Friday, March 18, 2016

Winter in the San Juan Islands

It's always great to spend time in the San Juan Islands. Two days out on the water + many great birds + a red fox = a successful weekend! I have lots of exciting photos to share in this post, be sure to view them all. As always, feel free to click on them to view them larger.

I saw a female Bufflehead before we even left the harbor. They're small waterfowl that are common winter residents in Washington.

One of the highlights was seeing a Peregrine Falcon up close. This one flew into this branch just as we arrived.

The same Peregrine Falcon as before. These birds can fly over 200 mph when they dive down to hunt. Like the Bald Eagle, they became endangered because of the pesticide DDT, which thinned out their eggs. This photo was actually a complete accident, and is a good example of why it's always a good idea to have a camera ready. The falcon was flying in under the blue sky, then dove down near the dark rocky cliff. I quickly changed my exposure settings, not sure if I would get anything. If in doubt, take pictures anyways and ask questions later! I wish it was flying more in my direction, but with a Peregrine in flight, anything that is sharp makes a good keeper!

Soon after spotting the Peregrine Falcon, we found a Bald Eagle. While fairly common in our area now, I'm still always excited to see one!

A Harlequin Duck. These stunning birds winter in the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, but breed in mountain streams in the summer. 

Cormorant nests, currently unoccupied. When the spring and summer months come around, you'll find cormorants nesting here. It's always a sad reminder when I see just how much humans have polluted our planet. You can see discarded ropes and plastic pieces making up the nests, in addition to the natural sticks. If you see garbage floating in the water, and if it's safe to do so it's always nice to clean it up and dispose of it properly.

What is this wild looking bird, you ask? It's a Black Oystercatcher! These charismatic birds are one of the many different shorebirds found in Washington.

Another photo of a Black Oystercatcher. 

Mount Baker, as seen from the San Juan Islands.

Harbor seals resting on a small rocky island. 

Marbled Murrelet. These birds nest in large trees in coastal forests, sometimes up to 45 miles from shore. They're threatened from deforestation.

Mouflon Sheep and an interesting tree. These sheep aren't native here, they were introduced in the 1900's. 

A juvenile Bald eagle sitting on a grassy hillside. Bald Eagles don't get their white heads until they're 5 years old.

 More Mouflon Sheep.

A Bald Eagle and Mouflon Sheep. Soon after this photo, the sheep chased the several Bald Eagles around off the island and away from the young sheep.

 A red fox looking out over the hillside.

"Even with all our technological accomplishments and urban sophistication we consider ourselves blessed, healed in some manner, forgiven and for a moment transported into some other world, when we catch a glimpse of an animal in the wild" - Thomas Berry. One of my favorite quotes, and it perfectly describes my encounter with this fox.

There were plenty of rabbits on San Juan Island. 

A Bald Eagle nest on San Juan Island. It is said that the San Juan Islands contain one of the largest breeding populations of Bald Eagles in the continental United States. 

The ferry landing on Orcas Island. It was nice to stop at some of the other islands on the way back.

1 comment:

  1. That picture of the fox turning around is really special. Thanks for sharing, Tyler.