Birding Fort Flagler

I couldn’t resist spending a day at Port Townsend during this beautiful stretch of weather no matter how guilty I felt. After all, there will be plenty of rainy days coming up when I can finish all those chores I’ve been putting off for years. Christmas cookies are a mixed blessing, anyway.

Luckily, we were rewarded for indulging ourselves. Birding was good, and the sun made for near perfect photographic conditions. These Pelagic Cormorants

were exactly where they were supposed to be.

Attracted by a dead harbor seal, this Bald Eagle

refused to leave, standing its ground as we gave it a wide berth.

It took me a while to identify this lone shorebird as a Dunlin

in winter plumage. Its breeding plumage is so distinctive that I’ve always tended to ignore its other characteristics.

There’s no mistaking a Brant for anything else when seen at this range.

Raptors at Theler Wetlands

It’s not just the Great Blue Herons that have returned to Theler Wetlands. Winter is a good time to find raptors at Theler, though there not nearly as common as herons. They aren’t nearly as willing to pose for the camera, either, which is why it seems special when you manage to catch a shot like this one of a Northern Harrier backlit by the morning sun.

Unfortunately, more often than not harriers fly low to the ground, blending in with the background.

Rarely do you get lucky and catch a shot of a Cooper’s Hawk basking in the sunshine on a rail seemingly indifferent to you or your camera.

I thought I’d managed to capture a great shot of this Kestrel, but half of it was underexposed while the other half was overexposed.

While it was great fun to watch this pair of Bald Eagles courting, they were soaring so high in the sky that I had to radically crop the shot even to get this.

Photos or no photos, birding is my favorite way to exercise and to bring harmony back to my life.

Farewell to Capitol Reef National Park

We didn’t have enough time to walk much of Capitol Reef NP, but the two hikes we did manage were quite different from our earlier hike in Goblin Valley.

We were constantly amazed what waited us around the corner on our walks.

It was only from the road, though, that we caught glimpses of the park's varied topography.

Though I wanted to get to get to Ogden on the day we left, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull off the road and get yet another shot.

It was probably no accident that the park headquarters was built directly across from this view.

It was a fitting conclusion to a delightful trip.

More Pictures from Capitol Reef

I took so many pictures at Capitol Reef I’ve had a time narrowing down which shots to post here. The fact that it is really impossible to convey the size of these rock formations hasn't made the process any easier. Unfortunately, images that demanded to be captured don’t seem nearly as impressive flat on the screen.

That said, I’ve enjoyed reviewing the images and processing them. Most of these shots were taken as we entered the park from the East side, before we entered the heart of the park. Although we were glad to see the fall foliage, I suspect these shots might have been even more spectacular with green trees contrasting with the cliffs.

Navaho Dome is an easily recognizable landmark.

I’ll have to admit, though, that the mesas were my favorite landmark,

possibly because they remind me of all the John Wayne westerns I saw as a kid.

Really, though, it was virtually impossible to turn around without discovering startling beautiful structures

The Colors and Textures of Capitol Reef

As I process all the HDR scenics I took at Capitol Reef, the beautiful colors and the beautiful textures stand out. I don’t remember ever seeing as much orange rock as we saw in Capitol Reef.

As if the reds and oranges weren’t enough, the rock cliffs reveal layer after layer of sedimentary strata.

There is a stark beauty here that is hard to find anywhere else.

Capitol Reef’s Freemont Petroglyphs

Our first stop in Capitol Reef National Park was the Fremont Petroglyphs, a personal favorite. As long-time readers are probably aware, Loren loves petroglyphs. I’ll drive as far to see petroglyphs as I do to see unusual birds.

I’ve managed to see a lot of sites and read several books on the subject over the years, but I was surprised by some of the figures I saw in Capitol Reef.

I’ve never seen human figures with “horns” on the top of their head like these figures.

The second figure from the left in this close-up was particularly fascinating.

It almost seems like an animal head on a human body, though I have no idea what kind of animal has horns and a wolf-like head.

Some of the clearest petroglyphs, perhaps indicating they are more recent, were these Bighorn Sheep,

besmirched by Horace’s obviously recent graffiti.

The worst part of seeing the petroglyphs defaced like this is that you can never be sure what is original and what is more recent.

Did an ancient Fremont artist draw the strange shape to the right of the Bighorn Sheep or was it created recently by someone who felt a sick need for attention?

Goblin Valley State Park

Since Capitol Reef was our real destination and Goblin Valley was a spur-of-the-moment decision, we couldn’t spend nearly the amount of time there it really deserved though I’m sure we’ll return and explore the two-thirds of the park we didn’t have time to explore.

I took a lot of pictures while I was there. It’s hard not to let you imagination run free and see “goblins” that are as much a reflection of your own imagination as they are results of erosion.

It’s a lot like cloud-watching, though if there were as many clouds as there were goblins you’d have rain.

We had some great views.

It would have taken considerably more planning than we did to find our way through the maze of outcroppings. We kept running into dead ends.

As it was, we got our daily allowance of exercise just exploring the structures near the visitors’ center.

Still, I’m glad we ignored our “plans” and took this side trip.