- Green Editions
- Home Delivery
- About Us
- Sign In
Have you watched the YouTube videos of “Harvey,” the Cooper’s hawk that…
The minute crabbing season opens, I begin to notice our gulls. My…
As I write this, a bird belts out a song outside my…
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.
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.
Just as she has for over 60 years, she returned. Right on schedule!
Finally, I have time to write after a very busy summer seeking out, enjoying and monitoring birds. And spending time with family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My husband and I recently returned from a month of birding in and around the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s in a high, dry valley in South Central Mexico where the native habitat is described as thorn scrub. One of the most common little flycatchers is also a brilliantly colored bird, the aptly named vermilion flycatcher.
January’s a good time to watch for that other winter raptor, the one that is smaller and browner than the familiar bald eagle. I’m sure you know its name, but can you identify the red-tailed hawk? Especially when it doesn’t have a red tail?
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”
Thick fog, like we’ve recently experienced, puts a real damper on birding. The birds hunker down and avoid flying, making them hard to see. Plus the dampness tends to keep me inside. So when the sun finally broke through around three o’clock a couple weeks ago, I grabbed a fleece jacket and set out for a walk. Within a half-mile I was engulfed in fog. A gray blanket settled around me, colors muted and the Clinton ferry horns sounded. Although I couldn’t see to the treetops and felt cocooned in stillness, I began to notice birds calling.
Note to readers: With this column I begin a collaboration with one of Whidbey Island’s best bird photographers, Craig Johnson. Please let us know what you think of the results. A couple weeks ago I returned from the East coast and awakened very early, a result of jet lag. I pulled on a warm robe and stepped outside in the dark and listened. Through the still air I heard a Great Horned Owl calling, hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo, hooo sometimes interpreted as “Who’s awake, me too.”
Recently a five-year-old friend asked me, “What’s the biggest bird?” and I was reminded of our fascination with the biggest. To him biggest equated to best.
Last month I had the opportunity to visit family in New York. On the day of my return flight, the morning news announced that New York’s already extensive curbside recycle program would soon expand to accept some previously excluded items like shampoo bottles and other difficult-to-recycle plastics. I rejoiced along with local newscasters who praised the city for broadening its commitment to recycling.
A pair of spunky brown Bewick’s wrens is building a nest just outside our front door. Quietly and furtively they sneak through the low shrubs near the side of our house, beaks stuffed with dry grass, and disappear into their dwelling, a plain wooden birdhouse about 4 feet off the porch.
Recently, while waiting for the Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle in the tall, glass-walled section of the airport terminal near baggage claim, I noticed a woven wire enclosure tucked behind the large display of granite boulders.
Most February mornings I begin my cup of coffee before dawn, when the sky offers only a soft whisper of morning light.
Some call him Harvey, others prefer the more exotic Da Vinci, but we’re not even sure it’s a “he.”
November has arrived and so have the hundreds of ducks, geese and seabirds that winter in the waters around our island.
Looking for good bird watching with pie or a glass of wine awaiting you when you finish? Try Greenbank Farm, my second recommendation for birding on South Whidbey.
The Audubon Society recently published a Bird Trail Map of the Puget Sound Loop, which includes several birding locations on Whidbey Island. This is part of a national project to encourage birders to explore different regions of the country and help them locate birding hotspots.
Have you noticed a strange looking dove at your feeder or sitting on a power line? If so, you’ve seen the latest bird species to establish itself on Whidbey Island, the Eurasian Collared-dove.
As birds flock together this time of year I get drilled with questions on the topic and evidently last month’s article didn’t answer all the questions. Whether it’s a congregation of crows, a swarm of shorebirds or a gaggle of geese, we want to know why birds flock.
While waiting at the Clinton Ferry dock, I caught sight of a large bird swishing in the strong wind just off the unused loading dock. At first glance the bird looked like a Bald Eagle, but the flight pattern was odd and erratic.
I recently enjoyed a dazzling day of birding at Deer Lagoon and Crockett Lake. Shorebirds danced on the tide flats, ducks and wild fowl floated on the lake and bay while sparrows skulked in the shrubs. A few late-migrating Violet-green, Barn and Tree Swallows swooped overhead.
Have you noticed those large stick nests atop tall phone poles along Highway 525? There are two between Freeland and Greenbank. Each time I drive by, I crane my neck to pick out the occupants, large birds of prey called Ospreys. They are dark chocolate brown birds with white breasts and smallish white heads.
Last week’s full moon pulled me outside around 10. While absorbing the warmish evening and shimmering light across Possession Sound, I heard the hooting of a Great Horned Owl. Interrupting those soft, melodious hoots was the squawking, demanding call of a juvenile owl begging for food.
Last fall while out in the garden, my husband saw a dark flash dart past him, flying low to the ground and land on a fence post. He called me out to identify the bird and we marked the first sighting of a Merlin for our yard list.
Last week on one of those rare sunny afternoons, I was chatting with a friend who is new to Whidbey. She’d just explored Ebey’s Landing, taken in some live music and was awash in the wonder of our island. Out popped, “I’m happy as a lark!”
We’ve got red ones, yellow ones, purple ones and, at higher elevations, even rosy ones. Their bright, cheery songs fill our neighborhoods and their bouncy undulating flights carry them over the treetops.
The (golden) eagle has landed! Yep, I’m not kidding. For a few stalwart birders who have braved our cold, rainy spring, the reward has been the sighting of a Golden Eagle right here on South Whidbey.
I recently returned from a short trip to Arizona, and found my suet feeders empty. My feathered friends evidently took notice as I put out new suet cakes, for as soon as I returned inside to my desk, they swarmed toward the fatty buffet.
I recently picked up a phone message from a friend who exclaimed, “For three mornings I’ve heard a bird singing. Not the usual chirps or calls, but a real song. What is that bird?”
During our recent snowstorm, someone sent me a photo of an iridescent green-and-red hummingbird sitting forlornly at a frozen hummingbird feeder.
The days are getting shorter and the evenings colder and rainier. We’re slipping into the dark time of year and Halloween can’t be far away.
Whidbey Island in September is only one tiny, micro-spot on the southbound…
Last week I opened the door of my potting shed and heard…