Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tufted Puffins and more...

The dinner cruise, in support of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, was called the "Puffin Cruise," but in fact we saw young and mature eagles, a variety of seagulls, cormorants and harbor seals with pups along with the promised puffins.

John Wayne Marina, Sequim, WA about 6:30 p.m. Due to
the mist, it is hard to see the island destination well, but it
out where the sky is lighter, only when we got there it wasn't.
It was a misty evening with a light breeze, about 50-60 degrees, and not much wave action, but the wind waves picked up as the sun was setting, making it a little hard to get good shots. The lack of defining light was also challenging. I was glad I took along a windbreaker because once I went out on deck, the breeze and the mist were pretty chilly.

The 65-foot Glacier Spirit from Port Townsend was our
tour vessel. The captain and his team did an excellent job!
We were served a delicious dinner of dill and garlic salmon with a Caesar salad and Capt. Pete's Party Potatoes along with fresh-baked bread from Pan D'Amor that was yummy.

From my years of living aboard, I had a very good appreciation of what it takes to get a meal out from a galley and to serve it while underway.

Cruise time to the island was about 30 minutes. That was time enough for most folks to finish their meal and then go out on deck to see all the creatures on this island refuge.
The southern end of the island has a spit where the seals and
pups can lie on a beach and the water is somewhat shallow
so the pups can learn to swim safely.

Apparently the eagles, young and old, don't have enough challenging food adventures on the peninsula, so they come over to the island to grab a few eggs from the gulls or Canadian Geese, and the gulls harass the seals for the placenta after they birth their pups. This is a fine example of the "pecking order."

Off in the distance you could see the ruckus that the eagles were causing, and as we approached (only within 200 feet, please) we could make out pups lying next to their mums, geese in the water nearby, and puffins bobbing close enough to get shot or two before they dove down for fish for dinner.

If you look closely, just to the right in the photo, you can see dots of birds
circling and doing aerial maneuvers. We were too far off to hear much.
Rhinocerous Auklets, Caspian terns and other birds identified by our tour guide were flying or floating all around the boat.

In fact, it was rather difficult to know where to 'tern' next to see the next bird.

A closer shot of the chaos being created by the eagles...
Many of the birds are nesting now, so we often saw birds with fish in their beaks being carried off to the cliff homes for the little squawkers.

It was possible to see the holes the birds have made in the cliffs, but not much more from the distance we were required to stay offshore.

I was seated with a couple (John and Marie-Paul) who had lived in the Hague for awhile and they were delightful companions for dinner. The other couple at our table was mostly silent as we ate and as soon as we were close to our destination, they were up and outside. On the ride back they seemed subdued; no explanation.

"Bob" in the cap, was our birding
point man. Lots of local information!
Our tour guide was exceedingly informative, but I did not bring anything for taking notes. He had an excellent grasp of the history of the area and was knowledgable about the status of the threatened species and the numbers of birds on the island.
The tufted Puffin pair in all their bright colors, cruising near enough for my
camera to zoom in and get this shot.
We were offshore for about an hour and then we turned for home. The crew delivered up freshly baked brownies with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, almonds and a raspberry on top for our dessert. Wow!

Canadian Geese in the water, seals on the beach, gulls on
logs and in the air, and eagles - just out of the frame.

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