[Tweeters] Brant (and an owl) at Alki

Gary Smith gsmith at smithandstark.com
Sat Mar 14 14:58:53 PDT 2009


The Brant have been more active the last week or two and starting to
aggregate in larger numbers, at least around Alki Point. Our typical flock
this winter was around 15-20 birds. This morning a group formed that at one
point had 140 birds, coming in close to shore to feed a few times. We
always enjoy the accumulations of Brant that occur here from late March into
early May, sometimes as many as 400 at a time.

On a separate matter, I've been wanting to report that a week ago Friday
morning a Short-eared Owl flew by. It seemed most odd on several levels,
the most obvious being outside of customary habitat. I first noticed a bird
flying in toward the Point from the north over the Sound. As it grew closer
and I sensed it was an out-of-the-ordinary bird, I kept trying to make it
fit the "just slightly unusual" birds of the area - eagle, GB heron, etc -
to no avail. It flew with rather deliberate wingbeats (slower than most
water-related species) staying about 50 feet above the surface, until it got
within a short distance of the beach and houses, then veered west and
ventured out over the open water again, on a heading between Blake and
Bainbridge Islands. Occasionally it would make a sort of "shudder" or
stutter-move with its wings, and then settle back to its pace and direction.

The rectangular appearance of the wings, overall tan color, size (wingspan
in the ~ 40" range), the impression of no beak and no neck, the rather
deliberate, stiff wing beats, all said 'owl.' I pestered Stewart Weschler
about it, who suggested either Barn or Short-eared. So, deciding I hadn't
completely lost touch with reality, I evaluated my observations against
several field guides and online photos and video. Given the fact that the
face was roughly the same coloration as the rest of the bird, time of day
(about 7:45 am, bright light), the longish wing, and the relatively uniform
buffy tan coloration, it seems to add up to a Short-eared Owl, female. Go


Gary T. Smith

Alki Point

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