A Frogging We Will Go

Right after I returned from Malheur, Margaret called Leslie and told her that Kylan had just checked a birding book out of his school library and was enthused to “go birding.” Needless to say, Leslie couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take the kid(s) birding the next weekend, and, after I pointed out that birding around here is extremely slow, we decided to go to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Both kids were ready for anything, with binoculars for birding

Mira with binoculars

and jars to collect insect specimens


As it turned out, the first interesting thing we saw was this small, orangish frog.

Orange frog

After that sighting, I told them, as grandpas are prone to do, how I’d seen small tree frogs on the cattails in the past.

Sure enough, it wasn't long before Kylan and Mira found small tree frogs sitting on leaves.

small tree frog

not just once but several times.

After I’d pointed out a bullfrog sitting low in the water, with just its eyes or head out of the water,

Frog with head out of water

Mira spotted one sitting on top of a log nearby:

Bullfrog on log

As you might have guessed from the (lack of) pictures, we didn’t see many birds except for Mallards and a few Great Blue Herons in the distance.

The kids seemed just as happy when I spotted this painted turtle way out in the pond,

Painted Turtle

well, that and the cricket that Grandma had helped Kylan catch.

One of the reasons Leslie chose to take them to Nisqually was so she could buy Kylan his own birding book. When we got to the store, though, he and Mira decided that they would rather have little stuffed birds than a birding book. Birds or no birds, Kylan pronounced the day “the bestest ever.”


If I’d been birding rather than finally getting my favorite Torta, checking on a National Forest Pass, and generally enjoying one of the hottest days of the year, then last Thursday’s trip to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge would have been a total flop because I saw very few birds despite walking to the end of the new walkway.

Luckily, the Torta was excellent and I learned that my Golden Passport should be good at National Forests in Washington and Oregon (I’ll let you know if I get a ticket).

And if all the birds found it too hot to waste energy flying around, the dragonflies more than made up for it as they seemed to find the weather perfect. And as I’ve noted before, I was fascinated with dragonflies long before I was fascinated with birds.

The intense light made it relatively easy to get sharp photos of the dragonflies using high shutter speeds. Even though I never quite managed to capture one in flight, I still like this shot,


this shot,


and even this shot.


Until I can find a praying mantis in the wild, dragonflies and butterflies will remain my favorite insects.


With rain predicted the rest of the week, I headed to Nisqually Monday after I took Skye for his morning walk, thinking that a recent Seattle Times article on the new boardwalk would mean that part of it was now open. Unfortunately, that turned out to be untrue. Apparently the boardwalk won’t be open until hunting season has ended.

It was too great of a day not to take advantage of the sunshine, though, so I stuck around. Birding wasn’t much better than Sunday’s trip, but the ice was just as beautiful here as it was at Belfair. I was particularly fond of the Hoar Frost:

Hoar Frost

I also sighted a lot of raptors, including several Bald Eagles and a pair of Peregrine falcons, but the only one a managed to get a good shot of was this female Marsh Hawk that flew right past me.

female Marsh Hawk

The best bird of the day was obviously this Western Meadowlark, a bird I haven’t seen since I was in Colorado, and never managed to get this good shot of even there.

Western Meadowlark

I also sighted this Downy Woodpecker on my way out, a bird I haven’t seen since they closed the 5-mile trail down

Downy Woodpecker

It felt great getting out for a longer walk. Perhaps with the rain returning I’ll get a chance to finish the poetry book I started this weekend.

Great Egret

I’m in the middle of Rollo May’s My Quest for Beauty and more interested in reading than commenting at the moment. Normally I would have been out taking pictures Monday or today, but with a steady rain falling the last three days and rain and snow forecast for the rest of the week, it doesn’t look like I’m going to get a chance to get out and take pictures at least until Sunday.

So, I’m forced to fall back onto these not-so-Great Egret pictures I took last Wednesday. This was actually the closest I’ve gotten to a Great Egret in quite awhile, so I naturally snapped away again and again. Though none of the shots are as good as some shots I’ve gotten in the past in California, I’d never pass up a chance to get a shot of one, whether it’s stalking it dinner,

Great Egret

gulping it’s dinner,

Great Egret with Fish

or just flying off to a nearby snack bar.

Great Egret

It’s whiteness makes it a startling beautiful, but it also makes it difficult to get a really good shot without perfect lighting. More often than not the whole bird turns completely white unless you adjust the colors, which, as a result, makes it appear dingier than it actually is.

Herons and Bitterns

Wednesday was another of those knockout sunny fall days that grabs you by the collar and pulls you outside. I actually made two trips around Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, in the morning and then in the afternoon with one of the volunteers at the visitor’s center. Both trips were delightful, particularly since I haven’t seen too many Great Blue Herons since I stopped visiting regularly.

This heron was in a drainage ditch right next to the dike where a number of small fish had been trapped when the tide went out. He was much too busy gorging on fish to worry about hiding.

Great Blue Heron

I’ve gotten a lot of GBH shots, but few where wing feathers are as beautifully detailed as this one.

But I’m also strangely fond of this blurry shot of a Great Blue Heron by the front pond, sheltered from visitors by the heavy shrubbery,

Great Blue Heron

and protected from the camera by contrasting sun and shadows.

And this American Bittern was a few feet down the boardwalk, so close that it was impossible to get much more than a head shot of him with my 400mm lens.

American Bittern Head

In fact this shot is actually two different shots photomerged together.

Slow Birding

Wednesday morning I went back to Nisqually since I haven’t been there in awhile. They’re still working on the boardwalk, and I guess they will be until October or so before it’s completed. So birding is definitely limited and there really weren’t many opportunities for photographs. All I managed to get was this shot of a Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

and this Kestrel that was quite far off and still flew away once I pointed the telephoto lens at it.


Luckily, Waughop Lake was a little better. There was a considerable number of young Wood Ducks, like this juvenile male.

juvenile male Wood Duckl

Unfortunately, I had my lens set on automatic so I could get shots of the birds in the shaded brush beside the trail and missed what would have been the best shot of the month, when this Osprey suddenly swooped down literally right in front of me.


Although this shot turned out okay, the best shots , when he was even closer, were too blurry to use. It was swooping away with his prey before I finally got another shot in focus.

Osprey Flying Away with Fish

I’ll have to admit I could get addicted to highs I felt as the Osprey slammed into the water right in front of me, photographs or no photographs.

Jim Says Goodbye

I’d hoped to take Jim up to Mt. Rainier before he had to return to Vermont, but, like most of this year so far, the weather refused to cooperate, so he had to settle for a glimpse of the mountain on our way to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

Since I’d already taken him to Belfair, and because the weather was too questionable to justify a long drive, I took him to La Fuentes by Nisqually and bought him his first-ever Torta. Any day I can eat a barbecued pork torta with cilantro and avocado is a good day for me. (You do know I walk and exercise as much as I do so I can eat what I want and still not get too overweight, right?)

It was relatively quiet at Nisqually, but we did see three different Wood Ducks with chicks. This was my favorite shot:

Wood Duck with Ducklings

You think mom was asleep or keeping an eye on visitors?

As many Cinnamon Teal as I’ve seen this year,

pair of Cinnamon Teal

I wonder why they were so rare the previous four years I was birding.

Once again, Jim spotted a bird I would have missed entirely if he hadn’t been there, this Band-Tailed Pigeon,

Band-Tailed Pigeon

a bird I don’t think I’ve seen since Nisqually tore out the five-mile loop.

This was Jim and my last chance to do something together as he left for the airport early the next day. I did manage to get him there on time despite a traffic jam and an 8-mile backup on the freeway. He said he hoped there wouldn’t be thunderstorms in Newark on his return flight home. Strangely enough, WE had thunderstorms right after he left, a rare spring event here on the Pacific Coast. Somehow it seemed appropriate.