Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red Beaks, White Caps and Blue Skies- July 4th San Juan Island Style

Another holiday has passed us by- a weekend spent with friends and a cacophony of oystercatcher calls down at Hannah Heights Beach on the west side of San Juan Island, WA. The whales (members of all three pods) made it in for the end of the weekend- foraging and milling on the west side all day today- never even making it up to Lime Kiln Lighthouse (so far).  It is frustrating to watch all of the holiday boat traffic pay no heed to the Whale Watching Guidelines- boating over the whales and through them.  Boaters should beware, though- a new law, signed by the Governor on March 28, 2008, (HB 2514) establishes a 300-foot zone around orca whales that vessels must avoid. The law provides the Department of Fish and Wildlife with enforcement tools to better protect the endangered Southern resident whales. Violators can be fined up to $500 with possible charges filed as applicable.

So, back to the American Black Oystercatchers!!!  We were visited by four of these colorfully fun shorebirds Friday evening- conspicuous black birds found on the shorelines of the Islands just about year round. As their name implies, they forage in the intertidal zone, feeding on marine invertebrates, particularly molluscs such as mussels, limpets and chitons. We watched them hunt so close to the water's edge they had to repeatedly fly up to avoid the surf.

Happy Fourth of July!!

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