Port Townsend

Once I had gotten multiple shots of the Harlequin ducks and the Oystercatchers and was about to leave Ft. Flagler, a crow landed on a nearby post and scolded me.  Normally, I don’t see crows because they are constantly around our house, but I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this one, and it might be my favorite shot of the day, a reminder we need to see the world with fresh eyes every day to fully appreciate it.

Since the sun had reappeared by the time we got to Pt. Townsend, I decided to see if there were any Harlequins hanging out on the spit at the north end of town.  At first all I saw was multiple gulls, but as I moved closer I saw this pair.  I was surprised at how well they blended in with the log, even the male.

The male certainly seemed much brighter when it swam out to hunt for food.

It’s almost as if those brilliant colors were designed to show off when the Harlequin is surrounded with water. The reds seem redder, the blacks blacker as they contrast with the water. 

Harlequins and More

Our latest visit to Ft. Flagler and Port Townsend proved to be less than what was hoped for, but still served as a welcome break from the constant rain.  When I saw that Monday was the only day of the week when rain was not predicted, I decided we needed to finally make our annual visit to see the Harlequin Ducks that overwinter there.

As it turned out, the predicted sunshine never manifested itself, but on the positive side, at least, it didn’t rain, either.  When we arrived at the park we discovered that we had forgotten to put the annual pass that we received at the beginning of December in the car.  We could have paid another $10 in addition to the $6o dollars we’ve already paid to use the State Parks, but I was too stubborn to do that.  So, we didn’t walk the spit; instead, we parked near the boat launch where I usually see Harlequins. Sure enough, there was a male and two females just offshore.

I usually see them fishing offshore, but with an unusually high tide they seemed content to rest on the rocks.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the dull breast and underside of a male Harlequin before,

though the speckled white underside of the female is quite common in other species.

I was totally focused on the Harlequins until a Black Oystercatcher suddenly came around the corner, and then another.

I expected to see the Harlequins; I felt extremely lucky to see the Black Oystercatcher, even though I have seen them here before but not this close.  I’ve certainly never noticed the long, brown toenails before.

I was actually so caught up in trying to get a good picture of the Oystercatcher that I only caught a glimpse of the male Harlequin as it swam away.

Smoke, smoke, and more smoke

I’ve been wanting to go to the beach to see if I could still catch some of the Fall shorebird migration, so when I read a forecast saying that Ocean Shores wasn’t getting the smoke Tacoma was getting from Eastern Washington, I decided that we should try to get out of the house.  We soon found out that it wasn’t going to be that easy to escape the fog.

When we got to Ocean Shores there was a little less smoke than there was in Tacoma when we left, but it was hard to tell what was fog and what was smoke.  This shot of a sailboat out in the harbor is pretty close to the actual conditions.

The closer the subject, the better the shot, as this Brown Pelican flew by less than 100 yards away from us.

This Sanderling, on the other hand, was so close that the smoke/fog didn’t make much difference and the shot could easily be adjusted to compensate for the lack of light in Lightroom.

The smoke was so dense in Westport that Leslie wouldn’t let me get out of the car since the air was labeled extremely hazardous.  As it turned out, by early afternoon the wind had shifted from the East to the Southwest and Westport was getting the smoke from fires in California and Oregon instead of from Eastern Washington fires.

Still, after a two-hour drive, I wasn’t ready to give up and head back home.  The best shots of the day were the shots of the Brown Pelicans in Tokeland, but there was so little light that all of the shots were underdeveloped and slightly fuzzy, 

even after adjusting them in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Modern cameras can do some marvelous things, particularly when paired with good software, but nothing can replace the magic of sunlight.  These might have been fabulous shots with good light, but they will be deleted after this post.

At Ocean Shores

It was a beautiful day at Ocean Shores, but as often the case when there are blue skies there were very strong winds, as shown by the surf breaking over the jetty.

Although I gone to the ocean to see the loons we hadn’t seen on our Port Townsend trip, we got a pleasant surprise when we encountered Surfbirds (turns out they were probably Black Turnstones, a similar bird), a bird that I spent five years searching for before ever finding one. Not coincidentally, it was exactly at this spot that I first spotted one.

On this trip it was quite clear where they got their name from.

Black Turnstone walking on rocks

I suspect that the high surf might have driven them in closer to shore than usual. We sighted a small flock of them on the rocks near the shore.

They would start of the rock and eat their way down to the beach, feeding on crustaceans

When the waves came crashing in they would instantly fly back to the top of the rocks to start feeding all over again, once again working their way back to the bottom of the rocks.