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?
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This weekend will wrap up the inland salmon season. January 31, which falls on Sunday, is the final day to retain a salmon where it is legal to do so.
Mid-January should be prime time to connect with a hatchery steelhead. The records from previous years indicate that most of the hatchery steelhead are taken from late December to early February. This makes January the optimal time for successful steelheading.
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.
One of the more foremost questions that arises at this time of the year is the issue of new fishing licenses. Historically in the state of Washington, fishing licenses were renewable at the end of the year and a new license was needed to fish on Jan. 1. Such is not the case today.
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.
The question anglers are asking is where can they go to “wet a line” in pursuit of a steelhead. Fishers have been hit hard by closures on a multitude of rivers in our general area. This was largely due to the effort of protecting salmon, yet it had a far reaching impact upon the winter steelhead fishery. This is about to change.
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.
River levels have risen, cold temperatures are here and December has arrived. This formula can only lead us to believe that the winter steelhead season is upon us. This is true in theory; but as we know from the salmon fishery, the proof is in the pudding. We can only know for sure when we actually see the fish in real time.
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.
There is a perspective to fishing which can only be determined if one was a fisher. The inland salmon fishing season has been one for the ages to say the least. Here is how an angler perceives this season, so far, from their perspective.
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.
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.
In my opinion, the inland salmon fishing season has been more of a guessing game than a science. There have been so many variables this year which have kept anglers off balance since the beginning.
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.