A Quiet Day at Nisqually

I wasn’t the only visitor to remark that the Nisqually refuge seemed to have fewer birds than usual Wednesday, though perhaps that was a misperception caused by increased vegetation offering better refuge for birds and animals from prying birders, which is a good thing, unless you happen to be birding with your camera, which, of course, I was.

At one point early on, I was walking through a large stand of trees listening to birds on all sides, unable to locate a single one. Fixed on the songs, i was suddenly lost in them, uplifted by the sheer joy of it, reminded once again my beloved Canon D20 is nothing more than a tool of awareness, not the holy grail of enlightenment.

Shortly afterwards, I tracked this Goldfinch for several minutes, though it’s much easier to get pictures of them at the backyard feeder. The goldfinch seemed to tolerate my harassment quite well, probably because it was across a stream and didn’t feel threatened. Suddenly quiet, a harrier swept overhead, veering just above my head. Apparently deciding it’d been harried enough for one day, the finch disappeared into the surrounding shrubs and trees.

Nearly two hours and two miles later I saw my only new species of the day, California Quail:

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the little drooping topknot through my telephoto lens. I haven’t seen these quail for many years.

My favorite shot of the day, though, didn’t involve birds at all, but, rather, this shot of a dragonfly.

6 thoughts on “A Quiet Day at Nisqually

  1. Fifty years ago we had a covey of 41 quail visiting our outdoor bird feeder in Santa Rosa CA every morning and evening. They entertained us at breakfast and supper, flying onto the small platform just outside our kitchen window about 6 at a time, flapping to keep their balance, and pecking at the seed until the next bunch of 6 birds crosded them off. Such a scramble. A lot of seed fell to the ground, so the birds below always had plenty to eat. I’ve been told that coveys always consist of an odd number because there is one bachelor odd-man-out who acts as lookout for the rest who are in pairs.

    In the midst of this daily display, Leslie got her first glasses, looked out the window, and said, “No wonder you keep saying how beautiful they are.” She was really seeing them for the first time.

    It would be a thrill to spot quail in-the-wild again, as you did, Loren. Great photos.

    Love to you and Leslie

    Mary

  2. Living in Western Washington for so many years after growing up in California, I have missed seeing California Quail. Glad to hear that they live at Nisqually.

    I thought of your photography, especially your montages, while reading an interview with Julio Cortazar at http://www.centerforbookculture.org:

    Photography is sort of a literature of objects. When you take a photo, you make a decision. You frame some things and eliminate others. A good photographer is one who knows how to frame things better. And besides he knows how to choose by chance and there’s where surrealism comes into play. It has always seemed marvelous to me that someone can photograph two or three incongruous elements, for example, the standing figure of a man who, by some effect of light and shade projected onto the ground, appears to be a great black cat. On a profound level, I am producing literature, I am photographing a metaphor: a man whose shadow is a cat. I think I came to photography by way of literature.

  3. I don’t remember the glasses incident, Mom, but I do remember the hot summer day that a mother quail brought her hoard of babies across the street in front of our house. We were just coming out our front door as they skittered across the street. Mother quail easily hopped up on top of the curb and ran into the bushes, but the babies were so little they couldn’t make the jump! They were twittering and running up and down the gutter in a panic trying to find their mother who was hiding in the shrubs. You and I were able to herd them the 5 feet down the gutter to the neighbor’s driveway before any cars came down the street and a happy reunion ensued. They were so darned cute! They looked like a bunch of dried leaves blowing in the wind.

    I really miss seeing those California Quail and it is nice to know they are here in Washington. Wish they would come to our yard!

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