Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Harlequin ducks and shorebirds, Cattle Point, Victoria

I took a walk to Cattle Point on a blustery Monday, all the better to see that most gorgeous of waterfowl, the harlequin duck.

There were also at least three black oystercatchers foraging along the rocks.

Here's one chiseling into a crevice. It came out with a limpet. Earlier, I saw it clutching a sculpin in its beak.

Then my bird ID skills were put to the test by a parade of shorebirds in winter plumage. Judging by the size, bill length, and the fact that they were foraging in the grass, I think the little birds next to the glaucous-winged/western hybrid gulls were dunlin.

Here are some more.

I also came across two black turnstones. This one seemed to be huddling into a rock crevice fore shelter.

And perched on a rock off Willows beach, two more species. I think the short-billed ones are black-bellied plovers, and the long-billed one is a willet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Icy morning, Green Lake

A week into the cold snap, Green Lake was fringed with ice, and had big rafts of ice floating in the middle.

Hooded mergansers were putting on a great show in the willows on the east side of the lake. I spotted some males grunting and arching their necks at each other. Also, one female, who caught a large fish, had to evade all the others in her flock of 16 birds in order to swallow it. She managed.

Here's a splendid male.

Here's the biggest find of the day, a young green heron, perched discreetly in a willow. Too discreetly for my liking.

As usual, I could see it better than I could photograph it.

One of these wigeon is not like the others...

It's a Eurasian wigeon, likely visiting for the winter from Siberia, making it more exotic than the American wigeon that make up the rest of the flock. They breed in boring old North America.

And here is a lovely common merganser. Also seen: northern shovelers in full breeding regalia, three ruddy ducks and a common goldeneye.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hooded Merganser, Green Lake

I saw lots of hooded mergansers and a few common mergansers on Green Lake this beautiful morning.

Lovely creatures.

Birds, Discovery Park

From yesterday:
Ruby-crowned kinglet, part of a raucous mixed flock that included ruby-crowned kinglets, golden-crowned kinglets, black-capped and chestnut backed chickadees, a nuthatch and...

...brown creepers. Here's one.

Over by the pond a song sparrow was hopping around, apparently eating tidbits from the duckweed and occasionally wetting its feathers.

Slime mold revisited, Discovery Park

Remember this, from Nov. 18?

It's a slime mold amoeba climbing a tree so it can produce spores. Here's what it looked like yesterday:

Fred Rhoades says it is likely Physarium polycephalum, a species that is easy to culture and as a result, widely studied. Among the discoveries about Physarium: it can navigate mazes and can provide the computing power for a light-avoiding robot.
It's impossible to say for sure, what it is, however, without having an expert examine the fruiting bodies closely -- possibly under a microscope.
In case you ever need to do this, here are Rhoades' instructions for sending slime mold fruiting bodies through the mail.
"The best way is in a tiny box that you put in an envelope. Take the fruiting body scrap removed on a small sliver of the bark that is on and glue it down in the bottom of a small matchbox or similar. Put a bit of cotton ball or some such in on top to stabilize it and slip the whole thing in an envelope, perhaps gluing the box down on a card to stabilize its position in the envelope. Any small, rigid container will work. The main thing is to protect the fruiting bodies from being crushed or shaken as they are very fragile."

American Searocket, Discovery Park

Still blooming.

Amanita muscaria, Woodland Park

Around a pine tree by the Zoo, Fly Agaric, one of the world's oldest mind-altering drugs (though I understand it's only trippy in an "Oh, look, I'm violently ill" kind of way), and insect repellents (an old use was to mix it in a potion to stupefy flies.) More recently, an icon of the fungal world, accessory of garden gnomes, favored residence of smurfs and object of desire for the Mario Brothers.

I wonder what's been eating this one.

Cooper's Hawk, Good Shepherd Center

This young Cooper's Hawk was lingering among the apple trees near Seattle's Good Shepherd Center.

I couldn't see any bands, which any Seattle-born Cooper's Hawk would have. I guess it's from out of town.