I’ve lived in the area of Dugualla Bay, located at the northernmost notch along the east side of Whidbey Island (at the upper (20) marker on this map), for nearly ten years now, which has given me plenty of time to see dozens of different species of plants and birds as well as some sea creatures and other wildlife.
During that time I’ve taken over a thousand photos and spent hundreds of hours walking and running in the neighborhood, observing all kinds of flora and fauna.
The Whidbey Audubon Society site entitled Whidbey Audubon Society’s Guide to 15 Special Spots list, “Swans, dabbling ducks including canvasbacks, other waterfowl, wading birds,” doesn’t do justice to the many bird species that spend their time here.
I have several favorite birds (among them, the almost impossible to photograph Belted kingfisher, Pileated woodpecker, Western screech owl) but my favorite photograph taken in Dugualla Bay is that of a heron in flight. I love the way the feathers of its wings are clearly visible. And it looks perfect, every feather in place, peaceful and serene.
I’ve had a few awesome avian encounters. One was actually a multi-day thing that began when I noticed what appeared to be a Great egret near Dike Road in December of 2012. I found out that…it was! I drove by every day for a couple of weeks to see if it was still there. Sometimes it was alone, others, with a heron. I took this shot on January 1, 2013.
In August of 2014, when the summer was almost over, I realized I’d been lugging my camera along every time I went out on a walk in hopes of seeing a Western screech owl, which we could hear calling at dusk nearly every night of every year from some time in June through the end of August. I was minutes from home when I looked over and saw one. It remained on its branch, staring carelessly, for a couple of minutes, long enough for me to get this shot. Sadly, that summer was the last time I saw or heard that species of bird. I miss them.
I could go on and on, but I don’t want you to stop you from reading so I won’t. Here are a couple of collages of some birds I’ve photographed in Dugualla Bay. One is of a Virginia Rail, which I’ve only seen the one time I took its photo. It’s the second from the top on the left, clockwise from there: Cedar waxwing, tern diving, Bald eagle, sandpiper, hawk, quail, Spotted towhee, peacock (that’s another story), purple finch.
Here are the last few. I promise. From top left: likely juvenile heron, osprey, shore bird, Belted kingfisher, grosbeak, hummingbird, Pileated woodpecker. The osprey is from a nest tracked from afar from volunteers for the Center for Conservation Biology. It’s Osprey Watch Nest #1098.
If you are more into insects, we have many different species of those as well. From top left: tussock moth caterpillar, spider, blue damselflies mating, pacific burrowing wasp, white spider, spiderlings, wood boring beetle, moth, bee fly, leaf hopper, stink bug. A few of these I haven’t seen often, but the spiderlings show up every year hanging off webs along the perimeter of the house all clumped together. If you touch the clump, they scatter.
In the spring when our yards’ tulips, daffodils and later rhododendrons, hydrangeas and other plants and shrubs bloom, the wild things that grow in Dugualla Bay show up too.
A year ago September, my daughter and I volunteered to help clear weeds out of plastic sleeves that had been placed around plants just outside of a lagoon that lies along Dugualla Bay.
Two other views.
Due to perfect weather conditions (lots of rain the night before and sun the day of), I got some shots of several different types of mushrooms, including bird’s nest fungi or “splash cups,” (they look like eggs in a nest) hare’s foot ink cap (the black and white one viewed from the top) and several types of mycena mushrooms. I haven’t seen most of these much since in this area.
Because it’s so wet, we get a lot of snails and slugs, mostly the garden snail and brown slug,
but also sometimes banana slugs. In fact, I saw one yesterday. I took both of these photos of a garden snail on different days along the path that runs between the DCI Clubhouse and Dike Road.
When the sky is clear, the view from along Dike Road towards the water is pretty spectacular. I took this along the Dike Road looking back towards the DCI clubhouse.
For some reason, even though it rains often from fall through spring, we rarely get frogs and toads. These two photos are the only amphibians I’ve been able to photograph. The frog encounter was awesome. I was running along Dike Road when I noticed a big, bright green blob on the blackberries that become ripe in late summer. I returned with my camera and it was still there!
The toad hopped over one damp October day and spent a little time trying to find its way out of our garage before we said our goodbyes.
Sometimes we see (more often hear rustling the long grass) garter snakes.
Of course, we also have deer wandering around Whidbey Island. This doe and her two fawns showed up one morning as I backed out of my driveway, which is when I noticed our cat eyeing them warily. The best part of this deer encounter was that the stare down scare down victory went to…the cat! Worst: mama ate most of the leaves off of my rose bush. You can’t see the more cautious sibling, who was off to the side. I’ve become more interested in them after watching an informative PBS documentary entitled The Private Life of Deer, which you can view online at the PBS site for free. I recommend it.
Before I share the story of an otter encounter, I need to tell you about three other mammals that are common in the area. First of all, the rabbit, which show up in big numbers in the spring along with their kittens. This is what you usually see them doing if you try to get close.
Before you read on, I need to warn you that the following two photos are of dead things. Trust me when I tell you that it’s nearly impossible to get a good shot of these two critters. First of all, a mole. This one was lying out in the open far from the nearest mole hills. Based on the info from the web site I’ve included, I think it is a Pacific mole. You never see them but you see do see the havoc they wreak on yards so you know where they are.
We tend to refer to these rodents voles, but based on what I just read about moles, I suspect it might actually be a vagrant shrew which are closely related to moles. Normally when we see dead things around the house, our super skilled huntress cat has already…ahem…feasted on its organs but this shrew didn’t have a drop of blood on it.
The last absolutely awesome encounter I’d like to tell you about took place in April of 2012. We’d returned from an out of state spring break trip to a super scenic national park and I was walking along the bay, remembering how annoying it was to hear the water rafting guide we’d had had firm-grasp-of-the-obvious telling us, over and over, how scenic things were at the park. The ironic thing was although the scenery was spectacular, besides a bunch of crows, I observed very few species of birds and other creatures. But the day after I returned to Dugualla Bay, three river otters showed up to play near the shore of Dugualla Bay. I’d heard we had them but had never seen them there before. They swam and played for about ten minutes, stopping to stare at me for a few seconds before heading off to their next adventure.
Last but not least…the view, which I can enjoy by simply looking out my window every morning. Although it’s often cloudy, you can still notice the weather, watch the tides and see the sun rise and set.
Dugualla Bay is the best place I have ever lived. I hope that you’ll take the time to stop by the area in the spring, observe some birds and maybe have a cool creature encounter too some day.