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.

A Sunny Winter Day

If you were to judge from my latest posts you might imagine that the Pacific Northwest has been as sunny and rain-free as California. Fortunately that’s far from the truth. However, I have managed to capture almost all the sunshine we have had because I’m retired. When we woke up to a sunny Tuesday, I suggested we change our plans and drive to Theler and Port Orchard.

With a late sunrise, we actually got there just a little after dawn, and it shows in the photos. The low sunlight nearly blew out the whites in the Great Blue Heron’s head, but the marsh itself is enveloped in darkness.

Hopefully this shot of a GBH in the middle of the Union River reflects sunrise’s beauty.

My favorite shot of the morning, though, was this glowing Least Sandpiper foraging in the shadows.

It’s hard to believe that this shot of Canada Geese flying through the fog was taken a few yards and few minutes after the shot of the Least Sandpiper.

We take weather forecasts with a wait-and-see attitude here in the Pacific Northwest, but there are delightful days even in Winter.

Not Skunked, Thank Goodness

We’ve had a week of sunshine and relatively warm temperatures, too good of weather to be working on projects in the garage so we went birding at Theler after Tai Chi at the YMCA. The birding wasn’t quite up to the level of the weather, but I’m not about to complain when it’s bright and sunny.

We had a promising start to the day when this Fox Sparrow insisted on having his photo taken.

At first I couldn’t tell whether it was the very common Song Sparrow or not, but it posed so sincerely I probably would have taken a shot even if it were a Song Sparrow.

The highlight of the day might have been sighting a flock of Common Mergansers

which wisely bolted as we approached for it’s hunting season here. I was just afraid that I might have driven them past the hunter’s blinds, but thank goodness we didn’t hear a single shot.

There wasn’t much else to see, though I did sight the Kestrel I saw on my previous visit at the end of our walk and managed to get a better shot this time.

It’s surprising how often the sunniest days turn out to be the worst birding days.

Theler Wetlands Redux

Great Blue Heron and raptors are probably the main attraction at Theler now, but that doesn’t mean that other birds can’t occasionally steal the scene.

I really like this shot of a Male Bufflehead I took really early in the morning.

It wasn’t really that dark but with our foggy/overcast mornings parts of the wetlands are still in darkness because the hills block the low sun.

The sunshine illuminated this Double-Crested Cormorant’s orange beak and the fish, but the Union River was still cloaked in darkness.

The sun was a lot brighter when I took this shot of a male Green-Winged Teal,

which have returned in large numbers to Theler this winter.

Occasionally I still sight a bird I haven’t seen before, like this juvenile Northern Shrike.

I spotted this bird, but I don’t think I would have recognized it if John hadn’t been birding with us as I’ve never seen an immature Northern Shrike. The shot was underexposed because it was so gray and I couldn’t make the bird turn gray and black (the colors of an adult Northern Shrike) no matter how hard I tried. Turned out that an immature shrike looks like this; something I only discovered when I Googled it.)

Great Blue Heron at Theler Wetlands

It may seem like I’ve been sorting and editing shots from our Colorado trip forever. I have spent too many hours in front of the computer, but that’s not all I’ve done since I got home. Nope, Leslie and I have managed to get out to Theler Wetlands at least once a week despite a lot of rain.

Apparently we are not the only ones to return to Theler. We’ve seen Great Blue Heron on each of our visits like this one perched overhead,

this one flying by,

this one displaying aggression as it tries to claim territory

from this heron heading out to confront the intruder.

Territory is so precious that this Great Blue Heron stood a few feet from the trail, refusing to budge from its hunting ground.

It was so close that I had to take three shots and photomerge them into a single shot.