More Signs of Fall

As I noted yesterday, migrating shorebirds are a sure sign Summer is fading and Fall is nearing. Another sign are large flocks of birds gathering, either migrating or getting ready to migrate.

This small flock of Starlings was part of a much, much larger flock that was flying back and forth across Theler on Sunday.


Flocks of finches were feeding on berries in the trees


and were easily confused with flocks of Cedar Waxwings, like this juvenile,


also feeding on available fruit.

Still waiting for signs of sea ducks to officially confirm Summer is over.

Almost Live, Finally

Noticed how often I’ve been posting lately? When you post that often you get caught up. This post’s shots were taken last Sunday which is probably as close as I’m ever going to get to going “live” on this blog.

Any writer who urges you to “live in the moment” is either a fool or a hypocrite. The very act of reflecting on your life requires you to live in the past. The only bloggers living in the moment are those who paste shots of the meal they’re about to eat or fuzzy pictures of themselves on the beach on their site.

It takes time to sort through pictures and select those worth posting, not to mention the time needed to crop and bring out the best in them. The only time I spend living in the moment is the time I spend out in nature taking pictures.

Speaking of time, the birds are telling me that Summer is coming to an end and Fall is upon us, no matter what the calendar might say. We have seen the beginnings of the Fall Migration for a couple of weeks now, but even more so this weekend.

The Killdeer who have been around all summer are being joined by Western Sandpipers passing through on their way South.


It’s hard to believe that birds this small


migrate from Northern Alaska to the South America. No wonder they are constantly feeding when we see them here.

Sunday was the first time we’ve seen Short-Billed Dowitchers


at Theler since Spring.

Time to get to the beach to see the full migration, especially since I missed the Spring migration to get to Bear River in Utah.

Slowing Down

As things return to normal here, I have the time to notice the little things that make life pleasant, if not exciting. The Summer doldrums have definitely begun at Theler Wetlands, and you generally have to hunt to find birds.

If you look hard, though, you can find juvenile Song Sparrows hopping from reed to reed.


Stand still long enough looking for one bird, and another bird may suddenly confront you.


Follow the familiar chirp of a Black-Capped Chickadee and you may find it stealing the prey of a spider.


Look carefully enough, and you may even find a Wilson’s Warbler hiding nearly invisibly behind sunlit leaves.


When even songbirds become scarce, you can always lower your expectations and take shots of the small flowers that bloom in the deep shade of the forest in late summer, like this orange flower


or these purple and yellow flowers


both considerably smaller than they seem here, unless you’re viewing this on your mobile device.

Summer Photo Camp With Gramps

I hope it hasn’t begun to seem that I am running a summer photo camp for grandkids on my blog, but I didn’t want to slight anyone by skipping our latest excursion where we took Lael and Mira down to the Point Defiance Rose Garden with cameras. The first three shots are by Mira, while the next three are by Lael.

I ended up choosing their shots I liked best to post, but it was interesting to see how their photos differed from shots I generally take at the Rose Garden.

I often take pictures of insects on flowers as Mira did in this shot,


but I usually back up further and capture the whole flower, not just a part of it.

This brilliant red-yellow flower is striking, one I, too, might feature,


but I would work hard to make sure that its beauty wasn’t blocked by leaves.

This shot by Mira is probably the closest to attaining the kind of look I try to capture when I photograph flowers.


Lael actually took several shots of our group during our excursion, but this shot of Mira is my favorite.


In a lot of her shots Lael included several flowers


instead of focusing on, and isolating, a single flower like I usually do.

My favorite Lael shot, though, was this one of an Echinacea (I think?)


she shot through the fence, perhaps because I would never have thought of shooting it this way.

Leslie insisted I needed to include a shot of Lael in this blog entry if I was going to include a shot of Mira so she sent me this shot she took on the outing.


Of course, I was focusing on presenting Lael’s work when I chose the shot of Mira, not Mira, per se. I have, however, been criticized rather regularly for not getting enough shots of people when I’m out on a family hike.

I wasn’t sure I was going to return to Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge after my dental appointment since the birding wasn’t very good in the morning, but since I couldn’t make it home for dinner I decided to give it another shot. I’m glad I did. I got shots of birds I haven’t gotten a shot of for over a year.

Though I had seen a Green Heron weeks earlier in Santa Rosa and even that morning, they flew away too rapidly to get a picture of it. This Green Heron stood in the middle of a shallow pond posing


for a very long time.

The best shot, though, came when it started slowly walking along the bank with its green, head feathers standing straight up.


I thought it was stalking prey, but it turned out it was actually trying to defend its territory against a Yellowlegs

. RdgfldYllwLgs

I assume the raised feathers were meant to intimidate the intruder, but they didn’t as the Yellowlegs continued to calmly search for food, totally ignoring the heron.


The best shot of the day, though, came a few hundred yards up the road when I spotted this bird. I thought it was a Sora, but a little research revealed it was an immature Virginia Rail.


While photographing the juvenile, I glimpsed another, more mature, Virginia Rail.


I’m still not sure if it was an adult or merely an older juvenile since it lacks the orange beak and the bright colors on the head an adult should have. Still, it’s definitely a Virginia Rail, not the Sora I originally thought I’d seen. I usually see Virginia Rails at Theler, but despite hearing them several times I haven’t managed to sight one there this year.

Back to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I am seeing my dentist too often lately, but a small consolation is I get to visit the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, a place I used to walk regularly when I taught at Battle Ground. Sometimes I visit in the morning AND in the evening before returning home if birding is good in the morning.

This visit I was greeted by large flocks of American Goldfinches, though I was only able to capture shots of a few intrepid individuals that didn’t fly off as my car slowly crept up the road. I’m so used to getting shots looking UP at Goldfinches I like this shot of a female


and male Goldfinch.


Even though I didn’t see many birds in the first half of the auto tour, I decided to walk the loop trail that’s closed most of the year. I ended up seeing lots and lots of very tall grass


that should make good feed for the ducks once it’s flooded. Right now, though, it makes it difficult to see and identify all the small birds hiding there.

Luckily, Great Blue Herons


never make any pretense at hiding, unlike this American Bittern which was, as usual, hiding in plain sight


or I would never have seen him.

Far Better than a Workout at the Gym

Nothing much happening since our California trip. More often than not, the highlight of our day is our 3 1/2 trek down to the beach and back, a significant step up from walking two miles on a round track at the YMCA. I do think both Leslie and I are in better shape than we were at the beginning of summer, but it’s hard to put that into pictures.

Luckily, we continue to walk weekly at Theler Wetlands where we spot enough birds to make the four mile walk a delightful experience.

One Sunday we sighted this Red-Crossbill, a bird I’ve only sighted three times in all the years I’ve been birding.


The next Sunday we sighted a Black-Headed Grosbeak,


a bird I’ve seen occasionally at Theler, but still rare enough I consider it a treat.

The real highlight of the day, though, was while watching large flocks of American Goldfinches,


we noticed a Cooper’s Hawk (I think) intently watching, too.


Once Leslie sighted the hawk, I immediately shifted my focus to the hawk as I tried to capture a shot of it in flight.


This might have been a young hawk because it seemed awfully inept at chasing the Goldfinches.

Birds or no birds, walking the four miles at Theler is a real treat as I get in my exercise without every feeling like I am exercising. I even get in a walking meditation at the same time. Can’t beat that. If I lived closer I probably wouldn’t need a YMCA membership.