National Bird of Peru


This week’s photo, taken September 29, 2017 near Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes, Peru, features a female ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK, the national bird of Peru. Considering there are over 1800 bird species in Peru, that’s quite a noteworthy distinction.

My most wanted bird during my recent trip to Peru was the uniquely stunning Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. During our last morning in Aguas Calientes, I stood in a forested area where – according to the locals – a Cock-of-the-Rock shows up about every other day. At one point, I got glimpses of one, and I frantically tried to follow it on foot as it moved about in the tree tops.

Although I got in a decent workout trying to keep up with my target bird, I failed to capture even a lousy out-of-focus or blurry image of Peru’s national avian treasure. I had mixed feeling about the sighting, since my attitude while birding is usually: if I don’t get a photo, then I haven’t seen the bird.

I returned to my post and glanced at my watch. We had a train to catch soon, so I would need to return to the hotel in about 15 minutes. The Cock-of-the-Rock re-appeared 10 minutes later, flew towards me and landed on a branch 20 feet away – in plain view AND at eye level! I got some photos, and I got to the train on time.

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The Eyes Have It


Let’s take one more look at the ultra-rare SWALLOW-TAILED GULL that showed up near Seattle, Washington 3 weeks ago, far from where it’s usually found in the Galapagos in Ecuador.

This week’s photo, taken September 4, 2017 at Point Wells, near Edmonds, WA, shows the nocturnal gull with its eyes closed. As the photo above indicates, when it closes its eyes, a “false eye” appears below each actual eye. Does that false eye fool potential predators into thinking that this gull actually has its eyes opened and therefore, is not an easy target? Although I haven’t been able to verify that this theory is correct, it makes sense to me. If it is true, what an amazing adaptation utilized by this remarkable bird!

The gull hasn’t been seen in over a week, but people are still looking for it. Stay tuned.

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Another Look


This week, let’s take another look at the SWALLOW-TAILED GULL that I, along with several dozen other birders, observed and photographed on September 4, 2017 at Point Wells near Edmonds, WA. The mega-rarity had originally been discovered by a local birder on August 31.

It hasn’t been seen for certain by anyone for about 3 days, but plenty of local and out of town birders continue to search for it.

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New Gull in Town


This week’s photo, taken September 4, 2017 from Point Wells near Edmonds, WA, features an adult SWALLOW-TAILED GULL in breeding plumage.

It’s been an exciting week in our area because there’s a new gull in town. One week ago, one of our most experienced local birders discovered a SWALLOW-TAILED GULL at Carkeek Park in Seattle.

Saying that a Swallow-tailed Gull is a rare sight in the Pacific Northwest is an understatement. Normally found in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, this species had never been seen before in the state of Washington. In fact, it had only been observed previously anywhere in North America on 2 earlier occasions, and the more recent time was 31 years ago.

Considered one of the world’s most attractive gulls, the Swallow-tailed Gull also holds title as the world’s only nocturnal gull. The fact that it feeds at night has challenged our local bird-watching community to keep track of its location from day to day. During the day, it hangs out somewhere with a large gathering of gulls, but at night it wanders who-knows-where, probably feeding on squid (which are known to rise to the water’s surface at night). Every morning, birders frantically search the shores of Puget Sound, our inland sea, hoping to spot the bird that no one had imagined would ever be seen here.

Birders have driven up from Oregon and down from Canada, and some have flown in from the east coast to witness this rarified visitor from another continent. I’m fortunate to live so close to my latest lifer, which also happens to be the 300th bird species on my Washington state list.

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Green on Green


This week’s photo, taken August 4, 2017, features the green backside of a female ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD, along with a green background found in Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA.

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Dinosaur Bird


This week’s photo, taken August 9, 2017 at Richmond Beach in Shoreline, WA, features a GREAT BLUE HERON.

Whenever I watch a Great Blue Heron in flight, I think back in time – way back in time. To my eyes, this gigantic, slow-motion wing-flapper resembles a flying dinosaur more than any other bird that I know. (Not that I know what a dinosaur in flight actually looks like. I’m old, but I’m not THAT old).

Fortunately, Great Blue Herons are common in the Pacific Northwest, so I get to enjoy flying dinosaurs on a regular basis.

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Puget Sound Rarity


This week’s photo, taken August 16, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a TUFTED PUFFIN.

Puffins are not common in Washington state, and the best chance of seeing one is along the outer coast. So, finding one yesterday in Puget Sound, our inland sea, was a real surprise for me, and a true delight. After I took a few photos, I emailed our local birding listserve, and within an hour several other birders showed up to view the seabird with the bright white face and massive bill. Nearly 2 hours after the TUFTED PUFFIN honored us with its presence, it took flight, headed north, and disappeared from view.

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