Back to Big Beef Creek

One of the reasons I hesitated to return to Bear River was that it was right in the middle of the Sculpin run at Seabeck and I was afraid the run would be over before we returned. While it had slowed down considerably, it was still taking place when I returned at the end of June. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and I got some great shots, shots that, unfortunately, looked a lot like shots I’d gotten there before I went to Bear River. When you return to the same spot year after year, it gets harder and harder to top the shots you’ve already posted.

My favorite shots of the day were shots of Cedar Waxwings, shots I posted the day I took them instead of a month later. Even if the shots you get are no better than ones you’ve gotten before, it’s hard not to learn more about the herons and eagles you’ve observed. I’ve learned even more by talking to the photographers who get up there even more than I do. I’m nearly as fascinated by the complex interaction of the Eagles and the Great Blue Herons as I am by their beauty.

At the beginning of the day’s run, the herons will be quite spread out. However, once Great Blue Herons start to gather in a particular area, you can count on the eagles beginning to show up, too.


The heron on the left in the above shot has just caught a large Sculpin, and it’s not long before a mature Bald Eagle swoops in.


Often a juvenile eagle will follow the mature eagle.


Notice that the heron on the left drops its catch as the eagles approach. Some herons look like they’re ready to defend themselves, while others immediately take off. Others. like spectators in Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts” turn “away/Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may/Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/ But for him it was not an important failure


Notice that the immature eagle just flies through the flock, apparently unaware that there is even a fish to be had.


The experienced Bald Eagle, however, usually gets the fish dropped by the heron and feeds on it while the angry herons stand impotently around or fly off to a safer fishing hole.


A Short Stop at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was just a stopping spot on our Bear River trip, but I wanted to see as much as I could because I’d missed the Spring Migration there. One of the birds I was specifically looking for was a Bobolink which I found one in the same field I had spotted one in the year before.


Unfortunately, it was hidden behind the tall grass, not singing loudly out in the open as it had in the past.

When I did manage to get an unobstructed shot of it, the distinctive black-and-white back wasn’t visible, though the yellow “hood” stood out.


We hadn’t driven too far down the road before encountering this very wet fawn in the middle-of-the-road.


It was hard to tell whether it was a new-born fawn or whether it had managed to fall in the water beside the road. Either way, we were worried about its safety because there wasn’t a mother in sight.

Strangely enough, a little further down the road we encountered a very young coyote eating a snake.


He, too, looked too young to be out on his own, but for some reason we weren’t quite as worried about him as we were about the fawn.

Although we saw innumerable American Coot babies at Bear River, I don’t think we saw any as young as these we spotted beside the road in Malheur.


I am utterly amazed at how “ugly” these chicks are every time I see them.


The high point of the morning came, though, when I stepped out of the car to get a shot of a Yellow Warbler and this Common Nighthawk swooped right past my head and landed a few feet behind my truck and proceeded to go to sleep.


Since I could clearly see a car approaching in the distance, I decided to walk up close enough to it that it would fly away since I was pretty sure that no one driving up the road would ever see it there.


An unexpected visitor
brightens the day
before flying on his way.

I’ve Fallen Behind and I Can’t Catch Up

Although I have several more shots from Bear River that I originally wanted to post, it is time to move on. So, I am going to post a few shots of Black-Necked Stilts, and then post a few more shots from the Malheur portion of our visit tomorrow.

I really prefer live-blogging, at least within a day or two of actual events, and not posting about month-old events. It’s easier for me to edit photos if I can clearly remember what they looked like to me when I took them rather than trying to recreate a “perfect” shot. I’m also more enthusiastic about my subject when it is fresher in my memory, and I definitely don’t want blogging to become a “job” and not a “passion.”

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite Black-Necked Stilt shots from Bear River. Like the American Avocet, the Black-Necked Stilt is classified as a “wader” and “shorebird”, not as a heron as I originally thought.



k-necked Stilts are in constant motion, hunting prey rather than stalking it like herons do. I would have to describe them as “flighty,” unlike Avocets.


All you need to do is point your camera at a stilt and instantly you have a shot of them in flight,


and once in the air their profile is quite distinctive.

For instance, you would never confuse it with a Snowy Egret in flight.


White-Faced Ibis in Flight

We just returned from a week-long trip to Santa Rosa with family where I found it next-to-impossible to find time to work on my blog. So, here I am again, living in the past, managing only to get outside for a 45-minute walk along the beach. Ironic that a blog devoted largely to the outdoors requires so much time spent inside sorting photos and getting them ready for viewing. It’s especially hard to keep up in the summer when it’s tempting to spend every moment outdoors. That said, there’s not much purpose in taking all these shots if I’m not going to share the best of them with others. So, here we are finishing up showing the shots I took at Bear River in the middle of June.

One of the birds I particularly enjoy seeing there, probably because I never see it in the Puget Sound area, is the White-faced Ibis, a bird whose silhouette is unmistakable. Though this shot was actually taken at Malheur on our way home, most of the Ibis we saw at Bear River were flying by, not wading in the wetlands.


Still, a shot of a White-faced Ibis caught in just the right light is so dramatic


it’s hard not to focus on getting those kinds of shots.

I could probably make an argument that White-faced Ibis are built for wading, not flying, but I still try my hardest to capture birds in flight even if it’s an awkward pose, like this one.


Of course, shots of herons landing are the easiest flight shots to get, but that ungainly landing is typical of herons, setting them apart from other species.


Although it’s quite a lot smaller than a Great Blue Heron, its landing seems remarkably similar.


Occasionally you are even lucky enough to capture an ibis in flight and while also capturing it’s many varied hues.


When we saw a small flock of Ibis gathering sticks like this, we figured they must have been too busy building nests to stand around in the wetlands.


It wasn’t until we were visiting The Sacramento Wildlife Refuge last week that we learned that White-faced Ibis, like several other herons, build a rookery and the rookery would probably be in a protected area — which also explains why we saw stilt and avocet chicks but no ibis chicks.