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.

Fort Flagler’s Harlequin Ducks

I enjoy all the birds I see at Ft. Flagler, but I really go to see the Harlequin ducks. After seeing a Bald Eagle on the beach and a Dunlin skittering back and forth, I was worried I wasn’t going to see a Harlequin. We were at the end of the spit before I sighted a small flock of Harlequins offshore. I knew they were happy to see me, though, when one of the males rose out of the water to greet me.

I wondered if they were so far offshore because the Bald Eagle was on the beach or if they were simply resting after breakfast. They only seemed interested in preening and resting.

Though we stalked them for quite a while, they never came very close to shore, so I decided to head to the other side of the spit by the boat launch where I often see them closer to shore. As it turned out they were right next to the shore and I spooked them when I appeared suddenly above them.

Some immediately dove out of sight, but these three just swam away while keeping an eye on me.

It was a very special moment, an early Christmas present.

Port Orchard Hooded Mergansers

After a few beautiful hours at Theler Wetlands, I headed for the Port Orchard marina to try to get some shots of the seabirds. With brilliant-blue skies overhead, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, it was much windier at Port Orchard than it was at Theler. Even if there had been birds outside the marina I couldn’t have gotten a picture because the waves were so high.

Heck, these Hooded Mergansers were in a protected area of the marina and there was still waves. This guy seemed to be putting on a show for the ladies (and me)

in this sequence,

but the winds were so strong that the males could only display their hood facing into the wind. It’s hard to look your best when the wind flattens your hairdo.

To make matters worse, it was really cold with the wind-chill factor, sun or no sun. No wonder the birds I saw there last week were hunkered down somewhere waiting for the winds to die down and the fog to move back in.

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.

The Sea Birds Return to Port Orchard

Although I usually go to Port Orchard when I go to Theler Wetlands (because I’m a creature of habit and because I prefer the food in Port Orchard), in recent months I seldom bird the docks because about all I see in the summer are gulls and an occasional Pelagic Cormorant. That has finally changed, and often the best birding of the day is at Port Orchard.

On my most recent trip I got a nice shot of a Belted Kingfisher

that had taken possession of the crow’s nest.

Perhaps he was on the lookout for Surf Scoters, a bird I’ve been expecting to see for a while.

The number of Horned Grebes

seems to be growing, too.

Lots of male and female Hooded Mergansers, though they insisted on hiding in the shadows on this trip.

The Baird’s Goldeneye, however, seemed to enjoy the sunshine as much as Leslie and I did.

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.