Small Price to Pay

Saturday we got a rare treat — a cloudless, sunny day. To celebrate we headed up to Port Townsend. It was sunny, but seemed almost as cold as Mt. Baker looked across Puget Sound.

The price of sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest is often a strong Eastern wind, with accompanying cold. Even the birds seemed to be seeking shelter from the frigid winds.

Small price to pay for the beautiful golden hour light reflected on this Black-bellied Plover in winter foliage,

on these two Yellowlegs,

and on this rarely seen Western Meadowlark.

Color Me Relaxed

What do you do when you’ve finally finished processing all the photos from your vacation and it’s still cloudy and rainy?

Try to get out between showers and accept the challenge of getting the best shots you can. Perhaps a brightly-colored male Green-Winged Teal will lend a little color to the drab mud-flats.

It’s a good time to revisit old skills like panning while taking action shots.

and I’ve been doing this long enough I still think a little blur creates a sense of speed rather than being a serious photographic flaw.

Subtle, gray backgrounds fade away, leaving a sense of calm and serenity,

the exact feeling I often get while walking in the fog or under overcast skies.

Make Lemonade

Although sunshine was forecast for much of the rest of the week, it was cloudy our last day in Santa Rosa. Undeterred, I took my camera on our walk along the Santa Rosa creek.

If I’d known what I was actually looking at, I would probably have been thrilled at sighting a small flock of Western Bluebirds, a bird I only occasionally see in the mountains. Truthfully, I didn’t know what it was until I opened my shots in Lightroom. It was hard to tell what was sky and what was bird until I maxed out the controls and was left with a grainy, but recognizable, shot of a female Western Bluebird.

I probably should just have junked the shot, but it looked so much like a watercolor that I decided to play around with it in Photoshop and ended up with a picture I liked.

This shot of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler

was actually saveable, but I liked the Bluebird treatment so much that I decided to apply the same effect to this shot and liked this better than the original picture.

Kiting Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail

Though I’d prefer that every photo I take turn out to be magnificent, the best thing about being dissatisfied with the shots you’ve taken is that you know that, given another chance, you'll get better shots. After all, the most important belief for any photographer is the belief that their next shot will be their best ever.

The weather gradually improved during our Santa Rosa visit, and our next outing this White-Tailed Kite was awaiting us at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, blending in superbly with the foggy skies.

At least it was bright enough that I could use a faster shutter speed and capture it as if gave me a fly-by

and appeared to be checking me out.

It was even brighter on our way back, but the Kite insisted on keeping the sun to its back so that the white wings appeared to be gray.

I’m convinced raptors purposely swoop down out of the sun to frustrate their paparazzi, though it might have more to do with confusing prey.

Still, one of the three White-Tailed Kites we saw did me a favor and circled around to hunt again, giving me great light.

I felt blessed to see so many Kites on this visit, considering that I've only seen one in all my previous visits.

Mice Beware!

Although the Kite was the main attraction on our beach walk north of Bodega Bay, there were many supporting actors. All I know for sure is that I wouldn’t have wanted to be a mouse on that stretch of beach.

This Red-Tailed Hawk didn’t seem too happy with our looking down on it,

but it didn’t have to suffer too long because it was quickly displaced by this Vulture that landed on the same rock while we were standing there.

We didn’t walk too much further before we encountered this Kestrel sitting on an even higher rock.

At first we thought this was either the Kestrel or Red-Tailed Hawk, but its flight pattern quickly revealed that it was neither, but, rather, a Northern Harrier.

Just in case there were scraps left over, there was a pair of Ravens perched on fence posts near the parking area.

Kite Flying

Although the Vermillion Flycatcher we saw earlier on our trip was the only “First” of the trip, I’ve only sighted a Kite very high in the sky before and my shots were marginal at best. So, I was thrilled when we sighted this bird at the beginning of our walk above Bodega Bay


Truthfully, I didn’t have a clue of what it was because the shots I’ve seen of Kites before focused on their underside, not their back.

Unfortunately, the clouds and dark sky necessitated a slow shutter speed so the shots I got weren’t as sharp as I like, particularly when the kite was flying like this.

Amazingly, instead of just flying away, as I would have suspected, the Kite circled back and landed where I had first seen it.

I’m pretty sure this shot

would have been my favorite shot of the day if I’d been able to shoot at a higher shutter speed because it’s really dramatic pose.

As it is, this

was my favorite shot because the Kite’s body, and eyes, are quite sharp even if the motion of the wings causes blur.

Truthfully, I would have been thrilled by the event even if I had managed a single photo. I’m sure I was able to get closer to the Kite because it was foggy and birds are more approachable when it is foggy.

Just North of Bodega Bay

I can’t remember visiting Santa Rosa without going out to the coast, and we weren’t going to let a little rain and clouds stop us this time, either. Jeff took us out to the coast via the Russian River, and we ended up walking a stretch of the coast I’ve never walked before.

Ideally I should have probably brought a different lens for scenics, but I was hoping to see birds, too, so I compromised with my 100-400mm Canon lens. Most of these shots were actually panorama shots consisting of 3 or more shots. I’m always amazed at how well Photoshop reconstructs these, especially when waves are involved.

It would have been nice if it had been a little sunnier, but, after living on the Washington coast for six month, I figure any day on the coast without rain is a great day. There’s definitely a reason one of my favorite Facebook groups is called “fogwalking.”

Not sure why arches like this are so appealing, but they are — perhaps they are doorways to magical kingdoms.

Most of the Washington coast is relatively flat — like Longbeach — so it’s a treat to see these kinds of headlands.

Heck, even the outhouse had a great view of the ocean,

and it’s not often that you get to look down on birds.