Muted

With forecasts of rain and Thunderstorms for the next ten days you better believe I took advantage of Mondays break in the clouds. In fact, the bright blue skies accompanied up to the point where I parked my car by the Salmon Center.

The fog didn’t even begin to lift until I reached the half-way point where the fog started to dissipate and sunlight highlighted the ridge line.

FoggyHill

I must admit, though, that I enjoy walking in the fog, particularly near Puget Sound; it brings a meditative silence to the walk,

Foggy

even if it cloaks the Green-Winged Teal in shades of gray.

GRnWngdTlfog

Although the fog made it difficult to see many birds, it seemed to accentuate the songs of the male Red-Winged Blackbirds and my first Marsh Wren

FrstMrshWren

of the season.

Thank Goodness for the Belted Kingfisher

Still birding between showers and longing for a long, long birding trip (say to sunnier northern California), but it’s hard to complain when you’re retired and can take advantage of sunny breaks no matter when they occur.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been to lake Waughop so I was hoping to see some different birds, but it wasn’t to be. The lake was really high with all the recent rain, so there were very few birds feeding close to shore. I only managed to get this shot of Double-Crested Cormorants hanging out in the bushes.

4Cormrnts

Undeterred, I stopped off at Titlow Park on the way home. Although I often see Widgeons offshore in Port Orchard, it’s been awhile since I’ve bothered to get this close to one.

2016Wdgn

Absence obviously makes the heart fonder, so I was more impressed than usual by the bird’s plumage.

The resident Belted Kingfisher was more cooperative than usual, though it insisted on only posing in the shadiest part of the pond,

TtlwKng1

which made it even harder than usual to capture it in flight,

TtlwKng2

particularly after emerging from a dive.

TtlwKng3

Luckily, On1 Photo 10 has pretty good noise reduction capabilities.

Irritated by its failure to catch a fish or by my shooting of shots, the Kingfisher flew to the other end of the pond where I managed to capture at least one shot in good light

TtlwKng4

before it took off.

The ten minutes I spent taking shots of the Belted Kingfisher made my day and made me forget how few shots I actually got on this trip.

A Guest Drops In

Continuous rain has made it nearly impossible to get out birding. Even when I do get outside for a walk, I seldom take my camera equipment because of the threat of rain. So, it was a treat when this Varied Thrush showed up in my back yard while I was making cookies.

15VardThrsh1

What was even more of a treat was that it stuck around long enough for me to go upstairs and get my camera and then stuck around even longer for several shots. I am pretty sure that leaving leaves in the flower beds until Spring, a hint from the Audubon society, is what attracts the bird.

15VardThrsh2

It spent the whole time I was watching it turning over leaves looking for bugs.

I was surprised that it kept coming closer and closer, although it was clear that it saw me at the open patio door.

15VardThrsh3

I assume it must have been curious because he jumped on top of our garden Buddha and gave me a close look before disappearing into the fir tree.

15VardThrsh4

Now, if it would just show up on a sunnier day I could properly capture its bright colors and really do its beauty justice.

When Will I Ever Learn

I think one of the main reasons I’ve been so devoted to birdwatching in the last seven or so years is that I am constantly learning new things, constantly realizing just how little I know. For instance, on our last trip to the beach I was taking a shot of this “Yellowlegs”

GratrYlwlgs

when three more Yellowlegs flew in. However, the newly-arrived Yellowlegs were so much smaller that at first I questioned if I had been wrong and one or the other wasn’t a Yellowlegs at all.

2YlwLgsLsr

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized how much bigger the Greater Yellowlegs (the lone bird in the first picture) is than the Lesser Yellowlegs (the two in the second picture). I’m still not sure that I’ll be able to distinguish one from the other unless they are actually near each other, as they were here.

I made another misidentification in the same pond, one I didn’t recognize until I got home. Someone said there was a Red-Necked Phalarope in the pond, but when I saw this bird I thought it was a Wilson’s Phalarope, not a Red-Necked Phalarope. It turned out to be a juvenile Red-Necked Phalarope

JuvnilRdNckdPhal

a bird I have never seen before, and it appeared to be acting a lot more like the Wilson’s Phalaropes I’ve seen before than the Red-Necked Phalaropes I’ve previously observed. I’m embarrassed enough that I doubt I’ll make that mistake if I ever see a juvenile Red-Necked Phalarope again.

Of course, I could be all wrong and it’s really just the sheer beauty

3LsrYlwlgs

of these birds that has kept me birding all this time.

One, or Two, Thing(s) More

After the visitor pointed out the Great Horned Owl chicks to me, I started examining the area to see what else I could find on the wall. Turned out to be a lot more than I would have imagined. I quickly spotted several Cliff Swallows and followed them as they flew up to their nests.

TuleClfSwlws1

It seemed that this colony was still adding nests,

TuleClfSwlws2

and you didn’t have to scour the wall too hard to find other swallow nests.

TuleClfSwlws3

Nor did you have to look very hard to see where birds had relieved themselves, and if you looked long enough you could see chicks on some of these.

TuleRTHchicks

I’m not enough of an expert to positively identify these, but there were Red-Tailed Hawks flying overhead several times.

TuleRTHchicks2

I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my week-long excursion, so I decided to start home rather than spending another night camping out.

Baby Great Horned Owls

I saw a lot of the same birds at Tule that I saw at both Bear River and Malheur, so I don’t feel compelled to show those birds again. But there was an unexpected special moment at Petroglyph Point. Despite past experience, I am a sucker for petroglyphs so I couldn’t resist the short drive after taking the Tule Lake road tour. Unfortunately, once again I found that the petroglyphs had been cordoned off to prevent vandalism so there was a limited number of petroglyphs to see and many of them had been defaced.

TulePetro

What really made the stop special wasn’t the petroglyphs, but, rather, the unexpected birds I saw there. There was another group looking at the petroglyphs when I arrived and one of them spotted this baby Great Horned Owl staring at her.

YngHrndOwl1

They were so well disguised that at first she thought she was looking at a petroglyph. In fact, they were so well disguised that neither of us saw the second baby located in the bottom right corner of the shot.

This second, long shot more clearly shows the second owl, though I had to do some serious photoshopping to make both the own in the direct sunlight and the one in the shadows visible.

YngHrndOwl2

Thank goodness for RAW format.

I was surprised how bold the one young owl was as it moved around and followed us with its eyes as we walked around to get a different angle on it.

YngHrndOwl3

I kept looking around for parents but couldn’t spot them. I’ve never been this close to a Great Horned Owl before, and I was a little worried about how protective the parents might get.

Loren’s Life-Long Snipe Hunt

I think I went on my first snipe hunt when I was about five years old. Big Brother Bill, probably upset that The Mom had once again told him to take me with him, told me to go down to the wetlands on Lake Washington and find a snipe. I looked for a snipe many times after that, at least until we moved to Walnut Creek, California when I was 9 and there wasn’t a wetland in sight. Eventually, probably somewhere around 50, I realized that there was no such thing as a snipe, that it was just a way for Big Brother Bill to get rid of me.

Turns out I was wrong, at least about there being no such thing as a “snipe.” When I started birding several years ago I bought a book called “Birds of the Puget Sound Region” and, sure enough, there on page 162 was a picture of a Wilson’s Snipe and a short description. Judging from the stocky photo, I thought snipes were a fairly large bird, though it turned out they are really about half the size of a crow.

I’ve been looking in vain for snipes ever since I saw that photo. Eventually, I found a snipe in the background of one of my shots. That didn’t feel like it really counted as seeing a snipe, though. I finally saw three snipes at a distance while birding Malheur last year. That’s when I first realized how small they are. The shots I got might have served as proof that I’d actually seen a Wilson’s Snipe, but they weren’t good pictures.

I finally got a decent shot of a Snipe about two weeks ago at Theler. I gentleman stopped me on the trail and asked me to identify a photo he had taken at the beginning of the trail. After I identified it as a Wilson’s Snipe, I asked him where he had taken the shot. Unfortunately, it was at the opposite end of the trail, but when I got there nearly an hour later it was still there, though not out in the open as it had been when he took the pictures earlier.

The snipe was tucked in next to the bank and was barely visible through all the foliage on the bank.

CloseSnipe2

Naturally when I maneuvered to get a clearer shot, it flew off to the next pond.

I figured since it had been where it was an hour ago that it might return to the same area once I had left. When I got back half an hour later, it had returned to nearly the same spot and I managed to get a little better picture.

Snipe

Although there is still some distortion a the bottom of the picture from the foliage in the foreground, I’m quite happy with the photo. That’s good, too, because judging from experience it will be quite awhile before I manage to get a better shot.