365 Nature – Day 359

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.

With only eight days left of 365 Nature Project I felt like I wanted to make them really count so set out on a spontaneous solo adventure today. Because it’s a holiday I couldn’t do a full day like I did on Day 357 to Fort Flagler. Instead I opted for something a little closer and drove to West Seattle to catch the ferry to Vashon Island, a prime location for winter ducks and other water birds. The ferry rides in winter around Puget Sound are often spectacular. No boring, blue, sunny skies now, instead we are treated to dramatic clouds with sun splitting through in bursts of orange. As soon as I got on board and walked to the top, I spotted Surf and White-winged Scoters from the ferry deck.

After I arrived on Vashon, I headed to the south end of the island and my first stop at Crow Beach. There were few crows, but hundreds of American Wigeon were on the beach and in the water. I watched them bustle about while listening to their whistle calls, quite possibly my favorite of all duck calls. I walked along the little beach away from the ducks so as not to disturb them, and spotted some small shells which I believe were from moon snails. Leaving the wigeon, I drove a short distance to the Tramp Harbor Dock and walked out above the water where I spotted Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Common Goldeneyes and Red-necked Grebes. I noticed movement in the water to the south among the pilings and soon spotted otters. I counted at least three swimming around the wooden pilings but they were far away. I walked back to the road and along the road to get closer, but by the time I had made my way to that side the otters had disappeared entirely. Instead I watched Double-crested Cormorants on the top of the pilings jostling for position before something scared them all away.

My next stop was Point Robinson and the beach there. Not many birds were around in the water, a few grebes and cormorants, but the view was magnificent. The beach was a point and the inner part of the point was filled with sculptural driftwood creating all manner of forms against the black clouds. The sunlight burning through the clouds backlit the lighthouse making the light look like it was shining bright. All along the beach were giant whole shells and other marine debris and I found two shells with drilled holes in them, victims of moon snails.

The final stop was along Quartermaster Harbor where I watched more ducks silhouetted against the bay. I watched one persistent gull sit and wait until ducks surfaced before it pounced on where they popped up. The ducks saw the gull coming and every time dove before the gull landed. It must be an exhausting exercise when fishing. As it started to rain I returned to the ferry and was treated to even more dramatically beautiful skies in every direction I looked.

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Kelly Brenner
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