>We promised an Illahee bird sighting update so we thought we begin with an owl and eagle story and then some winter waterfowl sightings. We would like to cover more terrestrial birds later.
A small owl was found dead alongside Illahee Road by Irwin Krigsman. Jim Trainer identified it as a Western Screech Owl that was likely hit by a car. Others have noted lots of owl activity in the area and of seeing owls flying across Illahee road.
A report of a Bald Eagle chasing a duck up and down bay was interesting. The observer commented how fast the eagle was flying and that the duck made three trips (evidently north, then back south, and then north) before the eagle gave up. We have watched the eagles chase seagulls in the air, but never before ducks.
The most unusual sighting this year is the number of Common Mergansers swimming up and down the bay. The other day there was a flock of about 800 that landed north of the Illahee dock. They swim along the shore with their heads in the water looking for fish and when they find a school they dive and chase after them.
Some of the other waterfowl in the area are:
Common Golden Eye, which are distinguished by a greenish sheen on the males head, along with a white roundish patch on the face behind the bill.
The Barrow’s Golden Eye looks similar though slightly smaller, and has a bluish purple sheen on the males head, and a crescent shaped white patch on the face behind the bill.
Buffle Heads tend to stay out in a little deeper water and are smaller than the Golden Eyes. There also appears to be several types of grebes around, with the Horned Grebe often seen diving with the other ducks. Some years we see lots of Western Grebes, but so far they haven’t been sighted around Illahee.
There are a few Red-breasted Mergansers around that are intermixed with the diving ducks.
Some residents have noted fewer numbers of Wigeon ducks in the area this year.
Cormorants are a common sight out on floats. The ones in our area are the Double-crested Cormorant. Cormorants aren’t able to waterproof their wings so they like to perch after swims to dry out their wings. There seem to be about a hundred cormorants in the area north of the community dock seen diving and drying out their wings. Between the mergansers and the cormorants, not to mention the seals and sea lions, there must be lots of feed fish out in the bay to support the fish eating bird populations.
We haven’t tried to cover the shore birds but there are some Greater Yellowlegs in the area.
Let us know your wildlife sightings so we can post them.
Dennis Sheeran & Jim Aho
PS We will start addressing some of the Illahee’s more sensitive issues now that the holidays are over. The next update will cover the Illahee Creek culvert that filled up and is barely functional after the December 3rd storm.