Sunday, August 12, 2012

Alcids of Puget Sound Part II

After a productive 24 hrs on Whidbey Island, I referenced "Birding Washington" by Rob and Natalie McNair-Huff ( for further ideas. Scanning through various options, one that appealed to me instantly was Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge ( This NWR, while off limits to visitors, is an important breeding site for the majority of birds found in Puget Sound.

The first alcid that excited my interest was the Common Murre. This a large auk with a white underside and grey head and body. The juvenals are mostly white.

Of course, the first challenge was how to get to the waters by the island. While the Port Townsend Maritime Center runs weekend tours to the island in the summer, I realized I had just missed the tour offered the day before. One option was joining one of the several whale watch tours knowing that I would probably be the sole passenger hoping for alcid sightings. Instead, I drove from Port Townsend to Sequim and at the John Wayne Marina [yes, the John Wayne], was fortunate enough to charter Livin' the Dream led by Capt. Charles Martin (

The highlight of the trip had to be the tufted puffin. These striking alcids with the enormous bills are relatively uncommonly sighted; with perhaps only 70 breeding pairs.

Completing the alcid review were the rhinoceros auklets and pigeon guillemots which were also seen at Whidbey.


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