A Day in Port Townsend

With another sunny day and school back-in-session, we decided that it would be a good day to go to Ft Flagler and Port Townsend. I hoped that we would see some Harlequin Ducks and various Grebes, but, as it turned out, we saw extraordinarily large flocks of Glaucous-Winged Gulls like this one.

There were so many gulls that the cormorants usually seen on this perch had gathered offshore.

Though I assumed that the Harlequin Ducks had probably not arrived to their wintering grounds yet, I’m not sure we would have seen them even if the had returned because this Bald Eagle

was patrolling the shoreline.

In fact, the only shorebirds we saw at Flagler was a very small flock of Sanderlings.

Perhaps my favorite shot of the day was this one of yet another Yellowlegs

taken at the lake in Port Townsend.

Things didn’t get better in town where found a lot of our favorite shops, including our favorite restaurant, were closed on Wednesday. Our consolation was that we discovered a restaurant we liked nearly as much at half the price. Life doesn’t get much better than a great meal after a long walk on the beach.

Westport Brown Pelicans

Hard to believe that it has taken over a week for me to download these pictures I took at the beach a week ago Monday. With all the cement blocks and tiles in place, I decided it was time to see if the Fall Migration was still going on at the coast. Though birders we met at Bottle Beach said the birding was great on Saturday, it was painfully slow on the day I was there.

It was hard to complain, though, and perhaps to be expected, because the weather was awesome. It was sunny with temperatures in the low 70’s and little or no fog. For me, seeing the Brown Pelicans, which we hadn’t seen in our early summer visit, made the trip worthwhile.

On our early visit, we only saw four Brown Pelicans but I managed to get some decent shots because the lighting was great and I could use a fast shutter speed.

Despite deep shadows, I loved how crisp these shots were.

After talking to another birder at Bottle Beach who informed me that there were more Pelicans at the east end of town, I headed back to Westport after a disappointingly slow showing of shorebirds.

He was right and I got another chance to photograph Brown Pelicans

in a variety of poses.

I even captured a shot of a juvenile Brown Pelican.

The Pelicans made my day.

Red Knots at Bottle Beach

It might say something about how bad of a “Birder” I am that it never occurred to me to check what birds were being seen at Bottle Beach before I went there. But, as I’ve said before, I go to magical places that draw me, not to see specific birds. As a result, I didn’t know that endangered Red Knots had been seen in the area and that birders were especially on the lookout for them.

In fact, I didn’t learn that until the second day when an excited birder with a scope reported that he had counted over 300 Red Knots on the shore. Although I had focused on the Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlin, I had mentioned to Leslie the first day that some of the birds sure looked like Red Knots, not Dowitcher’s in breeding plumage, though they are similar in size and some Dowitchers are nearly as bright as Red Knots.

As it turned out, when I got home and looked at my shots, I had taken lots of shots of Red Knots

on the first day simply because they are a beautiful bird, and big enough that they’re impossible to ignore in a flock of shorebirds.

Dunlins are larger than most sandpipers, and this Red Knot is nearly twice the size of the resting Dunlin.

Not to mention that Red Knots are quite striking in flight and seem to fly a lot even while feeding.

Most of all, though, it was their beautiful color, especially when the sun was behind me that produced shots like this

[

and this.

Semipalmated Plovers

It’s easy to confuse Semipalmated Plovers with Killdeer since they’re about the same size and have similar coloring. However, I found it so hard to believe that the Semipalmated Plover was related to the larger and very differently colored Black-Bellied Plover that I featured yesterday that I had to look up the definition of “plover” which, as it turned out, seemed vague enough to cover both species: “a short-billed gregarious wading bird, typically found by water but sometimes frequenting grassland, tundra, and mountains.” Unlike sandpipers, plovers spot food and then run to catch it, rather than probing the sand for food, a characteristic that stands out on the beach.

When Leslie first saw the Semipalmated Plover she told me she had seen a Killdeer in a with a flock of Western Sandpipers. When I heard that I started looking for Semipalmated Plovers since I had made the same mistake the first time I had spotted a Semipalmated Plover.

We ended up seeing more Semipalmated Plovers than I have ever seen in one place before, and they weren’t particularly shy.

It doesn’t hurt that they usually pause after a brief sprint before they start running again.

Once they find food, they’re positively indifferent to photographers with large lenses.

The One that Got Away

Having grown up fishing, I often compare birding to fishing. If that’s true, then this is the one I hooked but got away. It is impossible to miss Black-Bellied Plovers when observing shorebirds because they are usually one of the biggest birds on the beach and their startling black-and-white plumage is impossible to miss.

There were two Black-Bellied Plovers on the far side of this large flock of shorebirds.

Black-Bellied Plovers generally keep their distance. This, for instance, is a heavily cropped shot, which explains its lack of detail.

I managed to get closer to this one, but it kept walking away for me,

and took off as I approached.

, I’d love to show you the great shot I got of a Black-Bellied Plover, but I must have accidentally deleted it on my first screening of the shots I'd taken.

Dunlins at Bottle Beach

Another bird I focused on at Bottle Beach was the distinctive Dunlin, a largish sandpiper with a distinctive black belly. Being able to identify the Dunlin among other sandpipers is probably part of the reason I focused on it.

All sandpipers are beautiful in their breeding plumage, but the Dunlin’s black belly is an elegant touch.

Dunlins are distinctive even skimpering across the sand like Alice’s White Rabbit,

though they’re even more beautiful close up.

Sitting on a sandy beach surrounded by shorebirds ignoring me while they feed for the long trip ahead has become a highlight of Spring for me.

Ruddy Turnstones

Reviewing my photos from Bottle Beach, I was shocked how many shots I'd taken of Ruddy Turnstones. I seldom see Turnstones, much less the rarer Ruddy Turnstone, but they stand out against the smaller, less colorful sandpipers that make up most of the flock.

They also hunt for food differently than the various kinds of Sandpipers,

which is why they’re called Turnstones.

I’m not sure what they’re looking for under all those stones they turn over, but I do know that this one seemed to prize small crabs, running from other Turnstones wanted to steal his prize.

In the end, of course, I’m it’s their sheer beauty that grabs my attention.