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Grays Harbor Birds - Pine Siskin

Here is a mystery; when doing the research on this bird I found Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the Latin name Spinus pinus, while the western sources and one eastern (Crossley) use the Latin Carduelis pinus. Since I use all the references I can find I choose to use Carduelis, lacking any further information as to why they are different. Meanwhile, enjoy this lovely photo by Mike Hamilton.

Grays Harbor Birds: Greaer White-fronted Goose

While doing research on this goose I was struck by the range maps showing where it breeds and where it spends the rest of the time. This goose breeds on the tundra from Russia, Siberia, through Alaska, Nunavut, and into Greenland. Then it winters down the west coast into Mexico, and up the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Grays Harbor Birds — Northern Shoveler

Once seen, this duck is rarely mistaken for any other thanks to its large bill; for those of you of a certain age or over, think Jimmy Durante. It may change plumage but that distinguishing bill is a dead giveaway no matter what season it is seen. The female’s plumage may appear drab, but again the bill gives a clear I.D. This photo by Mike Hamilton shows a male in breeding plumage.

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 — 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.