Early October Fall Birds and Bears

Convective showers moving through with sun in between. Temperatures distinctly cooler. Snow down to around 2000 feet overnight.

I heard geese flying over late last night shortly before going to bed.

Late this morning I went for a walk along old airport road with KL. It was quiet on our way out. On the way back, there were a couple of Song Sparrows alarming, as well as a junco.

One Song Sparrow was alarming from the bushes between the ditch and the road, and the other from the alders by the berm. These caught my attention at first, as they were more obvious and closer. It’s always tempting to assume I’m the reason for a bird alarm, but unless I’ve been pishing or wandering near a nest, I don’t think I generally cause much of a vocal alarm, and certainly not for more than one bird.

The alarms continued, and I shifted my attention to the junco. It seemed to be moving about a spruce that was a bit further back from the berm. It had a dense growth of branches, so I couldn’t see into it, but my impression was the junco was focused on something in the tree.

I decided to push through the brush to check out the spruce from below. I still couldn’t see far up through the branches, but noticed a spot where I might have a better view from a thin spot in the brush.

From there I looked up and saw a pair of yellow eyes with large black pupils looking intently at me. A Western Screech Owl.

I called to KL who also came back to take a look. The birds continued to alarm even as we left. In addition to the original three, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Pacific Wren also joined.

Although I had heard a screech owl earlier this year, this was the first I was able to photograph. This brings me down to four species I’ve observed this year but not (yet) photographed.

We walked over to Charcoal Island with intentions of making it over to look into mermaid cove (between Alice Island and the runway). However, by the time we checked for fungi near the wastewater treatment plant, a strong rain shower had started and we headed back to the car.

The shower ended by the time we had made the short drive over to look at the channel.

There were many hundreds of gulls, and a fair number of Fork-tailed Storm-petrels.

Among the gulls was a darker one that I think may be the same one I saw yesterday from ANB harbor.

Mostly the storm-petrels stayed out in the channel, but occasionally they flew closer to shore. I spent some time trying to get photos with mixed success.

At first I failed to notice the dead one laying on the ramp near where I was standing.

I could see there were many more storm-petrels over by Eliason Harbor, so suggested we go over there to look. Indeed, there were nearly 50 right along the outer float, and perhaps that many more scattered out towards the breakwater.

I took more photos. The birds were more consistently close, but the direction of the light was not as good as it had been from the ramp.

While eating on the deck at the Beak, I noticed some birds over at Castle Hill. After eating, I was able to get pictures of an Orange-crowned Warbler or two. For a time, one disappeared between the buttercup leaves as it foraged on the ground. I’ve previously seen them on the ground, but it was later in the fall after leaves were down.

We drove out to Starrigavan parked along the road on the far side. A falcon flew across right in front just after we stopped. We found it perched in a tree looking out over the bay side beach. It moved its head up and down repeatedly as it watched. Before long, it flew out and went after Black Turnstones (unsuccessfully, as far as I could tell). It seemed paler than most I see, so I wonder if it might be of the taiga subspecies.

Far out on the bay, I saw two Red-necked Grebes (#168).

Coming back down Nelson Logging road there was a bear walking along the river not far below the footbridge. I hopped out of the car to try for a better look (the bear was on the far side of the river).

After KL pulled up to where I ended up and stopped, she mentioned seeing a second bear in the estuary grasses. Sure enough, just the top of its head and ears were visible except when it lifted its head up a bit.

The bear along the river turned up and went into the grasses. It started to approach where the other one was, but clearly was not fully aware that there was a second bear.

It paused and started sniffing the air.

For its part, the bear laying down also seemed unaware of having company nearby, however it must have caught a scent of something. It also put its nose up in the air and started sniffing.

This second bear was facing away from the one that had been along the river. It smelled enough to prompt it to raise up a bit more for a bit of a look. This brought it up high enough for the first bear to see it.

The first bear’s reaction was enough to catch the attention of the second bear, and they both bounded away from each other a few paces. I think they were each surprised/startled a bit. However, they did not seem to ultimately consider each other any sort of threat, and so after the hasty, but short, retreat, they ambled on their respective ways.

Upon arriving at home, I found a message from Connor about golden-plovers at park this morning. I had not seen golden-plovers at all so far this year, so headed down there just in case they might still be around.

I was able to refind them near the river mouth. It’s likely at least one is a Pacific Golden-Plover (#169). The other seemed like it had a smaller head. It might still be a Pacific Golden-Plover, but I’ll probably check with more experienced folks to just in case it might be an American Golden-Plover. The one with the slightly larger head also had a growth on one leg (perhaps avian pox?), which made it easy to recognize.

I watched as one worked on a sculpin it had caught. It battered it a bit, poked at it a few times, then walked away. I went and took a closer look at the sculpin. It was stiff, but other than some frayed fins, did not look like it had much external damage. Uncertain whether it was alive or not, I put it in a shallow pool, where it immediately relaxed, but did not try to swim.

While at the park, I did see a Fork-tailed Storm-petrel flying right along shore. There were lots of gulls, many of them Short-billed Gulls. There seemed to be good numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes, but I didn’t try to count them.

Walking back along the as the sun was near setting, I saw Varied Thrushes and at least one robin and Hermit Thrush.

Pausing to take in the sunset view out towards middle channel, I saw a brief interaction between a Raven and Merlin. The Raven gave chase and mobbed at it before they parted ways.

I stopped to check out a large mushroom in front of the Youth Advocates building. I think it may be an Amanita pachycolea.

I ended up with over 1200 photos from today. With darkness arriving earlier this time of year, I had time to make it through an initial culling this evening.

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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