Great Blue Herons

Though I originally went to Big Beef Creek/Seabeck to photograph the Bald Eagles that fellow photographers were repeatedly telling me about, I love photographing the Great Blue Herons as much as I do the eagles. I see Great Blue Herons everywhere but I think the water is the perfect setting for photographing them.

Whether it’s early morning light with its warm colors,

mid-day sunlight with its brilliant blues and grays,

or the soft light of overcast skies

it’s hard not to get a good shot with the Puget Sound as a backdrop.

Purple Martins

I can’t imagine going to Seabeck to photograph the Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons without stopping to photograph the Purple Martins that hang out by the now-closed Barbie’s Restaurant. Unfortunately, these Purple Martins depend on artificial plastic gourds, but the Seabeck colony seems to continue to flourish.

Purple Martins are larger than the Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows I am used to seeing. The male is quite striking,

though the painter in me would probably call it a “Blue Martin” because I have a hard time seeing purple in that plumage.

The female shows even less “purple.”

The first time I saw a female I couldn’t even identify it as a Purple Martin.

I didn’t see any babies yet, but many of the males

and the females seemed focused on nest-building.

When You Don’t See Any Eagles

When you’ve birded as long as I have, you discover that even a lack of birds can be a good thing because paying attention helps you see things you would have otherwise overlooked. When the eagles didn’t show up at Big Beef Creek as I’d hoped, I noticed a Belted Kingfisher that frequents the area.

I managed to get a pretty good shot of him sitting in the tree that is usually occupied by the Eagles who weren’t there.

Once I spotted him, I managed to follow him out where he speared a fish in the shallow water.

Naturally he didn’t fly back to his previous perch so I could get a good shot of him with the fish on his beak, but this heavily cropped shot definitely shows the fish on his beak.

If I could count on getting good shots of Belted Kingfisher, I’d probably be more apt to go there than go to Big Beef Creek to photograph eagles. A Belted Kingfisher with attitude is one of my favorite birds.

Bald Eagles at Big Beef Creek

Photographers go to Big Beef Creek this time of year to get shots of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. I’ve been there twice so far and have managed to get a few nice shots of Bald Eagles, but so far there seem to have been far fewer Bald Eagles than in previous years. On our last visit I didn’t see a single juvenile Bald Eagle and only saw five or six mature Bald Eagles.

Most of the shots I got were of this pair of Bald Eagles

who showed up early and stuck around only long enough to fill themselves up.

This eagle caught its own fish rather than stealing it from the Great Blue Herons.

I use the word “caught” cautiously, though, because the sculpin was stranded in shallow water and the eagle swooped down and swept it up.

It was a still a thrill to have it swoop so close in front of me that I could see the mud on his tail feathers.

The only other sequence I caught was this one of a Bald Eagle flying almost straight at me

before veering off to my right and flying over my shoulder.

Though I liked these shots I was disappointed at how few Bald Eagles there seem to be, and particularly that there didn’t seem to be a sing juvenile eagle. The older Bald Eagles have learned to get food with the least fuss whether by harassing a Great Blue Heron into dropping a fish or just picking a stranded one off the beach. Immature Bald Eagles, on the other hand, seem to enjoy harassing the older eagles or harassing the herons simply to be harassing them. Like human teenagers they crave action, just like wildlife photographers.