Bluebird of Happiness?

Our last trip to Theler proved once again that two pairs of eyes are better than one.  As I was busy talking to John, Leslie spotted a small flock of Western Bluebirds in the distance (it probably didn’t hurt that she had the binoculars).  They were so far away that the pictures I took with my 600m lens had to be heavily cropped to get the pictures posted below. Blown up like this, they were so grainy that I finally relented and upgraded to the latest version of Topaz Denoise.  This app does an amazing job of removing grain, which, in turn, makes it possible to sharpen the main subjects without increasing background grain.

None of these shots are quite as good as the ones I’ve taken in previous years, but we so seldom see Western Bluebirds that I was delighted to see them.  I’ll have to admit that I was having a hard time focusing on the birds themselves and focuses, instead, on the birdhouse.  Here’s a shot of two female Western Bluebirds without cropping.

Here’s the same shot cropped, denoised, and slightly sharpened.

I was trying to focus on the bright blue male in this shot.

Not surprisingly, in the sharpest picture of the sequence the male was looking away from the camera. 

Hopefully we will see the bluebirds on the boardwalk railing where we can get better shots on our next visit.  

Spring Approacheth Slowly

There are signs that Spring might actually be on the way and we can soon expect migration sightings, but for now our world (with the exception of Evergreen trees) remains largely browns and grays.  

So, it seemed appropriate that my first sighting on our latest trip to Theler Wetlands was of a Song Sparrow foraging on a pile of snow leftover from a recent snowstorm.

The sound of male Red-Wing Blackbirds trying to attract  mates echoed across the refuge, but all I actually saw was a single, female Red-Wing Blackbird.

Didn’t see any Bald Eagles, like we often do, but we did catch sight of a Red-Tailed Hawk.

The clearest sign that Spring is coming, though, was the sound of Canada Geese pairs claiming their nesting ground when another pair dared to fly over. 

Green-Winged Teal

It’s winter in the Pacific Northwest, and that means you’re lucky to get in a walk between rain showers. So, despite the lack of sunshine, I felt lucky to get in another walk at Theler Wetlands, even if what could have been a good shot of a Belted Kingfisher turned out to be a silhouette shot.

The highlight of the morning is that we finally managed to see the Green-Winged Teal, that have been around for quite awhile, closer than usual.  Most of the flock kept their distance, 

but I did manage to get a closer shot of a pair separated from the flock

and of a lone male that bravely (or foolishly, considering it is still hunting season) came a lot closer than the others did.

I’ll have to admit that I was a little surprised when it  waddled up onto the shore, 

but I was grateful for the pose.

More of Theler

We’ve been so busy making cookies and decorating the house that I haven’t had a chance to complain that it has been over a week since I was able to get outside and take photos.  We’ve finished enough cookies that I feel comfortable taking a few minutes to edit the photos I took a week ago at Theler on a remarkably clear morning, as revealed by yet another shot of the moon.

There were actually quite a few ducks, like these beautiful Northern Pintails, but they were far, far away — probably best because our morning walk was punctuated by the sound of shotgun blasts as hunting season continues.  

We got a lot closer to these Ring-Billed Gulls, who looked quite striking in the early-morning sunshine.

My favorite shot of the day, though, was this shot of a common House Finch surrounded by red berries and highlighted by the early morning light.