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.

A Break in the Clouds

The lack of posting here is a direct reflection of the weather (rain and more rain) and a relative lack of birds.  We finally made it out to Theler Wetlands Sunday, but there wasn’t much to be seen.  

Leslie spotted this small flock of Pine Siskins and I took a shot so I could positively identify them once I pulled them up on the computer.      


This immature Gold-Crowned Sparrow was a lot closer, but I’ll have to admit that I generally don’t bother to take pictures of LBJ’s (Little Brown Jobs) unless I’m desperate or haven’t seen one for quite a while.

I am more apt to take shots of Bald Eagles like these two, but I missed a better shot when one flew directly overhead before landing in these trees.

This shot had the potential of being the best shot of the day because the lighting was nearly perfect, but this Sharp-Shinned/Cooper hawk was unwilling to cooperate and turn so I could get a shot from the front. 

No matter, it felt so good getting out in the sunshine that it would have been a great day if we hadn’t seen a single bird.  I did get one shot I liked,  but you’ll have to wait until my next post to see the best shots of the day.

It Takes Dedication — and Luck

I think amateur photographers are often the biggest fans of great photographs because they, more than anyone else, know what dedication it takes to produce those great photographs.  Dedication + Luck.  And you have to be dedicated to your art to get lucky.  Some people are put off by the high prices the best photographers demand, but if you consider the number of hours they spent learning their craft and the number of hours spent without getting a great shot, you wouldn’t begrudge them their fees —though, if you’re like me, you’re probably not going to have the money to buy those kinds of works because you spent all your ready cash on photo equipment.

Bird photography, like fishing, is definitely variable.  I’ve gotten a lot of great shots at both Theler Wetlands and Port Orchard marina, but that certainly wasn’t the case on my last visit. 

Birding was extremely slow except for the Canada Geese which were loud and ever-present.  I don’t take many pictures of them anymore except when they first have goslings, but some days I’m desperate enough to take a shot of them flying.

The most interesting bird of the day was this Greater White-Fronted Goose, which is uncommon at Theler.  

The best “got-away” shot of the day was this shot of a Red Shafted Flicker,

but it was quite dark when I took the shot and badly underexposed because it required a high shutter speed to capture it in flight.

The sun started to emerge when I got to Port Orchard, but that’s not particularly helpful when the sun is directly behind your subject.  

Just as I avoid taking shots of Canada Geese, I also avoid taking shots of Great Blue Herons. However, I could’t resist taking a shot of this one sitting on the Marina roof.  Not only is it a beautiful heron, the unusual angle makes the shot for me.

I think I’ve mastered the Dedication part, at least judging from the number of photos I have on my hard drive, but it may take me awhile to master the Luck part.