Expect the Unexpected

Although I go to places like Malheur National Wildlife Refuge expecting to see certain birds that I don’t see locally in the Puget Sound area, it’s always a thrill when I see something unexpected. I actually saw several unexpected birds the two days I was there, but I think this male Canvasback was a “lifer.”

I was totally frustrated trying to get the camera to focus because of the grass and reeds, so I was thrilled when it took off right in front of me.

I even managed to snap off more than one

shot while keeping it in focus and in the frame.

I’ll have to admit that when I originally saw this bird I thought it was a Redhead Duck because I couldn’t remember ever seeing a Canvasback before and the two look quite similar.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t much further up the road when I snapped this shot of what I thought was probably the same bird.

Comparing the two on the screen, it was clear that they definitely weren’t the same bird. It was the white back on the first duck that made me question my original identification. In the end, though, it was the shape of the head that convinced me that the first duck was a Canvasback and this second one is a Redhead, a bird I’ve only seen in Colorado before.

Just Got Back

We've been on a week-long trip to Malheur and Bear River with lots of photos.

This shot of a Mourning Dove taken on our first morning at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

will have to serve as a place holder for our trip until I find time to process all the shots we took.

Eagles at Big Beef Creek

Because the Great Blue Herons weren’t catching sculpin near the shore, there weren’t many Bald Eagles at Big Beef Creek. The pair that seem to live there were hanging out together in the tall fir and they both flew out, caught a sculpin, and flew back

to same tree where they seem to feed on their catch every time I’ve been there.

After feeding, the pair rejoined each other on the beach and proceeded to “sing” for a steady five minutes — the first time I’ve observed that behavior.

It was slow enough and the tide was far enough out that I decided after a few hours to go to Seabeck to see what I could see there.

Wonder What’s Going on Here

The more I bird, the more I run into “what-the-heck” kinda moments like the one I observed the other day at Theler Wetlands. We have been seeing Cedar Waxwings for a couple of weeks now, so I was looking for them on this visit. As it turned out, these two were right in the middle of the trail and impossible to miss. The one on the left seemed quite upset

and expressed that dissatisfaction when the other Waxwing flew off.

The second Waxwing flew back with a berry in its beak and seemed to offer it to the first Waxwing.

When the second Waxwing still didn’t actually give it to the first Waxwing, the first Waxwing became even more demonstrative.

About then the second Waxwing spotted me on the trail, turned, and flew off.

The first Cedar Waxwing didn’t fly off immediately. It sat there as if waiting for the second one to come back with that berry.

I’m still not sure what was going on, but I assume it was a courtship ritual (gone awry ?) though I haven’t been able to confirm that yet from anything I’ve found on the internet. It is possible that the bird demanding the berry was last year’s offspring and it is still demanding to be fed, but that seems less likely to me than the idea it is part of a courtship ritual.

The Perfect Time to Walk Bloedel

Since we finished birding at Seabeck too early for lunch on our last outing, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk the Bloedel Preserve. It’s hard to imagine a better time of year to visit the garden. The rhododendrons were in full bloom.

The pond was festooned with bright yellow iris.

The Preserve features some of the prettiest azaleas/rhododendrons I’ve seen,

and I visit a lot of rhododendron gardens.

Though it was a bright, sunny day the ponds and creeks were overflowing, providing a perfect soundtrack to a nature walk

while providing a nice backdrop for the primroses that lined the trail.

If we hadn’t stopped for a delicious Thai lunch in Silverdale, this would have been the perfect ending for a delightful day.

Great Blue Herons Jockeying for Best Fishing Hole

When you go to Big Beef Creek to see the Great Blue Heron’s react to Bald Eagles trying to steal their catch and the few eagles there seem content to catch their own fish, you have to turn to the far less dramatic arguments that take place between the herons themselves.

Great Blue Herons seem to pay close attention to how successful other Great Blue Herons are. Invariably, if one heron is successful in landing several fish, other herons will come over to try their luck. Sometimes they try to drive the original heron away and claim the fishing spot.

I still haven’t figured out why one heron will retreat while another will stand its ground, forcing the charging heron to divert its charge. You might think that chunking down five fish that weigh almost as much as you do would encourage you to leave when another bird attacks, but that’s not always the case. I’ve seen a heron protect its spot for four or five hours without bothering to catch another fish.

This heron looked like it was ready for a fight as it landed in the middle of three or four herons who were steadily catching fish.

Most of the herons totally ignored the bird, and he ignored them, but it picked out one of the herons and leapt toward it,

causing that heron to leave rapidly.

Not sure how GBH display dominance, but judging from my short sample the heron who can jump the highest seems to have a definite advantage.