Purple Martins at Seabeck

Purple Martins may not be as impressive as Bald Eagles or Great Blue Herons,


but I never go to Seabeck without trying to get pictures of them. Usually, I try to get a shot of them flying, but I’ve only managed to get one or two shots of them doing that because they’re a “swallow” after all — that was when strong made them float mid-air. So, I content myself with getting shots of them sitting on the railing or perched on the rod that holds nesting boxes, like this shot of a female Purple Martin.


It’s the male, though, that I try the hardest to get a shot of. I’m always amazed by how big


and purple they are.


Eagles in Action

First-time photographers at Big Beef Creek generally rush to get a shot of a bald eagle sitting in a nearby tree. I know because that’s what I did the first two times I was there. They take multiple shots of eagles flying by; you’ve probably seen a lot of those shots on my site, too — and will probably see a few more in the future. After a while, though, we photographers start looking for something different, something harder to capture.

You don’t have to watch eagles and herons too long before you recognize how aggressive they are, so it’s natural to focus on that aggressiveness next. It’s harder to capture that in photographs because one moment two eagles seem to be attacking each other


and 30 seconds later they’re sitting side by side peaceably.


Heck, it’s hard to tell if they’re flirting with each other, trying to lock talons, or they’re attacking each other.


In other words, it’s a real challenge, and a lot of fun, trying to be looking in the right direction when something is about to happen


and capture the moment when it does.


Photographing birds reminds me a lot of fishing as a kid. You get a lot more bites than you get fish, but it always feels great when you do catch a big one.

Cedar Waxwing with Berry

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the photos I’ve taken in the last few weeks and am having a hard time narrowing them down. I still went back to Big Beef Creek and the Bloedel Reserve on Wednesday because I’d much rather take pictures than sit at a computer looking at them or finishing them for posting to the web.

However, I knew that I would post this photo


the moment I took it. I also knew that it would probably be my favorite shot of the day even if it wasn’t an eagle or heron.

Eagle Stealing Great Blue Heron’s Catch

Although I wouldn't expect Mary to sit through hours of birding at Big Beef Creek, I returned right after she left because I wasn’t satisfied with the pictures I had taken on my earlier visit. Photoshopping can never take the place of sunshine.

I was much happier with pictures taken on the second attempt, though I didn’t think the action was as exciting as on the previous visit. I particularly liked this sequence showing an immature Bald Eagle stealing a fish from a Great Blue Heron.


Apparently the Great Blue Heron have learned to drop a fish right in front of them when an eagle approaches. I missed that part of the sequence but caught it just as the eagle was about to grab the fish.


The heron certainly wasn’t about to give up its catch without a fuss.


It even seemed to lunge at the immature eagle,


but the Eagle hardly looked back


before taking off with the fish.

EgleAtck6 Temporarily defeated, the heron immediately went back to trying to catch another fish.

Visiting the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

When Leslie’s friend Mary visited from Boston,


I wanted to do something we hadn’t already done so I decided it would be a good time to visit Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, a place I’d wanted to visit for a couple of years now.

Not knowing what to expect, I packed a simple 100mm lens, figuring that I’d probably want to take pictures of flowers and that’s my favorite lens to do that. As it turns out, I could have used my birding lens and my wide-angle lens, too. But my 100mm lens allowed me to capture some of the beauty of the reserve.

I was surprised that the reserve included a prairie, a pond, wetlands, a deciduous forest, and an old-growth fir forest. The reserve manages to combine a well-manicured trail with a rugged old growth forest.


Wild iris flourished in the pond and the wetlands,


and wild roses lined the path in the deciduous forest.


Less common flowers, like these,


could be found further on. I’ve never seen a lily quite like this,


and I know absolutely nothing about this plant


except that it struck me as being quite beautiful.

I was so impressed by the reserve that I bought an annual membership.

Where Was I, Now?

Leslie and I just got back from a week-long birding trip to Malheur and Bear River, and I’m finding it tough to get back to blogging. (If you commented on this site last week I didn’t reply because I didn’t have internet access.)

Luckily, I had blog entries to refer back to. As I noted before, the lighting was less than ideal for my first trip to Big Beef Creek, but I still loved this sequence of two immature Bald Eagles chasing each other enough to post it here. Truthfully, I'm not sure it would’ve been better even with ideal lighting because the circling Eagles would’ve been in the shade part of the time no matter where the Sun was. Still, photographing two birds as they swoop and dive while chasing each other is too much of a challenge for me to resist. Hopefully, this series of photos conveys some of the excitement I felt while watching them.

It’s difficult to capture the beginning of a chase like this with so many eagles flying back-and-forth. But this is where I picked it up.


More often than not, though, when two birds get this close together


you know they’re interacting — though it’s not always clear whether they’re flirting or simply trying to intimidate each other.

When they’ve circled this closely together, the chase is definitely on.


Then all you have to worry about is keeping both of the birds in focus, not an easy thing to do with a telephoto lens,


though it’s easier when they’re as close as this.


When the lower eagle looked back like this, I wondered if they would lock talons, a common courtship ritual.

If one of the birds was courting the other, it obviously failed because they never locked talons.


I really didn’t see the fish showing in this shot


until I started processing them on my computer. After seeing the fish it seems one eagle was simply trying to steal the other’s catch and the victim was having none of it.

I was amazed by the eagles’ maneuverability.


I would have thought that the action would have stopped when one of the eagles caught the fish as it was falling,


but the action got even more intense in the moments afterwards.


It even continued into the nearby trees, though it appeared from my viewpoint that the two were in imminent danger of crashing headlong into the trees.


I’m still unsure of why the eagles were acting this way. It would have been a lot easier for the eagle pursuing the other eagle to have simply used his energy to steal a fish from one of the many herons — which is what other eagles generally do who don’t want to bother catching their own. With fish simply lying on the beach as the tide moves out, this kind of violence to steal a small fish seems nearly incomprehensible.

Look What Just Flew By

Although the cloudy weather and low light made photography challenging, I managed to get a few shots at Big Beef Creek that I liked. The closer the birds flew the better the shots seemed to be, perhaps because of the haze.

So, most of the shots in this post are close-ups, like this one of an immature Bald Eagle about to catch the first fish of the day.


He returned even closer while flying to a branch behind us to enjoy a quick repast.


Although most of the shots I got that day were of immature Bald Eagles, I still tend to favor the shots of Mature Bald Eagles, like this one.


Even though I spend most of my time at Big Beef Creek focusing on the Eagles, my favorite shots of the day often turn out to be shots of Great Blue Herons, like this one.


There is a reason I have a hard-drive full of Heron shots, after all.