(Un)Common Yellowthroat

Although I often hear the Common Yellowthroat while birding Theler, it’s rare that I get a chance to take a shot of one so I was amazed Saturday when this little guy landed on a (relatively) nearby branch,

let me snap off four or five shots

before flying off into the shrubbery

where it could be heard off and on for the next ten minutes but was not seen again.

A Few More Shots

Sometimes photography reminds me of dieting. Everyone knows how hard it is to lose that last 5 lbs compared to the first 5 lbs. In the same way, the longer you take pictures the harder it is to get a better shot than you already have. That’s certainly true of getting shots at Big Beef Creek. I’ve gotten so many “great” shots that it’s harder and harder to get new shots I am satisfied with. Expensive new equipment has helped to get better shots, but so much depends on pure chance that it’s hard to improve on past shots.

If I’d taken this shot of a Great Blue Heron land on the rocks the first time I was there, I would probably have been thrilled with it

because it’s a pose I never see at Theler or Ridgefield.

I usually get shots of GBH hunting prey, not flying casually overhead as in this shot.

I can remember being thrilled the first time I got a shot liked this many years ago when I was shooting with a 400mm lens and a Canon Rebel. Now, not so much.

The real reason photographers go to Big Beef Creek, though, is to capture the interaction between the Great Blue Herons and the Bald Eagles and between the various Eagles that gather there. There was only four eagles the day I was there and the only interaction between GBH and eagles took place so far out that the pictures had to be heavily cropped, which means a serious loss of detail, though they still convey a sense of action lacking in the other pictures I took.

Hopefully I’ll get better shots on my next visit this week.

Bald Eagle Catching Fish

I’ll have to admit I have so many shots of Eagles sitting in the trees around Big Beef Creek that I usually ignore them after they’ve landed, but I was bored enough at the beginning of this visit that I took several shots and got the chance to see this Bald Eagle swoop down and pick up a fish.

The sun even peeked through the clouds long enough to provide some excellent light for the short time this took.

Anticipation

After our trip to Bottle Beach, I decided I needed to check out Big Beef Creek near Seabeck to see if the sculpin run had begun. Since the run is tide-dependent, I checked when high tide was and thought I would need to be there around 6:00 A.M. When I got there, clouds covered the sky, and the sun was having a hard time breaking through. In other words, the lighting sucked.

I still couldn’t resist taking photos of the Great Blue Herons who lined the shore who seemed as eager as I was for the action to begin.

I always get some of my closest shots of the day in these early hours before the tide goes out very far

because the herons were right below me at the mouth of the creek.

Once the Great Blue Herons start fishing, Bald Eagles fly in to see if they can steal a meal.

Occasionally the sun broke through the clouds, providing some of that early morning glow that can make pictures really snap.

I have a bad habit of always arriving long before I need to and I’m working on overcoming that, but being the first one there isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing.

Last, But Not Least

I usually begin a photo shoot at Bottle Beach by taking shots of the larger birds that show up first and seldom come very far up on to the beach. The shoot generally ends with my favorite part, kneeling on the beach trying to get shots of the littlest sandpipers that run in front and in back of me, totally indifferent to me and my camera. It’s the closest I ever get to becoming One with Nature.

Though I seldom worry about identifying the birds I’m photographing while I’m photographing them, these turned out to be Western Sandpipers, not Least Sandpipers.

Red Knots at Bottle Beach

It might say something about how bad of a “Birder” I am that it never occurred to me to check what birds were being seen at Bottle Beach before I went there. But, as I’ve said before, I go to magical places that draw me, not to see specific birds. As a result, I didn’t know that endangered Red Knots had been seen in the area and that birders were especially on the lookout for them.

In fact, I didn’t learn that until the second day when an excited birder with a scope reported that he had counted over 300 Red Knots on the shore. Although I had focused on the Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlin, I had mentioned to Leslie the first day that some of the birds sure looked like Red Knots, not Dowitcher’s in breeding plumage, though they are similar in size and some Dowitchers are nearly as bright as Red Knots.

As it turned out, when I got home and looked at my shots, I had taken lots of shots of Red Knots

on the first day simply because they are a beautiful bird, and big enough that they’re impossible to ignore in a flock of shorebirds.

Dunlins are larger than most sandpipers, and this Red Knot is nearly twice the size of the resting Dunlin.

Not to mention that Red Knots are quite striking in flight and seem to fly a lot even while feeding.

Most of all, though, it was their beautiful color, especially when the sun was behind me that produced shots like this

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and this.