Spring Bounces Back

Here in the Pacific Northwest U.S., seasons are the topic of many jokes. I’ve witnessed over 25 Northwest Springs. Warm sunny weather is so unreliable here that all I can say is “Spring is here…can Winter be far behind?” All cynicism aside, my neighbors and I have been loving the interludes of heavenly weather.

Window dog enjoys a springtime traffic stop.

Savoring a moment of Spring delights. (Click to enlarge)


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Encounter with an Eagle

It’s always exciting to find a Bald Eagle, but even more engaging to see one intently observing YOU. Last week, I found this lovely raptor roosting high in a Cottonwood tree along the shore of Lake Sammamish.

We have eagles here year-round, but their numbers increase as the weather warms up. I have counted up to 12 in the air at once, while paddling in this particular lake.

The pure white head and tail on this individual are signs of a sexually mature adult. Juveniles start out a mottled brown and take about five years to develop the plumage you see here (click the photo for an enlarged image).

I’ve seen an eagle dive from hundreds of feet in the air to pluck a 4-inch fish from the water. No doubt this one could clearly see the snaps on my jacket, and, if I were a salmon, it would be happy to take me to lunch!

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Springtime Intensity

Black-capped Chickadee

With breeding season approaching, a
Black-capped Chickadee creates a nest hole in a snag.

Spring has finally arrived. In the Pacific Northwest, this means at least one warm sunny day, plus who knows how many chilly overcast days.

Today the weather was warm enough to venture out for photos of a female Red-shafted Flicker we saw from our car yesterday. She had been excavating a nesting cavity in a snag located in a small wooded wetland a mile from our home.

Wilson's Snipe

The extra-long bill on this Wilson's Snipe helps it forage along muddy shorelines.

The Flicker wasn’t there when I arrived, but I was pleased to see a Black-capped Chickadee hard at work creating a nest hole in another snag nearby. It would emerge from the hole with a wood chip in its beak, and would fly off to deposit the chip far from the nest. Perhaps it did not want to create pile of chips below the nest, which might have tipped off predators.

After distracting myself with a Song Sparrow who thought he was Pavarotti, I noticed the Flicker was back. The female lacks some of the brilliant crimson head markings of the male, but is lovely in her own right.

I’m eager to see if these nests are successful. If they are, there’ll soon be some new baby-bird photos among my Nature Card offerings.

Be sure to click these images for larger versions.

 


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A Banded Cooper’s Hawk

Banded juvenile Cooper's Hawk

A banded juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Yesterday I visited Magnuson Park in North Seattle. I’ve developed a pretty good eye for noticing raptors in trees, and as I drove around a corner my attention was immediately drawn to a hawk perched ten feet up a tree.

Around here, hawks are either accipiters, which have a thin body, or buteos, which are shaped like an American football. This one was thin, which told me it was most likely a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. A closer look revealed a slightly rounded tail, pegging it as a Cooper’s. The coloration further identified it as a juvenile.

I took a number of photos and did not think much about it until examining them in the evening, when I noticed a wide blue band on the hawk’s left leg. An inquiry to our regional birders’ email list got a near-immediate response from Jack Bettesworth. He told me he’d banded about 300 Cooper’s Hawks since 2003. He banded this one in October and it has been seen at Magnuson several times. Read More »

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Hundreds of Cormorants

Over 200 Double-crested Cormorants

Over 200 Double-crested Cormorants roost in Kenmore, WA (click images for close-ups).

Last week, a bridge closure necessitated a drive around the north end of Lake Washington. There I discovered over 200 Double-crested Cormorants roosting in trees along the shore. I returned the next afternoon to take photos of them roosting and flying.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant about to land

Double-crested Cormorants are common in most of North America, where they live, breed, and fish in fresh or salt water. The double-crest in their name refers to a pair of tufts that appear, one over each eye, during breeding season.

Cormorants like to gather in tall trees during the winter. The rest of the year they spend most of their time at water level. In some parts of the world, they have been used by people to catch fish (a snug collar prevents them from swallowing their catch). Read More »

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A Trip to See Snowy Owls

Snowy Owl at Boundary Bay, British Columbia, Canada

One of Dozens of Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay, B.C.

Last week I took 2 days and drove to Boundary Bay in British Columbia, Canada, to see an unusual sight: over 20 Snowy Owls that had journeyed from their Arctic home for a winter respite. Harry Potter fans will recognize them as the same species as Hedwig, Harry’s pet owl and mail courier.

Although Snowies regularly change homes for the winter, they rarely travel so far south. This extra-distant “irruption” happens only every handful of years. It may be prompted by variations in owl populations and/or  food supplies.

A number of Snowies have been sighted closer to my home, but the Boundary Bay owls are notable for their large numbers and close proximity (within 50 feet) to an easily-accessed trail. Read More »

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Open-House this Saturday, Feb. 11th!

SongBirdPhoto.com’s February Photo Exhibit in Ballard: “Encounter and Discernment” 

February Photo Exhibit at Great Harvest Bread Company, Ballard

Join me Saturday, Feb. 11, from 6-9 p.m. at the Great Harvest Bread Company, 2218 NW Market St., Ballard, at an open house for my debut photo exhibit! I look forward to meeting you and chatting over complimentary wine and snacks.

At 8:45 there’ll be a door prize drawing and ten folks will win copies of my new multimedia CD which contains nature recordings and a Costa Rica slide show. Here’s a map to the event.

The show runs through February, co-sponsored by the Ballard Art Walk. (Click image for full-size postcard).

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A Rare Bird Sighting: Barrow’s Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye at the Montlake Fill

Yesterday afternoon, with just an hour or two of daylight left, I headed to the Montlake Fill to look for the Barrow’s Goldeneye that Fill-expert Connie Sidles had reported. According to her, this bird has been sighted at the Fill only five times in 117 years (it generally winters along rocky coasts).

I asked the first group of birders I met if they had seen it. Read More »

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A Day Off

One of 8 Killdeer at the Montlake Fill.

One of 8 Killdeer at the Montlake Fill.

I spent yesterday hanging photos for my February exhibit at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Ballard. I’d designed the installation, framed 14 photos, and then hung them all—a week-long affair ending with a very long day.

And so I took some rejuvination time today to kayak around the Union Bay Natural Area Read More »

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Lunch-Box Birds

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

I want to call them “lunch-box” birds: those birds I see from my car while parked on some shrubby parking strip eating my lunch.

Yesterday I saw several at Marymoor Park, where I drove to sit and enjoy a take-out pint of curry soup. Entering the dirt parking lot, I noticed a small flock of birds in a tree. Turned out they were Golden-crowned Sparrows.

By the time I parked, they were on the ground close by, finding their own lunch. I rolled down my window and, with my camera in one hand and plastic spoon in the other, was able to snap some nice close-ups.

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