Late Fall Birds

Variable cloudiness throughout the day, starting mostly clear, but becoming more cloudy through the morning, and clearing a bit later in the afternoon.

Frost covered the surface of the car when I headed out. I did not see any ice on the water in buckets around my yard. I did notice some ice on puddles along old airport road when I went there.

I headed to the airport to check out a Rusty Blackbird and cross fingers for a Short-eared Owl.

I spent a couple of hours walking around the area. I didn’t see the blackbird until later, and only at a distance.

There were two robins that seemed to be hanging together. One of the had a large deformity/growth on its chest. I learned that it might be a feather cyst (which I had never heard of before). They are basically ingrown feathers.

I was surprised to see an American Coot on the lagoon.

A sharp looking White-throated Sparrow has been hanging around Lazaria Drive, and I got some pictures of it while I was there.

I headed home but just after arriving got a message about a cormorant that had an extra pale bill in channel.

I didn’t see the cormorant, but did see three Lapland Longspurs fly in to the ball field. It’s definitely on the late side for them, though I have seen them in November a couple of times before.

After a drive out the road, I got a message from Lucy P. that was a forward of a second report of a Snowy Owl at the float plane dock in the channel.

I was in the area, so checked it out. The Snowy Owl (#176) was standing on the talk with some other stuff, but plainly visible from where I was looking by the windsock on the Japonski Island side.

I spent the rest of my afternoon watching it.

It was too far away for me to notice at first, but a partially eaten gull lay on the dock near it. Connor was later able to look at it more closely and said it had no head and much of the body eaten, though not the breast.

After seeing it from the Japonski Island side, I decided to see if I could find a closer vantage point from the other side.

Several folks had gone down the ramp to the float plane dock, but the owl was tucked in behind a utility meter post, an action packer, and some hose, so it was not fully visible.

This may be part of the reason the corvids did not seem to be mobbing it. Every so often a crow or raven appeared to notice. After cawing a bit they each left.

I decided to ask at North Pacific Seafoods if it would be possible to go out on their dock, where there was a walkway that would offer a reasonably unobstructed view.

The person I asked instead took me further down the road. We ended up at a place where the owl was visible through a gap between the piling and action packer.

With an assist from another bird watcher, I ended up in a canoe and paddled out for a better look and some photos.

Not long after I returned to shore it stepped out a bit more into the open. Some corvids started paying it more attention then.

It flew to the backside of a building adjacent to the seafood plant, but flushed again when someone stepped out of the side of the next door building.

Only one corvid gave chase on the flight across the channel. The owl perched under a tree near the Coast Guard dock.

Back on Japonski Island, the owl was easily viewable from the sidewalk along the road heading to UAS. I was the first human on the scene, but the crows and ravens were already mobbing it. Over the next 90 minutes before sunset, the mobbing corvids apparently tired of the effort and gave up only to return again later two times.

The owl did look up at them in the tree above a couple of times, but otherwise seemed unconcerned.

With the convenient viewing location, and many folks going by while out and about for their own reasons, many folks got to see it. The owl appeared comfortable with those of us watching from the distance we were.

At one point a couple of people were walking a dog closer to the shoreline and were unaware of the owl. The owl was not unaware of them and started to look a little uncomfortable. I called out to let them know about the owl, an they stopped their approach, came over where we were and took a look. The owl relaxed again when they had departed.

I saw the faces of several people as they drove by slowly trying to figure out what the group of folks on the sidewalk beside the road were looking at. When they saw the owl, their eyes tended to get big and they made a sort of ‘wow!’ face.

By the time I finally pulled myself away, the sun was setting and I was feeling cold. Getting out of the canoe, my feet get wet and that plus a chilly breeze weren’t helping.

Snowy Owls are clearly one of the more charismatic bird species. They certainly get attention from many more folks than even the very unusual sparrows or other little brown birds that I get excited to see.

When I checked the porch tonight, I saw a winter moth (Operophtera occidentalis). It’s the first I’ve seen this fall, and the last species I expect to see flying until next year (though sometimes if there’s an especially warm bit of weather, overwintering adults will fly and show up).

My iNaturalist Observations for Today

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