the ship, no one else would have binoculars like they did – and as best I could tell, he was right). We took a leisurely walk around Totem Park before I picked up my car and took them by Swan Lake. From there we drove out the road (making a couple of stops) to Starrigavan and then I dropped them off at the Halibut Point Marine Services dock where the ship was tied up.

Weather today was mostly cloudy – there were spots of blue sky from time to time, but also periodic showers. Winds seemed calm at the park this morning, but there was a bit of a breeze blowing in this afternoon. I think in advance of the low pressure (some good wind and rain) forecast to be here tomorrow.

Although I did not see anything surprising for me, it was quite fun to share in their excitement at seeing completely new-to-them birds. It’s always good to have reminders that the birds it is so easy to take for granted here may be exotic for folks from other places (even when those places have a house/yard list of 217 species!). Highlights included American Dipper, Pelagic Cormorant, Lesser Scaup, Trumpeter Swan, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Loon, and Red-breasted Sapsucker, but in truth I enjoyed watching them burst with enthusiasm about pretty much everything we were seeing and hearing. They seemed especially impressed with the vocalizations of a couple of the ravens in the park, and I was amused at how often Bill asked me about something, only to have me tell him it was a Bald Eagle. By the fourth or fifth time, he caught himself as he was asking, realizing that it was once again a Bald Eagle. I am so used to the calls they make, I don’t know what else an eagle might sound like, but I imagine other eagles could sound quite different. (Bill and Eileen, if you happen to read this – I had fun showing around today, thank you for your friendly enthusiasm for the birds!)

Rowan told me today that she saw some ripe salmonberries. I’ve still not noticed any, but may go look for some specifically. This is by far the earliest I ever remember hearing of them being ripe.

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Summer in Spring

Although we’re still officially in spring for a while yet, today was the first day that felt more like summer. Temperatures got up into the mid-60s with clear skies. Even the sea breeze was not enough to make it feel chilly. The effect was enhanced with all the plants already fully leafed out.

I got a report of Pectoral Sandpipers at Swan Lake this morning, and since I had yet to be confident in seeing one this year (there was flyover that I think was a Pectoral Sandpiper a couple of days ago), I decided to take a break from the work I was doing and head down there. I saw 10 of them, and spent some time sitting on the lawn enjoying the sun and taking pictures as they foraged on the lawn at the peninsula. Just before I left, I saw a few downy ducklings swimming alongside their mother. Those are the first young I’ve seen this year (though I have seen other birds gathering food).

Connor was down at the park this morning and reported seeing a Lesser Yellowlegs. I seem to keep missing those, but wasn’t able to get down to the river mouth until this afternoon. On the walk down Rowan showed me a tree she had noticed that had grown around some line that someone had tied around it. The tree was doing its best to overcome the constriction, and I’m curious if it is possible for them to rejoin so the sap can run up and down and the tree can continue to grow. She also showed me a nest she noticed on her walk this morning. It appeared to be an old nest – perhaps used last year, though it was still very much intact.

At the river mouth I did not find a Lesser Yellowlegs, but there were at least 40 Pectoral Sandpipers, a flock of 15-20 dowitchers (which I think may have been mostly/all Long-billed Dowitchers), Dunlin, Western, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, as well as a couple of Semipalmated Plovers.

This evening there was ultimate up at Kreuger Field. I was interested to see a few noseeums out already. Fortunately they weren’t too bad, but it seems like usually they show up later in the season.

Tree Swallows are working on a nest in one of the nest boxes Connor hung on the deck. A couple of times today they gave me a little extra attention when I was out checking on plants.

(pictures to come)

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Swamped with Spring

School stuff wrapped up last week (with final grades due), but other work and various tasks on my TODO list are still leaving me feeling a bit swamped. It’s my intention to set some better routines around keeping up with day-to-day stuff, but sometimes that feels difficult when there are all the past-due things still hanging around waiting to be addressed. On the plus side, I took advantage of some less pleasant weather and made some significant progress on at least one of those lingering projects (reorganizing one of the rooms in my house).

It remains to be seen how much I remember about the past week or so by the time I get around to processing photos and posting weblogs (again – the lack of a daily routine here lets a lot of things fall through the cracks), so at the very least I’ll make some brief notes here. After a much warmer than usual winter and early spring, we were set back a bit by some cooler temperatures and a fall-like storm. Thursday through Saturday of last week saw over 3.5 inches of rain, with over 2″ falling on Friday. It was more of the steady all-day kind of rain, so the rivers rose significantly, but did not really flood. Temperatures were in the 40s (and earlier in the week, fresh snow was down on the Sisters).

Shorebird migration has continued to be slow. There was one morning with quite a few birds down at the park (Connor said), but there was not much down there by the time I made it. One evening I did see a Merlin go after a Rock Sandpiper, then a while later saw one (perhaps the same one?) actually catch a Black Turnstone. The turnstone was quite a burden, but the Merlin winged it back from the shoreline and disappeared into the forest (with an eagle giving a momentary pursuit).

As high pressure has moved in the last couple of days coinciding with a low tide series, we’ve had -3.5 tides the last couple of mornings. I haven’t been down at the beach at the lowest level, but did make a point of getting out to where I could see the flats as it was changing before I had to get on a call for work. I was interested to see a new main channel that wraps around the end of the trailer court fill towards the informal Eagle Way boat launch. I did walk the flats this morning before the low and saw 11 or more Semipalmated Plovers (a pretty good number for here) as well as a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and a few Whimbrel. The Whimbrel were up at mid-beach while I was out closer to the shore. I never noticed them fly off, but I did not see them again when I walked back up, and Connor didn’t find them later, so I’m not sure where they went. Also of interest to me was the various small flocks of shorebirds flying over the flats towards the Channel – I do not know where they were coming from, but I had not seen the out there on the beach as I was walking around.

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Spring Showers

Showers were on the weather menu today, some of the quite heavy. They got started last night with an especially heavy one around midnight. Most of them during the day were not too heavy, and between them the sun would often break out.

I did not spend too much outside today – having work to do (and feeling extra tired, though I’m not entirely sure why). I did notice a leaf hopper on a strawberry leaf. It’s one I’ve seen before (Idiocerus couleanus). I tried to take some pictures but am not yet sure if they turned out (if they did, they’ll appear with this post at some point). While I was trying to hold the leaf steady, it crawled up on my finger and then flew away.

It sounds like a pair of Merlins are getting ready to nest up in the vicinity of Thimbleberry Lake again this year (C.S. shared this observation – he had kept track of the last summer).

Connor said Semipalmated Plovers were down at the park this morning. Still a fairly slow year (again) for shorebirds. I’m not sure if it’s the warmer spring or lack of herring spawn along the road system.

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Elementary School Bioblitz

Today was the second 4th grade bioblitz. I was one of the content experts, leading five groups of 5-7 fourth graders for 45 minutes talking about plants (and other things). As was the case last year, it was an interesting experience. There was a wide range of prior knowledge, attention span, and interest in the subject matter. My station this year was along the Forest and Muskeg Trail where it goes through the woods and starts to transition to muskeg on the boat launch side. I found there was plenty to talk about for 45 minutes. There were a few things I talked about with each group (trees, in particular), but I think every group had some things that I only showed them. (This was partly based on what the kids were finding and asking me about.)

While the weather started with broken clouds, by lunch time it was overcast, and we had some showers by the last group. At the end of the long day, the showers didn’t seem to do much for the enthusiasm of some of the kids (though my last group still had a fair amount of energy).

One thing I noticed today that I don’t remember seeing before is a sort of leaf bundle on some blueberries. I suspect it’s from an insect, but am not sure. I collected some and hope to raise them up and see what emerges.

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Busy Week

This week promises to be busy – it’s finals week, so I’m trying to get work graded and back, plus write tests – the big flurry of activity before grades are due. As a result, I did not spend too much time outside today, and tomorrow looks like it will be similarly home-bound. Wednesday, I’ll be helping with the elementary school bioblitz day out at Starrigavan. Last year the weather was sunny and warm, but it’s not looking so promising for this year.

After class this morning I spent some time looking at gulls in the channel. There were quite a few out in the middle, including some that seemed to have extra dark wing tips. I wondered if they might be California Gulls, but it was difficult to tell (for me) from that distance. They could have been Herring Gulls. I did also notice some where I could see their tail feathers which still had black on them. In the past I’ve been fooled by sub-adult gulls that look mostly adult-like (especially from a distance when they are sitting on the water), but have very dark primary tips.

A few days ago I forgot to write about seeing a Rufous Hummingbird pick at the spiderwebs in the covered deck area. I couldn’t be 100% sure, but I think it was picking little insects (and maybe spiders) out of the webs. I suppose it also could have just been gathering web for nest building.

I recently also got a report of a junco nesting in an interesting place. It’s in a fairly well-traveled area and presumably curious folks could easily disturb it. I’ll see about sharing the photos after the nesting is done, as I think it’s pretty interesting.

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