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Category Archives: birds

Despite the heat and the valley full of smoke, animals are abundant. There is a mule deer with twin fawns that we see around our hill pretty often. All the young birds have fledged and are learning to forage with help from their parents. Ken’s bees are still out collecting pollen and nectar from our garden flowers. I do wonder how the smoke affects these animals and if they have shortened life spans because of it.

I’ve been visiting Lost Lake for nearly twenty years now. From the first time, I remember the loons. It was news to me that there were Common Loons in Washington. And then I realized that they were nesting here too!

Lost Lake is a small lake so it only hosts one nesting pair. There are a few other lakes in eastern Okanogan County and also in Ferry County that support a small population of nesting loons. Loons face many obstacles to raising their babies. Both parents take turns on the nest so the eggs (often there are two) are never left exposed. Predators that could take them include Bald Eagles, Common Ravens and otters. After they hatch and the young birds are on the water, the parents are constantly wary of attacks from the air and the water. An eagle can easily take a young loon from the water’s surface.

Loons aren’t the only birds at Lost Lake but they might be the most charismatic. Lots of people fish there in non-motorized boats so the birds are accustomed to boats and will approach fairly close. They are especially interested in the anglers. I find that if I sit quietly in my kayak, the birds will come close and offer great looks. Not that close though. These photos were mostly made with a 600 mm lens. The forest bird photos were made with a much shorter lens.

Spotted Sandpipers are a real joy to watch. They trot along logs and sticks on the water, bobbing their tails up and down and issuing their calls when they fly to the next lot. There are lots of swallows around the lake, taking advantage of many of the cavities in the trees for nesting sites.

 

Common Redpolls are an uncommon species in our area. If they do arrive here, it’s in the coldest part of the winter and they are attracted to our feeders. Some years I don’t see them at all. Last year was one of those years. This winter there is quite a flock of them coming daily to munch on black oil sunflower seeds and niger seeds. I’ve also seen them eating privet berries. They now outnumber our more commonly observed American Goldfinches, House Finches and Pine Siskins. They seem like jaunty little birds with their red crowns and the males’ pink breast.

According to Bird Webthey are arctic and sub-arctic breeders and in the winter they inhabit various kinds of semi-open country, including woodland edges and brushy or weedy fields.” Also, “they have pouches in their throats that allow them to gather large amounts of food quickly, and then retreat to a safe place to process the food. In winter, they will drop from a tree into deep snow and make a tunnel about a foot long to a roosting chamber.” I would love to find their tunnels!

Last week I got to watch this stately bird preen and preen some more in the morning sunshine. The bird didn’t mind me watching and taking pictures and was a lot more cooperative than the Mallards in the nearby pond. Great Egrets nest south of here in central Washington and after they fledge, they disperse to various areas, some going north like this one. Hopefully it will get some sense and migrate south soon, before the beaver ponds freeze over. There was a skim of ice that morning when I watched it and we’ve had smatterings of snow twice this week already.

Just a few images from our hillside. Lots of baby birds this time of year.

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