Been Pretty Hectic Around Here

Things have been quite hectic around here since Thanksgiving, particularly leading up to Christmas. Perhaps that’s because of our trip to Colorado for Thanksgiving and the less than usual number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps it was because I decided that I’d lost enough weight that I could risk making cookies again this year, something I missed a lot last year. I forgot how much time it takes to bake and decorate cookies. Have I told you how much I love cookies and candies. Now that presents no longer hold the appeal they once did, delicious food is the only thing that helps me to recapture that Christmas spirit. Even though I gained the 3-5 pounds I knew that I would if I didn’t avoid making cookies, it was well worth the time and effort. I’ll somehow manage to lose the weight again in the next few months.

Buying presents also seems to get harder each year, especially when even potential recipients/their spouses can’t come up with a list. Go figure. At least it’s still fun buying gifts for grandkids. Leslie and I did buy gifts for each other this year, but only when the other person said, “I’d like that.” No one wants to spend time returning gifts that they really didn’t want/need. The good part of finding it so difficult to find gifts is that Leslie and I actually went out shopping twice rather than just ordering from Amazon like I’ve done in the past. Waiting in line at Best Buy wasn’t exactly my idea of fun, but I really enjoyed the night we shopped at local stores in Proctor. Sharing the Christmas spirit with other shoppers at the toy store and at the Pacific Northwest Store was way more fun than just ordering from a catalog.

Every time we spend two days putting ornaments up I think we are going to have to reconsider how many ornaments we have, but I never do, unless considering if I should add more lights to the outside of the house counts as reconsidering. Since there was barely room inside for the new Santa Claus we bought this summer and the new Nativity scene Leslie wanted for her Christmas present, about the only place we can add decorations would be outside. Luckily, the decorations really do help to dispel the darkness of the longest day of the year, and I doubt I’ll be abandoning any until I’m physically unable to put them up.

As if the season wasn’t already busy enough, I had to drive down to Woodburn, Oregon on the 27th to finally pick up the camper that I ordered two or three months ago. In order to avoid paying for a motel, we got up at 4:30 AM so we could meet the installer at 9:00 A.M. Getting up that early isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but we did manage to turn it into a positive event when Leslie was able to arrange to have lunch with Wayne, her old boss at Red Cross. We had a good lunch/breakfast and some fascinating conversations. Oh, yeah, and we’re excited to get the camper outfitted so that we can get outside soon.

I unexpectedly got to celebrate my birthday a day early because Dawn and her family were heading up north for New Year’s. I had to help Leslie rush together a dinner and ended up decorating my cake because Leslie had her hands full just getting dinner ready. Then this morning I had to go license my camper and, naturally, pay sales tax on it. $1,600 dollars later I managed to get home just in time so that Dawn could drop off Patty to babysit until New Year’s Day.

In the past I used to hate how hectic Christmas got. I used to think I was ruining the season by trying to do more than I could get done without totally stressing myself out. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel that way at all this year. In fact, rushing around seemed to recreate a greater sense of Christmas and New Years than I’ve had in years. Not sure if that’s because I have come to associate Christmas with stress and it doesn’t seem right when there’s no stress, or whether it’s an sign that perhaps I’ve become a little too laid back in retirement and need more deadlines and more demands to feel at my best. Sometimes those ruts keep us from exciting discoveries.

Barrow’s Goldeneye

I’m still focused on getting ready for Christmas, even baking cookies this year, thinking if we give enough away I should be able to stay below 180 pounds and still enjoy my favorite part of Christmas, but I can’t resist a local run down to Ruston Way the few times the sun breaks through the clouds. The dominant bird this year definitely seems to be the Barrow’s Goldeneye, apparently having displaced the large number of Common Goldeneye I used to photograph there.

Generally I’m seeing flocks of twenty or thirty birds floating aimlessly, though a few birds have already started to pair off


 Barrow’s Goldeneye

I love watching their mating rituals, though I make no claim to actually understanding the ritual yet. According to the Boreal Birds Organization, “Courtship displays that lead to pair bonds are initiated during the winter months (November through to April). These elaborate courtship displays are often made in small groups of 5-20 birds.

Barrows’s courting ritual

Since they usually drift away when I start photographing them, I’m always a little surprised when one actually looks back directly at me, finding it hard to believe how narrow their head really is.

frontal shot of Barrow’s Goldeneye

I’m equally amazed when they fly away and the chevrons on their wings disappear.

Barrows Goldeneye in flight

Back to Ft Flagler

Despite having a million things I want to get done before Christmas, I couldn’t resist the pull of last week’s sunshine and had to go to Port Townsend and Ft. Flagler last Sunday. Although the day started out overcast, it turned out to be one of those rare relatively sunny winter days. We began the day with a savory breakfast at Sweet Laurette Cafe & Bistro. Shopped in town for an hour or so, where Leslie bought my upcoming birthday present, though I don’t get to open it until December 30th.

We went to Ft Flagler because it’s the most reliable place to see Harlequin ducks during the winter, but we were actually greeted by another bird that I’ve come to identify with Flagler. In fact, we found this Black Oystercatcher in exactly the same spot where I got my first shot last year.

Black Oystercatcher

It’s impossible to miss that brilliant orange beak and eye-ring.

We did see the Harlequin ducks that I came for, but they were out further than I’ve ever seen them before, perhaps because the tide was out or perhaps just because they were enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

 Harlequin ducks

Somehow I’d always thought that the brilliant brick-red color was the color of their body, but this shot of them flying clearly revealed that the red color is only on the top part of their body.

Harlequins in Flight

There weren’t a lot of birds at the park, but the ones we saw like this Sanderling and Plover were striking in the brilliant sunshine,

Plover and Sanderling

as was this elegant Yellowlegs,


a bird I used to see so often that I began to take it for granted. Now that I seldom see them, I appreciate their beauty more than I used to — no surprise there, I guess.

After all, it’s winter’s extended gray clouds that make days like this with the brilliant blue skies reflected in the water so special.

More Local Birding

Here’s two more shots taken on local trips. Neither is particularly outstanding or quite as good as previous shots I’ve taken, but I still love watching Belted Kingfishers,

Belted Kingfisher

and it’s a good day when I can get any shot worth keeping. Not sure why, but they seem like one of the shyest birds I know of, and they are constantly on the move. I suspect they suffer from some form of ADHD, which can’t be all bad because I suspect I suffer from it at times, too.

I got some great shots of a Marsh Wrens in the Spring when they were boldly advertising for a mate, but they’re much hard to capture this time of year when all they seem concerned with is staying alive long enough to mate next Spring.

Marsh Wren

They have the perfect camouflage to fit in with the dried-out grass and reeds where they build their nests in the summer.