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.
The viewing deck at Haneda is not a place I had gone to photograph wildlife. However, despite the usual concerns about birds and planes not mixing well, there were a lot of small birds that seemed to be hanging out on the roof of the terminal buildings. I imagine the number of visitors to the viewing decks means there will be crumbs of some sort for them to feed on. They were pretty close to the people but just the other side of the fencing. I guess they knew they were safe.
While walking along the Sammammish River Trail, a couple of Mallard Ducks flew by me at low level. I pulled the camera up at short notice to get a shot. No time to change the settings so this is what I got on the spur of the moment. As it happens, the shutter speed did a nice job of blurring out the background and making them look super speedy. I kind of like it!
After work one evening, I headed to Log Boom Park in Kenmore. I was thinking I might shoot a few floatplanes as they returned at the end of the day but I hadn’t timed it right for that and didn’t see any. However, the local wildlife was busy including a few bald eagles that were out hunting on the lake. Some immature eagles were out and about but a couple of adults were also trying their luck. I saw one of them start to dive down on a target and followed with the camera.
The eagle struck its target and grabbed it out of the water successfully. However, it hadn’t fully appreciated just how large a fish this was. It was a beast and the eagle started to try and climb away without success. This fish was too heavy for it. That wasn’t going to deter it though. It had caught dinner and wasn’t intent on letting it go. Flapping furiously, it tried to gain speed and altitude. Speed was fine but altitude was a different story. Instead, it adopted a new tactic. Dangling the fish beneath it, the tail of the fish was slapping on the surface of the water. This seemed to provide a little support and the combination proceeded to skim across the surface of the lake. Only when at the shore was a final surge of effort put in to pull up on to an awning where the eagle landed and laid out its catch.
My sunbathing cormorant got his own post here as a result of being easy to photograph in the evening light. There were plenty of other cormorants around that evening but the rest were around the piles out in the water in into the sun. That did make for some nice silhouette shots instead so here they are. You won’t be able to identify individual cormorants, though.
Hayman and I were shooting at Anza Fisherman’s Park. As the name suggests, this is a popular spot for fishing and this seems to attract the attention of a lot of gulls. There was a steady breeze which allowed the gulls to hover close above us and sometimes alongside us. We didn’t have anything of interest for them but it took them a while to work that out.
I got some shots of them as they hung around us. The background of a few was disturbed a little by the fishing poles that were propped up but the long lens wide open managed to isolate them from most of the background. They were a bit like photographing aircraft in formation but they didn’t necessarily respond to the directions I had for the shots I was after. Not the best formation pilots for photo work I guess.
When I was still at college (and because I am an old git, I was shooting on film), I spent some summers in Huntingdon, a town in Cambridgeshire that my mum lived in at the time. The river Ouse ran through the town (actually separate Huntingdon from Godmanchester) and there was a park along the river that I walked in frequently. One afternoon I was walking there when a swan took off on the water alongside me and I grabbed a single shot of it that was one I was really happy with. (After I write this, I will go back through my stuff to see if I have a good scan of it to add to the bottom of this post.)
Ever since I have been shooting digitally, I have wanted to get shots of swans flying. However, I haven’t lived in places where swans were very common. That has changed since moving here. There are some wetlands north of here that are heavily populated by swans and I shall be checking them out before too long. However, we do get some swans in Juanita Bay. Nancy and I were out for a walk a while back when three pairs of swans took off from the water near us and flew right by. You can probably guess that I wasn’t carrying a camera that day.
A week or so later, I was back at Juanita Bay with the camera this time and there were swans hanging out in the same area. I thought that, this time, my planning would pay dividends. Sadly, that was not to be. They seemed very content where they were and all I got was pictures of them sleeping, swimming or occasionally stretching their wings. I shall be back for another attempt though.
I was walking along the edge of the lake in Juanita carrying the camera. Juanita Bay is popular with bird life and I saw a lot of the wildfowl suddenly burst into life and start flying towards me. I pulled the camera up and started shooting. I wasn’t sure what was going on but figured I could try and work that out later. Meanwhile there were a lot of birds coming at me.
It was soon clear what was occurring. There is a pair of bald eagles that frequent the bay and one of them was soaring across the bay. It pulled up and landed on a pole out in the water and very close to the birds. This obviously spooked them and they all bolted for the shore and, perhaps, safety. The eagle didn’t seem to bothered about them to be honest but they are not averse to a change in diet once in a while so I understand why there was such a reaction.
San Francisco Bay is hugely popular with birds. One place that they like a lot is the area near to the airport. Birds and planes do not normally mix well but, despite the large numbers of each, they seem to coexist here okay. As the tide goes out, the mudflats that are exposed are a great feeding ground for the birds. They cover all sizes too.
At the top end of the size range are the pelicans. They like to feed in the shallows when the fish are relatively easy pickings. They do stay away from the runways so don’t seem to be a problem (although a pelican would certainly not be a good thing for an airliner). The smaller birds are less of a threat individually but they tend to flock in huge numbers.
I saw a bunch of them flying not too far from the 01 runways. Again, they stay over the mudflats so don’t present a problem. In the opposite direction, there were some rather large flocks circling over the water. While not as large as murmurations of starlings, they were some pretty big groups. They also would move in a similar way with the whole thing looking very fluid from a distance.
Our days in Chicago put me within reach of some great opportunities to photograph bald eagles. The rivers in Illinois often freeze during the winter and any locations where the water stays open are popular with birds that need access to fish. The lock and dam complexes along the big rivers provide the perfect places since they water flowing over the dam makes for an ice free spot and it doesn’t hurt that the fish can often get stunned as they come over the dam which makes them an easy target for the eagles.
I made a number of trips out to photograph the birds. Starved Rock State Park was the first place we tried and, while we saw a lot off eagles and they were not too far away, the lighting was pretty unfriendly. Some further research showed that the Mississippi from Dubuque down to the Quad Cities was a better bet and I ended up making several trips out there. The first time we stayed out there and incorporated the search for the birds into our visit. Latterly, I knew where to go and made a day trip from Chicago. I also learned to not worry about getting there early but to focus on being there at the end of the day when the light was at its best. Even so, you never knew whether you would have good weather, cooperation wind and whether there would be many birds.
I have been there when there were more birds than I could count. I have also been there when it is pretty sparse. However, it has never been a total bust. You get both immature and adult birds. Depending on how much ice there is, they can be scattered along the river or confined to near your location. After trying a few spots, I ended up at Lock and Dam 14 with a bunch of guys I knew. Photographing birds in the winter seems to be a popular pastime for guys who spend their summers photographing planes!
The shots here were taken across a number of visits. Now we have moved west, I doubt I shall be back at this location for a while. However, I have some great memories of being there and also testing the qualities of cold weather clothing, gloves, hand and feet warmers and camera batteries! Good times.