Spring Break

Last week was Gavin’s and Lael’s Spring Break, so we decided to go to Santa Rosa to escape our rain. Since they had never visited the Redwoods, we decided to start there. Having failed to show how special the Redwoods are in previous attempts, I hoped that having Dawn, Gavin, Leslie, and Lael as props

I could do a better job of showing what a special place the coastal Redwoods really are. See, the trunks are actually wider than the 12” to 24 inches they seem on the computer screen

and are actually taller than 24 inches.

We were lucky enough to visit on a sunny day. Turns out it has been a wet winter for the Northern California Coast, too, and the Redwoods have benefitted from the extra rain even if access to the area was limited because of flooding. At least on the edges of the forest, this is the greenest I’ve seen the forests for a long time.

Redwood forests rival the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh Rain Forest in their lushness.

Here even dead trees spring back to life.

Deep in the forest, though, towering redwoods shut out even the brightest light

making it seem you’ve entered magical forests of your childhood where anything is possible,

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even moments of bright, pristine beauty.

Horned Grebes in Full Breeding Colors

Although we had just returned from a week-long trip to California, I decided to go birding Tuesday because it was predicted to be the lone sunny day of the week and because I was afraid that the Horned Grebes would have left for their breeding ground if I didn’t get there this week.

As it turned out, it looked like they had already left when I arrived at Port Orchard. In fact, I didn’t spot a single Grebe until I had reached the end of the marina, and it was still not in full breeding colors.

I was a little disappointed, but things took a turn for the better while walking back to the car. This Grebe popped up just a little ways back, and the clouds had actually cleared enough to give the impression that the water was blue, not gray.

I’m pretty sure it is in full breeding colors, and those horns really look like horns in this shot.

I actually saw two more Horned Grebes as I continued back to the car, though I’m not entirely sure that at least one of them was the second one I had already photographed, especially since I was seeing it from a completely different angle.

My favorite shot of the day was this one, taken just as I walked up the ramp to the street.

I’m really glad I went even though we should have stayed home and cleaned up after our California trip. The last thing I really needed was more shots to process, but that seems to be a fairly common theme in my life, and I always prefer to have too many pictures rather than no pictures.

Don’t Overlook the Little Things in Life

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you missed the little things in life until they actually return. That’s certainly true in the case of these four little birds, though I’ll have to admit that I didn’t even realize this was a Golden-Crowned Sparrow until it looked me right in the eye.

On the other hand, I recognized this American Goldfinch from a long ways off. That gold color and those racing stripes are unmistakable.

Although I’ve yet to see my favorite Marsh Wren by the long boardwalk, this guy was doing a good imitation.

I think I missed the Tree Swallows most of all. Few things lift me up more than walking down a trail being surrounded by a flock of diving Tree Swallows.

Theler’s River Otter

After I mentioned a few days ago that I hadn’t bothered to download the pictures I’d taken this month, Leslie asked me whether the pictures I’d taken of a River Otter we’d seen at Theler had turned out — reminding me that I had taken them. River Otters are a rare enough sighting that I’m usually eager to capture the best shots I can. However, the one we saw was so far away that I knew the shots wouldn’t be anything special even if the sighting itself made the day itself seem special.

I’ve seen River Otters several times at Theler over the years, and there are lots of signs of their presence. However, I wouldn’t have ever seen this particular otter if it hadn’t been for a photographer from Montana who had been taking shots of Great Blue Herons and noticed the River Otter run from ditch to ditch catching fish. It was so far out that I would never have sighted it without help from the photographer and Leslie, who was using the binoculars.

You’ll have to take my word that this heavily cropped shot is, indeed, a river otter.

If it had been anything other than a River Otter, I would have probably lost interest and missed some better shots but after spending nearly a half hour observing the otter run from spot to spot, he eventually came a lot closer.

He probably wasn’t more than a hundred yards away when I got this shot, the shot of the day, and the only one I’ll keep because it is the best shot I’ve ever taken of a River Otter on solid ground.

He came even closer, but only while swimming and I couldn’t focus on it when it emerged from the water before diving again.

A Zip a Dee Doo Dah Kinda Day

On Sunday’s visit to Theler Wetlands I went out on the boardwalk to see whether there were any Tree Swallows resting on the railing as there usually is in late Spring and in the Summer. I only saw three birds on the railing, and, as it turned out, only two of them were actually Tree Swallows. The furthest bird looked too big to be a Tree Swallow, but it wasn’t until I looked through the lens that I realized that it was a Western Bluebird,

a bird I’ve only seen once before, and that was in Santa Rosa.

John had told me that his birding group had seen a small flock of Bluebirds before, but I hadn’t seen them on previous visits and really wasn’t expecting to see one.

It didn’t look like the Bluebird was particularly happy to see me, perhaps because we hadn’t been formally introduced.

Like the Tree Swallows, though, it wasn’t about to leave. It kept flying up ahead and landing down the boardwalk.

Finally when it ran out of boardwalk it flew off to some nearby residences.

It looked like it was really trying to make itself at home. If so, perhaps I look forward to seeing it again in the near future.

Horned Grebe Transformation

After seeing all the signs of Spring at Bloedel Reserve, I decided I would have to stop at Port Townsend and see if the Horned Grebes had started wearing their breeding plumage.

In the Winter, it’s hard to imagine why these little guys

are called Horned Grebes.

Come Spring, though, and it’s easy to see where the name comes from. I don’t think I saw a single Horned Grebe that had completed the transformation, but some, like the one on the right, are close to wearing their Spring outfit.

Luckily, I find the process of transformation nearly as interesting as the end product, so I was excited every time I sighted a bird that was undergoing the process.

It’s almost as magical as Spring itself, and nearly as short-lived.

As soon as all the grebes look like this, they will magically disappear,

only to reappear in Late Fall in their drab winter colors

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Spring at Bloedel Reserve

When Friday was predicted to be rain free, Leslie suggested that we finally return to The Bloedel Reserve since they told us there would be more flowers shortly. They weren’t wrong. There were early native flowers, like these Red Currants

and fields full of magnificent Skunk Cabbage.

Of course, there were also a lot of non-native flowers blooming, particularly camellias like this is pink beauty.

There was also some of the earliest Rhododendrons I’ve seen, like these beautiful white ones.

Of course, it would be Bloedel Reserve if we didn’t see flowers we’ve never seen before like this exotic specimen.

There weren’t a lot of birds, but most of them seem accustomed to seeing people and were more than willing to have their photo taken.

As temperatures approached the 60’s it was impossible to deny that there was a lot more Spring in my step than there has been for nearly a month.