The eagles that live around Juanita Bay are busy hunters. However, hunting requires a load of effort and it is surely easier to steal someone else’s meal. An otter had caught a fish and climbed on to one of the buoys that mark the protected area of the bay to eat it. As it got close to finishing, one of the eagles swooped in and grabbed the remainder of what it had. The otter didn’t seem too bothered so maybe it had eaten the best of the meal and was okay to let the eagle take it without a fight. The eagle went to the osprey perch and then ate whatever was left.
Robins are such a common bird, I guess they don’t get a lot of attention. This one seemed to have found itself a meal with a substantial looking worm. However, it seemed unsure what to do with it. It kept picking the worm up and then dropping it again. Do robins have to eat worms in small pieces or was it just playing with its food? Anyone know the details of their feeding habits?
If you see a kid wandering along the beach of through some woods, what are the chances that they will be wielding a stick that they have picked up? Apparently, this is not limited to humans. A family of ducks was swimming across the bay and one of them had a small twig in its beak. At first I thought it was mistaken in grabbing it or had it stuck but it dropped it and then picked it up again swinging its head around with the stick swiping anything in sight. I guess all kids are similar!
We get a ton of flickers in our area. This species of woodpecker is very common and the spring is the time when they love to thrum on the gutters of the houses to mark out their territory. However, I have had a really hard time getting pictures of them. They are very easily spooked. We sometimes get them in the back yard poking around in the grass for food but if they even detect your movement, they are gone.
I recently had one back there and managed to get some shots through the windows of it. Double glazing is not ideal to shoot through but you get what you can. I also saw some in Juanita Bay Park where I was able to shoot through some branches to get a few more distant shots. I have yet to get one flying which is a shame since there is a flash of red from the underside of the wings that I think would look great to capture. I’ll keep trying!
I have spent a lot of time at Juanita Bay recently photographing wildlife. One thing that you won’t have to wait long to see there is a Great Blue Heron. They are a regular feature of the bay and they often come very close to the viewing decks. Consequently, I have got a lot of shots of them. Here is a sample of some that I have recently seen. I haven’t got bored of shooting them but I certainly don’t rush to shoot them when they show up like I used to!
The herons at Juanita Bay are not universally popular. The red-winged blackbirds are not keen on them at all and, since it seems that the herons may have raided one or more of the nests, it isn’t hard to see why. The blackbirds will get quite aggressive at trying to drive the herons away from their nests. I have seen them do this on more than one occasion. At one point, I got some video of a heron getting attacked by two of the blackbirds although it wasn’t keen on leaving its fishing spot. Usually, though, the herons decide to move on rather than take the abuse.
When we lived in Chicago, I first became acquainted with red-winged blackbirds. The red flashes on the wings are fine but they have a terribly annoying call and they get quite aggressive when you get close to their nests. There are a lot of them in Juanita Bay and I have to say that they are clearly not the sharpest tools in the shed. They build their nests very close to the heavily trafficked areas where people walk. There is a lot of space in the park but they build nests within feet of the boardwalk.
The result of this is that they are constantly freaking out about how close everyone is to their nest. They fly up on to the boardwalk, swoop around the heads of people and land on the handrails right next to you. It is quite fun to have them so close (except when they start with the calls) but you would think that they would have made life slightly easier for themselves by building a nest just slightly further away from everyone!
Watching the bird flying around Juanita Bay can bring out the aero guy in me. I was watching some ducks flying across the water and coming in to land. While the wings were working hard, it was also possible to see the feathers fluttering on the back of the duck just below the neck. Clearly, the flow is separating in this location when they are maxing out the lift and the feather get disturbed by the separation. Does anyone else but me care? Probably not so maybe no one is even reading at this point!
It is possible to spend a lot of time watching a heron hunting without seeing anything happen. Their ability to stay still for extended periods of time awaiting prey is impressive. You hope you will get some catch at some point and that it won’t happen behind something that stops you getting a shot. One of the herons in Juanita Bay was having some good luck catching sticklebacks. The only problem was that it would often get other debris at the same time.
After the strike, the bill would have a fish wriggling around in it and some leaves or twigs alongside. The trick was how to release the surplus material to allow the fish to be eaten without giving the fish a chance to head for freedom. Clearly this is a regular feature of a heron’s life and the technique has been practiced but I watched with anticipation as it got rid of what it didn’t need and allowed the fish to be swallowed. The stills don’t give you much idea of how much wriggling was still going on as the fish went down the throat!
Photographing herons is kind of a fun thing to do since they are such a large bird and so distinctive. Having got so close to some recently, I have got a lot more photos of them from different angles and this has included some head on shots of them. I had not appreciated the shape of the head of the heron until getting this view. The head is narrow, as I had know, but it is tapered. While I thought the eyes were on the sides of the head, the shaping means that they have more of a forward view than I had realized which is obviously important for hunting for fish and perceiving depth when preparing to strike. Head on it looks like a very different bird!