Monday, October 14, 2019

Rhinoceros Auklet

After going to the Metropolitan Opera Simulcast and a the Olympia Farmers’ Market on 12 October 2019, I read in the eBird Rare Bird Alert that hundreds of Rhinoceros Auklets had been seen that morning in Puget Sound on the north edge of Olympia. It being late in the afternoon, I wondered if chasing these birds would be worth while. Since I the drive to a Sound overlook was but a mile from our house, I went to check it out. I was partially successful—I counted five auklets and one Western Grebe, both new birds for my Thurston County list—but both species were too distant for decent photographs.

Here are the results of a return trip the next morning. This time I counted 100 auklets (but no grebes). The auklets were still fairly distant, which made photography difficult. The best of my images is the one below of an immature male bird. At this time of year, field marks are few. Later in the spring, males will sport twin facial plumes and rhinoceros-like growths on the top of their bills. Photography was also hard because I found it difficult to locate the auklets, focus, and take the image before the birds dove for their fish prey. I have never seen anything like the first photo. The twin water spouts behind the bird are probably caused by the bird’s kicking its feet to force the front end under the water. The object at the bird’s right front is one of its wings—these birds must propel themselves under water as if they are flying through the air.

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