Whitaker Ponds Nature Park

One of my favorite parks is Whitaker Ponds Nature Park. Ever since my first time there I knew it was a special place. It’s a small (but productive) park at 24 acres with a 1/2-mile flat loop trail. Completely surrounded by urban land, it is a mini-oasis for birds.

And for myself. Here I saw my first Common Merganser, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Great Egret, and Anna’s Hummingbird. And later in the summer my first Western Tanager and Warbling Vireo. And I’ve once seen a family of river otters in the pond.

Needless to say, I’m sentimental about the place.

In the past year, it’s gone through some changes. Where there once was a gorgeous willow tree and field now is a parking lot. I’m kicking myself for not taking more “before” photos, but I hadn’t known about the project until after it was gone. Danger Garden took one of the best photos of that willow tree I could find on the internet. Here’s a couple I took of the progress.

Of course there’s pros and cons, there’s better parking, which will make people feel more comfortable visiting, and hopefully then more people will care about the park. There’s still a problem of transients living and littering in certain forested areas, but in general it’s getting better.

Better?

I’ve recently started following the Columbia Slough Watershed Council on Instagram, they’ve organized and implemented a ton of restoration work on the park. They also provide updates on water levels and beaver activities. (thanks for keeping the beavers, birds, and me happy!)

I’ve seen 87 species at Whitaker Ponds (it even gave me 40 species in my 5-mile radius). Most recent additions were a Hermit Thrush that surprised me before bulleting away as quick as it could.

A Glaucous-winged Gull flyover (no photos), and a female Barrow’s Goldeneye (more yellow on that bill).

Compared to the female Common Goldeneye below (more black bill with yellow tip) and male (right), also hanging in the slough.

While observing the goldeneyes I heard an enticing “zu-wee, zu-wee, zu-wee” and I turned around to the best looks ever of a Hutton’s Vireo.

Thicker bill than Ruby-crowned Kinglet and gray feet (vs. yellow on RCKI).

There were two singing back and forth. Along with endless Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Townsend’s Warblers.

Also on this trip I saw the reliable Black Phoebe.

And I got a quick glimpse of a Spotted Sandpiper.

Just before I spooked a Cooper’s Hawk.

This park is full of surprises. Even sneaky Great Horned Owls.

I wish I could visit every day. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from my house and now that the construction’s completed really I have no excuse. I’ll make a point to visit more often and make it a goal to find more species. I was going to say 100 (since I’m at 87), but that might be a stretch since the top eBirder at the park (Nick Mrvelj) has 97. But we’ll see!

Cheers to local patches!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Bike Touring Shaw Island

After the nice camping and amazing baked goods, but basically birding-bust on Orcas Island, I was determined to find every bird on Shaw Island. With a land area less than 8 square miles I had high hopes.

Domestic crossing

Shaw Island is the smallest island served by the ferries. It has no restaurants, one general store, and a year-round population of 240 people. And Shaw County Park, the only public campground, is just under 2 miles from the ferry dock.

Bike touring is so easy.

Shaw Co Park

Camp

After setting up camp, Tomas hammocked while I biked and birded along the few roads on the island.

It went okay. I found gulls.

Mew Gull

Mew Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull

A few other birds.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

And I met a new crow, the Northwestern Crow.

Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crows average ever so smaller than American Crows and they have a lower, hoarser, and more rapid call. They are best distinguished by range (beaches, shorelines, coniferous forests from Kodiak Island, Alaska to Puget Sound, Washington). But the catch? They “may be only a subspecies of the American Crow.” In hindsight I wish I’d recorded their calls.

Other birds I found included Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Spotted Towhee, American Goldfinch, Red Crossbill.

All pretty familiar birds. Where were the Parasitic Jaegers? I had hoped we’d spend more time on the water, kayaking and finding rarities, but the timing and weather didn’t cooperate this time.

The Domestic Swan Geese on the other hand, were very cooperative.

Domestic Goose Crossing

Domestic Goose

The best surprise on this island came during the middle of the night.

I didn’t see the owl, but while in the tent trying to sleep, I heard high accelerating toots of a Western Screech Owl! It was even harder to get to sleep after that.

The next morning we packed up to head back to Anacortes. More rain was in the forecast, so we decided to end the trip on a sunny note.

Now boarding

I’m glad we did because the last ferry ride back to Anacortes was fantastic.

Puget Sound

It even included an Orca pod escort back to the mainland.

Orcas

I’m grateful for our time on the islands. In total it was 8 days, 4 islands, 5 ferries, and 125 bike miles. Lopez was my favorite for birds and biking. San Juan was the best for whales. Orcas had great hiker-biker sites and Shaw had the owl.

And I couldn’t ask for a better riding partner.

Tomas and me

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Crescent City. Redwoods. Birthday Birds Part I

The redwood forests are my favorite. There’s nothing like giant, 2000 yr old trees to make a person feel small and young. An appropriate destination to celebrate another revolution around the sun, see some birds, and hug some trees. I drove down to Crescent City, California, to first visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Redwoods

Boy Scout Tree Trail

Redwoods

Magic fairly land

Skyscrapers

The original skyscrapers

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

Boy Scout Tree, maple leaf for scale

The park is gorgeous, surreal, and amazing. And quiet this day for birds aside from the occasional squawking Common Raven or twittering Pacific Wren.

I didn't step on this Rough-skinned Newt

I did not step on this Rough-skinned Newt.

 

From the forest to the sea. The next day, I checked out Crescent City’s coastline. The quiet seaside town has a few good birding spots. I had the best luck at the Crescent City Harbor.

Crescent City Harbor

Marbled Godwit! What a stunner.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

It would be fun to check out Godwit Days in Arcata next year.

Less stunning perhaps, but still cool, (especially in flight), were the Black Turnstones.

Black Turnstone

I also found Black-bellied Plovers (with deceptive “not black belllies,” their non-breeding plumage).

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

I spotted a Sanderling in the mix of Black-bellied Plovers.

Sanderling

Too cute.

Sanderling

There were way more Sanderlings on the beach moments before something spooked them.

Sanderlings, plovers, gulls

Not guilty.

Sanderlings, plovers

Certainly elegant were the Elegant Terns.

Elegant Tern

I find the shape of their curves pleasant and I think they pull off the spikey feathered head look pretty well.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

I did my best identifying the gulls.

I watched Brown Pelicans bathe in the bay.

Brown Pelican

While Black Oystercatchers scouted the shore.

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

A variety of birds were visible in the distance from the dock at Lighthouse and Anchor Way:

Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loons

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann's Gulls

Double-crested Cormorant, Heermann’s Gulls

Harbor cats.

Harbor Cats

Harbor cats

And Harbor Seals with faces I’m programmed to love.

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

It was pretty thrilling to explore a new place surrounded by so many new-to-me birds. I think I need more of that in my life.

Sunset at Castle Rock

Next day, back to the forest!

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey