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.
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?
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.”