Saturday, January 19, 2008

Raptors in the Rain

Long day touring the birding locales of Sequim, Washington, with a raptor guy. Actually, a merlin guy. Though we didn't see any merlins (there are probably less than a dozen of them on the Olympic Peninsula), there were peregrine falcons, redtail hawks (85% of all raptors on the Olympic Peninsula are redtails), bald eagles. Cooper's hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, kestrel. Ravens. Also many ducks (especially pintails and wigeons), shorebirds (especially lotsa dunlins), trumpeter swans, tech talk, and lots and lots of birders' jokes.

We started at Dungeness Landing, where the rain began. En route to Three Crabs landing, the tail end of our convoy spotted a peregrine falcon in a tree across the street from the Dungeness Bay country store. Someone went on to Three Crabs and brought back the rest of the cars, and the theme of the day was set as 18 wet people stood by the side of the road listening to our instructor and peering through scopes protected by umbrellas. My notebook and my feet and my enthusiasm got very wet right there, but since we were carpooling and my car (along with my warmer coat) was ever further behind us, there was nothing for it but to perservere for six more hours.

We continued on various roads past farms and fields and ponds, stopping whenever observation struck as long as there was room to pull over safely (and sometimes when there wasn't). The rain lightened up through the day. The binocs were mostly useless (and wet), and I got better at seeing through the scopes. OK, it's true: birds are really handsome beings, and it's a pleasure to get such a Really Good Look at them. One of our number was a young teen who had great results using her cell phone to take pictures through the eyepiece of a scope. Towne Road dyke. Port Williams. Washington Harbor. Carrie Blake Park. By the end of the day, if everyone was pointing their binoculars Way Over There, I might actually pick out the little vertical mark of the raptor on his/her branch. And wait for someone to set up a scope so I could actually see it.

Binocs are undergoing the rice cure (buried in a bowl of rice) to dry them out. If young S. emails me some of her cell phone captures I will post them. Here's a map link. The shore points are fairly firm, but the roads between don't look right. Zoom out a click to see where we were in relation to Port Angeles.


Sam said...

Oh merlins! We had them on my farm (Surprise Valley, CA). Used to harass smaller birds into the house windows at high speed and then go after the stunned bodies.

mb in Port Angeles said...

Ah, to the merlin guy, all the little birds and rodents are prey items. When we got back to Dungeness Landing at the end of the day, the tide was receding and there were hundreds or thousands of dunlin around, maybe some other sorts of itty bitty flitty birds too. This made me happy, I love shore birds. Someone asked, what are we looking at? "Prey items," said the merlin guy.