When You’re Not Even Looking

After a morning of capturing shots of Bald Eagles, Cedar Waxwings, Barn Swallows, Marsh Wrens and wild roses at Theler Wetlands, I was ready to call it a day. In fact, I think I’d turn off all those senses that are most alive when you’re consciously looking for wildlife. I was through for the day and heading home to my computer to see what kind of shots I’d actually gotten.

I checked out the flowers at the visitor center and started heading up the boardwalk to the car when I heard a sound I didn’t recognize, a very un-bird-like sound, almost a cat-like meow. I turned to see the Barred Owl Leslie and I had looked for several times in the last month but never found staring straight at me,

Barred Owl

softly mewing as if to get my attention.

I got several shots before it turned away, ignoring me.

Barred Owl

After a few minutes, though, both the owl and I turned at the sound of someone approaching.

Barred Owl

I turned to ask them if they wanted to see a Hoot Owl, but when I looked back it had disappeared as quietly as it had appeared. In fact, if I didn’t have photos to prove its existence I might have wondered if I’d just imagined it myself.

If it had been the only sighting of the day, it would have been a great day. Coming at the end of a long morning of great birding, it was the kind of climactic moment you live for.

Still At Theler

You’d think that seeing two eagles on the ground right in front of me and sighting Cedar Waxwings twice in the same day would have been the highlight of my recent visit to Theler Wetlands, but, surprisingly, there turned out to be much more to that visit.

First, the wild roses were in full bloom because of the summer-like temperatures. Unfortunately, a birding lens doesn’t lend itself well to long shots of row on row of roses or for close-ups so I was limited to this shot taken with my iPhone

wild rose

and sharpened with Photoshop. Until the internet perfects smellivision you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you the aroma along the path was heavenly.

On my way out to the boardwalk to take shots of the swallows, I got what might be my best shot ever of a Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

that came remarkably close to the boardwalk, though hopefully it is not foolish enough to build a nest that close to a busy walkway.

The sun even made it possible to get some great shots of the swallows, like this shot of a Barn Swallow sunning on the boardwalk railing.

Barn Swallow

I even managed to get my first shot this year of a Violet-Green Swallow.

Violet-Green Swallow

The walk on the boardwalk would have been the perfect end to a great day, but as it turned out the highlight of the day still awaited me.

The Cedar Waxwings Are Back at Theler

Most of the birds I saw at Theler after photographing the eagles were common birds, but on the way back I noticed a small flock of Cedar Waxwings on the top of the trees,

Cedar Waxwings in Treetops

my first sighting of the year. Unfortunately, even though I waited around for nearly a half hour they weren’t about to descend.

I’d nearly forgotten about them while taking pictures of wrens, swallows and goldfinches, but while circling back through the wetlands I noticed an awful lot of berries had been freshly eaten. I started looking for a Swainson Thrush, but as I came around the corner I saw a small flock of Waxwings eating the berries. They were too busy eating to be disturbed by me, so I was able to get several shots of them feeding.

Cedar Waxwing

For some reason the weird angle of the bird in this shot reminded me of Audubon illustrations I’d purchased recently.

As it turns out, it was actually another species that Audubon showed in this position, but I did capture one shot that looked very similar to a pose Audubon used in his portrayal of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing

I was standing there taking pictures so long that eventually the waxwings began looking back at me,

 Cedar Waxwing

apparently having decided I was too slow to represent any threat.