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Sunday, January 10, 2010

More Snow

I drove up to Skagit again to revisit some of the swan and Snow Goose habitat. The weather has certainly been fine and with no wind it was a pleasant day out.

The Johnson DeBay Reserve is east of Mt Vernon, up river from the Skagit Flats. I had read about this area but never visited it. It is snuggled in a back water of the Skagit River and is a quick drive from the freeway. I was surprised at how quickly the town transforms to farm country. I assume there is a significant risk of flooding in these farm lands. Since this is a less publicised area, there are few people who visit the reserve. The open field was stubble corn and fallow potato crop area. All around were little mushy spuds in mud.

There were two hunters picking up their decoys and blind when I arrived and these two photographers. I could hear bird song in the distance and was thrilled to find a flock of about 30 Meadowlarks chattering in the trees. They are a very uncommon bird on this side of the Cascades. The old corn stubble must appeal to them. They were pretty shy so there was zero chance of getting a picture. I love their song.

There were few other birds present. A small flock of about 30 Trumpeter Swans did everything to keep their distance from we present. I am not sure the hunters were to account for this.

Since I have not had a good look at Tundra Swan this year I decided to go back over to Fir Island. In the past it was almost always a good bet to find some birds in the field but there has been some change of attitude towards promoting the birds. Hunters and bird watchers certainly enjoy them, but farmers are having a tough time and more and more ex-urban residents don't want the birders and hunters.

I visited the Hayton Snow Goose reserve and had a fine viewing of this Great Blue Heron.

and this view of Mt Baker. I cannot do justice to the wispy veils of clouds rising from the peaks.

The final stop was at the very end of the road on Fir Island. This is a popular hunting area and there were many Snow Geese present. Hunters were about as were many photographers and bird watchers. I think most of us appreciate the efforts each group puts into environment preservation. I chatted with two women who had their dogs with them. One dog was wearing a camo body vest. I asked them about that and they said the vest protects the underside of the dog from rough plants and stubble. It adds a bit of warmth and you can even but floatation blocks in some pockets to help the dog during its water work.

The salt water, intertidal marsh can hold some good birds in spring but today it was pretty quiet.

This rose hip was about the best splash of color.

We had one great flight of geese, the thing everyone hopes for. This is the only time hunters can shoot. Photographers and birders instantly have their optics going. The sound is amazing, not only the calls but the whoosh and whistle of the wings.

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