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.

“Birding” Port Townsend

Though the clouds and rain had caught up with us by the time we left Ft. Flagler, the sunshine was back after we spent a couple of hours window-shopping and eating lunch in Port Townsend.  So, we drove out to Ft. Worden to see what we could find.

Two River Otters were hanging out on the dock, apparently enjoying the sun for the first time in weeks.

A Double-Crested Cormorant was occupying the Belted-Kingfisher’s favorite perch, 

but just as we were leaving a male Belted Kingfisher landed on the railing in front of us and I managed to get one of the better shots I’ve gotten in awhile.

Since it was early afternoon and we didn’t have anything else planned for the day, I decided to take advantage of the sun and see if there were any Harlequin Ducks back in Pt. Townsend.  There was a single Harlequin weaving his way through a large flock of Brants.

It was nice to end our visit on a high note after a rather disappointing morning.

A Day in Port Townsend

We got a slight break in the clouds Sunday and Monday.  Unfortunately, we had to spend the best day, Sunday, working in the garden pruning and beating back the weeds.  Still, with partial clearing forecast, we headed up to Fort Flagler and Port Townsend on Monday.

The weather didn’t look promising when we left, but there were some clear spots to the Northeast and it seemed silly not to go since we had already arranged our day to do so.  

Although it was overcast our entire drive, we magically got to Fort Flagler just in time to catch a patch of blue.  As we drove up, we saw hundreds of plovers and sandpipers on the lawn by the café.

When we started our beach walk to the end of the spit, we realized that the shorebirds were on the grass because the tide was very high and there wasn’t any short to speak of.  However, a large flock of Brant was up near the shore feeding on seaweed

Before long we were assaulted by high winds and snow/sleet.  Despite the numb forehead, I was determined to spot the Harlequin ducks I had come to see.  We finally spotted a small flock a long, long way offshore and by then the sun had virtually disappeared.  My 400mm lens combined with Photoshop managed to confirm that they were, indeed, Harlequins.

We also spotted another favorite, a male Red-Breasted Merganser, in the same area making a good photo impossible, but I still was excited to see the first one I’ve seen in over a year.

The highlight of the walk turned out to be the little Sanderlings that ran up and down the shore right next to us, so close at times that my telephoto lens couldn’t focus on them.  

As an added benefit, closeups seem to require less light

and this was my favorite shot of the morning.