Foxes and Friends, Oh Deer – Amazing San Juan Wildlife!

Foxes and Friends, Oh Deer – Amazing San Juan Wildlife!

San Juan Island is home to a diverse group of species and a lot of great spots to find them. Luckily, the small size of the island made it so that most of these spots were often less than a few minutes apart, so it is great for people who do not like long drives (like me). Also, you could find an amazing spot to take a photo simply by walking a little trail or driving a short road, because, usually, the animals would just pop up near you because of the concentration of life on the island; lots of opportunities to take that perfect shot. And, even if you miss a shot you really wanted, you can often find another just a short stroll away. Sounds pretty fun, right? It definitely was for me!

San Juan Island is famous for its Red Foxes (although most of them are not actually red). These foxes were elusive, so it was often hard to get a photo of them, but they were certainly around. They were similar to the other species in density on Pickett’s Lane, but they were definitely sneakier than most. I managed to get some photos, but they were good at slinking around through the tall grass. To further their mastery of the art of disappearing and reappearing, they also had carved-out rabbit tunnels that enabled them to pop out at an entirely different location. One of them got really close to us, however, and quite bluntly trotted across the road in front of us, clearly displaying that it did not care about where we were. By the time I got my camera pointed in the correct direction, the fox had already turned to show me almost nothing but its bushy (and rather adorable) tail.

Similarly to the foxes, the eagles at Cattle Point just didn’t seem to care where we were. They just sat there, almost like they wanted us to take photos of them. They also sat in clearly visible spots on trees or poles just a small step off the beaten path. They were quite good subjects for beginners and experts alike, and there were a ton of them around to be photographed. There were just so many of them, just sitting around surveying their territory and watching for rivals or prey. One eagle sighting in particular stood out to me. We found a young eagle sitting on a short fence pole a few steps off the trail from Cattle Point Lighthouse. I had no idea what it was, and decided to get closer to it. I slid across a back trail, getting closer and closer, but not too close. I was able to get a photo of the bird from a distance that would have scared a normal bird, but this one seemed unfazed by me, and just sat there looking up at passing Seagulls in an adorable, wide-eyed fashion. I actually thought it was a new species until I started editing the photo, so I spent most of the time photographing and thinking of species names simultaneously.

After going down the lane where you find the foxes, you can go down to South Beach. We did this, but Mom noticed movement on the hill leading off the prairie. We turned around and… BAM, two adult deer were on the hill. Upon closer inspection, we also found two spotted little fawns in a patch of shade. They stayed in a little area in the shadow of a tree for a little while, touching their noses to each other and wandering around, then retreated to an area closer to their mom. Those two fawns were so darn cute, you would think only puppies and kittens could boast that kind of cuteness, but fawns can too, apparently.

Staying on the topic of adorable animals near South Beach, the swallows on South Beach were really cute too. Have you ever seen a swallow chick? Honestly, most people have probably never seen one, as they hide in their mud nests hanging from the eaves of buildings until they are ready to try to fly, and they do not look much like chicks at that point. There were not many buildings around the driftwood piles on South Beach, so the Swallow chicks came out much earlier than usual. These little guys have a rather squeaky chirp, and seem to mostly use it to convince their mother to give them more food than their sibling. The mom catches bugs, and flys the dead bugs back to the chicks to keep those little fluff balls fed. Also, Swallows are exceptionally hard to photograph, as they are really fast, so you need to find a spot they come back to and wait for them to come into the frame. The chicks provided a perfect opportunity, as their mom had to keep flying back in to feed them. I just had to wait along her usual flight path, and took photos when she came in. I also got photos when she slowed down to do a food drop for the chicks.

Another awesome bird we found was the heron. They were plentiful on Fourth of July Beach, but you could find them at Dead Man’s Cove as well. Yes, I know the last spot sounds like something from a pirate movie, but it actually has a sad history involving slavery. If a slave ship saw an enforcement ship coming, they would load the slaves into bags and toss them overboard. In short, they basically killed them all to avoid punishment. Now, back to talking about birds rather than murder. The heron is a ruthless and efficient wading bird that spears fish by coiling its long neck and jabbing fish with their long, pointy beak. Oops, maybe I still am talking about murder. Oh well, I suppose that is inevitable when talking about a predatory bird. You can often find these graceful, long-necked hunters walking in shallow water, pulling up clams from the sand bed and spearing fish.