The First Time is Always the Best

While taking pictures of the Red-Breasted Mergansers on Saturday a week ago I started a conversation with two birders. Like most birders they were friendly and eager to share what they knew of the area. Somewhere along the way I mentioned that the bird I really wanted to see, one I had been looking for for over five years, was the Long-Tailed Duck. They replied that they had actually seen a small flock awhile before and searched for it with their binoculars. I’m pretty sure I would never have located them without their direction, but I was able to get a distant shot.

It wasn’t much of a shot,

Long-Tailed Ducks

but those are definitely Long-Tailed Ducks, and since this was the only shot I’ve ever gotten I was elated to get it (but determined to get a better shot now that I’d finally seen them)!

During our visit to the post museum we’d learned there was a third fort, Fort Casey, on Whidbey Island that we’d never seen and Leslie wanted to visit. So when sunshine was predicted Sunday we decided to drive up there and take the ferry back to Port Townsend to complete the loop. Personally, I wasn’t too interested in visiting another fort (I’d already seen more forts than I ever wanted to see while I served in the Army), but I thought riding the ferry across the Sound might give me a chance to get a close-up of those silly Long-Tailed Ducks that were always so far from the shore.

We ended up seeing far fewer birds than I imagined we would, and most of them were so far away that I was ready to accept the only shot I was going to manage to get was this shot of a Common Murre in its non-breeding plumage.

Common Murre in its non-breeding plumage

I’ve actually managed to get shots of them at the Fort Worden Lighthouse before, but this was the closest shot I’ve ever managed to get. It’s still too far away to capture fine details, but it’s a pretty good silhouette shot.

The last shot I got on the ferry, though, was this shot of a lone Long-Tailed Duck flying across the bow of the ferry.

Long-Tailed Duck flying

Again, it’s further away than I like, but it was a definite improvement over the shot taken the week before. I would have been happy if that had been only the shot I got Sunday.

As sometimes happens, though, once you have spotted a bird you suddenly see more of them. We were about to end our trip to Ft. Worden after visiting the gun emplacements when I said I wanted to make a quick stop at the education center to see what birds were there. It was 4:00 PM and it was getting dark and there wasn’t much to be seen, until I noticed this bird diving next to a pair of Grebes.

Long-Tailed Duck

Even though the light was less than perfect, this bird was much closer than I’ve ever seen a Long-Tailed Duck before. Even though it didn’t have long tail feathers, it was definitely a Long-Tailed Duck. It seemed like the perfect end to the day.