Our friend Susana came to visit us from Boston for the weekend, so we decided to head out of the city for one of the days and show her some of the Olympic Peninsula. We decided to head to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for some bird spotting. After spotting our first bird at home, then a quick ferry ride across the sound, we arrived. The walk out to the refuge takes you along a nice forest path and we look our time looking at flowers and plants. Generally I would photograph while Heather and Susana worked with the guidebook to identify everything.

Eventually we made it out to the main part of the refuge, which is a 5 mile long sand spit that sticks out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It is supposed to be a haven for all sorts of birds and other marine life. We mostly saw a lot of gulls and terns while we wandered out the spit for about half a mile enjoying the cold and the clouds and the wind. While deciding if we should turn back we discovered some little sand piper looking birds. After lots of observation and some serious guidebook work, we determined that they are Whimbrels. We also saw a couple plover looking birds, but I didn't get a picture and we didn't get a positive ID for species.

On the walk back to the car we had a fly-over by a juvenile Bald Eagle, and we saw some cute baby deer. And once back at the car we saw what we have tentatively identified as a female Northern Harrier hunting in a field right next to the road. She started to fly off while I was changing lenses, but I got a couple shots as she was flying away carrying some sort of small mammal.

Well, we were getting sick of the cold and the gray, so we thought we'd try our luck at Hurricane Ridge and hope we could get above the clouds. It worked! After a pretty foggy drive up, it was nice and sunny on top. Most of the snow is gone, although there are still a few patches around. We found some more birds and more deer who were out enjoying the sun as well.
On the drive down from the ridge we stopped so I could take a picture of the mountains in the clouds. Susana was wandering around and discovered the coolest birds ever! It is apparently Blue Grouse mating season, and you could hear them everywhere making vary strange noises, which we hadn't know what they were, but Susana found us a bird and we watched him making the noise with the big yellow and white air sacks on the side of his neck. The females are much less conspicuous. I did eventually get back to the neat mountains rising out of the sea of clouds.

Eventually it was time to drive back into the clouds and head for home. As always, thanks for looking and I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Jim

Posted 06/16/2008

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