Frances Wood

Vermilion flycatcher captures our hearts, imaginations | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

The red-tailed hawk elegant, noble & mysterious | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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?

True love? Then leave the partridge in the tree | WHIDBEY BIRDING

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

More in the mist than meets the eye | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Look who’s visiting Whidbey’s trees: Great Horned Owls | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.”

Who claims biggest bird title on Whidbey? | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

County recycling decision is against the birds | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Give our nesting avian friends a helping hand | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

The flailing flicker and other indoor bird tales | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Surprising discoveries in picking a bird’s brain | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Most February mornings I begin my cup of coffee before dawn, when the sky offers only a soft whisper of morning light.

‘Harvey’ makes history in Saratoga Passage | WHIDBEY BIRDING

Some call him Harvey, others prefer the more exotic Da Vinci, but we’re not even sure it’s a “he.”

Exploring for birds at our beach parks | WHIDBEY BIRDING

November has arrived and so have the hundreds of ducks, geese and seabirds that winter in the waters around our island.

Feathered friends abound at Greenbank Farm | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

On the trail of Whidbey’s best birding spots | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Mourning Doves make room for a newcomer | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Going solo is more dangerous than staying with the flock | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Let’s be generous and share our space with the flock | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Let’s not lose count of the things we cherish | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Taking time to connect to a wild world above ourselves | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.

Some babies make their parents look quite small | WHIDBEY BIRDING

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.