Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Great Blue Heron at Silver Lake, Washington

I haven't posted on Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) much of late, primarily because I haven't come across any. They are found around wetlands all over the west, and have shown up a fair amount on this blog, but the ones I've seen in my normal haunts have been kind of skittish and fly off before I can get any shots.

I've been all over the Pacific Northwest for the last week and a half, ostensibly to chase an eclipse (maybe you've heard about it somewhere), although the fact that we've visited various sets of parents, siblings, and a grandparent suggests other motives as well. In any case, we were on our way to the Seattle area, and decided to camp for a night at Seaquest State Park on the shore of Silver Lake. The lake came into existence around 4,000-5,000 years ago when a huge debris avalanche from Mt. St. Helens blocked a tributary to the Toutle River. The lake is about four miles long, but the western end is filled with water lilies and other pond vegetation, and thus is an excellent habitat for the herons. This particular individual was quite patiently feeding and hardly moved while I watched, so all the pictures had the same pose.

Silver Lake is a great setting for a quick look at Mt. St. Helens if you are traveling on Interstate 5. It's only five miles off the interstate, and there is an excellent interpretive center about St. Helens, and a the one mile long nature trail that we were following when I caught this picture.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Bald Eagle at the Rocky Creek Bridge in Oregon

It's probably no secret that I'm in Oregon this week attempting to see the total Solar eclipse. Time will tell if we manage to find a spot in the path of totality, but in the meantime we have having a great time visiting family and seeing the sights. Among them was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which we saw during a short stop at Rocky Creek Bridge near Depoe Bay.
The Eagle was first sighted flying across the small cove carrying a good-sized fish (and being harassed by a gull who was hoping for the eagle to loose its grip). Someone better versed in fish will have to determine the species.
The Eagle flew to a tree across the cove and alit in a fir. The Bald Eagle is relatively common in the Pacific Northwest, so folks up this way probably don't get all that excited to see them, but I've only seen them a few times down in California, so this was kind of exciting.

Rocky Creek Bridge was built in 1927, linking Otter Creek to Depoe Bay. It was bypassed by Highway 101 in 1955 and was closed for a time, but was later reopened to allow a scenic loop to follow along the sea cliffs below 101. The wave action in the small cove is hypnotic.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hooded Oriole on the Tuolumne River

I got what for me is a rare sight on my morning walk today: a male Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus). I've seen them nesting in the palm trees at Fox Grove where Geer Road crosses the Tuolumne several miles downstream, and I've seen one at the other end of the trail on a single occasion, but that's it.
There are a bunch of different bird species gorging themselves on wild elderberries along the trail lately: Bullock's Orioles, Robins, California Scrub Jays, Western Kingbirds, Starlings, and a few others. I've been finishing the exercise part of my walk, and then just standing under the oaks to see who's lurking nearby. Today's visitor was a pleasant surprise.

The Hooded Orioles are a migrant tropical species, and I live pretty close to the northern edge of their range. In a few weeks they will leave the area for their winter homes in Mexico.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Black-headed Grosbeak on the Tuolumne Parkway Trail

It's a real hit and miss proposition. As the summer wanes, I've been walking the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail almost every morning. On many of those days, the exercise is great, but the birds will be in hiding. On other days it will seem like every bush has an interesting bird perched in it. Three days ago I took nearly a hundred pictures. Yesterday I took none. Today was kind of a middle ground, with fifty pictures, of which about five are useful. But I was pretty thrilled with these. Apparently, the Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is not a particularly rare bird, but I've only seen it twice on previous walks, and these pictures show that I didn't get very good shots. Today I did a little bit better.
I was actually tracking some Belted Kingfishers across the Tuolumne when I noticed the female Grosbeak in the bushes of to my right only about thirty yards away. I got these pictures before it got bored with me and flew off. The grosbeaks will only be with us for a few more weeks; they are summer visitors who winter down in Mexico.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bashful Western Tanager on the Tuolumne River

I know they are out there. I've seen them, fleeting glances as they flit among the treetops, studiously avoiding any opportunity to be captured on digital media. I'm talking about what is probably the most colorful bird found in our area (Wood Ducks notwithstanding): the Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana).  I had traveled all the way to Arizona and the Grand Canyon to catch sight of one a week or so ago, but then I was out walking along the Tuolumne River this morning, and saw that flash of color out the corner of my eye. It was feeding on elderberries on the slope covered by beavertail cacti.
I've seen them along the Tuolumne, but never got a good shot under decent light conditions. It could have been today, but the bird was feeling perfectly comfortable hiding behind the clump of elderberry leaves.

The tanagers will only be in the area for another month or so. Come winter, they will fly south into Mexico and Central America to spend the winter. Until then, I'll keep trying to capture an entire bird!