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.

ParNrthnShvlr

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.

Widgn2015

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,

CmnGldneye2015

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

BardsGldneye2015

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.

12thMan

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.

Spring Flowers

It’s really Spring. And in typical Western Washington fashion, we’ve had occasionally sunny days sandwiched between long, wet spells. Normally, this is my favorite time of the year, but I’m afraid I’m suffering from mild depression and probably will be until after Ted’s memorial the weekend after next.

I have gotten out and taken pictures three times in the last two weeks but haven’t managed to download the pictures until today. I’ll try to post a couple of days of pictures, but I’ve decided that I need to get away from it all for a few days, and since it’s supposed to be sunny in Malheur I’m heading down that for at least two or three days.

These pictures were taken at Waughop Lake the first week of April. Oregon Grapes are one of my early favorites, probably because they reflect whatever sunshine we get so well.

Oregon Grape

I thought that they usually came out before Cherry Blossoms, but it’s the first time I’ve seen them and the apples, plums and cherries are definitely in full bloom now.

Spring Blossoms

I even saw my first purple flowers the same day, though I usually associate them with early Summer.

 Hare Bell

Of course the trees are full of Black-Capped Chickadees, Oregon Juncos, and Bush Tits,

Bush Tit

generally moving too fast to be captured by this slow, methodical photographer.

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.

Less Rain, More Pictures

Since I haven’t been complaining about the weather around here lately, you might have figured out that we’ve been having better weather. I honestly like Pacific Northwest weather or I wouldn’t have moved back here after my time in the service. But when we have winters as wet as we have had in the last two years, I begin to question just how much rain I can tolerate. Here’s a graph illustrating the kind of weather we’ve had from Jan 17 to May 10.

pie chart of local weather since January 17

I even suspect that at least half of those sunny times must have occurred during our long winter nights.

The weather lately has been more typical Spring weather, showers with intervals of sunshine. That’s been good enough for me to get out and take photographs. I took this picture of a Violet-Green Swallow

Violet-Green Swallow

at Theler right after we got caught in some heavy showers, but the light for this shot was nearly perfect.

Sometimes when the clouds clear out overhead but I can see rain clouds to the southwest, I head out to Waughop Lake in Steilacoom because it’s close enough that I can probably get there before the weather shifts, and if it does rain I haven’t wasted much gas.

Since they made changes as Nisqually, Waughop is one of the few places where I’ve seen the striking Ring-Necked Duck

male Ring-Necked Duck

with its striking bill (I’ve always thought it should have been named the Ring-Billed Duck).

It’s also one of the few places I can count on seeing the smallest of our local grebes, the Pied-Billed Grebe.

Pied Grebe

I never get bored watching these little guys slowly sink out of sight when they’re tired of you staring at them.

Most of all, though, I go to photograph the wood ducks who are much more visible at this time of year than any other time of the year. I suspect it might have something with wanting to show off their new finery to the opposite sex:

pair of Wood Ducks

Best of all, you often find brightly colored males close to shore under the cover of branches hanging over the water,

male Wood Duck

which seems like the proper setting for a Wood Duck, after all.

Sun Breaks

I think I may have suggested recently that readers should be expecting some comments on poetry I have been reading, but once again sunshine as waylaid my best intentions.

I’m sure, though, that Chuang Tau would not have approved of being stuck inside staring at a computer screen while the sun called from outside.

And personally, I would consider it heresy to resist the call of spring daffodils in full sunlight.

daffodils

So, when are current spell of sunshine began I spent the afternoon at Waughop Lake in Steilacoom. I never know what to expect when I go there, but this time the lake was full of Northern Shovelers.

pair of Northern Shovelers

In fact, the only “unusual” bird I saw was this Ruddy Duck, which must be beginning to migrate considering I’ve seen them a couple times lately.

Ruddy Duck

It’s a good thing I’m fond of my photographs, or I would suspect that I’m beginning to use them as an excuse not to do the hard thinking I feel obliged to do before I comment on important books that I really like. I have two long books I’ve finished reading but still haven’t managed to wrap my mind around yet.

My Bluebird of Happiness

It was too sunny here Wednesday and Thursday to stay inside reading, so I put my Kindle and new book of poetry aside and headed out to the new boardwalk at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed walking the mile long boardwalk, but birdwise it was rather disappointing. About the only bird I saw that I haven’t seen for awhile was this Yellowlegs.

Yellowlegs

I’m pretty sure there were more people on the boardwalk then there was on the wetlands that it crosses. Luckily, the birding will get better with time and less people will show up to see them.

Undiscouraged, I set out for Waughop Lake in Steillacoom on Thursday. I photographed a lot of birds, but I probably spent the most time trying to get a shot of one of these Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a small, skittish, hyperactive 4 inch sized bird.

I was delighted with this shot.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

I didn’t have to spend nearly as long getting a shot of this American Coot, who darned near nipped me in the foot as I stood photographing it. This bird would seem to epitomize the phrase, “Odd Duck,” except that it isn’t a duck at all, though many people continue to think so.

American Coot

All you have to do is look a the strange feet to see it’s not a duck. Judging from those feet, though, I would probably surmise it was a long-extinct dinosaur.

The highlight of the day, though, was when this Belted Kingfisher flew down to greet me just as I walked into Titlow.

Belted Kingfisher

It’s may not be a Bluebird, but it was certainly my blue bird of happiness yesterday.

Why I Retired

The best part of being retired, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is that you can take advantage of what little sunshine there might be during the week. While others were working inside during the three hours of sunshine this week, I went birding.

Although I didn’t see anything spectacular, I did manage to get a shot of one of the many Towhees recently returned to our area,

Towhee

saw a male Wood Duck in full breeding colors,

male Wood Duck

a sight that never fails to delight me,

and I got to admire once again the feather pattern on this Double-Crested Cormorant.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be out birding than sitting at home hanging up on robotic political calls.