[Tweeters] A Shorebird Moment

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Aug 20 22:49:35 PDT 2014

This evening I took a sunset walk out at Pt. Wilson lighthouse, Port Townsend. The water was a bit too wind-stirred to see seabirds very well, but right out at the point I had a wonderful shorebird moment at the very entrance to Puget Sound.
The beach from Pt. Wilson south is on Puget Sound. The beach west from Pt. Wilson is on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. While cartography is interesting and useful in human communications, I doubt the shorebirds were too aware of the concerns of map nerds. Too busy eating. A pretty nice spot to eat though.
First I spotted some larger shorebirds up ahead, surprisingly close to a lone shore fisherman.They were Black Turnstones, which can be found during the winter in Port Townsend in pretty large numbers. These were the first I'd seen since spring. Seventeen in all, they were remarkably tame. While feeding away in the washed up wrack halfway up the beach they got within 8ft from me - with and without binoculars, the best views of this species I've ever had.
Yup, the lighting was just right, and a few peeps were also in close with the Turnstones - about 3 Least Sandpipers, and about the same number of Westerns. One Western, struggling to nab a particularly recalcitrant amphipod (aka sand hopper) got super close. The best looks at any of these shorebirds I've ever had. Pretty cool.
It was great to have such a good shorebird size comparison with these three species. The Turnstones were particularly beautiful - looked like they were feathered in various tones of dark chocolate - not really black, the legs an orange- brown, so according to Sibley they were probably immature birds. A Killdeer, calling from the nearby 'dunes' was shorebird number four on the scene.
Well , shorebirds moved on just before the sun hit the horizon and I walked up over the beach logs to the very point, just inside the rock barrier, to check on the little 'colony' of California Broomrape I'd found blooming here back in early July. I was pleasantly surprised to find some of these strange purple parasitic plants still blooming. A very small cluster of weird flowers - the whole deal not much bigger than a golf ball.
I've been waiting all summer for the flower of one mysterious dune species to bloom so I could Identify it - an interesting semi-woody perennial with ultra fine dissected leaves: Artemesia campestris it turns out. For busy, or lazy, naturalists plant id here has been made easier because the local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society has created some fine plant lists (on their website) for Point Wilson dunes, and also the little Kah tai Prairie here in PT. I have made many new plant acquaintances in these unique habitats over the last seven months!
Jeff Gibsonstill pokin' aroundPort Townsend Wa

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