Yellow Blog, Up High in Banana Tree

I love the beautiful world at night.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Joyful Nisqually excursion.

I went to Nisqually NWR today and had a great time. Tuckered myself out, though. I think I must have walked about seven miles. It was a beautiful day; clear and breezy, and there were no bugs. Well, a couple of bugs -- see below.

The highlight of the day was the northern shrike! Whoohoo! I was overjoyed to see him, but it was a little weird, too. It was as though I willed the bird to show up at that particular time and place. I thought, 'This would be a good place for a shrike,' and *poof* -- there he was, atop a bush....

I got a fabulous look at him as he snatched a bumblebee right out of the air, then flew to a perch with it. He deftly smashed the bee against a sharp twig with his beak until the bee broke in two. The bird ate what bug parts were in his beak, then flew to the ground to retrieve the other half and gobbled it down. Consistent with what I've read about shrikes, he used his feet only for perching, not for holding the bee (which would have conveniently saved him a trip to the ground).

This was all close enough that I could (with binoculars) clearly see the subtle gray striping on his belly, his nice sharp hooked beak, his cool bandit mask, and his fierce shiny black eyes.

When I finally left the shrike, he followed me for a good quarter mile, flying from bush to bush. Coincidentally going my way? He seemed to be watching me, though. Perhaps he sensed my keen interest in him and was curious? Whatever the reason, it was a real treat that he kept me company.

I also saw a male ring-necked pheasant at close range, a pair of courting northern harriers, a great variety of ducks, two greater white-fronted geese (I haven't seen them since Creamer's Field in Fairbanks!), the cackling subspecies of Canada goose, a gaggle of brants, a sharp-shinned hawk, a willow flycatcher, and I think I heard an American bittern.

I saw a mourning cloak butterfly that must have just woken up from hibernating. I looked for long-tailed weasels (we saw one the last time we were at Nisqually -- M and Eemie thought it looked like a tiny monkey!), but I didn't see any. I saw harbor seals swimming in McAllister Creek and the Nisqually River. I looked for pups along the banks, but didn't see any.

I was initially excited to hear a drumming ruffed grouse in the deciduous woods along the Nisqually river. I hadn't heard one of those guys since Alaska! It sounded right, at first: BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOMBOOMBOOM. Then I realized that I was hearing military exercises from Fort Lewis. What a downer!

But everything else about the day was wonderful. Many thanks to Eemie for hanging out with Beanie today so I could bird.

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