Logrolling

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This week’s photo, taken March 23, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a flock of SANDERLINGS striving for balance in life.

Monday morning, while I was birding from the Edmonds Pier, I watched as an extremely long log drifted by, with dozens of SANDERLINGS poised as passengers atop the slow-moving vessel.

Suddenly, the Sanderlings became restless, as if they were about to fly. Yet, when I examined them through my spotting scope, I discovered that the shorebirds had no intention of disembarking their no-frills cruise ship. The problem was that the log was beginning to roll!

Every bird was forced to leap up and re-land (some of them multiple times) to avoid falling off the back of the log. That amusing predicament reminded me of the sporting event on television where a lumberjack tries to outlast his or her opponent while they both attempt to stay upright on a spinning log.

No birds were harmed during the development of this story.

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My Final Answer

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This week’s photo, taken March 7, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features a female COMMON GOLDENEYE in flight.

Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, in particular the females, are tough to tell apart, especially when the birds zoom by at a high rate of speed (and I’ve never seen a goldeneye fly at a slow rate of speed). That’s why I like to stop the action with a photo, and then later on in my comfortably cushioned chair, I cradle my computer and calmly compare characteristics of my captures with credible candidates for consideration.

Ok, no more alliteration for now.

The female COMMON GOLDENEYE has a bill that’s usually more black than yellow, the Common’s forehead is more gently sloped, and the female Common has more white on the wings than the Barrow’s. Therefore, this here’s a Common Goldeneye, and that’s my final answer.

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Master Birder Program

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This week’s photo, taken March 7, 2015 from the Edmonds Pier in Edmonds, WA, features last week’s species, PIGEON GUILLEMOT, this time viewed right side up.

Since last September, I’ve been one of two-dozen people participating in Seattle Audubon’s 2014 – 2015 Master Birder Program, a comprehensive study of the birds of Washington state. Twice a week, we attend evening lectures, and we also frequently travel to various areas of the state to see in person some of the fabulous birds that we discuss in class. It’s an education-for-service program, so each participant is expected to volunteer their time to any of the numerous environmental projects offered by Seattle Audubon.

To learn more about Seattle’s Master Birder Program, go to: http://www.seattleaudubon.org/sas/WhatWeDo/EnvironmentalEducation/MasterBirderProgram2012.aspx

I think it would be great if such a program were offered in every state (or in whatever region of the world you live). Please let me know if such a program already exists where you reside.

Joe’s note cards and prints: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com

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String of Pearls

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This week’s photo, taken March 4, 2015 from the pier in Edmonds, WA, features the tail and feet of a PIGEON GUILLEMOT, as it flips upside down to begin a dive in search of food. Of course, most of you didn’t need me to identify it as a guillemot because it’s so obvious, right? :)

Note cards and prints: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com

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Larry

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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.

My finest bird photos at: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com

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Rancho La Puerta

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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.

Check out The “Ranch” at: http://www.rancholapuerta.com

Check out Laura’s website at: http://www.lauramusic.biz

Check out my finest bird photos at: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com

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Surf’s Up

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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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