Fort Flagler State Park, Marrowstone Island,
After a LONG life in lockdown both from COVID and from raising our pandemic kittens, we finally were able to take advantage of some fabulous weather right before Christmas. We hiked, birded, and camped at the nearby Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island. Perhaps it was being deprived of being out locked down for such a long time, but we had a wonderful time walking the trails through the mature forests and along the bluffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound. On the clear days, we could take in the beauty of the snow capped Mount Baker, the Olympics and in the distance, Mount Rainier. The old WWI/WWII bunkers and structures added intrigue to the state park.
The state park offers great views into the sound and strait for scoping seabirds (and approaching enemy crafts). During the brisk sunny day were many small groups and pairs of Ancient and Marbled Murrelets flying low over the flat waters and landing (with a dive). It was a marvel to see these tiny seabirds gather in impressive numbers during the outgoing tide. And as quickly as the murrelet had gathered on the waters, they just as quickly dispersed and disappeared. From the bluffs, we could also spot Long-tailed Ducks, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, an impressively large raft of Red-breasted Mergansers, Common and Pacific Loons, Horned and Red-necked Grebes. From the campground beach, Black Brant, Harlequin Ducks, Common Goldeneye, and all 3 cormorants could be seen along the shore and in the water. In the mornings before people began walking on the spit, the small spit hosted a large number of Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, and Black Turnstone. Once the shorebirds were flushed from the spit, the plovers and Dunlin took to the lawns around the campground and up on the bluff near the military housing.
The dense forest was rich with birdlife as well, hosting large flocks of Pine Siskin, which feed on the Douglas Fir seeds. Dark-eyed Juncos, Fox Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees flitted in the dense salal and flocks of Varied Thrush kept to the dark forest floor. A Pileated Woodpecker was right at home with the many snags and a Red-breasted Sapsucker made work on a mature cedar.
We were also treated to the sights of a pod of Harbor Porpoise in the strait, many Harbor Seals patrolling the waters, and a vociferous group of California Sea Lions sunny on a small rock island. The clear (and freezing night) gave us great views of the "Great Conjunction" of Jupiter and Saturn. Through the scope we could make out Saturn's rings and Jupiter's four largest moons. It was a nice bonus for a winter stay in this nature rich park.