Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Elephant Seals

I'm still looking back at my photos from my trip to the Channel Islands in SoCal. I know this photo doesn't have much to do with anything that flies, except for the Western Gull standing on this beach on San Miguel Island. But I just have to give these incredible Elephant Seals some exposure. Notice how they dwarf the California Sea Lions next to them, which normally strike us as pretty big themselves. (Is that a sea lion on top of one of the Elephants?) But even more amazing is that they sometimes dive to depths of 5,000 ft. to feed on the ocean floor, and they take a nap during the hour that it takes them to get down so deep. (I learned this, and some other fascinating facts, from a young naturalist on our boat.) Amazing!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Barn Swallow roosting in corn

About two years ago (Sept. '04) my curiosity about the Barn Swallows' roosting habits drove me into the cornfield just before they started to come down for the night. I stayed in there until it was completely dark, mostly listening to the noise of the multitude of voices and wings because I could see only what was happening directly above me. This one perched (at least temporarily) on the tassle of the corn stalk, but it appeared that most of them found places a little lower, on the broad, stiff leaves.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Barn Swallow flock

Just after sunset today I watched a flock of 10's of thousands of Barn Swallows gather over a large corn field, and then as darkness came down, so did they. Within about 15 minutes almost all of them had found a place to perch for the night on the leaves of the standing corn plants, but they did not quickly go to sleep. The loud combined chatter of their voices could be heard long after they had dropped out of sight. This photo includes only a small percentage of the birds that were in the flock. I also heard a few Violet-green Swallows flying with the Barns. (Click on the photo for an enlarged view.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Nesting island of Xantus's Murrelet

This rocky islet near San Miguel Island in California's Channel Islands National Park is one place to find the uncommon Xantus's Murrelet, a species of Alcid very rarely seen from shore. The skipper of my boat told me he dropped off some researchers there during nesting season. They camped on the rock for three days of studying and banding the birds. It must have been quite a challenge to find a place to camp on such a steep and windy location. The story is that the sheep ranchers who lived on San Miguel a hundred years ago could not raise chickens because they were inevitably blown off into the ocean.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelicans were almost always within view during my trip to the Channel Islands of southern California, but many of them head north to Oregon and Washington following the nesting season. This immature bird was fishing with dozens of others today in Netarts Bay west of Tillamook, Oregon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Common Dolphin

Another "flyer" we encountered on our way to Santa Rosa Island was the Common Dolphin. There were sometimes hundreds racing along beside our boat, below the surface most of the time, but frequently leaping into the air. I was suprised to hear their squeaking chatter above the noise of the wind and splashing water.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Flying fish

When I named this blog "Flycatcher" it didn't occur to me that I might someday have a photo of a flying fish to post here. But I just returned from a trip to Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands off southern California, and brought back this photo. Not only was this sighting a surprise to me, even the local naturalists are surprised to find these fish so far north this early in the year. Apparently the water is warmer than usual. I don't know the name of this fish, but it was a remarkable "flyer." Some of the flights (glides, actually) must have approached 200 ft. in length.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wandering Tattler

Some Wandering Tattlers pass through Oregon during migration between nesting areas in the far north and wintering grounds on islands in the central and south Pacific. This one was resting this morning on rocks along the beach at Arch Cape in Clatsop County. It is still wearing mostly breeding plumage, but showing signs of beginning the molt to plainer winter plumage.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Black Swallowtail

It took me a while to figure out that the black Swallowtails I saw in Pennsylvania were the dark form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. They were in striking contrast to the brilliant yellow ones sharing the same flowering shrubs, and their underside was more colorful than the top side.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Eastern Kingbird immature

Also among the entertainers last week in eastern Pennsylvania was a family of Eastern Kingbirds. This noisy youngster kept his parents busy delivering insects to his perch on the pasture fence.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

In Pennsylvania I was amazed at the number of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. This female was nectaring near a flowering shrub where I counted 10 of them together, plus two Monarchs.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gray Catbird

One of the few birds that seemed unaffected by the extreme heat in Pennsylvania earlier this week was the Gray Catbird. Every time I ventured out to do a little birding I heard them "meowing" at me from the thickets and brushy fencelines.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Monarch Butterfly

The weather in Pennsylvania for the past week was way too hot and humid for me, and the birds were mostly taking shelter in the shade, too. However, the butterflies were loving it, and this Monarch opened its wings just long enough for me to get one shot.