Nature Notes: Port of Call

HOWARD TEAGUE photo

A person doesn't have to travel far to see outstanding examples of wildlife around here. Right in our own backyard is Nahcotta and it's immense areas of wetlands and sandy tide flats that offer some of the best wildlife viewing around.

September is starting to be late in the bird family season, and from one family to the next the pairs of birds are hanging together and putting the wraps on the schooling of this year's young fledglings. For the bald eagles the new crop of adolescent eaglets are now getting as big as their parents, but their new feathers are dark chocolate brown with little or no white coloring showing.

They will stay in close proximity to their parents for the coming winter, and then they, too, will be forced to fend for themselves come next year with the new breeding cycle. The whole process starts all over again year after season and eon after epoch, and has for millions of years! (and some people think five generations born here equates to privileged status ... doesn't much compare, does it?)

The sea birds are similar to the eagles in that the young fledges tend to hang around with their parents learning the tricky and sometimes hard business of being a gull or a pelican or even a sea duck.

I often stop and just wonder in sheer amazement at the tenacity and toughness of even the smallest of these little guys. Imagine having to survive in the high tree tops during the hardest wind and rain storms with winds in excess of a hundred miles per hour! Or their version of turning up the heat consists of just tucking their head under a wing and trying to stay warm on a stormy January night, wind howling, rain and sleet driving almost horizontal and food (fish) becoming more and more scarce everyday.

But these little feathered survivors are the original "Survivors" and can easily match just about anything Mother Nature can throw at them. The tiniest little sanderling, curled up into a tiny ball of feathers, small and compact, can keep her core temperature warm and in balance for several days in a row if necessary, but the key here is food. She must replenish her food reserves and if the weather is constantly stormy and rainy with little or no food to be found, then our collective presence as bird feeders can prove to be very handy and often is the only thing that keeps some species of birds alive when no food is easily available.

For the wildlife viewer who wants to see healthy populations of wildlife, then head out to Nahcotta to see blue herons, egrets, bald eagles, elk, deer, geese and ducks of every sort. And sea birds too numerous to name all call Nahcotta home.

So grab your binoculars and cameras, bundle up the kids and head over to the bay (early morning or late afternoon is best) to see some of the best critter watching anywhere on the West Coast. Tell the kids you're going to the Port of Peninsula to do some eagle watching! Tell 'em it's a Port of Call.

Craig Sparks is director of NAWA and regularly photographs wildlife in Nahcotta. Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call NAWA at 665-3595 or e-mail to sparks@pacifier.com

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