Rhinos

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This week’s photo, taken June 12, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a pair of RHINOCEROS AUKLETS.

The RHINOCEROS AUKLET is a common seabird seen year-round in the Puget Sound region. They always fly low, skimming the surface of the water. (Hmm, I wonder if they have a fear of heights). They certainly do not have a fear of speed, because they always fly fast, beating their wings rapidly. They often fly in flocks, usually in single file formation. I’ve observed a string of 40+ ‘Rhinos’ zipping past the pier. They also fly under water, using their wings to propel them below the surface while they hunt for fish. During breeding season, the adult sports two white plumes on each side of its face, and it also sprouts a ‘horn’ on its bill, hence the name ‘Rhinoceros.’ A very cool bird, indeed.

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Return to Montana

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This week’s photo, taken July 7, 2015 at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 15 miles north of Great Falls, Montana, features an elegant AMERICAN AVOCET in breeding plumage.

I just returned from another road trip to Montana. Two weeks earlier, I had accompanied a Seattle Audubon teen group on a 5-day bird trip. This time, I traveled with my family, first and foremost to visit Laura’s relatives in Great Falls. Four days later, we drove to Browning, where we attended the 64th Annual North American Indian Days and spent a night in a tipi.

We capped off our 9-day trip with 3 nights in a lodge near Glacier National Park. One morning, just outside the eastern edge of the park, our close encounter with nature involved not a bird, but a bear. As we crested the top of a hill in our vehicle, the large mammal was calmly strolling along the opposite side of the narrow road. Although the bear was brown in color, it was a Black Bear. Ten minutes later, we saw another Black Bear, and this second bear happened to be black in color. (I guess, sometimes, mammal names can be as confusing as bird names).

I appreciate the wide open spaces of Montana, but I have no plans for a third visit this summer. Instead, it’s time to enjoy more of the beautiful state of Washington.

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You Just Never Know

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This week’s photo, taken June 17, 2015 from the pier in Edmonds, WA, features the first HORNED PUFFIN ever reported from that area.

During the past nine months, I’ve spent a lot of time bird-watching from the fishing pier in Edmonds. I’m attracted to that spot for many reasons. The local people are friendly, the views are spectacular, it’s a terrific outdoor classroom for studying sea birds, the bird photography opportunities are excellent, and there are clean restrooms at the nearby ferry terminal. In addition to all that, you just never know what might fly by the pier.

Birdwise, June is one of the slowest months of the year. Nevertheless, this past month I made 10 trips to the pier, each time putting in 3 hours of avian observation. Heck, you just never know what might show up.

Tufted Puffin is high on my dream list of rare birds I hope to see someday from the pier. Two weeks ago, I was there scanning the vastness of the Puget Sound, when I noticed something “different” approaching from the north. The unidentified bird was flying very fast. With my binoculars, I couldn’t tell what it was because it was so far away. Instead of examining it through my spotting scope, I aimed my long camera lens at it and took several photos as it sped by.

Not until I looked at my images a few hours later on my computer, did I realize that it was a puffin! Amazingly, it was not a Tufted Puffin, the expected puffin in our state. It was a HORNED PUFFIN, a species that’s usually found in Alaska, rarely seen in British Columbia, and hardly ever spotted in Washington waters.

July is historically another slow month for viewing birds from the pier, yet I plan to make the 20-minute drive from our house as often as I can. After all, you just never know what you might see from the Edmonds Pier.

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Teen Trip

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This week’s photo, taken June 23, 2015 outside Choteau, Montana, features an adult LONG-BILLED CURLEW, the largest shorebird in North America. Two adult Curlews were walking the fields, accompanied by two adorable short-billed babies that spent most of their time hiding in the tall grass.

I just returned from a 5-day, 4-night camping trip with a small group of teen bird-watchers from Seattle Audubon. As one of three adult chaperones, I was the most experienced birder in the group (in other words, the oldest), and my main assignment was to help the teens find and identify avian life during our travels by van across Washington, Idaho, and into Montana. Fortunately, I didn’t have to work too hard, since the energetic teens, equipped with the keen eyesight and good hearing of youth, found many of the bird species before I did.

Great fun was had by all. Some of the highlights of the trip (besides the showers in the Choteau campground), included:

REDHEAD

RUDDY DUCK

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON

AMERICAN AVOCET

WILSON’S PHALAROPE

FRANKLIN’S GULL

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD

CASSIN’S VIREO

CANYON WREN

AMERICAN DIPPER

McCOWN’S LONGSPUR

BOBOLINK

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Red, Yellow and Black

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This week’s photo, taken June 14, 2015 along the Carlson Canyon trail north of Cle Elum, WA, features a male WESTERN TANAGER.

When bird photographers approach, Western Tanagers often play hard to get. Maybe these strikingly gorgeous tanagers keep their distance because they are tired of the constant barrage of paparazzi that seem to follow them everywhere.

Fortunately, during our Seattle Audubon field trip last Sunday to the Teanaway River Basin on the east side of the Cascades, 3 brilliantly colored male WESTERN TANAGERS were so busy chasing each other that they seemed unaware of our presence. They might have been involved in a territorial dispute regarding breeding rights. Whatever their issue, one of them was distracted enough that it briefly landed near me, and I quickly grabbed a few images before it resumed its role as chaser or chasee.

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State Bird

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This week’s photo, taken May 24, 2015 at Magnuson Park in Seattle, WA, features a nicely framed AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, the state bird of Washington state.

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A Mouthful

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This week’s photo, taken May 30, 2015 at the Union Bay Natural Area in Seattle, WA, features a male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, preparing to deliver an insect to the nest.

The female COMMON YELLOWTHROAT builds the nest and incubates the eggs, but at least the male brings food to the female while she is on the nest, and he also helps feed the young. After the hatchlings fledge in 8-10 days, the adult pair of Yellowthroats may not remain “empty nesters” for long. Many Yellowthroats raise another brood in the same season.

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