Friday, July 31, 2015

Where in the World

Lets see if you can figure out where I was.

I went back to my home state last week for a family reunion.  We converged on the family's historical summer hangout.

This lighthouse appears on the state's license plate.  The area marked off by posts and rope is for a Piping Plover breeding site.  A biologist watching the birds told me there are 92 breeding pairs left along this state's many barrier island beaches.  My routine on this trip (and as a kid) was to get up early in the  morning and head to the beach for a refreshing dip in the 72ish degree water.  I then walked up to the south jetty to see what birds I could find.  Great Black-backed Gulls on the beach always seemed to be right on the edge of the protected area. If one got too close, a parent Piping Plover would come over and stand next to the gull.  The young Piping Plover face many dangers, gulls, foxes, mink, raccoon all are in area.

Adult Piping Plover.  In their rather worn plumage I could not tell male from female.  The biologist knew by the colored leg bands.  They thought the male had left the area, I found him still on the site.  That was great news to the folks watching them, I can't recall if this was the male or not.  I think it was the female.

One of the three Piping Plover chicks on beach.

Laughing Gull.

Ruddy Turnstone were easy to find.

A flock of about 6 American Oystercatchers were on the beach.

I could not tell if this was a juvenile Forster's Tern or Common Tern.  The dark carpal bar, look of an all dark cap, and dark wings had me go with Common.

A variety of hudsonia, they bloom yellow earlier in the year.

This Willet was silent, so I could not determine if it was a Western Willet for sure or not.  It looked large, long billed and slender.

Least Sandpiper

The next twelve photos are all of Semipalmated Sandpipers, a very common bird this past week for me. However a hard bird to study on the west coast.

Least in the background.

On my last day of the trip I visited the second most famous birding area in the state.  My favorite birding spot of all time.  Below is a photo of the  loop road and one of its iconic towers.  It is wise to stay near your car on this loop , the Greenhead Flies are just plain nasty and I swear it feels as if they take chunks of skin when they bite.

When I was a kid, this city across the bay was a bit rundown and best known for it's streets being used in a board game. For the last few decades gambling has brought in big hotels and not much else to this coastal city. 

This Willet seems to have the shorter bill more common to the Eastern Willet.

Lots of terns to study. Most are Forster's.

This one flew when I got out of the car to get a closer look, Gull-billed Tern.

Hibiscus in the background, Glossy Ibis in the middle.

Osprey are doing well here,  I did not count the number of nests I saw and successful young birds being raised , but I would guess I saw more than 20 Osprey.

Fiddler Crab.

Family of Clapper Rail, gray edges of brown back feathers.

Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls chilling on the mud flats.

So what two spots did I visit?  Thanks for visiting !

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Westport Pelagic 7/18/15

I ventured northwest out of Portland again to Westport, WA. to participate in another Westport Seabirds trip.  We went about 39 miles offshore west of Westport.   I was and always am hoping for something rare to pop up, while nothing mega rare was found, I did have fun getting to study Sooty Shearwater and the other local birds.  I always try to take full advantage of these trips and study each bird I can carefully.  Why is every Pink-footed Shearwater a Pink-footed, while I watch a bird, I go through the process of eliminating the other more rare birds.

While the winds stayed light, the seas were still rocking from the hard NW winds that blew during the week.  The boat crashed over a few, but the skipper did a great job in keeping us all dry.

A highlight was seeing a number of South Polar Skuas.  I mentioned to a guide that if I was to draw a comic strip and had a skua in it, it would ride a Harley..without a helmet.  The guide, Mike, mentioned a Scottish proverb he read in a field guide once about skuas..something like  "when God gave humans the role of ruler of the animal kingdom the skuas lived too far away to ever get the news".  Something like that, in any case, they are hard not to admire.

The skua is in the back.  Those are Pink-footed Shearwater in front for a size comparison.

Close up.  I think the pale brown plumage and the gray in the bill means this is hatch-year bird? I do not see the golden-brown hackles.

Same bird after it launched into the air.  I think that is shadow, not the gold hackles.

Hatch-year skuas  start a primary  molt about this time of year.  It occurs distally, from the inner primaries to the outer, starting in about July and lasting out until January (if I am reading Pyle correctly).  I think this bird shows just that, there is an obvious gap where P1 and P2 should be and maybe a few secondaries as well?  Love to know if I am seeing this correctly.  I think older birds start primary molt earlier and thus the P1 and P2 should be grown in by now.  But molt is complex and other factors in the bird's life can impact the timing of the molts.  Would love to know if I am on the right track here.

I lightened up one of the photos to show pattern on back better.

Another close up we got was of the Black-legged Kittiwake.

It was going through some primary molt as well.

You can see the new feather growing in here.

As you can see there were some nice swells rolling by, The Northern Fur Seal watching us go by is obvious.

Close up of a female Northern Fur Seal, note the ears.  It swam under our boat, I would guess it was three feet or so long, maybe a tad larger.  Females when fully grown are about five feet long.  If they have pups, they should be up north closer to the breeding grounds.  Maybe she is one or two years old and did not breed this year?   Need an expert opinion.

Ten Humpback Whales were spotted.  Their dorsal fins can vary in shape and size. Often the fins sit on a bump on the back.

You will just need to trust me that those are Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

And a few of the usual suspects.

A fun trip. Thanks to the Monte Carlo , her crew, and the spotters.

Thanks for visiting.