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Grays Harbor Birds — Trumpeter Swan

This is our largest native swan, and never fails to get the oohs and aahs deserving of stars of the fields. I used one of Mike Hamilton’s group photos to show you what to look for out in the fields. The adults are white and the immature swans are gray through spring migration of their second year. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Grays Harbor Birds — Whimbrel

Take a good look at Gregg Thompson’s great photo of this Whimbrel. What a noble-looking bird. One of the amazing thing about shorebirds is how each one has a bill specifically designed for the job of getting food; each one probes for food at various depths in the mud and sand, as well as nooks and crannies among the rocks. The Whimbrel is an interesting bird as well, as you will see.

Grays Harbor Birds — Dunlin

This time of year, winter, the shorebirds we see on the beaches and around the edges of the harbor are in what is often called “drab” plumage, non-breeding. So when you see a large number of shorebirds hunkered down at the waters edge, it is sometimes difficult to identify the species. This photo was taken by me just a few days ago and features just one species, the Dunlin.

Grays Harbor Birds — Barrow’s & Common Goldeneye

When Mike Hamilton sent out this photo of the two goldeneye females, I was immediately anxious to do a column on the two ducks. Unlike most birds, ducks breed in the winter, so these two females are in breeding plumage. According to most people I know, it’s pretty difficult to distinguish between the two kinds of goldeneyes, so if you think we have made a mistake, please let us know. The Barrow’s is on the left, and the Common on the right.

Grays Harbor Birds — Common Murre

Several times I have received a call from someone wanting to know about the “penguin” on the beach; they know it is bizarre, but that’s what it looks like. I then explain it is a Common Murre…I don’t even have to go see it, but I do anyway, usually to meet the person that has found it and to assess the condition of the bird. If it is standing around on the beach, it’s in trouble. As you can see in Gregg Thompson’s photo a healthy bird stays in the water.

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.