Beauty is Where You Find It

It hasn’t been a very good week for birding here in the PNW. Though some summer residents seem to have left, the winter migrants haven’t arrived yet. I did manage to get a few bird pictures, but my best pictures weren’t bird pictures at all, but simply the result of paying more attention to what’s happening around me.

My best photo as far as birding goes has to be this one of a Wood Duck:

Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting when I took this shot, but took it because the duck stood out so distinctly. If I hadn’t taken it myself, I’m not sure I’d really believe that a Duck could look like this. No wonder this species is endangered; it’s impossible to miss the males while hunting.

My most embarrassing moment of the week was misidentifying this Giant Blue Heron when I saw it from the front and didn’t recognize the breast colors, which are much softer and duskier than I’d ever noticed before:

Most of the shots of Giant Blue Herons I’ve seen emphasize the blue feathers and are taken from the side. Still, as much as I’ve been observing them, you’d think I would have known better.

My favorite shots of the week, though, is this one of a butterfly I’ve sighted several times but haven’t managed to get a picture of before. This one landed close enough, and far enough away, that I could use my 400mm lens to get a relatively clear picture of it.

I suspect if there were more butterflies out there I would have become a butterflier, not a birder. I’m a sucker for a good butterfly shot, often spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get a picture of one that’s flitting from here to there.

Busy as a Bee

Now that my vacation to the beach is over, I suppose I could try to convince you that I’ve been busy as a bee around here. Of course, that would be a lie. I have gotten a few things done around here, but the reality is that living my life isn’t too different from being on permanent vacation.

Actually, I’m probably more like this fly, pretending to be as busy as a bee

when I’m actually just busy sucking the sweetness out of life.

I may have been born to retire. So far this week, I’ve spent half a day at Nisqually, half a day at the Pt. Defiance Rose Garden where I captured this fly hardly working, and half a day at Belfair.

Since they’re predicting rain the rest of the week, I thought I’d get my nature walks in while it’s still sunny and read some poetry on the last two days of the week. I’m actually looking forward to reading more Denise Levertov, which I started reading while at the beach.

William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Even our trip home from the Oregon Coast turned into a delightful adventure when we decided to stop at the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge rather than driving straight home. Though I’ve driven across this country repeatedly, I’d never stopped and walked the land before.

It turned out to be quite different from any part of Oregon I’ve walked before, much drier than I would’ve expected, emphasized even more by a “controlled burn” they’d set just before we arrived as much of the land was scorched black, with only a few, scattered oak trees left standing.

Despite the scorched ground, or perhaps because of it, we were met by this elegant Cooper’s Hawk who seemed nearly as curious as we were, circling overhead repeatedly:

When greeted at the rest stop by this shy Egret, we were nearly as surprised it was:

Higher parts of the refuge were covered in Oak forests, which reminded me of areas in Northern California Wine Country. Disappointingly, the lake that normally offers refuge to thousands of migrating birds was bone dry. In fact, it appeared they were using heavy equipment to dig a deeper pond so this wouldn’t happen again.

Although we didn’t see as many birds as I’d hoped to see, we did see several other raptors, and even delicate butterflies that blended in with the fall colors that dominated the refuge, as summer’s beauty slowly fades to fall’s rebirth:

We even met a bright, engaged young grad student at the refuge, one who realized just how special this place was and how endangered many of the species are that live here. He’s also an excellent nature photographer and offered some great ideas on how and where to get future shots.

True Love

While the discovery of wildlife refuges up and down the coast was new and exciting, I go to the beach to see the ocean.

I’ve spent most of my vacations at the beach for the last forty years, but I still love walking on the sand and climbing rocks as much as I did the first time I went there on my first honeymoon.

I’ve driven the whole Oregon coast so many times I doubt there’s a wayside I haven’t seen, though I might not remember a particular spot until I see it again.

No matter how many times I visit the coast, though, it seems new and fresh everywhere I stop, whether it be the high cliffs pounded by the sea:

or jetties thrusting into ocean waves:

I can’t imagine my love affair with this place ever ending.


Yes, we did the tide pools, as always, too.