Red-breasted Sapsucker: Yes, They Exist And Are Active In Bellingham

May 17, 2009

Yes, there really is a Red-breasted Sapsucker (and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, for that matter too).  Sapsuckers are a form of woodpecker.  There are 4 species of sapsucker in North America, the Red-breasted is the most common type along the coastal Pacific Northwest.  (Inland in Washington, you are more likely to see a Red-Naped Sapsucker or a Williamson’s Sapsucker).

Instead of pecking and making a hammering noise, sapsuckers drill rows of shallow holes in trees, and then return after the holes have filed up with sap and insects.  They are quiet and not as hyperactive as other woodpeckers, but given its beautiful red head and breast, the Red-breasted Sapsucker is not exactly inconspicious.  Nor are they particularly shy about being spotted.   These beautiful birds can be destructive since they drill horizontal rows of holes in trees, but it is easy to forget about this when you spot one of these beautiful red, white and black creatures. I have been lucky enough to see a Red-breasted Sapsucker at my feeder here in Bellingham several times.1.red.breasted.sapsucker.4.sideview30


Savannah Sparrows

May 16, 2009

Sparrows are one of the more difficult species for a beginning birder to identify.  There are so many different kinds.  A good field guide is invaluable.  Things to lo0k for as clues are head patterns, color and shape of bills and feet,  overall body shapes, habitat,  season, and shyness.   I have suddenly begun seeing Savannah Sparrows everywhere lately.. at my feeder, up in Whatcom County, in Delta, British Columbia.  At least, I believe they are Savannah Sparrows based on the yellow color near the eyes, and the strong streaks on the white belly.  I had never seen a sparrow-like bird that had a yellowish streak on its face.  According to my field guides, this is the right time of year, and these birds had the typical Savannah Sparrow personality, visible and not hiding when seen,  which is great for identifying the bird and great for getting photos.0231


Goslings: Adorable Baby Chicks Everywhere

May 10, 2009

Its that time…. the Canada geese have completed their spring nesting and everywhere you go in this area you can not avoid seeing the vigilant moms and dads parading around with their young flock of adorable fluffy yellow goslings following close behind. It is interesting to watch how the geese engage in a form of communal child care, where one or two geese will be chaperoning a large group of goslings, while the other geese are off foraging.  I have also witnessed a pair of geese acting as sentinels for the entire community, sounding off loudly when dogs or people are in the vicinity and approach too closely, alerting all the parents to take care.  The goslings are still very young and are sticking as closely as possible to the adults.  But I know that as they grow, like typical teenagers, they begin to develop more of an attitude and bicker with the adults.  Well, just like humans, the Canada Geese should “enjoy them while they are young.”5124P1090004


Bird Flock Patterns….the ultimate abstract art

May 2, 2009

This Spring, I have enjoyed watching the patterns formed by flocks of birds as they take off in unison, all perfectly syncronized, turning on a drop of a dime, changing direction and shape, while maintaining perfect coordination.  I am not sure that anyone knows how the birds  move and change direction in perfect harmony with each other, without collusions, or confusion.  To bad humans are unable to work as well together….   These photos are the flock patterns of what I believe to be Dunlin at Semiahmoo, Blaine, Wa,, although I did see smaller western sandpipers mixed in the flock before they all took off.67890


Killdeer……Avian Actors

May 2, 2009

One of the most common shorebirds here in Bellingham and Whatcom County are killdeer,  a 10 inch brown and white plover with three black stripes across the face and breast and big golden brown eyes.  They have a reddish-brown rump, which they flash when they are alarmed.  I learned about the killdeer’s thespian skills when I first encountered one…it was walking around on the ground and appeared injured.  It was evening and I had no one to call to report an injured bird. After I got home, and looked up what the bird was, I then learned that they are known for pretending to be injured to lead potential predators away from their nest, which sits on the ground.  Sure enough, among the photos I took was one that appeared to show the “injured” bird sitting on a nest before she attempted to distract me away from the nest.  I frequently see killdeer in urban and rural areas, in grassy areas or along the shoreline.  These clever birds are very adaptable.akilldeer1killdeeronnestbkilldeerdkilldeer


Semiahmoo Osprey Eating A Fish

April 24, 2009

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Some more photos from the Osprey I saw at the Semiahmoo Spit last week.  He was eating a large fish and was driven off by eagles, still dragging the remains of the fish in his talons.ac


Harlequins of Whatcom County

April 24, 2009

One of the most distinquished duck species, both in plumage and behavior, is the Harlequin Duck, which is found through-out Whatcom County.  The male in breeding plumage is a blue-gray color with red-brown sections on his side and head, accented with white markings.  It is hard to mistake a Harlequin male for anything else.  The female is a drab brown except for 3 white patches on her head.  These birds winter along the coast here in the Pacific Northwest, and in the summer head inland where they frequent rushing streams and rapids, enjoying the turbulent waters.15121131111


Birch Bay Brants

April 22, 2009

Saw some beautiful Brant geese at the Wings over Water festival at Birch Bay State Park this Saturday.  Notice the Harlequin Duck in front of  the Brants in the second photo?142431


Osprey at Semiahmoo Spit

April 19, 2009

For about the last week, an osprey has been hanging around the Semiahmoo Spit in Blaine, Wa.  An osprey is a beautiful “masked” raptor that generally resides here in Whatcom County in the summer, migrating to warmer climates in the winter.  Its diet consists mostly of fish, which it catches with its large talons after surveying the water from a high above perch.  Osprey have surprising voices….very sweet and high pitched for such a large bird.  What is unusual about the osprey that has appeared in Semiahmoo is that there are many eagles in this area, and eagles and ospreys do not get along.  Eagles, which are larger than the osprey, (although the two can be mistaken for each other0, generally act aggressively in driving off osprey.  In fact, I have seen eagles chase away the osprey after it finds some food, but at least for this last week, the osprey keeps coming back.  Other places in Whatcom County where I have seen osprey include Lake Louise, near Sudden Valley, and Lake Terrell, near Ferndale.ospreyontree


Dunlins

April 15, 2009

One group of birds I have not been successful in finding have been the shorebirds.  Many of our shorebirds are seasonal migrants, found along the local coastline during Spring and Fall migration.  However, one of the most numerous shorebirds that can be found all along the Pacific Coast in the Winter are Dunlins, which are 8.5″ sandpipers that can usually be found in large flocks. Like most sandpipers, they have very distinctive plumage in Winter and in Spring.  In the Winter, they are grayish-brown on top and whitish on the bottom.  They have very long, heavy bills that are slightly drooped at the tip.  The forage on mudflats, moving and probing with their bills, and sometimes suddenly taking off and filling the sky.  Sandpiper species are often hard to tell apart, and can challenge the most experienced birders, but I think I identified these correctly based on the long, drooping bill.  These pictures were taken on the Lummi Flats in Whatcom County, at the aquaduct, before this are was closed to the public.dunlinonrocks1pairdunlindunlingroup1dunlinsflying


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