Fall at Theler

We managed to sneak in a Sunday morning visit to Theler Wetlands between grandkids’ soccer games this weekend. Although it’s still been relatively clear and warm here so far this year, it was clear that Fall is upon us this visit.

Enveloped in clouds and dark skies, it was nearly impossible to identify this as a Merlin until I’d tweaked it on my computer,

Merlin

and nothing says Fall clearer than the honking of a flight of Geese as they pass.

It was glad to see the Green-Winged Teal return to the refuge, but knowing there will be plenty of time to get shots of them in the next six months I focused, instead, on the less-often-seen Yellowlegs.

It looks a lot brighter in this shot than it actually was thanks to RAW, but I was a little frustrated about how far away they were on our first trip through the refuge

I got much closer on the return trip and the sun had finally burned through the clouds.

Actually, I managed to get so close that I had a hard time keeping the Yellowlegs in the frame but the sun wouldn’t cooperate.

Hard to beat a day where you find beauty coming and going.

I’m Missing the Fall Migration

I’ve been so focused on finishing my backyard project the last two months I haven’t even managed to get to the beach to see the Fall migration. Instead, I’ve settled for an occasional visit to Theler Wetlands where I can see some of the shorebirds that are moving South.

These Dowitchers seemed particularly golden in early morning light.

I’ve seen more Least Sandpipers, but this Western Sandpiper was a better shot.

Strictly speaking, I think this Spotted Sandpiper has been around much of the summer,

but this is the best shot I’ve managed to get despite several sightings.

Luckily, Leslie, I, and the grandkids are nearly finished with the backyard, and I soon should be able to load up the camper and finally get out.

Juvenile Common Yellowthroat

I’ve sighted several Common Yellowthroats at Theler this year, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a juvenile Common Yellowthroat, and this little guy seemed almost as curious about me as I was about him.

Normally, you get one quick chance at getting a shot of a Common Yellowthroat before they disappear into a nearby thicket.

This juvenile acted more like the nearby Marsh Wren than a Yellowthroat, hanging around for a good ten minutes while I snapped shot after shot.

You Know You’re Paying Attention

when you manage to sight a Virginia Rail. You’re just plain lucky, or patient, if you manage to get a decent shot of them.

The highlight of one of our recent trips the Theler Wetlands was finally managing to sight this Virginia Rail

as it wove its way in and out of the reeds searching for food. Even more exciting was seeing the chick following it.

I’ve never seen one this young before and was a little shocked that it appeared to be jet black.

Normally I move on after I’ve sighted a bird, but having seen the chick that I’d never seen before, I stuck around awhile longer until both of them were in better light.

The adult colors seemed quite different in full sunlight,

and the mud provided a nice contrast to the chick’s black feathers.

Pretty clear why they stay in the reed’s shadows most of the time.

One Good Bird Weasel

When I started birding with Ruth Sullivan when birding was slow she would always say, “One good bird, that’s all we need” to make our day successful. The Green Heron we saw on our first visit back to Theler would have been enough to make my day, but then Leslie spotted this weasel

at the main bridge while I was gazing into the distance. It was so close that I had trouble finding it even when she pointed it out.

I have seen a weasel several times but never this close. I was surprised when it climbed up onto the bridge,

ran forward a couple of feet,

and ducked behind a post,

all the time staring intently at me.

Though I’ll admit to being a tad nervous when it ran toward me and not away, it made my day.

Wonder What’s Going on Here

The more I bird, the more I run into “what-the-heck” kinda moments like the one I observed the other day at Theler Wetlands. We have been seeing Cedar Waxwings for a couple of weeks now, so I was looking for them on this visit. As it turned out, these two were right in the middle of the trail and impossible to miss. The one on the left seemed quite upset

and expressed that dissatisfaction when the other Waxwing flew off.

The second Waxwing flew back with a berry in its beak and seemed to offer it to the first Waxwing.

When the second Waxwing still didn’t actually give it to the first Waxwing, the first Waxwing became even more demonstrative.

About then the second Waxwing spotted me on the trail, turned, and flew off.

The first Cedar Waxwing didn’t fly off immediately. It sat there as if waiting for the second one to come back with that berry.

I’m still not sure what was going on, but I assume it was a courtship ritual (gone awry ?) though I haven’t been able to confirm that yet from anything I’ve found on the internet. It is possible that the bird demanding the berry was last year’s offspring and it is still demanding to be fed, but that seems less likely to me than the idea it is part of a courtship ritual.