Breaching orca near the San Juan Islands, Washington. Photo © Walt Kochan

From the “Best-Job-Ever” Files:

It’s 3:55 a.m., my usual get-up time to record birds. As I lie in bed listening to the beginnings of the dawn chorus, I hear the pitter patter of rain on the roof. Not a good day for recording. I roll over and look to the west. There’s a beautiful full moon dropping below the clouds just above the horizon. Clear skies are on the way!

I get up, make coffee and sit in the west cabin doorway with the audio equipment under the cover of the roof line. I’m listening to house finches and a host of other birds when I hear a loud “whoosh!” Then another “whoosh” and another.

A small pod of orcas are passing 20 to 30 yards offshore on the west side. Three minutes of recording and it’s over. The whales continue north with the flooding tide. I continue recording.

This is the recording from 5:06 a.m. that morning. Enjoy, then read the rest of the story.

I like the recording because it combines a couple branches of natural history that fascinate me: birds and marine mammals.

In this recording there are 11 species of birds according to my naturalist friend Monika. I came up with 10. I find it fun to know that even on tiny Yellow Island in a 3-minute period you can see/hear this many species from one location.

For those who follow birds, here’s Monika’s list: house finch, olive-sided flycatcher, rufous hummingbird, glaucous-winged gull, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, black oystercatcher, song sparrow, orange-crowned warbler, Northwestern crow…