Who Knew

Considering how impatient I’ve been to get on the road, it seems almost hypocritical to suggest that my favorite part of birding is learning more about the bird and you do that best when you can observe them through the different parts of their life.

Even after years of photographing the local Canada Geese I’m constantly learning new things about them. Most of the year I totally ignore the large flocks of geese that seem to be everywhere. But it’s nearly impossible to ignore them once they start to break up into breeding pairs.

Suddenly birds that have flocked together for nine months get very testy, claiming their own piece of land and driving off any other geese that dare approach.

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Before long they’re sitting on nests with dad (or mom, since I can’t tell the difference) standing guard nearby.

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When goslings appear it’s unusual not to see both parents caring for the young with one parent always on watch.

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I’ve long thought that the main reason there are so many Canada Geese is that the parents do such a good job of taking care of them.

After several years of watching geese raise their young, I recently saw something I had never seen before,

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a Canada Goose nursery. There were two or three small groups of goslings nestled together while several adults were nearby, carefully guarding them.

Goose5 Sure enough, I quick search on the internet revealed that: “In areas where several pairs of geese have been nesting, all of the fledglings are grouped together to form a protective nursery, guarded from predation by several parent birds.”

The Rhodies are in Full Bloom

Judging from the number of flowers I see in neighbor’s yards, Rhododendrons must be the most popular flower in the Puget Sound region, and one of the best places to see them is the Point Defiance Rhododendron Garden where you can see them in their natural habitat, and by “natural habitat” I mean a well maintained forest/garden.

The thinned forest canopy provides a delightful play of shadow and light for the photographer.

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My favorite part of the garden is seeing brilliant colors splashed against a green palate,

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but the meandering paths also make it easy to see the rhodies from different perspectives, as they might appear in your garden

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or up-close as individual bouquets.

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Anyway that you look at them they are beautiful.

Tempus Fugit

It may only be May on the calendar, but everything around me tells me I’ve lost track of time and summer has already begun. After I saw the wild roses blooming at Belfair, I knew I needed to get down to check out the Pt. Defiance Rose Garden, especially the Iris portion of the garden.

I was surprised that nearly all the roses are blooming, even the ones that usually bloom later in the summer. There are lots of new rosebuds,

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but most roses are already in their prime.

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Some are even already showing wear around the edges.

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The Iris Garden is even ahead of the Rose Garden. Though many of the iris are still in their prime

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like these two,

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others have already faded.

If you live in Tacoma, this is a great time to visit the Gardens, especially since the Rhododendron Garden is also in full bloom.

Not Just Flowers

It’s impossible to miss all the flowers, both native and cultivated, at Theler, but I’ve also been struck by the beauty of just-emerged 3Leaves and about-to-emerge leaves. Fern In fact, I’ve been looking at this shot for several days thinking it would be the perfect photo for a haiku, but apparently that’s not to be so you’ll have to create your own haiku to accompany it.

Letters from the Past

I’ve been walking Theler Wetlands for a several years now, before they breached the dike and flooded the farm to provide better habitat for young salmon. I’ll have to admit I was skeptical of the project, particularly because I hadn’t seen the kind of transformation that I expected at Nisqually after they breached the dike.

Despite that skepticism, I’ve been encouraged by the kinds of changes I’ve seen at Theler Wetlands. Although some species of birds have obviously suffered from the changes, there seems to have been a number of positive changes, too. One of the biggest changes has been the increased number of small shorebirds passing through, like these Least Sandpiper.

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Although I took these shots mainly to positively identifying them, looking at them got me thinking of what the Puget Sound must have been like before people started filling in wetlands to build farms and, more recently, mansions.

For me, these Least Sandpiper were letters from the past,

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reminding us what we need to do to preserve our natural heritage and pass it on to future generations.

Loren’s Life-Long Snipe Hunt

I think I went on my first snipe hunt when I was about five years old. Big Brother Bill, probably upset that The Mom had once again told him to take me with him, told me to go down to the wetlands on Lake Washington and find a snipe. I looked for a snipe many times after that, at least until we moved to Walnut Creek, California when I was 9 and there wasn’t a wetland in sight. Eventually, probably somewhere around 50, I realized that there was no such thing as a snipe, that it was just a way for Big Brother Bill to get rid of me.

Turns out I was wrong, at least about there being no such thing as a “snipe.” When I started birding several years ago I bought a book called “Birds of the Puget Sound Region” and, sure enough, there on page 162 was a picture of a Wilson’s Snipe and a short description. Judging from the stocky photo, I thought snipes were a fairly large bird, though it turned out they are really about half the size of a crow.

I’ve been looking in vain for snipes ever since I saw that photo. Eventually, I found a snipe in the background of one of my shots. That didn’t feel like it really counted as seeing a snipe, though. I finally saw three snipes at a distance while birding Malheur last year. That’s when I first realized how small they are. The shots I got might have served as proof that I’d actually seen a Wilson’s Snipe, but they weren’t good pictures.

I finally got a decent shot of a Snipe about two weeks ago at Theler. I gentleman stopped me on the trail and asked me to identify a photo he had taken at the beginning of the trail. After I identified it as a Wilson’s Snipe, I asked him where he had taken the shot. Unfortunately, it was at the opposite end of the trail, but when I got there nearly an hour later it was still there, though not out in the open as it had been when he took the pictures earlier.

The snipe was tucked in next to the bank and was barely visible through all the foliage on the bank.

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Naturally when I maneuvered to get a clearer shot, it flew off to the next pond.

I figured since it had been where it was an hour ago that it might return to the same area once I had left. When I got back half an hour later, it had returned to nearly the same spot and I managed to get a little better picture.

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Although there is still some distortion a the bottom of the picture from the foliage in the foreground, I’m quite happy with the photo. That’s good, too, because judging from experience it will be quite awhile before I manage to get a better shot.