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It’s rather amusing to think about the Summer Solstice in the Pacific Northwest, especially considering the weather today. Here in Seattle, we don’t consider it summer until after the fourth of July. Yet many of the breeding birds are done singing by then, having had at least one brood. So many of us grow up with these strange ingrained memories of birds singing on bright summer days.

I’ve been bemoaning that I feel like I missed spring. I did plenty of birding and it’s not as if the birds are totally done. Yet, it feels like the weeks are slipping by, as work not specifically ornithological keeps me distracted. I guess I’m feeling out of touch. My journal, of what I’ve heard and seen almost every day helps, but doesn’t make up for the early hours traipsing about during point counts or banding.

So, I’ve decided that I wanted to commemorate the passing of our the longest day of the year by listing some of the more notable bird encounters, sightings, and aural identifications during this spring away field biology. These are encounters not sought after. In a way I’m grasping for content where I haven’t had time to seek it out; however I think noting the every day is just as valuable as seeking out the obscure. Establishing a norm is understanding for stasis, for conservation.

March 23, 2012 17:10 – The air feels of spring and technically it is. Sitting on a bench on the edge of Union Bay at the Montlake Fill, I’m privy to territorial stirrings. Three Virginia Rails call within 80 meters of my seat. One suddenly appears, bounds across an opening in awkward half flight, jumping gait, and crashes into another rail at the edge of a bank of cattails. This is the first time I’ve ever seen rails physically attacking one another, presumably because of their veiled lives. The attack lasts a second but feels monumental.

April 21, 2012 15:20 – Spring in the Hoh Rainforest. Blooming Salmonberry with Rufous Hummingbirds in attendance. Varied Thrush are tantalizingly close but still unseen, their insect calls reverberating in my ears. Pacific Wren are always singing but they seem particularly brazen today, standing ground on their nurse log perches when I approach. Everything is bathed in a sunlit lime.

April 29, 2012 6:45 – The pair of them are flying right at eye level in early morning glow. The tiercel, he’s notabley smaller, lofts up to land on a light pole along the freeway. The hen, seemingly floating by, suddenly tucks and drops out of view below the bridge. I can’t complain about having Peregrine Falcons on my morning commute.

May 26, 2012 12:20 – There’s an adult Bald Eagle flying over the freeway, being dive bombed by a Red-tailed Hawk. I’m driving with my mom, trying to split my attention between the road and the birds. An American Crow joins, focusing on the hawk. The eagle does a series of barrel rolls, extending its talons at its oppressor. They form a strange triple tiered circus act that begs a giggle. Birders aren’t always the safest of drivers.

May 30, 2012 15:40 – My first Willow Flycatcher is calling somewhere amongst the Red Alder stand before us. I’m guiding a group through the Hummock Trail in Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument. There’s no time to suss out the bird, to actually see it. Satisfaction in hearing a fitzbew will have to suffice, and it does.

June 3, 2012 11:00 – Hurricane Ridge is coming to life. American Pipits are already twittering about the matted ground where the snow has been peeled back by the sun. An Olympic Marmot lay sunning itself, probably just now unburied from a winter slumber. The precipitous icy peaks, gashed by glaciers and the elements, remind us that it’s not yet spring. In trade for a good portrait, I let a hungry Common Raven take a look in the car trunk.

June 13, 2012 13:00 – I’m talking to one of my Wilderness First Responder classmates during lunch. I hear the piercing call of an Osprey and look up to see one high up, performing a display I’ve never seen. A second bird joined higher still, the first continued a series of shallow dives while thrusting its legs out, screaming insistently. Getting home I discover (as I surmised) that this was likely a male bird displaying to a female. Nuptial displays are bizarre no matter the species.

June 14, 2012 15:20 – Two Common Nighthawks are flying over the field by the Environmental Learning Center at Discovery Park. I’m supposed to be listening to a lecture on reducing dislocated limbs in my Wilderness First Responder class but I’m highly distracted when we’re outside. These two goatsuckers are a surprise and are high enough that they only caught my eye by the pattern of their flight. Normally I detect them by their strange mechanical call. I wonder if they are nesting nearby.

June 21, 2012 12:57 – As I am writing this, a group of exceptionally noisy Bushtits are at my window, dangling about the birch just outside. I presume this is the pair I’ve been seeing all spring, now towing around their fully grown young, just barely discernible from their parents. The fledglings are incessantly crying for food, the parents hurriedly searching for morsels, shoving them in ravenous mouths. Just as I am about to turn away, a crow swoops in, presumably to grab a little bushtit morsel. Alarm calls irrupt but in seconds things are back to normal.

I feel a bit better now that I look at it this way.


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