Flagler and Beyond

As you can probably tell him from the number of pictures I featured from my Fort Flagler trip, it was probably my favorite birding trip of the fall/winter season. Not only did I get pictures of the Harlequin ducks I had gone for, but I also saw a number of birds I never expected to see.

For instance, this common loon popped up out of nowhere while I was trying to get a picture of a Bufflehead and stuck around until I got a number of shots.

Common Loon in non-breeding colors

When it dove and surfaced a considerable distance away, I walked out on the dock to see if I could get another good shot. Instead, I ended up talking to a gentleman who is working on his boat. He gave me some hints on wildlife to look for and pointed out a river otter at the end of the dock. Sure enough, when I looked at the end of the dock I saw a small river otter, probably a young otter, stretched out sunning himself.

Otter sunning on dock

Unlike most River otters I’ve seen in the past, this one didn’t seem camera-shy at all. In fact, it worried me that he didn’t seem at all shy of humans, not a good trait to have when a lot of boat owners see them as nuisances.

I would have been elated if those had been the only shots I’d gotten on the entire trip, but as I was leaving the marina I spotted a small flock of male Red breasted mergansers, a bird I’d been trying to photograph for several weeks now.

male Red-Breasted Merganser

It was impossible to get very close, but this shot was surely the best shot I had gotten so far this year.

Unfortunately, Point Wilson wasn’t as rewarding as it has often been in the past. I spent nearly an hour, and saw nothing but a few bufflehead and cormorants. Still, as I drove out I noticed some birds by the research marina and felt lucky to get several shots of this Pigeon Guillemot in non-breeding colors.

non-breeding Pigeon Guillemot

At first I thought I’d gotten a picture of a murre or murrelet. It was only when I got home and looked at my birding book that I realized it was a Pigeon Guillemot, a picture I’ve never managed to get before, though I have several pictures of them in breeding colors.