A GREBE KINDA DAY

With a rare sunny day forecast at Westport and Ocean Shores this week, we headed out early in the morning. Though there was some fog early, it turned out to be a delightful, sunny day with some brisk winds.

Since I’ve been told many times when birding Westport in the afternoon that people had seen more birds in the morning, we decided to start out our day at Westport and finish at Ocean Shores. Naturally we didn’t see more birds than usual; we saw less.

I went because I love seeing the Common Loons in breeding colors. Not only did we see fewer loons than usual; none of the ones we did see were in breeding plumage.

Our consolation prize was seeing more Western Grebes than I’ve ever seen at the coast before. This Western Grebe

greeted us as we walked down to the marina.

Not more than a 100 yards away, this grebe was finishing a meal.

When I went to the other end of the marina to see if there were any Brown Pelicans (there weren’t), I saw another group of grebes.This one popped up almost under my feet.

Not sure who was more startled.

I didn’t find the Godwits at Tokeland but was greeted by yet another small flock of Western Grebes.

The only place I’ve ever seen this many Western Grebes is Bear River in Utah.

Bonus Birds from Port Townsend

I may go to Port Townsend to see Harlequin Ducks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see lots of other birds while birding.

During the winter you can count on seeing a flock of Brant

at the end of the spit at Ft. Flagler.

Sometimes while trying to photograph Harlequins you get distracted by nearby birds like this Long-Tailed Duck,

a bird I’ve only seen three times in all the years I’ve birded. In fact I spent nearly seven years looking for one of these before I saw a small flock while crossing Puget Sound on a Ferry.

Luckily, female Red-Breasted Mergansers

are much more common, but still a good find.

But the male Red-Breasted Merganser provides an even better photo-op.

Flagler’s Harlequin Ducks

Regular visitors would probably know after yesterday’s post that photos of Harlequin ducks are bound to follow, and here they are. The main reason I go to Ft. Flagler is to see the Harlequins. Though I can sometimes find them near Port Orchard, I’m almost guaranteed to see them at Flagler.

On this trip, though, I was at the very tip of the spit before I spotted a single male Harlequin, and it was a long ways offshore.

Of course, the waves were so high that there might have been a small flock out there and I wouldn’t have seen them.

When Harlequins are feeding they spend much of their time trolling, looking for a meal,

and they’re barely visible even in calm water.

The best shots come when they’re in the calm side of the spit apparently just hanging out, like this pair that was staying out of the bone-chilling North winds.

Sunshine and calm waters make for elegant profiles of these colorful ducks.

Small Price to Pay

Saturday we got a rare treat — a cloudless, sunny day. To celebrate we headed up to Port Townsend. It was sunny, but seemed almost as cold as Mt. Baker looked across Puget Sound.

The price of sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest is often a strong Eastern wind, with accompanying cold. Even the birds seemed to be seeking shelter from the frigid winds.

Small price to pay for the beautiful golden hour light reflected on this Black-bellied Plover in winter foliage,

on these two Yellowlegs,

and on this rarely seen Western Meadowlark.