Thank Goodness for the Belted Kingfisher

Still birding between showers and longing for a long, long birding trip (say to sunnier northern California), but it’s hard to complain when you’re retired and can take advantage of sunny breaks no matter when they occur.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been to lake Waughop so I was hoping to see some different birds, but it wasn’t to be. The lake was really high with all the recent rain, so there were very few birds feeding close to shore. I only managed to get this shot of Double-Crested Cormorants hanging out in the bushes.


Undeterred, I stopped off at Titlow Park on the way home. Although I often see Widgeons offshore in Port Orchard, it’s been awhile since I’ve bothered to get this close to one.


Absence obviously makes the heart fonder, so I was more impressed than usual by the bird’s plumage.

The resident Belted Kingfisher was more cooperative than usual, though it insisted on only posing in the shadiest part of the pond,


which made it even harder than usual to capture it in flight,


particularly after emerging from a dive.


Luckily, On1 Photo 10 has pretty good noise reduction capabilities.

Irritated by its failure to catch a fish or by my shooting of shots, the Kingfisher flew to the other end of the pond where I managed to capture at least one shot in good light


before it took off.

The ten minutes I spent taking shots of the Belted Kingfisher made my day and made me forget how few shots I actually got on this trip.

Visiting “Old Friends”

After weeks of being housebound for various reasons, we’ve had an unusual break from the rain so I’ve gotten out more this week than I have for quite a while and took the opportunity to visit several areas I haven’t visited for months. Lake Waughop was crowded with Northern Shovelers, a duck I haven’t seen for so long that I forgot how striking they actually are.


Of course, it’s that Jimmy Durante snoz that immediately gets your attention, but the male’s plumage is also quite striking, especially this time of year.

On my way back, I stopped off at Titlow park, another place I used to visit regularly but haven’t visited for months. I hoped to see an Eurasian Widgeon, but wasn’t a single one in sight so I had to settle for this shot of a male American Widgeon.


Actually, I was a little disappointed with how few birds I found there. I wonder if all the new construction intended to restore the pond has actually driven birds away.

I’d hoped to go to Nisqually, but the promised sunshine hadn’t appeared by 1:00 PM so I decided to delay that trip to the next sunny day and, instead, drove down to the boathouse which is less than a half mile from my house.

I saw many of the same birds that I’ve been seeing at Port Orchard lately, but I did spot a Common Goldeneye,


a bird that increasingly seems to be replaced by the Barrow’s Goldeneye,


a bird I used to see rarely but is now seen more often than the “common” Goldeneye.

I would have entirely missed this last shot if the State Patrol Officer hadn’t pointed it out to me, but it somehow seems appropriate this weekend.


Around Seattle the 12th Man Flag seems more popular than even the American Flag, and certainly more popular than the Washington State Flag. Hopefully that will continue to be true after Sunday’s game.

Birding Waughop and Titlow

Having finished my gardening chores the day before, I couldn’t resist going out birding again on Wednesday, this time to Waughop Lake and Titlow. Unfortunately, the highlight of the day was the sunshine and an opportunity to talk to a photographer I’d not met before.

Waughop was particularly dead, with a few American Coots and Mallards hanging around the edge of the pond and a raft of Northern Shovelers

pair of Norhern Shovelers

floating in the middle of the lake along with some Ring-Necked Ducks too far out to get a shot even with a 560mm telephoto.

Birding was a bit better at Titlow where I noted the return of the Widgeons like this female.

female Widgeon

The highlight of the day, bird-wise, though would have to be a pair of Hooded Mergansers. I’m not sure if this guy was drying out after preening or displaying his manhood,

Hooded Merganser

but I appreciated the chance to get something other than another shot of a duck just floating.

Hooded Merganser

The real entertainment of the day, though, was watching this Merganser try to slink away with this rather large fish which was obviously far too big to swallow but he didn’t want to share.

Hooded Merganser with fish

Photographically it was a wasted day. I’ve been trying to sort through the thousands of shots residing on my hard drive(s), deleting shot after shot that’s not as good as other shots for weeks now. At times it seems like a never-ending job, like cleaning a house or cooking a meal, but it did make me resolve to immediately sort through every future shoot, deleting those that aren’t as good as previous shots of the same birds. I deleted every shot taken during the day even these after I’d posted them to my blog.


Wednesday featured both brilliant sunshine and lowering clouds that blacked out the sky. Inspired by the early sunshine I headed out for a day of birding, but didn’t get any further than Titlow because the sunshine disappeared during the hour I spent there.

There really wasn’t much there but Widgeons, but I did like this shot

Widgeons Landing

because I’d never noticed the green wing stripe before.

The waterfront was dominated by cormorants, like this immature Double-Crested Cormorant

immature Double-Crested Cormorant

and this Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

I spent the most time, though, trying to get a shot of this male Red-Breasted Merganser in breeding colors,

Merganser with Plastic Stuck on Beak

but when I realized that it had a plastic sack stuck around its bill, it ruined the entire shot. I would have waded into the freezing water to try to free it if I’d thought it would stay put, but he seemed too healthy for that. Hopefully, he will be able to free himself from it somehow, but for me it served as yet another reminder of how we have despoiled this environment we must all share.

A Much-Needed Sun Break

After missing our brief sunshine on Saturday, I made sure that I got out today to take advantage of the sunshine before it started to rain again this afternoon. It’s the first time I’ve taken out my 500mm lens in over two months. I’m still not up to walking two or three miles with it, but I can manage to tote it a 1/4 mile without limping too badly.

Luckily, there wasn’t enough time to go too far anyway. So I started out at Titlow Park, in the small pond. After a month of near record rain, even this shot of a female Wigeon seemed beautiful:

Female Widgeon

When I saw this Eurasian Widgeon, I thought it must be the same bird that’s been here the last few years.

Hybrid Widgeon?

But a closer look revealed that this bird had green patches that the other bird didn’t have, and the other one had a “redder” head this one. I’m wondering if this is some kind of hybrid offspring.

Things were going fairly well until an eagle swooped by, not once, but twice. I tried to get a shot but found it nearly impossible to pan quickly enough with a tripod and 500mm lens. I did discover that it’s not a good idea to pan past the sun, as it took me several minutes to regain my vision. By then the Bald Eagle was sitting at the top of the tallest fir.

Bald Eagle in Fir

Birding took a sudden turn for the worst, so I headed to the beach where I saw my first male Red-Breasted Merganser of the season.

male Red-Breasted Merganser

While I was trying to take a picture, suddenly a flock of Common Mergansers swooped down,

Common Merganser Landing

And landed exactly where the Red-Breasted Merganser was minutes before:

Flock of Common Mergansers

It wasn’t long, though, before the clouds returned and I decided to head back North where the clouds hadn’t moved in yet. I ended my morning at Pt. Defiance. There were remarkably few birds, but the drive and time was more than rewarded when a large flock of birds came sweeping across the Sound. I couldn’t figure out what they were. When I looked at my shot I realized it was the largest flock of Great Blue Herons I’d ever seen, and in a place I’d never expect to find them!

Flock of Great Blue Herons over Puget Sound

It reminded me of the wolf scene I’d just quoted from Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard.