It’s a Booby!

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This week’s photo, which I took 4 1/2 years ago on the island of Tobago in the Caribbean, features a BROWN BOOBY, a tropical species that made a surprise appearance in the Pacific Northwest 6 days ago.

Last Friday, I’m standing on the pier in Edmonds, WA, when the birder standing next to me (we’ll call him Josh, because that’s his name), says that he has just spotted an unusual bird through his scope. Soon, I’m able to find the bird with my scope. It’s about 2 miles away, so far out there that I wonder to myself why Josh is even bothering with it, but apparently he’s determined to identify it. For about forty minutes we follow the shadowy figure as it cruises above the water. Twice, we briefly lose sight of it when a Washington State ferry motors between us and the bird, blocking our view for several agonizing seconds.

Finally, the mystery bird begins to head in our direction. As it comes closer, Josh suddenly exclaims, “It’s a booby!” I lift my camera and take several photos of the BROWN BOOBY as it turns and heads south. (Note: this week I’m sharing an image from my photo archives because I suspect that, instead of viewing one of my distant images from last week, you’ll be more interested in seeing up close details of a Brown Booby).

Josh promptly sends out an email to the birding community, announcing the unexpected discovery. As we continue to savor the adrenaline rush of observing a very rare species for our area, we leave the pier. As I approach my car, I’m thinking that it’s highly unlikely that anyone else around these parts is going to see that booby. After all, there’s an awful lot of water out there.

Well, surprise, surprise. Two hours after Josh and I leave the pier, the booby rides into the harbor sitting on the mast of a sailboat! Several birders get terrific looks and photos of it as it enters the port, and then more fine photos are captured when it leaps off the boat and flies right past the pier before disappearing into the great expanse of the Puget Sound.

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Fahrvomstressen

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This week’s photo, taken August 16, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a boat with an amusing and imaginative name. If you don’t get the meaning, say it out loud a few times. If you still don’t get it, it may be time for you to take a break from your busy life and spend a few relaxing hours on a boat.

Besides observing birds from the Edmonds Pier, I also enjoy watching the endless stream of boats that leave the harbor. Have you noticed that boats tend to be labeled with clever names, while car names tend to be dull or senseless?

I can visualize a group of car company employees gathering in a meeting room, where the boss announces:

“Well, team, we need to come up with a catchy name for our new model, and we’re going to stay here until we do.”

Someone then raises his hand and says, “Let’s call it ‘Element.’”

The boss excitedly exclaims, “Wow, Bob, that’s brilliant! Ok, everyone, our job is done here. You can go now. Hey, Bob, why don’t you stay after, so we can discuss that raise you recently requested.”

It’s a mystery why car names tend to be so lame, but let’s just celebrate the cool names floating out there on the water. In no particular order, here are my top ten boat names from the past few months:

Fishfull Thinking

Knot Workin’

Reel Excitement

Asalt Weapon

Doghouse

Fahrvomstressen

Jobsite

It’s All Good

Prozac

Just Say Go (a speedboat)

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Mouth on Fire

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This week’s photo, taken June 26, 2015 from Edmond’s Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a PIGEON GUILLEMOT in breeding plumage.

PIGEON GUILLEMOTS are seabirds with bright orange-red feet and mouth linings. Although those bold colors are instrumental during the breeding season, guillemots tend to have their bills closed when we observe them. Nevertheless, you’ve got to admit, when they do flash that fiery mouth, it gets your attention, doesn’t it?

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Hair on Fire

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This week’s photo, taken August 1, 2015 in Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, features an adult male PILEATED WOODPECKER.

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The Eyes Have It

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This week’s photo, taken July 29, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features an immature FRANKLIN’S GULL, a rare find in Washington.

It’s very cool when you spot an unusual bird, but it’s even more thrilling when that bird decides to fly directly towards you. When I first spotted the FRANKLIN’S GULL yesterday from the Edmonds Pier, it was flying above the waters of the Puget Sound, yet a significant distance away. Initially, I didn’t know what it was, but it caught my attention because it appeared to be much smaller than the ‘regular’ gulls in the area. When it cruised by the pier, its large white eye arcs, a characteristic that separates this species from other gulls, were quite visible.

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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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