Port Orchard Hooded Mergansers

After a few beautiful hours at Theler Wetlands, I headed for the Port Orchard marina to try to get some shots of the seabirds. With brilliant-blue skies overhead, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, it was much windier at Port Orchard than it was at Theler. Even if there had been birds outside the marina I couldn’t have gotten a picture because the waves were so high.

Heck, these Hooded Mergansers were in a protected area of the marina and there was still waves. This guy seemed to be putting on a show for the ladies (and me)

in this sequence,

but the winds were so strong that the males could only display their hood facing into the wind. It’s hard to look your best when the wind flattens your hairdo.

To make matters worse, it was really cold with the wind-chill factor, sun or no sun. No wonder the birds I saw there last week were hunkered down somewhere waiting for the winds to die down and the fog to move back in.

Not Skunked, Thank Goodness

We’ve had a week of sunshine and relatively warm temperatures, too good of weather to be working on projects in the garage so we went birding at Theler after Tai Chi at the YMCA. The birding wasn’t quite up to the level of the weather, but I’m not about to complain when it’s bright and sunny.


We had a promising start to the day when this Fox Sparrow insisted on having his photo taken.

At first I couldn’t tell whether it was the very common Song Sparrow or not, but it posed so sincerely I probably would have taken a shot even if it were a Song Sparrow.

The highlight of the day might have been sighting a flock of Common Mergansers

which wisely bolted as we approached for it’s hunting season here. I was just afraid that I might have driven them past the hunter’s blinds, but thank goodness we didn’t hear a single shot.

There wasn’t much else to see, though I did sight the Kestrel I saw on my previous visit at the end of our walk and managed to get a better shot this time.

It’s surprising how often the sunniest days turn out to be the worst birding days.

The Sea Birds Return to Port Orchard

Although I usually go to Port Orchard when I go to Theler Wetlands (because I’m a creature of habit and because I prefer the food in Port Orchard), in recent months I seldom bird the docks because about all I see in the summer are gulls and an occasional Pelagic Cormorant. That has finally changed, and often the best birding of the day is at Port Orchard.

On my most recent trip I got a nice shot of a Belted Kingfisher

that had taken possession of the crow’s nest.

Perhaps he was on the lookout for Surf Scoters, a bird I’ve been expecting to see for a while.

The number of Horned Grebes

seems to be growing, too.

Lots of male and female Hooded Mergansers, though they insisted on hiding in the shadows on this trip.

The Baird’s Goldeneye, however, seemed to enjoy the sunshine as much as Leslie and I did.

Theler Wetlands Redux

Great Blue Heron and raptors are probably the main attraction at Theler now, but that doesn’t mean that other birds can’t occasionally steal the scene.

I really like this shot of a Male Bufflehead I took really early in the morning.

It wasn’t really that dark but with our foggy/overcast mornings parts of the wetlands are still in darkness because the hills block the low sun.

The sunshine illuminated this Double-Crested Cormorant’s orange beak and the fish, but the Union River was still cloaked in darkness.

The sun was a lot brighter when I took this shot of a male Green-Winged Teal,

which have returned in large numbers to Theler this winter.

Occasionally I still sight a bird I haven’t seen before, like this juvenile Northern Shrike.

I spotted this bird, but I don’t think I would have recognized it if John hadn’t been birding with us as I’ve never seen an immature Northern Shrike. The shot was underexposed because it was so gray and I couldn’t make the bird turn gray and black (the colors of an adult Northern Shrike) no matter how hard I tried. Turned out that an immature shrike looks like this; something I only discovered when I Googled it.)

Raptors at Theler Wetlands

It’s not just the Great Blue Herons that have returned to Theler Wetlands. Winter is a good time to find raptors at Theler, though there not nearly as common as herons. They aren’t nearly as willing to pose for the camera, either, which is why it seems special when you manage to catch a shot like this one of a Northern Harrier backlit by the morning sun.

Unfortunately, more often than not harriers fly low to the ground, blending in with the background.

Rarely do you get lucky and catch a shot of a Cooper’s Hawk basking in the sunshine on a rail seemingly indifferent to you or your camera.

I thought I’d managed to capture a great shot of this Kestrel, but half of it was underexposed while the other half was overexposed.

While it was great fun to watch this pair of Bald Eagles courting, they were soaring so high in the sky that I had to radically crop the shot even to get this.

Photos or no photos, birding is my favorite way to exercise and to bring harmony back to my life.

Great Blue Heron at Theler Wetlands

It may seem like I’ve been sorting and editing shots from our Colorado trip forever. I have spent too many hours in front of the computer, but that’s not all I’ve done since I got home. Nope, Leslie and I have managed to get out to Theler Wetlands at least once a week despite a lot of rain.

Apparently we are not the only ones to return to Theler. We’ve seen Great Blue Heron on each of our visits like this one perched overhead,

this one flying by,

this one displaying aggression as it tries to claim territory

from this heron heading out to confront the intruder.

Territory is so precious that this Great Blue Heron stood a few feet from the trail, refusing to budge from its hunting ground.

It was so close that I had to take three shots and photomerge them into a single shot.

Farewell to Capitol Reef National Park

We didn’t have enough time to walk much of Capitol Reef NP, but the two hikes we did manage were quite different from our earlier hike in Goblin Valley.

We were constantly amazed what waited us around the corner on our walks.

It was only from the road, though, that we caught glimpses of the park's varied topography.

Though I wanted to get to get to Ogden on the day we left, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull off the road and get yet another shot.

It was probably no accident that the park headquarters was built directly across from this view.

It was a fitting conclusion to a delightful trip.