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Grays Harbor Birds — Western Scrub Jay

First, a disclaimer; when I moved to the Harbor in fall of 1998, I did NOT bring any of my favorite birds with me…honest! Those birds from California have made it up here on their own, and it does seem as though more and more birds native to SoCal are showing up in the Pacific Northwest. The Western Scrub Jay is one of them, and I am always thrilled when I see one. This handsome bird was photographed by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds — Peregrine Falcon

In my previous city life I used to watch a pair of endangered Peregrine Falcons hunting pigeons over downtown Los Angeles. From my second floor window across the freeway I could see the puff of feathers when the pigeon was hit and thought how lucky I was to get to see such a magnificent hunter. Little did I know that 13 years later I would move to the Pacific Northwest where I see these birds all the time, and they still amaze me with their fierce looks and intent stare. The subspecies out here on the beach are larger than their L.A. counterparts, and to see them up close is a real joy. I took this photo of an adult bird; I hope you enjoy it.

Grays Harbor Birds — Bewick’s Wren

One of two wrens common to Grays Harbor during the fall and winter seasons that charm us with their singing, the Bewick’s Wren is the larger and most often seen. The Pacific Wren is the other. The Bewick’s song contains more buzzes and burrs and is shorter in length than the Pacific, but is just as captivating and a real pleasure to hear. I often sit outside listening to “my” yard birds, and the Bewick’s Wren is one I see and hear nearly every time, though I confess I hear it scolding me more than singing. This photo was taken by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds — Great Horned Owl

I think everyone knows what a Great Horned Owl (GHO) is, as most of us grew up with this bird somewhere nearby. When we think of the sound an owl makes, it is usually the call of the GHO we think of or imitate. Many of us grew up reading Winnie the Pooh, and knew Pooh’s friend Owl, a Great Horned Owl.

Grays Harbor Birds — House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

The House Finch is one of our most common feeder and yard birds, and can be seen almost anywhere in Grays Harbor. Unlike the other introduced/unwelcome outsiders (European Starlings and Eurasian Collared-Doves), this bird is quite popular with most who appreciate not only its red coloring (at least on the male) but also its long and cheerful song. This photo of a brightly colored male was taken by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds: Great Blue Heron

I would guess that everyone has seen one of these birds standing in a ditch or slowly stalking its prey, completely focused on whatever it has in its sight. I often see 10 or 12 of them standing in the water just below Highway 109 before it heads up into the s-curves at Grays Harbor City. I still watch them as they stand for long moments, waiting until just the right time to strike. They seldom miss. It’s all very Zen, and I can almost feel my breathing slow and my body relax as if in tune with the heron’s concentration. This photo by Mike Hamilton shows the successful catch of a tadpole, hopefully a bullfrog, a real pest in our neck of the woods.

Grays Harbor Birds — Cooper’s Hawk

This photo by Gregg Thompson is a newly fledged Cooper’s Hawk, closely watching something, probably a bug. Notice the total concentration, an intensity common to raptors, and youngsters learning what is edible and what may harm.

Grays Harbor Birds — Osprey

On July 11, 2010 my first Grays Harbor Birds column appeared in The Daily World, featuring the Osprey. The photo was about four inches high by five inches wide, and the statistics section was two columns wide and about 1 1/4 inches high, and I misspelled the first Latin name, paldion rather than Pandion. We have come a long way, covering 116 birds and a Leatherback Turtle in those five years. I appreciate having the opportunity to write this column and share my love of birds with you.

Grays Harbor Birds — Violet-green Swallow

Way back in 1965, my toddler-aged daughter and I visited my parents in their Boston Harbor/Olympia home for a week. While hanging diapers on the clothesline I was the object of intense interest by a large flock of Violet-green Swallows. They swirled around me and perched on the clothesline examining me, cocking their heads and chattering away, talking up a storm…discussing me I am sure. Thus began a love affair with these small, beautifully colored birds that has lasted all these years. According to one quote, “…we will call them children of heaven.” (Dawson 1923) I hope you like this photo by Mike Hamilton as much as I do.

Grays Harbor Birds — Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax trailii)

I know what you are thinking; this has to be a common bird to our area because we have a LOT of willow, we have a lot of water, and we have a lot of bugs…perfect, right? Not so fast bug-breath! It turns out they are fairly UN-common to the coast but can be found inland a bit. Still, I have heard their distinctive “FITZ-bew” call in the woods at Grays Harbor College, as well as in the red alder forest out at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge; there is no other bird that sounds like that….well, unless a crow or a Steller’s Jay is now imitating them.

Grays Harbor Birds — Western Tanager

Western Tanagers are the only tanager regularly found in Washington and are common to our area throughout the summer. But if you see one you can consider yourself lucky; they are pretty hard to spot, despite the male’s brilliant plumage of yellow and black with a bright orange-red head.