Horned Grebes in Full Breeding Colors

Although we had just returned from a week-long trip to California, I decided to go birding Tuesday because it was predicted to be the lone sunny day of the week and because I was afraid that the Horned Grebes would have left for their breeding ground if I didn’t get there this week.

As it turned out, it looked like they had already left when I arrived at Port Orchard. In fact, I didn’t spot a single Grebe until I had reached the end of the marina, and it was still not in full breeding colors.

I was a little disappointed, but things took a turn for the better while walking back to the car. This Grebe popped up just a little ways back, and the clouds had actually cleared enough to give the impression that the water was blue, not gray.

I’m pretty sure it is in full breeding colors, and those horns really look like horns in this shot.

I actually saw two more Horned Grebes as I continued back to the car, though I’m not entirely sure that at least one of them was the second one I had already photographed, especially since I was seeing it from a completely different angle.

My favorite shot of the day was this one, taken just as I walked up the ramp to the street.

I’m really glad I went even though we should have stayed home and cleaned up after our California trip. The last thing I really needed was more shots to process, but that seems to be a fairly common theme in my life, and I always prefer to have too many pictures rather than no pictures.

A Zip a Dee Doo Dah Kinda Day

On Sunday’s visit to Theler Wetlands I went out on the boardwalk to see whether there were any Tree Swallows resting on the railing as there usually is in late Spring and in the Summer. I only saw three birds on the railing, and, as it turned out, only two of them were actually Tree Swallows. The furthest bird looked too big to be a Tree Swallow, but it wasn’t until I looked through the lens that I realized that it was a Western Bluebird,

a bird I’ve only seen once before, and that was in Santa Rosa.

John had told me that his birding group had seen a small flock of Bluebirds before, but I hadn’t seen them on previous visits and really wasn’t expecting to see one.

It didn’t look like the Bluebird was particularly happy to see me, perhaps because we hadn’t been formally introduced.

Like the Tree Swallows, though, it wasn’t about to leave. It kept flying up ahead and landing down the boardwalk.

Finally when it ran out of boardwalk it flew off to some nearby residences.

It looked like it was really trying to make itself at home. If so, perhaps I look forward to seeing it again in the near future.

Horned Grebe Transformation

After seeing all the signs of Spring at Bloedel Reserve, I decided I would have to stop at Port Townsend and see if the Horned Grebes had started wearing their breeding plumage.

In the Winter, it’s hard to imagine why these little guys

are called Horned Grebes.

Come Spring, though, and it’s easy to see where the name comes from. I don’t think I saw a single Horned Grebe that had completed the transformation, but some, like the one on the right, are close to wearing their Spring outfit.

Luckily, I find the process of transformation nearly as interesting as the end product, so I was excited every time I sighted a bird that was undergoing the process.

It’s almost as magical as Spring itself, and nearly as short-lived.

As soon as all the grebes look like this, they will magically disappear,

only to reappear in Late Fall in their drab winter colors

.

Spring at Bloedel Reserve

When Friday was predicted to be rain free, Leslie suggested that we finally return to The Bloedel Reserve since they told us there would be more flowers shortly. They weren’t wrong. There were early native flowers, like these Red Currants

and fields full of magnificent Skunk Cabbage.

Of course, there were also a lot of non-native flowers blooming, particularly camellias like this is pink beauty.

There was also some of the earliest Rhododendrons I’ve seen, like these beautiful white ones.

Of course, it would be Bloedel Reserve if we didn’t see flowers we’ve never seen before like this exotic specimen.

There weren’t a lot of birds, but most of them seem accustomed to seeing people and were more than willing to have their photo taken.

As temperatures approached the 60’s it was impossible to deny that there was a lot more Spring in my step than there has been for nearly a month.

Loren Repeats Himself, Again

After repeated trips to Theler Wetlands and the Port Orchard marina, it’s difficult to post pictures without repeating yourself, often with pictures that aren’t as good as ones I’ve published earlier.

Though I’d prefer not to repeat myself continually I realized that repetition isn’t necessarily a bad thing after following awritersalchemy’s link to Ellen Bass’ poem “Ode to Repetition” which can also be found here.

Despite that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Green-Winged Teal feeding on the mudflats at Theler Wetlands, I find myself taking pictures on our weekly visits. The brightly colored male with its geometric patterns is particularly appealing.

Sometimes seeing a subject from different angles helps us to see it in new ways.

Though it’s easy to identify a female Green-Winged Teal when it’s next to a male, that green stripe in the back is always a positive sign that it is, indeed, a Green-Winged Teal and not a female Mallard.

It’s always seemed to me that feeding compulsively with your head stuck down in the mud/water is awfully dangerous when predators are around despite blending in quite well with the mud. There is some additional safety in numbers, especially in flight.

When an Eagle flies over the wetlands explode with hundreds of ducks flying surprisingly close to each other.

I don’t think I’d want to be an eagle trying to pick out a particular target in the middle of that flock; the chances of accidentally getting struck by another bird would have to be high. Not to mention that it’s nearly impossible to focus on just one bird, as my camera’s automatic sensor pointed out.

I must agree with Ellen Bass that some kinds of repetition are positive forces in our lives or I wouldn't have been walking Theler Wetlands repeatedly since discovering it many years ago. In birding, at least, familiarity is more apt to breed appreciation than to breed contempt.

Grebes, and More Grebes

I keep checking Port Orchard’s marina to see if the Horned Grebes have started turning into their breeding colors, but so far all I’ve managed to do is repeat shots I’ve already shown many times. That’s okay, though, because the photographer in me still loves close-up like this with interesting reflections.

The birder in me, though, gets more excited when I spot Western Grebes,

even though the shots never come close to the quality that I’ll get later when I go to Bear River and Malheur and I usually discard the shots as soon as I post them here. Still, when I do spot them they are usually too far out to get even this good of a picture.

The birder in me, though, was even more thrilled to see this Red-Necked Grebe surface near a Western Grebe.

Once I spotted the Red-Necked Grebe I lost interest in the Western Grebes and managed to get a little better shot even though it never came very close while I was in the marina.

Even though I knew the shot wasn’t going to be very good, the birder in me took control, and I knew that this was the shot of the day, even if the photographer in me doesn’t agree.

I’m Not the Only One Anxious for Spring

Although the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival doesn’t take place until May 6-7, I’ve noticed Least Sandpipers on my last two visits to Theler Wetlands, the first time I’ve seen them this year.

Of course, the fact they’ve been there at least two weeks also suggests it’s too cold to keep moving further north. They're in no hurry to move one.

At the very least, these early birds seem to be busily stocking up for the long trip ahead

as it’s nearly impossible to get a shot of more than one of them with their head up.

We sighted a single Tree Swallow in a fly over, but there were several male Red-Winged Blackbirds who were singing loudly, claiming their territory and trying to attract mates.

We’re definitely getting mixed messages about the arrival of Spring, whether it’s early-blooming flowers or early arriving birds.

It’s clear after one of the coldest, wettest winters on record, EVERYONE is ready for some blustery Spring weather, which probably best explains why I keep interpreting these events as signs that Spring is right around the corner.

I need to get out of the house and AWAY from the internet. Despite my better judgment, I'm drawn to the steady stream of stories about Trump and his God-awful administration. I feel like a driver gawking at accident even though he really doesn't want to see what happened, knowing full well that whatever he sees will stay with him longer than he wants it to.