Saturday, September 17, 2011

Island County ClassTrip - Entry two: Whidbey Island 9/16

My crew was on breakfast early in the morning.  This isn't a food blog, but... bread pudding with whipped cream (orange infused whipped cream with chopped up swedish fish mixed in for the kitchen crew), bacon (thick cut for the kitchen crew), hash browns, and fresh fruit.  Pretty darn good stuff. :)  Most of my morning was spent scrubbing pans - folks... don't forget to grease your pans... it doesn't take that long, and it will save you so much time.  We cleaned up the whole place, packed up a truck, and as soon as the buses rolled in, I rolled out to start some serious birding.

Great Blue Heron - Penn Cove

Whidbey Naval Air Station provided some of the
background noise during these three days
My first stop was to Dugalla Bay just south of Deception Pass.  The birds that surprised me here were the ducks!  Fall is coming back, and it was nice to see some ducks I hadn't seen in a while - Northern Pintails, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal - all in the little lake just in from the bay itself.  The tide was in, so there wasn't any mud to bring in shorebirds. 

Brewer's Blackbirds - Oak Harbor
From there it was south to Oak Harbor - I only made one stop at the waterfront, and it wasn't a water bird that I found there, but birds in their natural habitat: Brewer's Blackbirds at a baseball field.  I saw the field, and it just looked like the field down the street from my home where they hang out.  I suppose a Target parking lot would have worked too. 

From here I traveled from the east side of the island to the west - not a long trip on this skinny island!  On the way, I got this shot... great picture of some beautiful rose hips, but I was kind of trying to get the American Goldfinch which was chowing down on nature's thistle feeder - a thistle!  A whole flock of them was having a great time in this particular field.

West side beach - Whidbey Island
There were actually quite a few birds out on the west side of the island.  Bos Lake had a Marsh Wren, and other stops along West Beach Drive gave me Common Loons, Harlequin Ducks, Surf Scoters and Horned Grebes.  For the latter two, they were the first I had seen in many months. 

Surf Scoters and Horned Grebe - it's been a while!

I ate these
I hadn't really been through the back roads of Whidbey Island much.  I mean... there's not a lot of back roads to do, but they're there.  So from here, taking a drive down Zylstra Road was nice.  I made one stop with several nice surprises.  First of all, a flock of 40-50 Barn Swallows were still hanging around the island - all of them seemed to be here.  Secondly, blackberries - giant Himalaya blackberries.  Now, I know that you shouldn't really eat the ones by the road, pollution, blah blah blah... but after 5-10 minutes of walking past the perfect blackberries, I dug in.  Worth it.

I realized after driving another quarter mile that I was back on Highway 20 - the main drag that runs down the center of the island.  A quick left, and up the road to pull out and look for shorebirds at Grasser's Lagoon.  One!  A Lesser Yellowlegs.  I was hoping for some of the rock-loving shorebirds, though, so I turned back south along Penn Cove.

Okay, this is the last time I'll apologize for a picture
in this entry, I promise, but this was my first attempt
at digiscoping - putting my phone up to the spotting
scope and trying to line it up... I don't even know if
the kiiiind of lighter looking bird is the Ruddy Turnstone,
but thought I'd include my attempt for entertainment purposes.
I kept striking out as I made my way farther and farther along Penn Cove at what seemed like good stops with rocky shoreline.  Finally I heard the rattle of Black Turnstones on the mussel rafts (...or whatever ya call em) down below.  They were quite a way out, so I got my spotting scope on them.  Picking through them, I realized that one of the little shorebirds was lighter than the rest;  It had the same general size and shape, but was brown rather than black.  Ruddy Turnstone!  This was a lifer for me, although I'll want a closer view some time.

I ate this too.  Can't compare it to the blackberries from
earlier, but both experiences involved bliss.
I was jazzed now, and felt that laziness sneak up on me that always arrives after I've seen a new bird - I was content to celebrate in Coupeville with a pint of IPA and a bowl of mussels at Toby's.  It was 2:30, and I hadn't had lunch yet, so this sat pretty well with me.  These had to be the freshest mussels I'd ever had, and the folks at the bar were friendly - very good stop.

Leaving Island County - Keystone Ferry. 
Crockett Lake behind
My last stop in Island County - probably for the year - was at the Keystone Ferry terminal.  I didn't have the rubber boots to tromp out to the shores of Crockett Lake, but I didn't reallly have the time either.  A quick stop, and I got to see some Semipalmated Plovers fly in to the lake shore, and from the ferry, I saw Heermann's Gulls and a Pelagic Cormorant.

Leaving, I got one more shot of the lighthouse that Bre and I visited for the first time almost 20 years ago now, on our very first road trip when we were just newly dating.  Seven lighthouses in a day was the plan, and it took us on a nice tour around Puget Sound.  The lines I drew on my gazzetteer that day were the first - we've drawn a lot of lines since!  That gazzetteer is pretty ooooold now, but we've still got it - full of miles and miles of love drawn in ink.
Admiralty Head Lighthouse - Island County

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