I’ve Fallen Behind and I Can’t Catch Up

Although I have several more shots from Bear River that I originally wanted to post, it is time to move on. So, I am going to post a few shots of Black-Necked Stilts, and then post a few more shots from the Malheur portion of our visit tomorrow.

I really prefer live-blogging, at least within a day or two of actual events, and not posting about month-old events. It’s easier for me to edit photos if I can clearly remember what they looked like to me when I took them rather than trying to recreate a “perfect” shot. I’m also more enthusiastic about my subject when it is fresher in my memory, and I definitely don’t want blogging to become a “job” and not a “passion.”

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite Black-Necked Stilt shots from Bear River. Like the American Avocet, the Black-Necked Stilt is classified as a “wader” and “shorebird”, not as a heron as I originally thought.

BlkNcd1 Blac

k-necked Stilts are in constant motion, hunting prey rather than stalking it like herons do. I would have to describe them as “flighty,” unlike Avocets.


All you need to do is point your camera at a stilt and instantly you have a shot of them in flight,


and once in the air their profile is quite distinctive.

BlkNcd4 For instance, you would never confuse it with a Snowy Egret in flight. SnowyToo

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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.

More Grebe Chicks

When John sent me shots he had taken at Bear River two weeks after I had been there, I was immediately dissatisfied with the shots I had taken in May. John had gotten much closer than I had, and the light was better in his shots than in mine. If I had managed to get some shots of Avocet chicks on my first trip I might not have gone back, but knowing there were much better shots of Grebes and their chicks to be had made the trip a “no-brainer” for me.

Despite “focusing” on finding Avocet chicks on the trip, I ended up with more shots of Western and Clark’s Grebes’ chicks than I did of anything else. After this trip I might never need to take another shot of Grebe babies — though I doubt I will be able to resist the temptation.

Here are five of my favorite shots from this trip, beginning with this shot of proud parents paddling down the canal.


There were adorable Grebe chicks everywhere we looked


with parents attentive to their every need.


There were also a lot of older chicks learning to be independent,


though some chicks the same size seemed much more demanding.


Juvenile American Avocets at Bear River

Right after we spotted the Avocet chicks at Bear River, I spotted this rather odd-looking American Avocet foraging along the bank, though I couldn’t quite decide why it looked so odd.


Before long it was joined by another Avocet.


I really couldn’t identify them, until I saw them standing next to an adult American Avocet and realized they had to be juveniles.


I confirmed my identification through the internet, but the sighting raised several questions for me. Just how old are these chicks. Were they born this year? If not, how could they have migrated hundreds of miles, especially since it would have been several months ago if they arrived with the main flock? If they are this year’s chicks, just how old are they and how fast do they grow?

Snowy Egret In a Green Haze

Tired of trying to decide which of the 100 Western Grebe baby shots I should use on the blog, I turned to the last shots I took at Bear River, shots of a Snowy Egret hunting in a dense swamp. Technically, the shots aren’t particularly good. I don’t think there’s a sharp shot of the Snowy in any of the 10 shots I took. I had to shoot through the reeds between me and the Egret, resulting in a green haze in all the shots.

Turns out, though, that I really liked that green haze; the only problem I had was deciding whether or not to adjust the original shots. Since I shoot on the most basic of settings, I usually have to adjust the darks and lights and sharpen the image slightly; sometimes I even adjust the exposure to try to render what I actually saw with my eyes.

To make matters worse, I tended to like the photos no matter how I adjusted them. So, dear reader, I’ll let you decide which of them you like best.

EgretInSwmp3 EgretInSwmp2 EgretInSwmp1

Avocet Chick Leaving the Nest

While processing the photos for yesterday’s post, I kept looking for shots of an Avocet chick swimming which I remembered quite clearly taking. When they were nowhere to be found, I assumed I must’ve accidentally deleted them. However, after I posted the entry, I found them in a completely different folder in Lightroom.

That is what happens when you shoot over 2000 shots in three days on two different cameras. When I got home, I transferred most of the shots from my portable computer, but I had the last days shot on a memory card. Somehow, the shots on the memory card ended up in a completely different folder with no mention of Utah in the name.

Like the Wizard in Oz, I try to keep up an image of perfection on my website. Obviously, I screwed up this time. I could’ve just moved on and posted adorable shots of Western Grebe chicks and left that impression of perfection in tact, but this sequence might be my favorite shots of Avocet chicks and if I didn’t post them now I never would.

Without further ado, here are shots of an Avocet chick leaving the nest,


trying to crawl back into the nest just as the parent decides to leave the nest


managing a long climb back into the nest,


and wondering where the parent has gone.


As the parent returns, the chick is just starting to get back in the water.


As it swims away, the parent returns to sitting on the nest


and the chick turns around and starts swimming back to the nest.


It’s still not clear to me whether the parent wanted the chick to leave the nest or to return to the nest.

I also wondered if the chick would be safer in the surrounding reeds than in the nest. The nest certainly seemed very exposed. We were also bothered by the fact that we saw only one chick and not the three we had seen the evening before. Did something already get the other chicks, or were they hiding in the nearby reeds with the other parent, waiting for their sibling to join them? We preferred to think they were hiding in the reeds, though survival rates apparently aren't very high for Avocet chicks.

One Good Bird Is All We Need

On our first trip through Bear River we didn’t spot a single Avocet chick, though we did spot several other baby birds, probably more than I’ve ever seen in a single day. There were so many Western/Clark Grebe babies I still haven’t managed to sort through all of them.

At first glance I thought these were Mallard ducklings, but once I caught a good look at the mommy it was clear they were the first Northern Shoveler ducklings


I had ever seen. This brood of ducks, unlike most Mallard broods I’ve seen, stayed tightly together, and momma was quite protective, even chasing away nearby ducks.


I’ve seem Pied Grebe chicks before but have never gotten shots like this,


or this, before.


The highlight of the morning, though, came near the end of the auto tour when Leslie spotted this Black-Necked Stilt acting strangely.


Then she spotted this chick through the binoculars.


I couldn’t see it with my bare eyes and could barely find it through the 500mm lens with a doubler on it.

I wouldn’t have had any idea what kind of bird it was if a parent hadn’t been nearby.


Though I was disappointed that we still hadn’t seen a single Avocet chick after driving 800 miles, this single chick


made the morning feel very special.

As Ruth always said, “One Good Bird, that’s all we need.”