Yet Another Magical Place

The Merced National Wildlife Refuge is one of those magical places I will return to whenever I can. Sand Hill Cranes may be its major draw, but it’s the diversity that will bring me back. I love places that are alive, no matter what particular birds I might, or might not, find there at a particular time.

While trying to capture shots of the Cattle Egrets I’d never seen before, I saw this Wilson’s Snipe

lorenssnipe

and urged Leslie to try to get a shot of it.

She did better than that; she got this wide-angle shot

1snipe

which captured not one, but three, snipes, and her even wider-angle shot captured this shot of the three snipes and a Killdeer.

3snipes

Though we didn’t see a single Avocet, we saw lots of Black-necked Stilts

lorensstilt

and even more Dowitchers,

1000dwtchers

not to mention, hundreds of ducks and geese.

Birding with Jen and the Kids

Although I went birding with Logan two other days, we only got to spend one day birding with Jen and the kids. Jen picked a refuge that looked like it had great potential, but the “wetlands” weren’t wet and there weren’t many birds.

Just as we were about to give up, Jen noticed a White Pelican

lrnsplcn

fly by, and, being a big Pelican fan, she decided we should drive down to the other end of the lake and see if we could get some better shots.

I had my doubts, thinking they would probably fly off when the five of us showed up, but I was wrong. We did get some nice shots of them.

coplcns

Although I didn’t remember to get one of Logan’s shots, Sidney and Zoe wanted to use my camera so I let them take most of the shots. Though neither was interested enough to look through the shots on my computer back at home and identify which they took, these last two shots were taken by one or the other.

Some of the closest Pelicans did take off as we watched them,

zoesplcn

but a larger group ignored us and went about herding fish together so they could catch them easier.

sydnysplcn

Once again, all it took was “one good bird” to make for a fun day.

Magpies and Doves

Though we spent longer in Broomfield Colorado visiting Tyson’s family than anywhere else on our three-week vacation, I ended up with less pictures there than anywhere else.

Part of that was intentional. I learned long ago not to photograph kids playing soccer because I end up missing much of the game. Nor did I photograph Sydney’s mile race. The camera makes me an observer and not a participant, and I prefer to be part of the game when grandkids are playing.

Unfortunately, despite birding two different days with Logan, I also saw less birds on this trip than I’m used to seeing in Colorado. Still, I got a few shots I liked, like this Mourning Dove,

comrnngdv

whose brownish feathers served as the perfect camouflage in the dry fields.

Obviously the Magpie

mgpi1

doesn’t rely on camouflage to survive since its colors stood out against the brown grass.

I’ve often seen Magpies flashing across the road, but this is the first time I’ve managed to capture the pattern of the white feathers in the wing.

comgpi2

Apparently Magpies are as unappreciated in Colorado as crows are in Tacoma, but since I seldom see them I like watching them even more than I like watching my neighborhood crows.

comgpi3

Leslie’s Shots from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Although I knew this is probably the worst time of the year to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, I still wanted to stop on our way to Santa Rosa because I hadn’t been able to get there before. We didn’t see nearly as many birds or species as we have on previous visits. Heck, they hadn’t even flooded most areas of the preserve yet.

Luckily, they had opened a pond I’ve never seen and there were birds we seldom see in the Pacific Northwest. Leslie decided she wanted to use the Canon SX60HS and binoculars and not the heavier camera and lens. I decided to start with a selection of her shots that you can compare with my shots in the next blog entry.

Here’s one of the first shots we took showing a small island covered in Snowy Egrets, Common Terns, Cormorants, White Pelicans, various ducks, American Coots, and Black-Necked Stilts.

IslandPan

A little further along, there was a small flock of White Pelicans herding fish into a small area.

YtPlcnsFedng

I was surprised to spot this Bullfrog on the edge of the pond.

LslesFrg

It must be challenging to survive in a pond with this many predators.

Leslie was trying to capture the golden glow of these dragonflies as the evening sun hit them.

LslesDrgnfly

This shot was heavily cropped after I located the dragonfly among the rocks.

I didn’t have a problem locating this doe and her two fawns, though.

3Dr

Technically this shot is probably too bright and too dark all at the same time, but I like the image of a family of wild turkeys running down the road like a flock of velociraptor.

LslesTrkys

Of course, because I always shoot in RAW format, these shots have been processed in Photoshop. I’ve read arguments that shooting RAW format requires a lot more editing than shooting in jpg format because the camera’s computer leaves all the decisions up to the photographer rather than deciding by itself what “looks best.” Depending on what you want to do with your photographs, it might be best to just shoot in jpg format to save time, but I’m not sure if the jpgs would come straight out of the camera looking this good or not (just saying).

Back to Big Beef Creek

One of the reasons I hesitated to return to Bear River was that it was right in the middle of the Sculpin run at Seabeck and I was afraid the run would be over before we returned. While it had slowed down considerably, it was still taking place when I returned at the end of June. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and I got some great shots, shots that, unfortunately, looked a lot like shots I’d gotten there before I went to Bear River. When you return to the same spot year after year, it gets harder and harder to top the shots you’ve already posted.

My favorite shots of the day were shots of Cedar Waxwings, shots I posted the day I took them instead of a month later. Even if the shots you get are no better than ones you’ve gotten before, it’s hard not to learn more about the herons and eagles you’ve observed. I’ve learned even more by talking to the photographers who get up there even more than I do. I’m nearly as fascinated by the complex interaction of the Eagles and the Great Blue Herons as I am by their beauty.

At the beginning of the day’s run, the herons will be quite spread out. However, once Great Blue Herons start to gather in a particular area, you can count on the eagles beginning to show up, too.

FshngGrnds1

The heron on the left in the above shot has just caught a large Sculpin, and it’s not long before a mature Bald Eagle swoops in.

FshngGrnds2

Often a juvenile eagle will follow the mature eagle.

FshngGrnds3

Notice that the heron on the left drops its catch as the eagles approach. Some herons look like they’re ready to defend themselves, while others immediately take off. Others. like spectators in Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts” turn “away/Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may/Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/ But for him it was not an important failure

FshngGrnds5

Notice that the immature eagle just flies through the flock, apparently unaware that there is even a fish to be had.

FshngGrnds6

The experienced Bald Eagle, however, usually gets the fish dropped by the heron and feeds on it while the angry herons stand impotently around or fly off to a safer fishing hole.

FshngGrnds7

White-Faced Ibis in Flight

We just returned from a week-long trip to Santa Rosa with family where I found it next-to-impossible to find time to work on my blog. So, here I am again, living in the past, managing only to get outside for a 45-minute walk along the beach. Ironic that a blog devoted largely to the outdoors requires so much time spent inside sorting photos and getting them ready for viewing. It’s especially hard to keep up in the summer when it’s tempting to spend every moment outdoors. That said, there’s not much purpose in taking all these shots if I’m not going to share the best of them with others. So, here we are finishing up showing the shots I took at Bear River in the middle of June.

One of the birds I particularly enjoy seeing there, probably because I never see it in the Puget Sound area, is the White-faced Ibis, a bird whose silhouette is unmistakable. Though this shot was actually taken at Malheur on our way home, most of the Ibis we saw at Bear River were flying by, not wading in the wetlands.

FlkInFlit

Still, a shot of a White-faced Ibis caught in just the right light is so dramatic

ClrflIbs

it’s hard not to focus on getting those kinds of shots.

I could probably make an argument that White-faced Ibis are built for wading, not flying, but I still try my hardest to capture birds in flight even if it’s an awkward pose, like this one.

IbsLndng

Of course, shots of herons landing are the easiest flight shots to get, but that ungainly landing is typical of herons, setting them apart from other species.

FlapsUp

Although it’s quite a lot smaller than a Great Blue Heron, its landing seems remarkably similar.

FlapsUp2

Occasionally you are even lucky enough to capture an ibis in flight and while also capturing it’s many varied hues.

OvrWatr

When we saw a small flock of Ibis gathering sticks like this, we figured they must have been too busy building nests to stand around in the wetlands.

IbisNestingMaterials

It wasn’t until we were visiting The Sacramento Wildlife Refuge last week that we learned that White-faced Ibis, like several other herons, build a rookery and the rookery would probably be in a protected area — which also explains why we saw stilt and avocet chicks but no ibis chicks.