Four More from Merced

The few shots I’ve posted on this post and the previous ones don’t do justice to the number of birds we saw at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, but magical places like this remind us what life must have been in these areas before we drained the wetlands and covered the lands in concrete.

I was a little surprised to see Snow Geese this far south, but I would have been disappointed by how far away they were

if I hadn’t known that I would see a lot more at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge that afternoon.

I was much happier with this close-up shot of a Black-Necked Stilt.

I had a hard time catching a shot of the numerous Ground Squirrels 

perhaps because they knew that if they stayed in the same spot too long that they would become dinner for the raptors we kept seeing circling overhead.


Cormorants and Murres, Oh My

As thrilling as it was to see the Humpback Whales, I was just as fascinated by the Harbor Seals

because I didn’t immediately recognize them as Harbor Seals.  The Harbor Seals I know are almost inevitably gray and black, but many of these seals were pure white,  and there was even a jet black one.  

There are lots of Cormorants in Puget Sound, but this is the first time I’ve seen a colony with chicks

and I want to go back with my 500mm lens w/doubler and tripod and really focus in on the chicks and nests.

A Common Murre is even rarer in Puget Sound, 

and I’ve only seen colonies of birds this large on TV.  I still wonder how a parent can locate its offspring in a colony like this, 

much less how it can even manage to land without crashing into a fellow Murre.

It was an amazing experience that bears repeating next year, perhaps when the chicks are younger so they are easier to spot.

Birds Washington Coast

Pelican Feeding Frenzy

After we finished birding Tokeland, we headed back to Westport thinking that Logan would be returning before too long.  Until he returned, I thought I would try to get better pictures of the Brown Pelicans.  It took several stops, but I finally found a spot where they were fishing. There were so many pelicans that I got multiple chances to get the “perfect” picture.  I never did get it, but I came a lot closer than I have in the past.  It turns out that it is extremely hard to predict the moment a pelican begins its dive.

They spend a lot of time suspended mid-air like this, but more often than not they decide not to dive and continue looking for another fish.

It turned out, for me at least, that the best chance of catching one diving was to look for a spot where another pelican had just hit the water.

If you focused long enough another pelican would often join the feast.

Sometimes two more would join 

and then another.

I was most surprised to see how many gulls tried to join the feast.  I don’t think I saw a single pelican catch a fish without being joined by a gull.


Black-Crowned Night-Herons

We were more than a little disappointed when we stopped at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge and discovered it was closed due to recent flooding  which meant we couldn’t check out the Night-Heron Rookery.

There aren’t nearly as many Night Heron nesting at the Santa Rosa Rookery, but there were  still lots of opportunities for shots of Black-Crowned Night-Heron carrying in nesting material.

I was a little surprised to see this juvenile Night-Heron fly in and out of the rookery, though it never appeared to be carrying nesting material. 

The herons flying in and out of the rookery seem largely indifferent to people below (or they wouldn’t be nesting in the middle of a busy street), but this Night-Heron definitely seemed irked at my presence, staring down at me menacingly.

This heron, on the other hand, appeared to be rather cowed

by this Snowy Egret which seemed quite threatening.  

It was clear that this was a high-rental area and that prime-nesting sites came at a real premium.