And This Is Why I Still Carry My Camera

I’m not sure what it takes to make a great photo, but I’m sure that having a good subject helps.  I couldn’t have asked for a better subject than this male Hooded Merganser, who seemed to be showing his best stuff to nearby females. Equally important, he seemed totally unaware of the old guy with the camera.

Even when they don’t seem particularly frightened, Hooded Mergansers will turn their back to you and quietly paddle away, perhaps occasionally glancing back to make sure you’re not pursing them.  I thought this little guy was going to bump into me, though.  He gave me a string of poses that a model would have been proud of.

If I had ever fulfilled an early ambition of carving birds, this series of photos would have served as the perfect guide.

Why Am I Carrying This Camera?

Since I bought my new Canon EOS R5 I carry it whenever we walk Owens Beach.  All too often, though, I find myself questioning why I bother to carry it.  When I’ve walked a ways and haven’t seen anything that interests me, I start taking pictures I wouldn’t normally take.

For example, the only reason I took this shot of an immature Ring-Billed (I think) is that I wanted to see how well the camera would freeze action on a cloudy day.  

I’ll have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of the shot.

After fifteen minutes of walking without sighting a single bird, I finally took a shot of a fellow traveler.  The boat was so far out that I could barely see it, and I had to crop the shot considerably to focus on the boat, but, again, I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness of the photo.

This Double-Crested Cormorant wasn’t quite as far out, but the photo confirmed that it was the bird that I thought it was but couldn’t be sure without blowing up the image.

I couldn’t identify this bird, either, because it, too, was a ways out and there was very little color in the low light, but it’s obviously just a female Goldeneye when cropped and colors adjusted in Photoshop.

Still, none of these shots would justify the bother of carrying the camera. If I hadn’t taken it, though,  I wouldn’t have had it when I observed a small flock of Hooded Mergansers in the Marina where we turned around.

And this was the worst shot I took there.

Port Townsend

Once I had gotten multiple shots of the Harlequin ducks and the Oystercatchers and was about to leave Ft. Flagler, a crow landed on a nearby post and scolded me.  Normally, I don’t see crows because they are constantly around our house, but I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this one, and it might be my favorite shot of the day, a reminder we need to see the world with fresh eyes every day to fully appreciate it.

Since the sun had reappeared by the time we got to Pt. Townsend, I decided to see if there were any Harlequins hanging out on the spit at the north end of town.  At first all I saw was multiple gulls, but as I moved closer I saw this pair.  I was surprised at how well they blended in with the log, even the male.

The male certainly seemed much brighter when it swam out to hunt for food.

It’s almost as if those brilliant colors were designed to show off when the Harlequin is surrounded with water. The reds seem redder, the blacks blacker as they contrast with the water. 

Harlequins and More

Our latest visit to Ft. Flagler and Port Townsend proved to be less than what was hoped for, but still served as a welcome break from the constant rain.  When I saw that Monday was the only day of the week when rain was not predicted, I decided we needed to finally make our annual visit to see the Harlequin Ducks that overwinter there.

As it turned out, the predicted sunshine never manifested itself, but on the positive side, at least, it didn’t rain, either.  When we arrived at the park we discovered that we had forgotten to put the annual pass that we received at the beginning of December in the car.  We could have paid another $10 in addition to the $6o dollars we’ve already paid to use the State Parks, but I was too stubborn to do that.  So, we didn’t walk the spit; instead, we parked near the boat launch where I usually see Harlequins. Sure enough, there was a male and two females just offshore.

I usually see them fishing offshore, but with an unusually high tide they seemed content to rest on the rocks.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the dull breast and underside of a male Harlequin before,

though the speckled white underside of the female is quite common in other species.

I was totally focused on the Harlequins until a Black Oystercatcher suddenly came around the corner, and then another.

I expected to see the Harlequins; I felt extremely lucky to see the Black Oystercatcher, even though I have seen them here before but not this close.  I’ve certainly never noticed the long, brown toenails before.

I was actually so caught up in trying to get a good picture of the Oystercatcher that I only caught a glimpse of the male Harlequin as it swam away.