Where Ever You Go, There You Are

Leslie and I just got back from a seven-day trip to Northern California, combining a trip to see her mother on her birthday with a birding trip instead of our usual stopover in the Redwoods.

We enjoyed seeing Mary, her brother Harry, and his wife Marianne while also getting a chance to visit several national wildlife refuges at the height of the birding season, something I’ve never done before. It’s hard not to enjoy fast forwarding to Spring and skipping a little of Washington’s winter rains, even if we had to brave a snowstorm in the Siskiyous to do so.

Leslie seemed to enjoy the birding, but I’m sure it was a greater hit with me than with her. I managed to see a lot of birds I seldom see and a few I’ve never seen. Of course, I went expecting to see most of the birds we saw. I saw the Snow Geese when I was there in November and had been told I could see avocets in the spring, a bird found in both Eastern Washington and Malhuer but one I’ve never seen myself.

One of the nicest surprises of my birding trip, though, was sighting this Varied Thrush on my walk through Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Park,

Varied Thrush

even if it was too shady to get as good of picture as the one I took on my last trip to Theler just before leaving for California:

Varied Thrush

Even more coincidental, the Varied Thrush that’s been hanging around my backyard since Christmas was out in the yard when I added bird seed to the feeder this morning,

Varied Thrush

though it remains so camera-shy that I had to use the same picture I used in January.

Though Sibley says it’s “common in moist, shaded understory within coniferous forests” I had never seen one before 2007 when I saw one in the backyard. They’re such a rarity that I almost invariably feature them on my site when I do manage to get a picture.

It felt downright strange to have one suddenly appear 750 miles from home right after I’d seen it in two different places locally. I guess it’s true that you can never have too much of a good thing.

Back to Nisqually in the Fog

With another sunny day forecast, I asked Mike if he wanted to go to the Nisqually national wildlife refuge. We left Tacoma in the sunshine but by the time we got there the fog was quite thick. If this keeps up, I may give Mike the Indian name He-Who-Brings-Fog.

The thick fog certainly added to this American Bittern’s camouflage, not that he needed it


Bittern in long grass

However, we got so close to another American Bittern that not even the fog could blur it. It was so close that this picture is actually made up of four separate shots because I couldn’t fit it into the finder.

American Bittern

It was nice to see a few shorebirds, like this Yellowlegs, since I haven’t seen any since late last Fall.


I also managed another first, as this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Canvasback Duck outside of the Denver Zoo.

male Canvasback Duck

Rhinoceros Auklet

A few days after I spotted the redneck Grebe I caught a glimpse of this silhouette off the dock and didn’t know what it was.

silhouette of Auklet

It’s not unusual for me to temporarily forget the name of a bird, but I seldom fail to recognize the shape as familiar. It turns out, though, I have seen one of these before; last year I posted a distant shot of a Rhinoceros Auklet but that’s the only time I’ve ever seen one, and it wasn’t nearly as close to shore as this one was.

Even at a distance the wings on this bird are distinctive,

Auklet with wings spread

not something I was apt to forget quickly.

Needless to say, I abandoned my “walk” to see if the bird would come back once I disappeared from sight. I ended up waiting nearly fifteen minutes for it to come closer, but it did


Rhinoceros Auklet

Although the bird strikes me more as “unique” then beautiful,

Rhinoceros Auklet

it made my day sighting it.

Red-Necked Grebes

My favorite part of being retired is that I can take advantage of brief sunny interludes in mostly cloudy, rainy days. In five minutes I can be walking Ruston Way or Owens beach. Most of the time I simply get an enjoyable workout, covering two or 3 miles.

Although I usually see birds I’ve seen many times before, occasionally I will see a bird I seldom see or, even, one I’ve never seen before. The other day, for instance, I was watching Horned Grebes and I notice that one grebe was larger than the other ones.

Horned Grebe and Red-Necked Grebe

I didn’t immediately recognize it as a Red-Necked Grebe but I did recognize it was a bird I seldom see and started photographing it.

Soon I noticed there were actually two of these grebes not one,

Two Red-Necked Grebes

and they were looking for food,

Red-Necked Grebe “snorkling”

shrimp as it turned out,

Red-Necked Grebe with Shrimp

though shrimp as large as this are generally known as “prawns” around here. I didn’t even realize we had shrimp, a personal favorite, in the Puget Sound. A little online research revealed that there is, indeed, a shrimp season in the Puget Sound. Amazing what you can learn by paying attention. At the very least, I got the best shots of a Red-Necked Grebe I’ve ever gotten.