Pretty Pictures

Generally I try to convince myself that my photographs simply show off the beauty of the birds themselves. Occasionally, though, I share shots because they strike me as pretty pictures and not because of the way they show the birds.

These three pictures all struck me as pretty pictures,

partly because the bird is reflected in the water,

and partly because of the color from the boats is reflected in the water.

Port Orchard Birding Shots

On my last trip to Port Orchard I captured a shot of a female Scaup that looked like this

and noted that I spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify it. On this visit I saw this duck and immediately recognized it as a Male Greater Scaup.

I’m used to getting great shots of Baird’s Goldeneyes at Port Orchard, but I seldom see Common Goldeneyes like this male

and when I do they are usually so far out that I can’t capture this kind of detail.

I also had good luck capturing this shot of a female Hooded Merganser with the sunlight behind her for a change.

A Great Blue Heron Kinda Morning

Our last walk at Theler Wetlands started just as most of our latest walks there have started, in a heavy fog, plus high tides. This Cormorant appeared to be walking on water in the middle of a lake, though it was really just standing on a log in the middle of the Union River.

We managed to get really close to this Great Blue Heron, so close that all I could fit into my camera frame was its head.

As we backed away, he continued to track prey, apparently oblivious to us.

Later, we startled another Heron close to the riverbank.

Not sure if we scared these female Green-Winged Teal,

but I liked this shot.

Unfortunately, this shot of a startled male Common Merganser isn’t as clear,

but it’s the first time I’ve spotted a male Common Merganser this Winter, so I was bound to include it here.

I Couldn’t Ask for Anything More

Although it’s the Harlequin Ducks that draw me back to Ft. Flagler and Port Townsend year after year, I’m also attracted by the shorebirds, like these Black-Bellied Plovers in non-breeding colors.

It’s the only place I see Brant regularly,

though they can be found throughout the Puget Sound during the winter.

I see Belted-Kingfishers nearly every time I visit Theler Wetlands, but none of them are nearly as accommodating as the one at the Fort Worden marine center.

Throw in an excellent restaurant or two, a few art galleries, and yarn and bead stores, and that’s what I’d call a special weekend.

An Annual Pilgrimage

Although there are Harlequin Ducks locally, I haven’t managed to sight any this year so after a scheduled lunch fell through we decided Sunday would be a good day to drive to Ft Flagler where I’ve managed to see them every winter for the last seven years. Things looked good when we left as it was one of the sunniest days we’ve had for a while.

Unfortunately, when we reached Ft. Flagler there was an extremely high tide. There were few shorebirds and even fewer Harlequins. The only pair I saw was so far out that I couldn’t recognize them with my bare eyes. Even the 800mm (400mm with a doubler) lens I brought barely reached them.

While this shot would serve to confirm my sighting, they were so far away I couldn’t crop the shot to fill the frame.

After checking a couple of other places to see if we could find some closer, we gave up and decided we might have better luck in Port Townsend after some shopping and lunch when the tide had receded. Despite several off-leash dogs running the beach, we did see a pair of Harlequins closer than we had seen them in the morning.

Though not as good as some I’ve taken in previous years, this shot captures the Harlequin's beautiful markings and colors that brings me back year after year.

The 800 mm lens combination I was using had such a shallow depth of field that I found it impossible to capture both the male and female in a single shot, so I had to combine shots where I focused on each of them separately to create this portrait.

Though not quite the day I’d hoped for, it was still a delightful day, one I’ll undoubtedly repeat as often in the future as I’m able to.

Old Friends Pass By

Though I still enjoy seeing familiar birds while out birding – as followers of this site are probably painfully aware — the most enjoyment comes when you see a bird for the first time. The next best thing is seeing a bird you don’t see very often.

This duck has fooled me several times over the past years because I don’t see it very often and because it is the female, not the male. Like many female ducks, it’s much less striking than the male Greater Scaup.

I’m always sure I’ve never seen it before when I first sight it. As soon as I get home and identify it in my birding book, though, I remember that I have seen it in the same place in past years. Though not as distinctive as the male, the female Greater Scaup

is distinctive enough that you’re not likely to confuse it with other female ducks who are also primarily brown in color.

Widgeons are so common that I quit taking pictures of them about the same time I quit taking pictures of Mallards. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take pictures of them if they fly by because it’s a much more challenging shot.

Though I haven’t tired of taking shots of Hooded Mergansers, I really like this shot because they usually dive rather than flying away when scared and I don’t have many shots of them flying.

Subtle Shades of Brown

I’ll have to admit that the photographer in me is attracted to sunshine, but, personally, I’ve always preferred subdued, earthy colors to bright colors. In fact, ex-students used to make fun of my many brown corduroy jackets and brown pants because clothing I’ve always favored muted colors in clothing. Perhaps that is because I was raised in the Pacific Northwest where those colors prevail most of the year.

Who could argue that the male Northern Pintail doesn’t look elegant foraging on Belfair’s mudflats

or that the Great Blue Heron’s subtle blues and grays don’t stand out here?

Heck, the male Green-winged Teal looks positively dapper against the muddy banks when sunshine finally penetrates the cloud cover.