Varied Thrush Visits

On Tuesday, the rainiest day of the week, Leslie told me there was a flock of birds in the backyard. I looked out to see a flock of Starlings, Juncos, Robins, AND a single Varied Thrush, a bird I’ve been looking for all winter and hadn’t seen yet.

I was sure it would be gone before I could run upstairs and get my camera, but I was wrong this time. Although most had disappeared, the female Varied Thrush was still there when I got back. When I saw her sitting in an empty bird bath, I decided to refill it, not expecting it to stick around. She watched me fill the bird bath and walk back in the house and cautiously hopped around the flower beds

as I took shots and readjusted camera settings trying to compensate for the lack of light.

Apparently satisfied that someone who would walk out and fill the bird bath on demand presented no danger, she proceeded to bathe

for the next five minutes.

Needless to say, it was the highlight of my day.


With a rare sunny day forecast at Westport and Ocean Shores this week, we headed out early in the morning. Though there was some fog early, it turned out to be a delightful, sunny day with some brisk winds.

Since I’ve been told many times when birding Westport in the afternoon that people had seen more birds in the morning, we decided to start out our day at Westport and finish at Ocean Shores. Naturally we didn’t see more birds than usual; we saw less.

I went because I love seeing the Common Loons in breeding colors. Not only did we see fewer loons than usual; none of the ones we did see were in breeding plumage.

Our consolation prize was seeing more Western Grebes than I’ve ever seen at the coast before. This Western Grebe

greeted us as we walked down to the marina.

Not more than a 100 yards away, this grebe was finishing a meal.

When I went to the other end of the marina to see if there were any Brown Pelicans (there weren’t), I saw another group of grebes.This one popped up almost under my feet.

Not sure who was more startled.

I didn’t find the Godwits at Tokeland but was greeted by yet another small flock of Western Grebes.

The only place I’ve ever seen this many Western Grebes is Bear River in Utah.

Peregrine Falcon

I’ve always tended to bird alone, or with Leslie since she retired, but there are definitely advantages to birding with another experienced birder. I would never have spotted this Peregrine Falcon if I hadn’t been walking Theler with John.

I don’t carry binoculars or a spotting scope, and this guy was barely visible without them. My rule of thumb is that if you can’t it see it with your eyes (or glasses) you aren’t going to get a picture anyhow so why bother.

Still, Peregrine Falcons are an “uncommon” sighting here in the PNW; I felt privileged to manage to capture a shot of it as it circle overhead.

John told me that when he walks Thursdays with his birding group he finds even more birds than he does by himself.

Though I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy birding with a group, I find easier to be “at one with nature” when I’m alone or with a single companion.

Common Mergansers at Theler Wetlands

Though my favorite sighting of Saturday’s trip to Theler was the Marsh Wren that posed for me, I was also lucky enough to see the annual gathering of the Common Mergansers.

I’m never sure if they’re having a social to find mates or if they’re merely feeding on a fish run, but I’ve noticed this kind of annual gathering since I started visiting Theler regularly — shortly after hunting season ends.

They tend to mill around on the opposite side of the Union River, as far away from the trail as possible.

There were so many that it was impossible to get a group shot with a photo lens. In fact

there were so many that I didn’t even notice the male Red-Breasted Merganser in the shot until I cropped them at the computer,

and I never realized until now that the Red-Breasted Merganser is smaller than the Common Merganser — they seem to be the same size seen through the camera lens.

I can only imagine what this male and female Merganser must have been saying to each other, but they did separate from the flock and swim off with each other right afterwards.

My favorite shots are always those where birds are flying, or taking off

because they best capture the grace and beauty of these animals.

My First Marsh Wren Sighting of the Year

Saturday we were mercifully blessed with a beautiful sunny day, with temperatures finally above freezing. We didn’t waste a moment getting out and walking Theler Wetlands. We met John about halfway through our walk and I asked him if the Marsh Wren’s had returned. He suggested they hadn’t ever left but that he had just recently heard several of them vocalizing.

That was all I needed to find two of them on the boardwalk. This guy was just on the far side of the reeds.

We saw him chase off a rival that tried to invade his territory, but seemed to be spending most of its time rebuilding nests, constantly ducking out of sight in the reeds.

Though it was impossible to ignore his song, he didn’t sing it with the gusto reserved for attracting a mate.

Spring may not be here yet, even with our 48º temperature, but it’s about to arrive as also vouched for by the first sighting a rather sad-looking skunk cabbage who improvidently emerged before last week’s freezing temperatures.