Frances Wood

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Harvey the hawk is one luck bird

Have you watched the YouTube videos of “Harvey,” the Cooper’s hawk that survived Hurricane Harvey? It’s a heartwarming story, beginning with a taxicab driver filming… Continue reading

 

Whidbey gulls flock during crab season

The minute crabbing season opens, I begin to notice our gulls. My husband and I spend more time at the beach untangling the crab pot… Continue reading

 

Springtime on Whidbey brings birdsong, familiar and unfamiliar

As I write this, a bird belts out a song outside my window. The rhythm sounds like; “I’m a SING-er, SING-er, SING-er,” at least, it… Continue reading

 

The American white pelican: species rare to Whidbey touches down at Deer Lagoon, Honeymoon Bay

A squadron of about 50 huge, white seabirds has been sighted flying over Whidbey. Observers, including serious birders, are scratching their heads. It’s the American white pelican that has put the birding community in a flutter. If you are familiar with their smaller cousin, the brown pelican, imagine an all-white bird with black feathers along the trailing edges of their wings and a large orange/yellow bill. White pelicans weigh in at around 20 pounds, twice the size of brown pelicans.

A South Whidbey avian love story: a pileated woodpecker on finds a mate

Two pileated woodpeckers have landed on separate branches in an old decaying alder tree in our ravine. They call to each other with long staccato tattoos, sometimes alternating, sometimes in duet. The male whacks its strong bill into dead wood and chips scatter. The female hitches up one trunk and flaps to another. Then one takes off, careens through the branches and loops across the lawn, before alighting on a different tree. The other follows.

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Wisdom: Still soaring after 60 years

Just as she has for over 60 years, she returned. Right on schedule!

Exciting summer gives way to interesting fall, winter | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Finally, I have time to write after a very busy summer seeking out, enjoying and monitoring birds. And spending time with family.

Birdhouses: Simple but difficult to get right, and sometimes home to surprises | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Last month my husband and I headed south on a camping trip down through Western Nevada, Southeastern California and into Arizona. We visited wildlife refuges and stopped to bird wherever we saw activity. One destination was Prescott, Ariz., and a highly recommended campground northwest of the town.

Mystery marsh birds herald arrival of springtime | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Earlier this month the South Whidbey Birding in Neighborhoods group (BINS) spent some time at the marsh off Ewing Road in the Maxwelton Valley. I’d forgotten how delightful March in a marsh could be.

Unusually warm winter a boon to avians too | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Aren’t these 60-degree February days amazing? As our weather warms, some of our feathered friends are beginning their spring breeding cycle. The resident Anna’s hummingbirds are some of the earliest of our nesting birds. I had several reports of these birds engaged in courtship behavior during our bright, snowy days last month. Resident juncos, chickadees, nuthatches and towhees will be following soon.

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Counting avian species both scientific, competitive

Counting and listing bird species is an integral part of bird watching, and I think it serves an important purpose. The Whidbey Audubon Society recently conducted two Christmas bird counts, one centered near Oak Harbor and the other on South Whidbey.

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Winter is a fabulous time for Whidbey birdwatching

Golly, it’s cold outside as I write this. My friend John asked the other day, “How do the hummingbirds manage? We keep our sugar water feeder thawed the best we can, but how do they survive these cold nights?”

Smart scrub, Steller’s jays are welcome visitors

The Whidbey Audubon Society rare bird report recently announced that a Western scrub jay had been observed near Clinton, not far from where I live. I’ve kept my bird feeders full and my eyes peeled, but haven’t yet seen this out-of-territory species. I’m watching for a sky blue bird with a grey back, no crest and pale underparts.

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Reeling in Whidbey’s loons

I recently caught my first salmon of the year. It was a beautiful 6-7 pound silver, which I landed from the beach on the west side of the island. A few years ago my birding buddy, Ann Casey, introduced my sister and me to casting from shore and since then we’ve enjoyed fishing together and reflecting on our childhood summers when we were beach rats at Clinton Beach. Back then we trolled in our dad’s boat with dodgers and herring or an assemblage of spinners called “popcorn.” Now we cast off the beach with a princess pink Buzz Bomb or a lime green rotator.

From soaring to fluttering, flight helps ID birds | WHIDBEY BIRDING

While having coffee with a friend recently, she suggested, “Why don’t you write about bird flight. I’d like to know what those birds are that make a wave pattern as they fly through my garden.”

Guillemot surveys are important reminders | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Summer time and the living is easy, well at least for us humans. It’s the most demanding month for our avian friends. Eggs have hatched, babies are begging for food and their predators are looking for their own dinner.

‘WISE MEN’ OF THE SKIES on the rise | WHIDBEY BIRDING

I’m getting reports of Nature Channel quality sightings of great blue herons at Greenbank farm. The farm’s executive director, Judy Feldman, recently emailed me, “Wow, the heron rookery just came alive! About 30 birds rose up like a plume of prehistoric smoke.” Later she reported seeing 50 of the herons. A heron colony thrives to the west of Highway 525 and the birds fly over the farm to stalk the beaches of Saratoga Passage for food. May and June are the most active months when eggs are hatching and young are being fed.

California quail: facing a purrrfect threat | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Each morning I look out the window and search for “our” California quails. Usually, two pairs strut out from hiding in a native hedgerow and peck at the birdseed my husband and I scatter for them.

Wild about woodpeckers | WHIDBEY BIRDING

A sharp pounding on the metal downspout outside my window practically rattles my teeth. It’s a northern flicker using this hollow sounding board to communicate with other flickers.

Brighten your day with a little luck | WHIDBEY BIRDING

In my last column I tossed out the invitation for readers to nominate favorite “good luck” birds. I was hoping for suggestions that raise our spirits, put a smile on our faces when we see or hear them and might even be a sighting so special it has turned us into a bird watcher.