Category Archives: wildlife

How To Spook Geese

I was riding along the Sammammish River Trail back in to Woodinville one weekend when the noise of geese suddenly filled the air.  On the other side of the river from the trail are fields which often are filled with geese feeding.  A large flock was gathered there on this day but their grazing had been interrupted by the arrival of a bald eagle.  It flew across the area and barely changed course as it did so but it certainly startled the geese and they all took to the air.

They flew around in circles for a while waiting for the eagle to get safely out of the area.  Then they gradually calmed down and more and more of them settled back in to the fields to resume eating.  However, this was a slow process as they had clearly been spooked and weren’t going to relax easily.  This was all starting as I cycled up but I did manage to pull my phone out and get a bit of video of this happening so here is the brief burst of excitement before things settled down again.

Watching You Watching Me

When out looking for wildlife, it pays to keep your head swiveling.  There are the things you are expecting to see but also the odd one you weren’t.  It was close to high tide as I walked far out on the boardwalk at Nisqually but the tide had turned and the water was starting to flow out.  As I glanced across, I saw three shapes in the water.  Some seals were drifting out with the tide.  Two of them were swimming along but one had stopped close to me and was staring directly at me.  Consequently, he got photographed.  We stared at each other for about a minute and then he disappeared under the surface and I didn’t see him again.  The other two were long gone so I assume he was chasing to catch up with them.

Murrelets Feeding On the Dock

When walking along the shore at Mukilteo, I will often see one or two Murrelets diving for food in the shallows along the edge of Puget Sound.  They are not rare but nor are they particularly abundant.  Consequently, I was rather surprised when at the new ferry terminal to see a large number of them swimming in the water around the new pier structures.  There was a constant stream of them diving down and surfacing again.

I can only assume that something is growing on the surface of the steel posts that support the new loading spans.  The birds would swim up to the posts, dive straight down for a while – presumably as they grabbed the food – and then surface at an oblique angle.  The result was a cycle of birds going down and back up again.  It looked really strange and seemed like something that would stop but there must be plenty to eat as they just kept going.  I figured video was the best way to show what was happening so below is a short clip of them feeding away!

Who Can Identify a Heron?

Anyone a bird specialist reading this?  I saw this heron sitting in the trees along the shore at Camano Island.  It didn’t seem in a hurry to go anywhere and wasn’t spooked as I got closer to its perch to get some shots.  It was high enough that it didn’t see me as relevant.  I have seen Great Blue Herons but this didn’t look like that (it could be and I just didn’t recognize it).  If you know what it is, please let me know.

Trumpeter Swans on Fir Island

The snow geese are a famous visitor to the Skagit area of Washington but they aren’t the only big birds to show up.  Trumpeter swans are also a regular visitor and they are even larger.  They don’t have the same social gathering approach as the geese so you won’t see them in their thousands.  However, they do sometimes travel in smaller groups.

I was driving out towards Fir Island when I passed a bunch of them in a field.  They were right next to a church which made for a convenient place to park without being in anyone’s way.  They were not far from the parking lot and seemed to be busy feeding.  Some immature examples were still showing their grey plumage but were well grown at this point.  A little dispute resulted in some noise and flapping of wings but it all settled down quickly when the important matter of eating took over.

Eagles on Camano Island

There were a few bald eagles hanging out on Camano Island during our trip there.  There was one in a tree near the shore when we first got there.  It didn’t seem in the least bit interested in us as we walked below it.  If an eagle has recently eaten, it is quite likely to hang around for a long time doing nothing so we didn’t wait around to see what it did.

When we came back there were now two eagles in the area.  I’ve no idea whether one was our original or if these two had come along since.  A third flew past at one point getting the two quite agitated.  If you have never heard the noise a bald eagle makes, you might be quite surprised.  They have a high pitched squeak which doesn’t seem in keeping with their size.  It is easy to identify though.

I wandered around trying to get the two of them in shot together.  They were quite offset distance wise which meant getting them both in focus wasn’t practical.  I did try and little Photoshop focus stacking when I got home though.  It’s funny that bald eagles are so common in this part of the world but it is still exciting to see one and everyone seems to respond the same way.

Snow Geese in the Northwest

The visit of snow geese to the region is a regular feature of winter near Puget Sound.  We went to Fir Island a couple of years ago to see the birds and I spent a free weekend day mooching around the area to see what I could see.  I knew that there were plenty of geese around because, when I stopped off to photograph something else, there were endless flocks of them flying overhead.  Sometimes they would be in tight formations and then others, they would seem to be a bit disorganized.

When on Fir Island, I came around a corner and realized that they had found a field of interest not far from the road.  Pulling off to one side, they were a little further away than ideal but a long lens would help.  As I focused on them, I saw a bunch of birds coming in to land in the background.  I snapped away quickly as I didn’t want to miss this shot.  I needn’t have worried.  There didn’t seem to be any limit to the number of these geese as more just kept on coming.

It really is quite impressive to see so many of these geese in one place.  They travel in huge groups – presumably for safety – and the local farmers are encouraged to plant crops that support their visits in winter.  They must clean out a field at a time and then move on.  Presumably they do some good work fertilizing the fields in the process.

Seals Explore the New Space

It’s not unusual to see seals along the shoreline at Mukilteo.  The creation of the new ferry terminal seems to have provided them something new to explore.  It also provides an elevated location from which to see them which is great since photographing seals when you are close to water level makes for difficult conditions and less than inspiring photos.

I don’t know how much the base of the ferry terminal provides for good food supply for the seals but they seemed to be hanging around for a while.  Maybe it was curiosity or maybe the food was good.  I was just glad to see them!

Fungus and Rings of the Log

This tree trunk had been cut a while back.  I was interested to see that some fungus was growing on the cut surface of the wood.  However, there was clearly something about the outer rings of the wood that provided nutrients to the fungus that the older wood inside did not.  The growth was focused on the outer rings only and there was absolutely no fungus on the inner layers.  I wonder what the reason for this was.  Any suggestions?

Family of Swans

A small bay on Cascades Lake was a spot that a family of swans was hanging out as we hiked by.  The cygnets were almost fully grown but still had the darker down to show that they were still not fully mature.  The parents were still clearly paying attention to the safety of their kids, despite their size.