Frances Wood

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?

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Haida Gwaii guillemots are frequent ferry riders

Last month I fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands, also called Haida Gwaii. Cast about 70 miles off British Columbia’s coast… Continue reading

WHIDBEY BIRDING | Wisdom: Still soaring after 60 years

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

WHIDBEY BIRDING | There are plenty of ways to help birds during the cold winter months

First let me humbly admit that I missed all the December storms. My husband and I escaped to Mexico minutes before the snowflakes began to… Continue reading

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

ISLAND BIRDING | Wayward bird certainly picked a terrible spot to roost

Last Sunday morning while enjoying a leisurely breakfast, my husband, daughter and I heard a woodpecker-like tapping.

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.


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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.