Skagit Wildlife Area, Washington, with Mount Baker
It’s late afternoon, warm but not too warm. There’s even a hint of a breeze from the sea. I’m in the Skagit Wildlife Area looking for a Stilt Sandpiper, a rare bird here and a new one to add to my list. I’ve never been in this location before which makes the search more difficult. Plus the tide is in. Shorebirds like the Sandpiper can’t feed in these winding brackish channels when the water is high. I’ll have to depend on my luck. Funny thing is, I don’t really care, not on a jewel of a day like this. Not with a snow-capped volcano as a backdrop.
American Goldfinch -Peeved
An American Goldfinch decides I’m not enough of a threat to actually move off and parallels me as I walk. He stays a little ahead, taking short hops through the alders, slightly irritated, I think. Finally he shoots me a ‘can I not eat in peace?’ look and flips back behind me. I feel strangely apologetic. Goldfinches are common birds but no less spectacular for that, which is true for many of the little feathered miracles we see every day. Even our every day Robin is a very handsome bird.
A dozen Yellowlegs fly in and drop down a hundred feet away. Their calls, chiew, chiew, chiew, lead me to them, and to a small knot of birders already set up for good viewing – a nice bunch of folks. Yes, the Stilt Sandpiper was there until a Merlin, a small falcon, flew past, at which point the Sandpiper left in a hurry. I missed it by five minutes and never do find it. It’s the luck of the draw.
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (Lesser on the Right)
Short-billed Dowitcher (dozing off)
The Yellowlegs – Greater and Lesser – come back, accompanied by a few Short-billed Dowitchers. Some are wary, ready to fly but others are sleepy. The big Tringa sandpipers are too big for the blindingly fast but relatively small Merlin. Not so, the Least Sandpipers I saw on my way in, heading in the opposite direction, making speed, like they’d fired up their afterburners. They’d better move, even motoring like they were, the Merlin can catch them.
Ready to Fly – Greater Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitcher
Brewer’s Blackbird Swimming Hole
I finish the day at a slough where some of a thousand or more Brewer’s Blackbirds are bathing. Like all blackbirds, these are noisy, raucous almost. They squawk and splash, and preen, surprisingly childlike. Are they having fun? It’s hard not to think so. It’s been a long hot day and now it’s time for a swim. The chap in the foreground is just about to dive in, for the second time! It’s something we see over and over in our own, human swimming holes.