Showing posts from November, 2010


A tombolo is a sand bar which connects an island to another island or to the mainland.  Puget Sound is a glacial fjord extending from Deception Pass to Olympia, Washington, about 100 miles.  Between 2.5 million and 13,000 years ago, it was carved by successive ice age glaciations.  Beginning 15-18,000 years ago, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet was the last.  When it receded, it left behind hundreds of large and small islands sculpted from volcanic rock.  Wave action can bend around the small islands and gradually build up sediments on the lee side.  Given enough time, these sediments may end up connecting the smaller island to another land mass forming the tombolo.  In Scotland, they are known as ayers from the Old Norse word eyrr.  At Deception Pass State Park, Rosario Head at Bowman Bay is shown in the photo above.  Enlarging the photo will reveal the narrow strip of land connecting it to Fidalgo Island.  This is a tombolo.  The Samish story pole Ko-Kwal-awoot is located there:

On the op…

Skywatch Friday:  South Fidalgo Sampler

A South Fidalgo Skywatch sampler gives us clear sky, clouds, fog and N.A.S. Whidbey contrails over Skagit Bay, a little bit of everything.

Wild Fidalgo:  Snow Day


From Wild Fidalgo, despite unseasonal cold weather and snow, the birds must continue to make a living.  They never get a snow day or a Thanksgiving holiday.  Have a great Thanksgiving Day everyone.

Northwest Nor'easter

Nor'easters are large windstorms that blow in from the northeast.  They occur in the northeastern US and Atlantic Canada.  In the Pacific Northwest, we have our own special version of a nor'easter occurring right now.  When conditions are right, cold air masses from the Canadian Arctic move down the Fraser River Valley and into the Strait of Georgia.  They continue down the Puget Sound Basin bringing uncharacteristically cold weather to western Washington.  The process will be enhanced by a low pressure system to our south.  This will add to the draw on the cold air.  Conditions can be similar to those that produce "lake-effect" snow in the east, basically cold air moving over warm water.  These events can affect the weather all the way into California.

Snow is rare here and we consider 40° F (4° C) cold.  Today it is 25° F (-3° C) and snowing lightly.  I have experienced temperatures down to 11° F (-12° C) here in such an event.  In 1996, it started snowing the…

Eastern Gray Squirrel

From Wild Fidalgo, athletic Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) have become adept at raiding the bird feeders.


Last Monday, most of the Puget Sound region was hit with a moderate windstorm.  Downed trees and widespread power outages were experienced.  Here on South Fidalgo Island, it remained calm all day.  This is because the winds were from the west.  We are sheltered from storms blowing from the west and north. 

It was our turn on Wednesday.  This time the winds blew from the south, and that puts us directly in the line of fire.  Typically, Pacific low pressure systems like to move in over Vancouver Island in Canada.  This draws the winds right up the Puget Sound basin between the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.  This was the case on Wednesday delivering sustained winds in the 20's mph (~40 kph) with gusts to 35 mph/58 kph.  Of course, these are moderate winds by any standard, but enough to do a little damage.

Douglas Fir trees will protect themselves by sacrificing some of their limbs to the wind:

By giving up a few limbs, the entire tree usually won't be blown down.  This often le…

Skywatch Friday:  Leaden

The word "leaden" is sometimes used to describe the skies of the Pacific Northwest USA.  This autumn sunrise over Skagit Bay illustrates why.

Great Blue Heron

Time 10:42, Temp 45.5 F, Dew Pt 43.9 F, Barometer 30.07 in, Wind 9 mph NE, Humidity 94%

From Wild Fidalgo, on a day typically November, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) takes a break off the South Fidalgo shore.

Skywatch Friday:  Close Encounter

Is it a natural cloud formation, a contrail or...?  In a 17 minute sequence, the sun rises over Kiket Island in Skagit Bay.

New Wildlife Blog:  Wild Fidalgo

Please check out Wild Fidalgo, a new blog spun off from Fidalgo Island Crossings.  As you know, I acquired a BirdCam and I have been posting BirdCam photos here.  They were beginning to take over and Fidalgo Island Crossings was straying from its main weather theme.  I decided to create a new website specifically for BirdCam and other wildlife photos and related subjects.  There will be a bit of sorting out in the beginning, but I believe this will be a better arrangement in the end.  As it gets up to speed, stop by at Wild Fidalgo to explore the wildlife on and around Fidalgo Island, Washington.

BirdCam:  Northern Flicker

When I moved the BirdCam station the other day and hung the suet feeder as a lure, I hoped to catch a shot of the beautiful Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).  It didn't take long.  I got a fairly good photo on the first day and some better ones since.  They find suet irresistible.  These are probably my best BirdCam photos yet.

Observant birders will find some curiosities with these photos.  There are two races of Northern Flicker.  As a rule, Yellow-shafted Flickers live in the East and Red-shafted Flickers in the West with intergrade variants found in the Great Plains.  Yellow-shafted birds are known to visit Washington in the fall and winter.  This bird has yellow highlights on the tail and wing feathers, gray crown and brown cheeks, characteristics of the Yellow-shafted race.  It does not have a red nape crescent, however, which would point to the Red-shafted form.  I have decided this bird must be a juvenile Red-shafted Northern Flicker which has not fully developed her a…

Skywatch Friday:  Nothing But Sky

Another day begins with a sunrise over Kiket Island in Skagit Bay.  On this morning, the whole world seemed to be sky.

BirdCam:  Red-breasted Nuthatch

Since getting my BirdCam set up, I have been specifically trying to get a picture of the Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).  These little guys provide a definition for "cute."  I have gotten several shots, but they were all blurred like the one above.  At least the Japanese Maple looks nice.  Finally, on Halloween, I got a couple of fairly decent photos:

This is a male evidenced by his black cap.  Females have a gray cap.  These little birds are active and fast as lightning.  They fly to the feeders, grab a seed and quickly disappear back into the trees.  This accounts for the difficulty getting a clear BirdCam shot.  At the front patio suet feeder, they will boldly come even if I am working close by.  The second photo above shows the steely gray back.  I see them running around the sides of Douglas Firs.  You must look carefully as this color makes them almost invisible on the trunks.  After finally getting these pictures, I moved the BirdCam to a new location and r…

Cormorant Rocks

Cormorants rest on the rocks in Bowman Bay at Deception Pass State Park.  Such a group is called a "sunning" according to iBird.  One is seen drying his wings which is typical for these diving birds.  Beyond the rocks is a kelp bed making this a prime feeding, resting and nursery area for many creatures.

This is a zoom-assisted shot.  From the distance, it is difficult to determine the Cormorant species.  Because these are larger birds, gregarious and I see a bit of buff color on some upper breasts, I believe these are Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritis).  According to WhatBird, Double-cresteds have been known to live nearly eighteen years.  The average life span of wild birds is six years.  Captive birds have exhibited the wing-drying behavior after feeding even if they are not wet.  I have seen similar groups on floating logs in Skagit Bay.  Other area Cormorants are the Brandt's (P. penicillatus) and the Pelagic (P. pelagicus).

These rocks are commonly …