Tag Archives: bird

Swallows Over the River

After a visit to a shop in Renton, I stopped by the airport to see what was going on.  I was taking a walk along the trail alongside the Cedar River that runs parallel to the runway.  As I headed back to the car, I heard a noisy bird making its presence felt.  Looking up at a power line across the water, there was an osprey a short distance away.  I didn’t have anything other than my phone with me so went back to the car to grab a long lens and to see if it would wait around for me.

Sadly, it didn’t appreciate the situation and had gone by the time I returned.  However, the river was not empty.  Tons of swallows were swooping along its length feasting on the bugs above the water.  Looking along the river towards the bridge from the Boeing ramp, you could see loads of them at work.  Getting photos of swallows is not easy.  They move very fast and do not hold course for long so getting a track on them with a long lens and keeping it is tough.  The 500mm is a challenge for this but it is what I had.

There were tons of failures but you don’t get to see these.  I was surprised how often I managed to track one and that the camera did a really great job of getting a focus.  There was a little predictability of the flight paths which did help but, even so, I was rather pleased with the results.  Also, given that these are still heavily cropped, to get this sharp was quite a result.

Killdeer With Attitude

Nancy and I were at Meydenbauer Park in Bellevue when we saw this Killdeer.  A crow was hopping about nearby and it seemed to be causing the killdeer some concern.  We wondered whether the crow was going to harm it in some way when we suddenly realized that the killdeer was far from defenseless.  It suddenly went on the attack and charged the crow which freaked out and took off.  There was I worried about this bird and it was totally in control.

Heron Hang Out

The end of the boardwalk at Nisqually brought me to a view over a piece of land that seemed to be the favored spot for the herons.  I had never seen so many in such close proximity.  They were hanging out on the grass rather than by the water so maybe this is a safe spot to rest after a busy session of fishing before heading back to the water to start feeding again.  Periodically, one of them would head back to the mud flats to look for some food but the rest were just hanging around doing nothing much in particular but slowly wandering around their buddies.

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.

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.

Cormorant Having Dinner

The shallow waters near the new ferry terminal at Mukilteo seemed to be a popular spot for the local cormorants to hunt.  For a while, there was one cormorant almost directly below me that seemed to be having a pretty successful time fishing.  A couple of times I saw it pop up and swallow something large so I spent a bit of time tracking it waiting for it to return again.  Sure enough, it popped to the surface holding a rather large looking fish.

I am not a fish expert so I don’t know what it was.  I just know it was still struggling to get away and, given the size, I was curious as to whether the bird would be able to eat it.  I clearly underestimated its capabilities as a couple of quick adjustments and the whole thing went down in one go.  I waited for it to dive again but, having had a few decent sized snacks, it was clearly letting its lunch go down.  It was a while before it dived again.  Just before it did, a bloom in the water led me to believe that it was making space for its next course.