At Ocean Shores

It was a beautiful day at Ocean Shores, but as often the case when there are blue skies there were very strong winds, as shown by the surf breaking over the jetty.

Although I gone to the ocean to see the loons we hadn’t seen on our Port Townsend trip, we got a pleasant surprise when we encountered Surfbirds (turns out they were probably Black Turnstones, a similar bird), a bird that I spent five years searching for before ever finding one. Not coincidentally, it was exactly at this spot that I first spotted one.

On this trip it was quite clear where they got their name from.

Black Turnstone walking on rocks

I suspect that the high surf might have driven them in closer to shore than usual. We sighted a small flock of them on the rocks near the shore.

They would start of the rock and eat their way down to the beach, feeding on crustaceans

When the waves came crashing in they would instantly fly back to the top of the rocks to start feeding all over again, once again working their way back to the bottom of the rocks.

“Birding” Port Townsend

Though the clouds and rain had caught up with us by the time we left Ft. Flagler, the sunshine was back after we spent a couple of hours window-shopping and eating lunch in Port Townsend.  So, we drove out to Ft. Worden to see what we could find.

Two River Otters were hanging out on the dock, apparently enjoying the sun for the first time in weeks.

A Double-Crested Cormorant was occupying the Belted-Kingfisher’s favorite perch, 

but just as we were leaving a male Belted Kingfisher landed on the railing in front of us and I managed to get one of the better shots I’ve gotten in awhile.

Since it was early afternoon and we didn’t have anything else planned for the day, I decided to take advantage of the sun and see if there were any Harlequin Ducks back in Pt. Townsend.  There was a single Harlequin weaving his way through a large flock of Brants.

It was nice to end our visit on a high note after a rather disappointing morning.

A Day in Port Townsend

We got a slight break in the clouds Sunday and Monday.  Unfortunately, we had to spend the best day, Sunday, working in the garden pruning and beating back the weeds.  Still, with partial clearing forecast, we headed up to Fort Flagler and Port Townsend on Monday.

The weather didn’t look promising when we left, but there were some clear spots to the Northeast and it seemed silly not to go since we had already arranged our day to do so.  

Although it was overcast our entire drive, we magically got to Fort Flagler just in time to catch a patch of blue.  As we drove up, we saw hundreds of plovers and sandpipers on the lawn by the café.

When we started our beach walk to the end of the spit, we realized that the shorebirds were on the grass because the tide was very high and there wasn’t any short to speak of.  However, a large flock of Brant was up near the shore feeding on seaweed

Before long we were assaulted by high winds and snow/sleet.  Despite the numb forehead, I was determined to spot the Harlequin ducks I had come to see.  We finally spotted a small flock a long, long way offshore and by then the sun had virtually disappeared.  My 400mm lens combined with Photoshop managed to confirm that they were, indeed, Harlequins.

We also spotted another favorite, a male Red-Breasted Merganser, in the same area making a good photo impossible, but I still was excited to see the first one I’ve seen in over a year.

The highlight of the walk turned out to be the little Sanderlings that ran up and down the shore right next to us, so close at times that my telephoto lens couldn’t focus on them.  

As an added benefit, closeups seem to require less light

and this was my favorite shot of the morning.

Pelican Feeding Frenzy

After we finished birding Tokeland, we headed back to Westport thinking that Logan would be returning before too long.  Until he returned, I thought I would try to get better pictures of the Brown Pelicans.  It took several stops, but I finally found a spot where they were fishing. There were so many pelicans that I got multiple chances to get the “perfect” picture.  I never did get it, but I came a lot closer than I have in the past.  It turns out that it is extremely hard to predict the moment a pelican begins its dive.

They spend a lot of time suspended mid-air like this, but more often than not they decide not to dive and continue looking for another fish.

It turned out, for me at least, that the best chance of catching one diving was to look for a spot where another pelican had just hit the water.

If you focused long enough another pelican would often join the feast.

Sometimes two more would join 

and then another.

I was most surprised to see how many gulls tried to join the feast.  I don’t think I saw a single pelican catch a fish without being joined by a gull.