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.

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.

Horned Grebes in Full Breeding Colors

Although we had just returned from a week-long trip to California, I decided to go birding Tuesday because it was predicted to be the lone sunny day of the week and because I was afraid that the Horned Grebes would have left for their breeding ground if I didn’t get there this week.

As it turned out, it looked like they had already left when I arrived at Port Orchard. In fact, I didn’t spot a single Grebe until I had reached the end of the marina, and it was still not in full breeding colors.

I was a little disappointed, but things took a turn for the better while walking back to the car. This Grebe popped up just a little ways back, and the clouds had actually cleared enough to give the impression that the water was blue, not gray.

I’m pretty sure it is in full breeding colors, and those horns really look like horns in this shot.

I actually saw two more Horned Grebes as I continued back to the car, though I’m not entirely sure that at least one of them was the second one I had already photographed, especially since I was seeing it from a completely different angle.

My favorite shot of the day was this one, taken just as I walked up the ramp to the street.

I’m really glad I went even though we should have stayed home and cleaned up after our California trip. The last thing I really needed was more shots to process, but that seems to be a fairly common theme in my life, and I always prefer to have too many pictures rather than no pictures.

Horned Grebe Transformation

After seeing all the signs of Spring at Bloedel Reserve, I decided I would have to stop at Port Townsend and see if the Horned Grebes had started wearing their breeding plumage.

In the Winter, it’s hard to imagine why these little guys

are called Horned Grebes.

Come Spring, though, and it’s easy to see where the name comes from. I don’t think I saw a single Horned Grebe that had completed the transformation, but some, like the one on the right, are close to wearing their Spring outfit.

Luckily, I find the process of transformation nearly as interesting as the end product, so I was excited every time I sighted a bird that was undergoing the process.

It’s almost as magical as Spring itself, and nearly as short-lived.

As soon as all the grebes look like this, they will magically disappear,

only to reappear in Late Fall in their drab winter colors

.