More of the Same

Luckily, Leslie and I get out much more often than my blog would indicate.  Sometimes it’s so cloudy or the birds I get pictures of are ones I’ve shown so often that I can’t get inspired to spend the time deciding which to post or the time to refine them.  Even with more rain than usual, we generally manage to get out to Theler Wetlands in Belfair and the Port Townsend Marina once a week.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, sunny days quite often start with heavy fog, and, unfortunately, early morning is the best time to see birds.  Here’s what Theler Wetlands looked like on a recent morning. 

Under these conditions, you’re lucky to see any birds, and when you do it’s hard to recognize what you’re seeing unless you’ve learned to identify birds from their profile, like this female Bufflehead that floated out of the sky to give us a look.

A small consolation is that you can often get closer to birds than you would ever get on a bright, sunny day.  This Mourning Dove was so close and so unconcerned that I had a hard time fitting it in the frame.

When it’s foggy I have to look harder to find something to photograph. On a recent trip it was this Hair Ice, also known as Frost Beard, which we have probably overlooked for several years but became fascinated with once we really looked at it. It looks so bright because the sun had begun to break through, and, more importantly, it was close enough that the fog didn’t interfere with the light.

Leslie spotted it again in several places after we read up on it, but it seems to have totally disappeared on yesterday’s visit.

Fog or no fog, any winter day here in the Pacific Northwest without rain is a good day.  And heck, if you’re willing to wait an hour or so, the fog might finally clear and you’ll be able to see birds you missed on the first half of the walk.

Wait Five Minutes

Twain probably wasn’t referring to the Puget Sound Area when he said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” but it certainly seems to apply here.  We have a lot of microclimates locally, so you never quite know what to expect when you head out for another part of the area.  On a recent morning we headed out to Theler Wetlands under bright blue skies, but when we arrived the refuge was shrouded in fog

and cold enough that frosted cobwebs glowed in the morning light.

This Great Blue Heron had wrapped itself in its winter coat.

However, by the time we reached the walkway on the other end of the refuge, the fog had dissipated and the snow-covered Olympics lightened the morning

and our walk back to the car seemed to take on an entirely different nature.  Even the Green-Winged Teal

and this male Bufflehead seemed to have emerged from the darkness.

The photographer in me definitely prefers lots of sunshine, but I’ll have to admit that I find walking in the fog quite peaceful.

A Break in the Clouds

We managed to sneak in three days of sunshine last week, and I took advantage of every one of them to get outside.  Leslie worked with her daughter one day, so I decided to drop her off and go to Theler. I’m glad I did because It was the brightest day of the week, the perfect light to capture this shot of a Spotted Towhee with a red berry in its beak.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of birds on the refuge, perhaps because the tide was way out and the birds that feed on the mudflats were taking advantage of newly exposed food.

The best sighting of the day were these two Bald Eagles who seemed to be pairing off and preparing to nest.

Luckily, the birding was better at the Port Orchard Marina, which isn’t unusual this time of year.  I was greeted by this Great Blue Heron that appeared to be floating above the roof as I walked down into the marina.

I wasn’t surprised to see it wrapped in its winter coat; cold weather invariably seems to accompany sunshine this time of year.

I was also greeted by a Pelagic Cormorant.

I was pleased to see that several winter residents had returned to the marina, though it didn’t seem like as many as in past years.

One Good Bird

Our best sighting Sunday had to be this one of a Pileated Woodpecker, which Leslie spotted while I was checking out the top of the trees for signs of Cedar Waxwings.  Once she pointed out to me a few feet away, I realized that I had heard the sound of it pounding away at the rotted tree but hadn’t made the connection because I was preoccupied.

This was about as close as I’ve ever gotten to a Pileated Woodpecker, and the light was also as good as I’ve ever had.  I think this is the best series of shots of one that I’ve ever managed to get.

Equally amazing, I’ve never had a chance to observe a Pileated’s behavior before.  I’ve never seen one examine its excavation like this before.  

It must have determined that there were no more insects to forage in that hole because it flew further up the tree to another hole,

which gave me a chance to capture a shot of its amazing tongue, another characteristic I had never been close enough to observe before.

This sighting reminded me of Ruth Sullivan’s motto, “One Good Bird,” which meant one unusual sighting of a bird made the whole day worthwhile.