Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Apoceclipse Weekend.

For my birthday this year I decided throw a big old solar eclipse because why not?  I took the whole weekend off but then was afraid to go anywhere too far because of the scary traffic predictions.  Jacob and I decided to take a couple day trips, starting with one to the coast to look for some of the great shorebirds that had been reported.  Saturday morning began with a sliver of moon and then some delicious donuts from Donuts Plus.


Our first coast stop was Seaside Cove.


Black Turnstones were finally exactly where they were supposed to be, unlike the previous trips we had made there.


 We headed north to access the beach at Del Rey, then drove almost ten miles on the beach all the way to the Peter Iredale.  Shorebirds were pleasantly abundant, beginning with a pile of Semipalmated Plovers. 


There were also tons of Western Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and a lone Whimbrel.


Don't forget to use proper technique when photographing shorebirds but trying to stay dry at the same time:

Proper technique also involves giving up on staying dry and spending the rest of the day with awkward wet spots on your jeans.
 
The bounty of dead things on the beach attracted several Bald Eagles and ravens.

Dead sturgeon for me!

Dead murre for me!

At some point I noticed that way out over the ocean were hundreds (maybe thousands) of Sooty Shearwaters swarming which is always fun.


Back to the shorebirds, we had four Baird's Sandpipers in one area of the beach.


Eventually we came across the most exciting birds of the day, a trio of plovers.


They appeared to be all Pacific Golden-Plovers, but we spent a very long time photographing them and consulting the field guide to be certain.  They took flight at one point and we did not see black in any of their armpits and their tails had patterns with golden wash.  Their undertail coverts as seen above were definitely not white.  With all of this we ruled out Black-bellied Plover. 

Here are a bunch more photos so you can tell me I am totally wrong about my ID.


While we were laying there watching them the tide was coming in and eventually the birds were all standing in water.


Pretty cool!  And a state bird for me!  There was some talk about a golden-plover seen the weekend before in this area possibly being an American Golden-Plover so that is also something to be looking for in these photos.  But I don't feel like diving into that right now.

We finished our beach drive at high tide before heading out for burritos and beers.  Solid morning of birding!

On Sunday we decided to drive up to Gifford Pinchot National Forest to do some exploring.  My favorite area was Sawtooth Ridge where the fields of huckleberries are lovely.  We took the dogs for a little hike there...



Jacob somehow spotted a mountain goat on a distant rocky slope.

White dot, dead center.  Only had my macro lens on me. 

In the opposite direction of the goat was a sweet view of Mount Adams.


This area turned out to be quite birdy but with only my macro lens on me I didn't manage any bird photos.  Oh well.  A few more fun things from our day:

 Green false hellebore


 Hydaspe fritillary?


Frog at Forlorn Lakes

Monday was of course the real event:  my birthday!

Oh and that other thing happened too.


After breakfast at my favorite neighborhood spot, Jacob and I headed to Broughton Beach to combine the solar eclipse with some shorebird action.  Quite a few people had a similar idea but thankfully not many trekked out to the mudflats.

An Osprey flew down to get some drinks and splashes in before 99.2% of the sun disappeared. 



A flock of Western Sandpipers was flying around for awhile trying to find their eclipse glasses.


The eclipse progressed and the beach got darker and colder.  We watched the streetlights across the river in Vancouver turn on.  A Least Sandpiper putted around in front of us, acting oblivious to the sun disappearing.


About one minute from our 99.2% maximum coverage:


It was noticeably darker and refreshingly cooler, but overall not as dark as I had expected.  The bugs sure did get active but that was the only thing I noticed as far as "animal behavior."  The Least Sandpiper kept on going, the gulls sat around like normal, and nothing really seemed out of the ordinary.  Except maybe the lack of cars driving by on Marine Drive.

I took some photos with my camera through my eclipse glasses:


Fun.

That was my birthday apoceclipse weekend!  Thanks to Jacob for making it awesome and for making awesome cupcakes!!


Good times!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We interrupt your regularly scheduled birds...

...to bring you a moth. 

One moth?

Yep.

A few evenings ago Jacob and I were sitting in the backyard having beers when I noticed Rexi was walking along with her nose to the ground, following a big bug.  I jumped up and ran inside to get my macro lens, and returned to find it had crawled up a blade of grass. 


It took me awhile to accept that this was a moth, and a brand new moth at that.  Most likely it had only just emerged when Rexi noticed it waddling along the ground.

Its wings were super short, like it was wearing a bad crop top.  How the heck was this thing going to fly?


Then I noticed a droplet of liquid was forming on its face and at the same time its wings were starting to vibrate and separate for the first time.



I found a page from a book online called The Natural History of Moths by Mark Young that described this very behavior:

"At emergence the wings are crumpled and soft, but the moth soon finds a secure foothold and then forces a fluid through the veins in the wings, expanding them rapidly."

The crop top was starting to fit!  The moth finished this behavior then took off for another patch of grass where it expanded its wings outward for the first time.  After a few minutes I poked my finger in the grass and it crawled right onto it.


It clung to my finger for quite awhile, seemingly undisturbed by my face in its face.  Eventually its wings moved to a more restful-looking position.

Again, from the Natural History of Moths:

"Once they are at full size, the fluid is withdrawn and the wings dry and harden, before either being folded into the usual position at rest, or being used immediately for flight."



The crop top was gone and it looked like a real moth, ready to party.  I put my finger to the grass and it waddled off quickly to a dense patch and hid out.

Blurry moth on the go. 

I would have loved to watch it take flight for the first time but instead it settled into the grass, leaving sometime in the night.  Pretty cool!  I had never seen anything like this before and thought you all might like it too.  Yay moths!