Back to the Point Defiance Rhododendron Garden

When I started this blog over eleven years ago, I treated it like a public journal, and all my posts were “live.” That worked well for commenting on the news, for commenting on poetry I was reading, and for showing local flower pictures I had taken the same day. For better or worse, that’s no longer true. I’m seldom “live.” When I write about novels or book-long fiction, I find it impossible to make any kind of meaningful comments until I’ve finished the book and thought about it for awhile. Nor am I able to present all the photos I’ve taken on a two-day, or two-week-long vacation.

So, here I am in the midst of showing photos I took on last week’s trip to Malheur and to the Washington Coast. But I want to take time out to give Tacoma locals a heads-up that last week’s heat spell has caused many rhodies to bloom in The Point Defiance Rhododendron Garden.

Even if you’re spoiled by seeing your neighbor’s rhodies’ bloom, it’s hard to surpass the beauty of rhodies blooming amidst an old-growth forest, where they naturally occur (at least here in the Pacific Northwest).

Rhododendron against fir

Typically, it’s these native pink rhodies that produce first, but apparently the heat spell bypassed that stage because there’s a wide variety of colors in bloom, ranging from the deep reds,

red Rhododendron

to vibrant pinks,

pink Rhododendron

and delicate violet rhodies.

violet Rhododendron

Even though many of the rhodies still haven’t bloomed, it’s hard to imagine that the garden is going to ever be more beautiful than it is right now.

Birding Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

This week’s trip to Malheur started off well. It was sunny and a beautiful 65 degrees when I reached Burns, the closest town to the refuge. On the back roads I spotted small flocks of Snow Geese,

Snow Geese

apparently the ones Leslie and I had missed on this year’s April trip to Santa Rosa.

I was still a ways from the reservation when I spotted this Willet, a bird I seldom see in Western Washington.


Even better after I’d stopped to capture a shot of the Willet, I saw two Avocets feeding in the same area. They’re definitely a favorite, particularly since it took me four years to see my first one in breeding colors after I’d seen a picture at a refuge in Yakima. I had a hard time deciding whether I liked this shot


or this shot better


so I decided to just include both.

I was disappointed that I didn’t see a single pelican at the bridge just before Narrows, but I did see a single Pelican

White Pelican

floating down the creek just before the refuge headquarters. It seemed like an auspicious start to my trip.

Birding Port Orchard

Last Sunday’s trip to Theler Wetlands was pretty forgettable except for this shot of a Yellowlegs,


one of the first I’ve seen this year.

However, the follow-up trip to Port Orchard made the day. I am particularly fond of this shot of a Pelagic Cormorant swallowing it’s catch.

Pelagic Cormorant with Fish

And the Horned Grebes just keep getting more and more spectacular as they don full-breeding colors.

Horned Grebe

So many of the shots jump off the screen that it’s hard to even decide which shots are the best ones.


When they’re this good, though, I don’t suppose it really matters too much which shots you include. So many are in full-breeding colors that I am surprised that they still haven’t paired up and let for their breeding grounds.

Spring Flowers

It’s really Spring. And in typical Western Washington fashion, we’ve had occasionally sunny days sandwiched between long, wet spells. Normally, this is my favorite time of the year, but I’m afraid I’m suffering from mild depression and probably will be until after Ted’s memorial the weekend after next.

I have gotten out and taken pictures three times in the last two weeks but haven’t managed to download the pictures until today. I’ll try to post a couple of days of pictures, but I’ve decided that I need to get away from it all for a few days, and since it’s supposed to be sunny in Malheur I’m heading down that for at least two or three days.

These pictures were taken at Waughop Lake the first week of April. Oregon Grapes are one of my early favorites, probably because they reflect whatever sunshine we get so well.

Oregon Grape

I thought that they usually came out before Cherry Blossoms, but it’s the first time I’ve seen them and the apples, plums and cherries are definitely in full bloom now.

Spring Blossoms

I even saw my first purple flowers the same day, though I usually associate them with early Summer.

 Hare Bell

Of course the trees are full of Black-Capped Chickadees, Oregon Juncos, and Bush Tits,

Bush Tit

generally moving too fast to be captured by this slow, methodical photographer.