Thank Goodness for the Belted Kingfisher

Still birding between showers and longing for a long, long birding trip (say to sunnier northern California), but it’s hard to complain when you’re retired and can take advantage of sunny breaks no matter when they occur.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been to lake Waughop so I was hoping to see some different birds, but it wasn’t to be. The lake was really high with all the recent rain, so there were very few birds feeding close to shore. I only managed to get this shot of Double-Crested Cormorants hanging out in the bushes.

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Undeterred, I stopped off at Titlow Park on the way home. Although I often see Widgeons offshore in Port Orchard, it’s been awhile since I’ve bothered to get this close to one.

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Absence obviously makes the heart fonder, so I was more impressed than usual by the bird’s plumage.

The resident Belted Kingfisher was more cooperative than usual, though it insisted on only posing in the shadiest part of the pond,

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which made it even harder than usual to capture it in flight,

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particularly after emerging from a dive.

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Luckily, On1 Photo 10 has pretty good noise reduction capabilities.

Irritated by its failure to catch a fish or by my shooting of shots, the Kingfisher flew to the other end of the pond where I managed to capture at least one shot in good light

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before it took off.

The ten minutes I spent taking shots of the Belted Kingfisher made my day and made me forget how few shots I actually got on this trip.

Between Cloud Breaks

Not surprisingly when you only have an hour or so between showers you’re not likely to see anything particularly unusual nearby. If there were anything unusual, you would probably already have seen it.

Still, I never really tire of seeing local Horned Grebes

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or female Red-Breasted Mergansers

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while walking Ruston Way.

I’ve posted a shot of this less-than-common bird recently, but I did get a pretty good chance to study it on a recent walk.

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It was hanging out with a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye, though it’s plumage makes it clear it isn’t a Barrow’s Goldeneye.

Comparing it to this male Goldeneye it was hanging around with,

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it’s pretty clear that this is a hybrid,

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and the black stripe running down the white breast suggests it is probably a Hooded Merganser/Goldeneye hybrid.

Since it was hanging out with Goldeneyes, I wondered if it had the same diet they had, not that of a Hooded Merganser. Unfortunately, despite spending considerable time watching it, I never did see it come up with a catch. Guess that’s something to find out on a later visit. Given our weather forecast, I’ll probably be spending much time walking locally.

Love is In the Air

In an earlier entry I showed the interaction between a male Hooded Merganser with a mate and a one without a mate. On my last visit to Port Orchard I spend over a half hour watching a slightly different interaction: one between two males and an unattached female.

Single males often gather together in small flocks and these two males were obviously hanging out just waiting for a gal to float by.

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It was obvious when they spotted a potential mate.

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Although they swam right by her, she didn’t even seem to acknowledge their presence,

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which seemed to lead to a short discussion between the two males, though I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying.

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The males weren’t about to give up, though the female seemed more interested in a good meal, even if she had to catch it herself, than flirting with two bachelors.

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Each time they circled the female, the males became more demonstrative.

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I really have to learn to speak “Duck.”

At the Crack of Dawn

I’m definitely not a morning person, but with our long winter days here in the Pacific Northwest I get up in the dark more often than not lately. Occasionally I even manage to get to a birding area before the sun. The last time I was at Theler Wetlands the sun had barely broken the horizon by the time I started my walk, and, as a result, I got some rather unusual shots, like this one of Green-Winged Teal dabbling in the rising tide flats.

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The low lighting also created a beautiful reflection of the bridge that spans the main tide flats.

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In the low light this Double-Crested Cormorant

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looked even more like some prehistoric monster rising out of the deep than usual.

This Great Blue Heron flew out of the darkness straight at me landed a short distance away,

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apparently not to give me a good shot of it’s feathery coat but, rather, to catch some of the sun’s warming rays. With temperatures in the high 40’s and low 50’s I wonder if the birds are thinking that summer is just around the corner?

Another Break in the Clouds

If you’ve followed this blog for long, you surely realize I spend most of my time birding at Theler Wetlands and Port Orchard, and, while I’ll have to admit to enjoying be spoiled by longer trips to Malheur, Bear River, and the Sacramento National Wildlife refuges, I still love walking these areas even if I see the same birds year after year. Tiring of them would be like tiring of the sun, which is not to say that I don’t realize many of these shots are redundant, and probably not as good as shots I’ve previously posted.

I’ll have to admit that I’m more tempted to Photoshop pictures of common birds than I am unique shots in an attempt to get readers to see them in a new light. Since I can’t emulate the Red-Wing Blackbirds’s

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song in prose, in made sense to me to contrast him with his drab background by manipulating the background.

This Golden-Crowned Sparrow

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didn’t need much to make him appear as close as he actually was.

It was easy to make this Great Blue Heron

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stand out from his background since he walked ridiculously close to me while stalking his prey, blurring the background on my telephoto lens.

I can’t say the same for this shot of a female Bufflehead

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launching herself as I crossed the bridge. A grey bird taking off from a grey pond demanded dramatic intervention with textured backgrounds which will have to suffice until I can finish setting up my den to do encaustic. Strangely enough, this drab little shot became my favorite shot of the day.

Birding Port Townsend

We always follow our visit to Ft Flagler with lunch in Port Townsend and a stop at a couple of galleries, and that’s about as long as I can last shopping. With several hours left before we’d be ready to eat dinner, we decided to hit a couple of birding spots others had told us about. We didn’t see much but these two Red-Necked Grebes in winter plumage

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at our first stop, a bird I seldom see on the south end of Puget Sound.

We stopped at the Port Townsend Marine Center without seeing much and were heading back to the car when another observer pointed out a family of River Otters swimming right below us.

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We must have spent a half hour watching them frolic.

I’m assuming from its size that this otter, which kept returning to the deck and gnawing on something must have been a yearling.

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I happened to mention to the gentlemen who pointed out the otter that we’d come to see Harlequin Ducks but hadn’t had much luck at Ft. Flagler. When he told us that they were often seen a few yards from where we’d been shopping earlier in the day, I had to return and see if that was true.

As it turned out I mostly saw Brant

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where he’d said we could find Harlequins, but I finally spotted a small flock a little closer than I’d seen them at Flagler.

I liked this shot of three males being harassed by a young gull

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because it reminded me they are one of the smaller ducks we see regularly, something I tend to forget while looking through a 400mm lens.

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Between the heavy rain and recent illnesses I haven’t managed to get out to get any new pictures, but my finger infection is finally healed enough that I can type without cussing at the keyboard. Luckily way back when we had our short dry spell I was out taking pictures every day and now I have time to process them.

Our longest trip during that time was a favorite, a visit combining Ft Flagler and Port Townsend, beginning with Flagler where I hunt for Harlequin Ducks. On this visit, with especially high tides, these small Sanderlings dominated the scene, alternately landing in front of us

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quite close and at very high speeds, making it difficult to focus the camera on them.

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Luckily, there was always the bold, or overly trusting, bird that would run straight back toward you once the flock had landed.

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Even while focusing on the shorebirds, I scanned the horizon, looking for the Harlequins.

As usual, there were lots of birds just offshore, but the male Red Breasted Merganser particularly caught my attention,

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even though it was really too far away to get very good shots.

I didn’t see a single Harlequin until our second stop, and they were so far out that the best I could do was very that they were actually there.

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Despite waiting nearly a half hour to see if they would come closer to shore, they never did, though meanwhile this crow stopped by to see what I was up to.

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