Bird Watching Cruise Report – June 22, 2013

Marbled Murrelets

Our June 22 bird cruise was blessed again with pleasant weather, interesting folks, breathtaking scenery, and repeated encounters with the typical summer avifauna of the salish sea.  Eagles and Ospreys are still incubating their eggs; we check three active Eagle nests and three active Osprey nests during our cruise, and are eagerly anticipating the sight of young birds any week now.  The Black Oystercatchers are a bit further along in their schedule, and we spent some time observing babies at two nests.  We visited with the young birds found the previous week and were pleased to find them robust and healthy, and more than half the size of the watchful adults already.  Interestingly, there are several Glaucous-winged Gull nests within a few feet of the Oystercatcher’s nest, but the young Oystercatchers seem to have eluded their ravenous bills.  At a second Black Oystercatcher nest, we spotted two tiny fuzzy chicks that could not have been more than a day or two out of the egg!

Alcids continue to be a main focus of our bird cruises, with two species seen by the hundreds (Rhinocerous Auklet and Pigeon Guillemot) and usually 6-20 Marbled Murrelets as well.  This week we had some better-than-usual looks at the Marbled Murrelets fairly close to the boat in calmer seas, which was a treat.  Marbled Murrelets are rather charming tiny stocky diving birds, most often seen in pairs or small groups feeding in the deeper channels.  Marbled Murrelets have, sadly, been declining in our region for many years.  In our area, Marbled Murrelets require old-growth forest for their nest sites, which can be many miles from the coast.
Pigeon Guillemots are present at almost every site we visit on the cruise, and we all got to learn alot more about them thanks to Govinda Rosling of the Guillemot Research Group from Whidbey Island, who joined us this past week (thank you!).  These handsome “Puget Penguins” nest in loose colonies on many of the smaller islands and rocks, as well as select sites (usually cliffs) along the shores of some of the larger islands.  The Guillemot nests are placed in burrows, holes, and crevices, so we cannot see them directly, but soon we ought to see adults bringing food to begging hatchlings inside.  The Guillemots are very noisy and active right now and we see them to advantage; swimming, diving, flying, perched on rocks, and flashing their bubblegum feet.
Bird List for June 22 Cruise: 45 Species
Brandt’s Cormorant: 9
Pelagic Cormorant: 100+
Double-crested Cormorant: 75
Great-blue Heron: 100+
Canada Goose: 4
Mallard: 25
Harlequin Duck: 50+
Black Oystercatcher: 20,
including 4 chicks at 2 nests
Caspian Tern: 135
Glaucous-winged Gull: Omnipresent
Western Gull: 1
California Gull: 75
Marbled Murrelet: 12
Rhinocerous Auklet: 100’s
Pigeon Guillemot: 100’s
Turkey Vulture: 6
Bald Eagle: 17, incl. 3 nests
Osprey: 3 active nests
Cooper’s Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 2
Rock Pigeon: 18
Eurasian Collared Dove: 1
Belted Kingfisher: 8
Rufous Hummingbird: 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher: 3
Pacific-slope Flycatcher: 1
Barn Swallow: 25
Cliff Swallow: 40
N. Rough-winged Swallow: 4
Violet-green Swallow: 45
Pileated Woodpecker: 1
Crow Spp.: 15
American Robin: 4
Bewick’s Wren: 1
Orange-crowned Warbler: 4
Yellow Warbler: 1
Red-winged Blackbird: 3
Brewer’s Blackbird: 1
Brown-headed Cowbird: 1
White-crowned Sparrow: Many singing
Song Sparrow: Many singing
Savannah Sparrow: 2
House Finch: 2
American Goldfinch: 2
House Sparrow: 12
Starling: 15