A Truly Trumpless Day

Monday looked like the perfect day to get back to snowshoeing, and, strangely enough, it actually turned out to be a nearly perfect day. We snowshoed the Narada Falls-Reflection Lake trail which was between five and six miles long with a 500 ft elevation gain. It was rated “moderately difficult,” and it felt that way until I got home and had severe cramps in my legs.

The trail begins by following the creek up a rather steep bank.

Luckily, whenever I felt tired I was distracted by the beauty around me.

The trail is designed so that about the time you think you couldn’t climb another foot it levels off, and you have time to regain your breath before starting up, or down, again.

Glimpses of Mt. Rainier across the valley provided several opportunities to drag out the camera equipment and rest while taking a picture.

Reflection Lake wasn’t spectacular with six feet of snow, but I was happy enough to take a break before heading back to the car.

We were joined by a small flock of Gray (Robber) Jays looking for handouts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot of them as they flew down to get food.

Although I took several shots of the mountain during the hike, I couldn’t resist stopping for an even better shot on the way down to Longmire.

It was exhilarating to spend most of a day simply putting one foot in front of the other, plodding along in rhythm with my heartbeat rather than sitting in front of my computer reading about the Trump’s latest fuck-ups, even if I did suffer some awful leg cramps when I finally sat down that evening.

Snow Geese at Merced NWR

On our way to Fresno from Santa Rosa we stopped at the Merced NWR where we saw the Snow Geese that we hadn’t seen on our earlier stop at the Sacramento NWR but not the Sand Hill Cranes we had seen on our previous visit to Merced. (No, I don’t really think these are the Snow Geese we’ve seen in the past in Sacramento, and I was told by another birder that the Cranes had been there earlier in the morning.)

When you bird you learn to be ready to be disappointed and to be surprised, good training for life. Needless to say, I was thrilled at seeing this many Snow Geese even if my wide-angle lens couldn’t come close to showing how many Snow Geese were in the refuge. This shot is made up of three wide-angle shots fused into a panorama, and there were still more geese on the left and right side of the shot.

In the distance, it looked like a snowstorm was advancing as thousands of Snow Geese took to the air in the distance.

As it turned out, the huge flocks made it even harder to get shots of individual Geese than it was at the Sacramento NWR.

Though we were never directly in the flight path of large flocks of Geese, I did manage to get a few shots of the Geese in flight, always my favorite shots of birds.

Snow Geese at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Although we didn’t see the large flocks of Snow Geese that we had hoped to see at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, I did manage to get a few shots of them that I was happy with.

The low sunrise light actually seemed to highlight this flock,

setting them off from the grass in the foreground and background.

Unfortunately the clouds on the horizon made for fickle lighting, and the Snow Goose

doesn’t stand out like the geese in the previous shot.

This Snow Goose on the other side of the road, though, seemed perfectly illuminated.

Although I missed a lot of shots of Geese flying directly overhead, I did manage to catch this shot.

A Great Blue Heron Kinda Morning

Our last walk at Theler Wetlands started just as most of our latest walks there have started, in a heavy fog, plus high tides. This Cormorant appeared to be walking on water in the middle of a lake, though it was really just standing on a log in the middle of the Union River.

We managed to get really close to this Great Blue Heron, so close that all I could fit into my camera frame was its head.

As we backed away, he continued to track prey, apparently oblivious to us.

Later, we startled another Heron close to the riverbank.

Not sure if we scared these female Green-Winged Teal,

but I liked this shot.

Unfortunately, this shot of a startled male Common Merganser isn’t as clear,

but it’s the first time I’ve spotted a male Common Merganser this Winter, so I was bound to include it here.

Fogwalking

You’d better not live in the Pacific Northwest in the winter if you don’t like walking in the fog. Sure, it may be a little cold, but that’s why we buy hats, gloves and down jackets. On a recent walk, we stopped and picked up Mira who was on Christmas vacation.

While I have to admit that I’m not fond of birding with shotguns blasting in the distance, particularly when it’s hard to tell how far away they really are,

I won't cede the wetlands to hunters, particularly since humans are not the only hunters stalking the wetlands.

As Mira revealed in these two photographs, sometimes fog adds beauty to the ordinary,

particularly where sky and land meet.

Grebes, and More Grebes

Although it’s been a wet winter, we’ve still had sunny days when I’ve managed to get out and take pictures. We invariably begin the day at Theler where I usually manage to get lots of shots of Great Blue Herons and Green-Winged Teal, but occasionally I’ll manage to get shots of other birds, like these three Western Grebes,

which I don’t often see there. In fact, this is closest

I’ve gotten to any since my summer trip to Bear River in Utah.

I get most of my exercise walking Theler Wetlands, this time of year I get my best shots in the Port Orchard Marina. Although I look forward to when the Horned Grebes change into breeding colors, I still can’t resist taking shots of them

since they don’t seem afraid of humans.