Love the One You’re With

Birding, like fishing, is unpredictable, which can be either frustrating or exciting, depending on how you view it. As I noted here in 2002, I loved fishing with my dad as a kid, so, it’s probably not surprising that birding is exciting, not frustrating,  for me. If you don’t see the Harlequin you were hoping/expecting to see, keep looking and you might see something equally exciting.

On this weekend, that was the Red-breasted Merganser.  I only saw two at Fort Flagler and they were both a long ways offshore, so far I could barely see them without my  840 mm telephoto lens, and, even then, this shot is heavily cropped.  Still, it’s impossible to miss that dramatic hairdo.  

This shot of a male Red-breasted Merganser with a large Sole taken a few miles down the road at Mystery Bay State Park would have been the shot of the day if it hadn’t been for the green reflections in the water.

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by two male Red-Breasted Mergansers when we visited the Marine Center at Fort Worden.

It was a little disappointing that the two males never came closer even though I waited several minutes for them to come closer, but I was pleasantly surprised when three female Red-Breasted Mergansers swam right up to Marine Center dock where we were standing.

This female sat on the beach nearby preening herself 

before rejoining the others and swimming right under us as they left, so close that I could never get all three females in the frame.

It would seem ungrateful to complain about not seeing as many Harlequins as I had hoped to see when I saw so many Red-breasted Mergansers, a bird I seldom see around Tacoma.

More of Fort Flagler

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of both Covid 19 and gray skies.  I endured the first year of Covid 19 seclusion fairly well, but this year has become depressing. It might be more bearable if the weather here in the Pacific Northwest was better and I could get out in Nature more often, but the only sunshine I’ve seen recently was during our recent snowshoeing trip to Mt. Rainier where we could look down into the clouds covering the Puget Sound Area. I desperately need a trip to Colorado or Santa Rosa sunshine.

That said, on the days when it’s not raining, I’m still determined to experience the beauty that is to be found nearby.  With that goal, we set out with Paul to Ft. Flagler and Port Townsend on a recent Sunday and ended up seeing many of the same birds that we had seen a few weeks earlier.  On our walk out to the point we were greeted by a small flock of Sanderlings running in and out of the water hunting for food

and a little further along a large part of the flock still sleeping in.

Nearing the point, we saw Brants that appeared to be gradually splitting off into pairs.

An unexpected treat was the sighting of a Black Oystercatcher that scurried away as soon as it sighted us.

For the second visit in a row, though, I didn’t see a single Harlequin Duck or a single Black-bellied Plover, two of my favorites.  Once again, I had to wait until we were leaving to see what was probably the same pair we saw on our last visit.

While I was trying to get a shot of the Harlequins, a Bald Eagle buzzed us, making me suspect that it may well be the reason we haven’t seen the Harlequins on recent visits. 

People are generally thrilled to see Bald Eagles in areas where they haven’t been seen before, but other species see them from a very different perspective as they are forced to disperse to avoid becoming a “sitting duck” for nearby eagles.

Back to Work (or, at least, To What Passes for Work When You’re 80)

COVID 19 and snow played havoc with our Christmas/New Year plans, but it’s time to return to unfinished work while looking forward to new experiences.  I got so caught up in baking cookies (that never got eaten) that I didn’t even manage to finish posting about our visit to Ft. Flagler (so pretend this was published the next day after the previous post).  

While photographing a large number of Sanderlings and Dunlins on the left side of the point, I noticed a large flock of birds land on the opposite side of the point. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to them because I didn’t need any more pictures of Dunlins, but when I looked closer I realized that they weren’t Dunlins at all; they were Black Turnstone.

They seemed as indifferent to me as the Dunlin did, allowing me to take several closeups.

As expected, there was also a large flock of Brant both on the beach and out in the shallow water feeding.  

Way out, on the very point were two Double-Crested Cormorants, closer than I’ve ever seen them before.  

Strangely enough, I only saw one Black-Bellied Plover where I usually find small flocks and I didn’t see a single Harlequin on the long walk out and back.  That concerned me because that’s the first time haven’t sighted several on that walk. Heck, I go to Ft Flagler because I can always count on seeing them there; they’re one of the few birds I actually “chase,”  as birders say.

Luckily, I did see a single pair down by the boat launch where I often see them close to shore.

This Entry Needs a Title …

All the birds we saw as we began walking out the spit at Ft. Flagler were a long way offshore, but as we got about halfway out the spit I noticed that the rocks on the shore seemed to be moving.  Turned out they were what is quickly becoming one of my favorite birds at Flagler, a Sanderlings in winter plumage.

A little further up the spit, they were joined by a large flock of Dunlin foraging as a single flock, unlike the Sanderlings that darted here, there, and a little of everywhere.

The Dunlins not only foraged as a single flock, they periodically all took off and flew back and forth up the shoreline,

Only to land a few feet away from where they started.

… and a real ending. But that’s okay because there are a few more to come in the (near) future.