Wednesday, September 21, 2011

For the Birds

One of the joys that Nicole and I have found in the cruising life is bird watching and bird identification.  It's an activity that fits well with the lifestyle, having ample free time for observing, and traveling to different areas for exposure to varying species.  I thought I would have a leg up on this having worked as an ornithologist in the past, but it turns out Nicole is quick and efficient with the identification guides, and the species I don't know off the top of my head are quickly found by her paging through the books we keep on board.  For some reason it didn't occur to us for a long time to keep a list, that anyone else would be interested in what we are seeing, but we started this year and wanted to share our findings so far.  As an interesting side note, even though we are travelling through the same areas that we did two years ago, we are seeing different species, and different concentrations on this years trip.  In 2009 we saw puffins, but haven't seen any on this trip.  Neither of us can remember seeing many loons on our earlier trip, but we see them all the time this year.  Our biggest mystery comes with hummingbirds. We saw hummingbirds two years ago, but not nearly as many as we have seen this year.  We are also seeing them in unusual places, sometimes when we are very far from land.  The most likely explanation is an attraction to color, our boat is bright red, the inflatable boat we tow behind us is red, the rain gear we wear is red or yellow, so there is a lot there to attract their attention.  One of the constants we have noticed from both trips are the eagles, and especially in Alaska.  There are eagles in almost every bay we go into, in all of the towns we visit, and sometimes they are so numerous that they are hard to count. As I mentioned above, this list is just a partial list, but it gives you an idea of the variety we are seeing and some of the more unusual finds.  You will notice a definite lack of gulls on the list.  This is not from a lack of seeing them, but more from the frustration of trying to get a positive identification.  If you enjoy bird watching and have a guide book close at hand, open to the section on gulls and spend a few minutes trying to decipher the differences and you will understand what we mean.

Bald Eagle
Golden Eagle
Turkey Vulture
Surf Scoter
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Harlequin Duck
Pigeon Guillemot
Rufous Hummingbird
Western Grebe
Canada Goose
Common Loon
Pacific Loon
Black Oystercatcher
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Slate Colored Junco
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Common Goldeneye
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
European Starling
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Belted Kingfisher
Rhinoceros Auklet
Marbled Murrlet
Common Murre
Sandhill Crane
Red-Necked Phalarope
Black Legged Kittiwake
Arctic Tern
Red-Throated Loon
Hermit Thrush
Spotted Sandpiper
Red Legged Kittiwake

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