Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Varied Thrush, Discovery Park

The woods at Discovery Park were quiet this morning. With temperatures near freezing and snow on the way, few birds were interested in loud dissertations on territory or romance. They were too busy eating. Those in groups had a chirp here and there, and one pileated woopecker let out a long cackle but most birds were quiet. The best way to see one was to watch for movement.
Still, the cold weather brought some beautiful visitors.

Varied thrushes are a species most birders are a little silly about. Their plumage is beautiful, with the blue-gray back and the bold orange stripes. Their call is haunting, and their habits mean that it's a treat to see one.
They prefer old forests, and generally only come to town when harsh weather pushes them out of the high country. They also delight in foiling all my attempts to photograph them. They tend to bounce out of the way whenever I aim my camera, and when I look up to reposition it, it often takes me a while to find them -- those orange stripes have an amazing way of blending in. So, I'm happy to have one in focus. Almost, anyway.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Goose neck barnacles

There's a beach we like to go to that has a rocky outcrop pointing toward Trial Island. The deeper crevices in the rocks are full of goose neck barnacles.

They are attached to the rock by a leathery neck, so they can bend with the waves, as they gather plankton.

The waves carried them here, in the form of larvae that cemented themselves to the rock. And after they mate in the spring the waves will take their larvae away.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Backyard birds small and big

Who says a hummingbird feeder can't be a bushtit feeder? Every so often, a gang of about 20 little gray birds surrounds my parents' hummingbird feeder.

The Anna's hummingbirds that hang around the feeder let the bushtits. There are at least two adult males and one sub adult that use the feeder, and they chase each other on sight.

Little birds weren't the only yard visitors.

This great blue heron looked around the yard,

but apparently saw nothing of interest.