This week’s photo, taken February 16, 2015 at Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, features an adult male LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH, displaying its distinctive black face, yellow chest and gray body. (In this photo, a branch is blocking our view of the yellow in its wings, and that fact reminds me that while Photoshop is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, I am celebrating my 25th year of not using Photoshop).

The most unusual bird species I saw during last week’s visit to Rancho La Puerta was a LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH. The least common of the 3 goldfinches found in North America, “Larry” (the nickname I once heard a birder use when he spotted a Lawrence’s Goldfinch), is an infrequent wintering bird at the spa.

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Rancho La Puerta


This week’s photo, taken February 20, 2015 at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, features a WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, a very common and popular bird species at the resort.

Laura and I just returned from a glorious week at Rancho La Puerta Health and Fitness Resort, where I previously worked for a few decades as a fitness instructor and bird guide,  before I moved north to Seattle, WA 2 1/2 years ago.

During our week, Laura performed a wonderful piano concert for the guests, and I spent much of my time reconnecting with old friends of both the human and the avian kind.

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Surf’s Up


This week’s photo, taken January 12, 2015 from the fishing pier in Edmonds, WA, features an adult male SURF SCOTER.

During the winter months, there are lots of sea ducks that fly fast and low past the Edmonds pier. The adult male SURF SCOTER is one of the most common and also one of the easiest to identify, thanks to its large multi-colored bill and the bright white patches on its nape and forehead.

This time of year, during low tide, it’s common to see a raft of 20 – 50 Surf Scoters floating on the water near the pier. The scoters paddle as a group up to the pier’s support pillars, where they use their strong bills to break off mussels from the pillars that are now exposed due to the lower water level.

The scoters’ feeding routine is fun to watch. These nervous birds take a while to gather the confidence to approach the pier, but when they finally do (perhaps after listening to a motivational speech from their leader), they paddle toward the pier together, apparently believing in strength in numbers. After they quickly grab a snack, they hurriedly push away from the pier in unison, using their powerful bright red legs. Then they paddle in again, and then they paddle out again, and then they repeat that pattern, over and over, sometimes for hours.

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Common and Cute


This week’s photo, taken January 24, 2015 at Meadowbrook Pond in Northeast Seattle, WA, features a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, a considerably common and cute creature with a colorful crest that I captured in a conifer with my Canon (camera, that is).

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Most Joyful Bird


This week’s photo, taken January 28, 2015 near Stanwood, WA, features a SHORT-EARED OWL checking me out as it flies by, as if to say: “What’s Up?”

The SHORT-EARED OWL, often active during daylight hours, gets my vote as the World’s Most Joyful Bird. It frolics above a field with its moth-like wing beats, and when it detects a rodent scurrying across the grass, it tucks its wings and dives headfirst, behaving much like a mischievous kitten pouncing on its imaginary prey. The owl doesn’t even seem to mind when it comes up empty taloned. It’s obviously having a good time cruising the neighborhood.

Short-eared Owls just want to have fun, and they seem to possess endless energy as they turn and spin and bank and dive. If you know of a more cheerful and high-spirited bird, please let me know.

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The Yodeling Duck


This week’s photo, taken January 10, 2015 from Semiahmoo Spit near Blaine, WA, features an adult male LONG-TAILED DUCK in winter plumage.

One of the best places in our state to get fairly close looks at LONG-TAILED DUCKS is in the vicinity of Blaine, Washington. By the way, if you were to travel farther north than Blaine, you would need a passport. From Blaine Marine Park, you can easily see the line of cars waiting to cross the border into Canada.

The day we traveled north to Blaine, some of the Long-tailed Ducks were close enough that we could hear their yodel-like calls. For many of us, hearing this elusive duck for the first time was even more exciting than viewing this flashy and distinctive creature with our eyes.

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The Catch of the Day


This week’s photo, taken January 12, 2015 at the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a BELTED KINGFISHER contemplating what to do after capturing an enormous fish. Fortunately, a couple of forks are included with the meal, and those utensils should help the fish-obsessed bird as it dines on the catch of the day.

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