Loren Ain’t No Stick-in-the-Mud

The worst part of going to places like Bear River is that it's a let down when you go birding the next time. With a dental appointment in Vancouver, we made our traditional stop at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Though it can be a great stop during Spring and Fall migration, it is as slow in the summer as the Puget Sound area.

Judging by this trip, it was even slower. The only bird I managed a shot of was this Great Blue Heron scratching itself.

With few birds in sight, I had to shift my focus to Painted Turtles

and Bullfrogs,

though I’ll have to admit I was actually excited over these sightings.

No use being a stick-in-the-mud because your vacation is over.

An Odd Duck

This is obviously a male Northern Shoveler,

but I’ve never seen one that looks like this before. Somebody, or something, has really managed to ruffle its feathers. The head lacks the green sheen I’d expect to see, particularly in such bright light. If it weren’t for the bill I might have had a hard time identifying it at all. I’m guessing this must be transitioning from its Eclipse Plumage to its breeding plumage.

Still Learning at 75

I don’t know if 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ but I have found that seeking out beauty

often leads to new insights about nature. I never miss a chance to get a shot of a Snowy Egret because it yields some beautiful photos.

While photographing this Snow Egret, though, I saw something I had never noticed before. At first I thought it was just trying to quietly walk while stalking prey, something common to all herons,

but it soon became clear that wasn’t what was going on.

The egret was actually moving its foot up and down in one spot, consciously stirring up the water.

I still don’t know exactly what it was trying to stir up, but it was clearly a hunting strategy.

I found this intriguing enough that I was going to post it earlier, but about the time that I was going to post it Robin Andrea posted an article noting the same behavior on her blog so I thought I would wait a respectable period before posting my observations. Cornell’s “All About Birds” says that the Snowy Egret "often uses its bright yellow feet to paddle in the water or probe in the mud, rounding up prey before striking with its bill.”

Not a Chick in Sight

While looking for Avocet or Black-Necked Stilt chicks at Bear River, I remarked that I had never seen a White-Faced Ibis chick and wondered why. After reading on the refuge’s site that “ the Refuge now hosts the largest colony of White-faced ibis in North America.” I’m even more amazed that I’ve never seen a chick — or even a juvenile, for that matter.

For now, at least, I guess I will have to settle for glimpses of a remarkable bird

whose iridescent colors are a constant challenge

and a constant joy to photograph.

Judging from the few images I found on the net, the chicks are nearly as ugly as their parents are beautiful, and, as every birder knows, ugly is beautiful.