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There was a nice morning walk with the dogs. I saw quite a few bird species – the most so far this spring. Here is the list:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Dusky Grouse
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Rufous Hummingbird
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Say’s Phoebe
Black-billed Magpie
Clark’s Nutcracker
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Pygmy Nuthatch
Western Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Spotted Towhee
Brewer’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Cassin’s Finch
Red Crossbill
American Goldfinch

Then a brief stop at a yard sale and a walk through Winthrop looking for images.

Vieques, like many other islands around the world, has been plagued by non-native animals introduced for one reason or another. The human population is less than 10,000 and the horse population is around 3,000. Many of these horses are feral and some are perhaps simply let out to graze til their owners decide they need them. More people appeared to ride horses than bikes. Chickens are everywhere. Their incessant crowing woke me up at night. Dogs and cats are allowed to roam and most do not appeared to be neutered. I was disappointed with the lack of birds – both in numbers of birds and diversity of species. It may be a slow time with many having migrated away for the ‘winter’ season however I was told that there are never a lot of birds, certainly nothing like Florida. Even sea birds which would presumably not be affected by the introduced species on the island, were few and far between. Frogs, toads and lizards were everywhere. At night the frog sounds provided a white noise for sleeping. I named one frog the marimba frog due to its call that sounded like marimba notes. Another tiny frog says its name ‘coqui’. We saw one bright green iguana on the west end of the island. These were introduced for a reason that I don’t know.

What happens when two birds of different species get together and make a nest? Hybridization. According to an article by Kim Romain-Bondi in North Central Washington Audubon Society’s newsletter, The Wild Phlox, “these two species are sympatric, meaning that during the evolution process, they became two new species while inhabiting the same geographic region. Generally speaking in Washington, the Red-breasted live on the west side, the Red-naped on the east side of the Cascades……. These two species of sapsuckers are known to hybridize in south-central Oregon, northeastern California, along the California-Nevada border, and in southern Nevada.”

Kim has located a nest near one of the trails on the grounds of the North Cascades Basecamp which she and her husband own. It includes a male Red-breasted Sapsucker and female Red-naped Sapsucker. I was lucky enough to have her show me the nest in a water birch tree. We observed both birds going to and from the nest, catching bugs and visiting sap wells before returning to feed young. On one departure I observed that the male was carrying a fecal sack. These birds like to keep their nest tidy.

Now I don’t do a lot of bird photography. I love to bird and I love to make images however it’s often challenging for me to both well. I lack the really long telephoto lenses to get the extreme sharp close-ups so my bird images are mostly for documenting a particularly striking or unusual bird or one that is otherwise noteworthy. I thought this situation was noteworthy and worth recording.

Red-naped Sapsucker female

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Red-breasted Sapsucker male

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The landing – feet first

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They always looked out of the cavity in all directions before exiting.

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Sapsuckers make ‘wells’ in trees to get to the sap. They are evenly spaced in neat rows and the birds return to them year after year. Hummingbirds will also sip from the sap wells. I saw a Black-chinned hummingbird at this tree.

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Yesterday, other birders observed that the birds were catching bugs; taking them to the sap wells and dipping the bugs before taking them to the youngsters in the nest. Sort of like coating cold cereal with sugar so the kids will eat it.

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Here is the female rocketing out of the hole.

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And here, the male is carrying a fecal sack away from the nest.

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And there he goes!

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Two birding posts in a row? I don’t think this is a serious trend.

This sweet Downy Woodpecker was very cooperative and allowed me to get close enough to make images of him with my small camera. He would get one sunflower seed at a time out of the feeder and then carefully wedge it into a crack in the snag, saving it for a future meal. The Hairy Woodpeckers do the same thing.

 

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Birding always brings something interesting. Sometimes when we go with expectations of seeing something in particular, our hopes are dashed when we miss it. But the search is always fun. Yesterday we went down to the Columbia River where it was warm and spring-like. Despite the warm temperature we did not see any swallows or bluebirds which have already made an appearance at my house. The water was calm and glassy giving us a beautiful background for the numerous waterfowl we observed. They are all in their spring plumage and the colors are brilliant in the strong sunshine – mallards, goldeneyes, canvasbacks and many more species were seen. We saw nests of Common Ravens and also Great-horned Owls. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were paired up and some were cavorting in flight! We heard the songs of a Bewick’s Wren and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Western Meadowlarks sang in several locations.

We did have a target bird yesterday – Northern Saw-whet Owls. People have observed as many as five of them in the state park and we even knew which campsites to search for them. Unfortunately the state park staff was engaged in clean up with noisy machines – leaf blowers and leaf vacuums. We picked the group site to begin our search, as far from the machines as we could get. Two big evergreens seemed like likely candidates to shelter these tiny owls. We found the white wash we were looking for and even found pellets but could not spot a small owl. We began to take apart the pellets (a pellet is the part of the meal that is undigestable and is regurgitated onto the ground, usually composed of bones and fur) to entertain ourselves, making a tidy display of teeny little bones on a board.

Having had enough of fur and bones, we moved on to the rest of the campground despite the machinery. After a while I tired of that but Juliet kept looking while I went to the riverbank to see what I could see. I caught up with her at the last area, nearest where we had left the car as she was searching intently high in a dense tree with her binoculars. She said, it has to be here; look at this big white wash! I stood there and looked straght up into the tree and what did I see? A bird butt! I moved around and sure enough, there it was, a tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl looking down at me.

 

Small mammal bones

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These bones are tiny. The jaw bone on the left is maybe half an inch long.

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Small but ferocious

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The owl was more interested in people farther away than us immediately under it.

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It wanted us to leave so it could go back to sleep.

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This is a Double-crested Cormorant skull, one of two that we saw on the riverbank.

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Today I skied from Brown’s Farm to Mazama, had lunch and skied back; a distance of about 20k. For me it’s a good sk;, for others it’s just an average day. It’s a mostly flat stretch of the Community Trail along the Methow River. Along the way I was able to see quite a few interesting birds – a Belted Kingfisher, American Dippers, a large (200 plus) flock of Common Redpolls, Ravens, Mallards, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, an unknown diving duck and a Northern Pygmy Owl. Soup at the Mazama store was Brazilian Black Bean served with avocado cream and salted baguette and quite satisfying. Temperatures were a little bit warmer, into the twenties today. Feels downright balmy after all the single digit days.

 

This dog is the official greeter at Brown’s Farm. I should know his name by now.

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A gray day seemed perfect for black and white

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The Methow River

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Soup and bread at the Mazama Store.

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I really, really need a longer lens for the little camera.

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As a birder, there are certain birds that really spark my imagination. Snowy Owl is one of those birds. This winter, like last year, there seems to be an ‘irruption’ of these charismatic birds. This means that a higher than usual amount of sightings are being reported around the Pacific NW as well as in other parts of the country. Snowy Owls nest in the far north tundra of Canada and Alaska. In a good year, when many young survive, there may not be enough food (voles, mice, lemmings, etc) for all of them to survive in the southern areas of Canada so they push farther south into the US. This year, the reports of these birds arriving in an emaciated state in locations that are sometimes not suitable habit, such as urban Seattle; indicates that many of the young birds may be starving. Wildlife rehabilitators all over Washington have been ‘rescuing’ Snowy Owls in hopes of building up there strength so they can be released again to more appropriate habitats. The good news is that some have already been returned to health and then released.

On Tuesday, driving down from the Rendezvous on a foggy, dark day, I was lucky enough to see a Snowy Owl with my friend Jennifer! It was a first for her and I was delighted to know it was out there. However, when I slowed the car it flew and disappeared into the the snowy sage-covered hills; very wary of anyone wanting to view it. To my eye, that’s a good sign that it is a healthy bird. The emaciated ones have allowed people to get very close to them because they could barely fly.

Yesterday more friends saw the owl and made some wonderful photos! Of course, I could not ignore this and had to try myself to get some images. Despite a head cold that knocked me for a loop yesterday, I ventured out, strengthened with cold meds. The bird was in the same general area and allowed me to park and get out of my car with my camera on a monopod! When it would turn its head away from me (often as much as 180 degrees), I’d advance a step or two. This continued for fifteen minutes or so til it (and then I) heard voices up the hill. There were some people on a walk, oblivious to the scene below. The bird became quite wary and flew off to another perch and then still another one. I decided it was time to leave the bird alone so it could enjoy the sunshine or hunt in peace and went on my way.

 

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It’s been a few weeks since I had a nice hike in the mountains. I had grand plans for a hike every week this summer and have fallen far short of that goal. Yesterday’s hike was a good one. With the passing of Labor Day and the start of school, it sems that summer is over. Nights are cooler and days are way shorter. The light is marvelous and the air is crisp making for perfect hiking conditions. Luna and I drove most of the way to Slate Peak and then took the Buckskin trail down into the basin below the lookout. We left the trail and rambled through the basin and then up to the ridge where we found the West Fork of the Pasayten trail and returned to the road and walked back to the car. It was not a long hike but it was long on views and surprisingly, quite a few flowers. There were also lots of migrating birds – in particular I noticed Cooper’s Hawks, American Pipits and White – crowned Sparrows. Also many finches in flight that I could not identify.

 

Almost to Mazama on highway 20 I saw this free range or feral piano, abandoned by the side of the road. There was a package of castors to replace the broken ones. I’ve seen bbq’s, out dated tv’s, couches, even old satellite dishes; but this is the first time of seen a piano on the side of a road.

 

Luna is wearing red because it’s hunting season and more than once I’ve benn told that she looks like a black bear.

 

This photo needs some arrows to show our route. Our trail drops down there in the shade on the bottom right of the image and then you can barely see it crossing the talus (rock) slope to the left before it drops down into the meadow. We crossed through the larch trees and on the other side of them left the trail to ramble up through the basin and to the ridge, where we joined the second trail and it took us to the road just below and to the left of the lookout on the high point.

Red leaves show that there’s already been a frost. It was 42 in the sunshine when we started our hike. I was glad I had a jacket and wool gloves.

 

Luna is already out on the trail.

 

In the meadow there were lots of flowers. Here is a paintbrush (Castilleja sp) with blue gentian in the background

 

I love the dark blue gentian, a late summer flower in the high country.

 

Looking back at the trail as we enter the trees.

There was a family of Cooper’s Hawks calling loudly and flying around in this area.

 

Moss shows that the area is still wet despite the fact that we’ve had no rain in a month or more.

 

I could not resist this tiny scene

 

How many months of lupine are there? Seems like I’ve been seeing it since April!

 

Pink monkeyflower and its shadows.

 

More paintbrush. I saw at least three different colors of it.

 

Someone’s burrow. It is pretty good sized. Maybe a marmot? I think they live in rocks. A wolverine?

 

Another view looking back. We’ve left the trail and are heading up now.

 

And looking down valley. Within a month all those larch (tamarack) trees will turn golden and their needles will begin to drop.

 

A much-needed rest in the shade.

 

Now we are higher than when we started.

 

My cell phone has a compass app. I wonder how it works even without a cell signal? Any ideas?

 

Looking north towards Canada. The stunted spruce and other species of trees at high elevations are sometimes referred to as krumholtz – crooked, bent or twisted

 

Luna was happy to find two lingering snow patches

 

And up to the road. It was almost a mile walk back to the car.

 

Views to the west from the road. That’s Mount Baker in the middle.

 

And a last view of the lookout

 

We stopped in a silver forest to look for birds. Mostly Yellow-rumped Wablers. Also a Townsend’s Solitaire.

 

An aster next to the creek.

 

Ahhhhhh.

 

 

I was up early and out on the wet hillside this morning, hoping to hear birds and try to figure out which ones were singing. It was a glorious morning after all the rain we’ve had this week. Rubber boots were the fashion statement of the morning. I meant to take the big camera but, somehow managed to leave it behind so once again, Instagram to the rescue. Really, I mean to get serious about photography again. Soon. Really.

 

That’s our nicest pine tree

 

The ground is starting to heal nicely after the April 17th brush fire

 

Sunrise!

 

I think these are Douglas sunflowers

 

I don’t think the pines down in the draw are going to survive

 

Here’s something new

 

Lots of chokecherry blossoms this year

 

Target practice?

 And birds. Here is the list of birds I was able to identify by sight or sound:

California Quail

Dusky Grouse

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Dove

Rufous Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Northern Flicker

Western Wood-Pewee

Willow Flycatcher

Say’s Phoebe

Warbling Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

House Wren

Western Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

American Robin

Gray Catbird

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Spotted Towhee

Western Tanager

Black-headed Grosbeak

Brewer’s Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Cassin’s Finch

Pine Siskin

We spent a day visiting Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Six Mile Cypress Preserve. Both places were full of wildlife and exotic (to us) plants and trees. They also feature boardwalks for safe and dry walking conditions. Also lots of good interpretive material to teach us about this exotic place. Much of Florida is developed for human habitation so these preserves represent small islands of what Florida used to be.

 A Red-shouldered Hawk, related to, but smaller than Red-tailed Hawk

We saw lots of kinds of turtles. I think these two are cooters

Watch out for this guy

Lunch?

Somehow the turtle escaped!

I think he was giving the wildlife watchers the evil eye because most of us were rooting for the turtle.

I need to find out the name of this snake. We saw several black racers but this one has a pattern on its face so it must be some other species.

Butterflies are so hard to photograph

I loved seeing the air plants and bromeliads in their native habitats!

Wood Stork

Green Heron

There were lots of kinds of fish. Some are introduced species, dumped out of people’s aquariums.

Another kind of turtle whose name escapes me. Ken will remember.

I think this one is a painted turtle like the ones that live here.

Lizards were always rustling in the brush. Also hard to photograph.

 

Little Blue Heron

Common Moorhen, similar to an American Coot

Yellow-crowned Nightheron

Small alligator, less than three feet long.

The egret in front was chased all over this pond by the other egret and a heron. We couldn’t figure out why its presence was not appreciated.

Glossy Ibis, very similar to White-faced Ibis

Coming in for a landing

Anhinga

The Anhinga uses its tail as a rudder underwater

White Ibis

Anhinga and turtle in the late afternoon sun

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