Tag Archives: bird

Cormorants Aplenty on a Ferry Trip

Time for another cormorant related post today.  When taking the ferries on the various routes around Puget Sound, the infrastructure at the terminals is often popular with the cormorants.  This can mean that you can get quite close to them while on the ferry without them getting spooked.  They are also coming and going with some frequency so takeoffs and landings are common, and they will often fly quite close to the ferry.

On this trip, the angle of the light to the terminal was in my favor and I was able to get a few close-up views of the birds.  There was still some ironwork in the way of a totally clean shot, but not enough to ruin the images.  They also obliged by flying around at convenient times when I was ready to get an image and I got some of the better shots that I have taken of cormorants in recent years.

Crow and Gull Combat

When in the wild, you have two options for food.  First, you can find and catch your own.  Second, you can find someone else that has already found and caught some food, and you can steal it from them.  The latter is way easier than the former, provided you have the ability to relieve the owner of their meal.  I was walking alongside the water at the locks in Ballard one weekend and a crow was attempting to help a gull lose weight by taking its meal.  What followed was quite some aerial ballet and they twisted and turned with the gull trying to make sure it kept a good hold on its food while maneuvering hard to prevent the crow from taking anything.  The gull was ultimately successful in this case.

How Low Will the Light Be for My Robin?

The Airbnb that we rented in Stockbridge had a grass area out front that had a steady stream of birds in and out.  That included some robins that would show up under the bushes and find themselves some food.  They clearly liked the shade because they would either be under the bush or come on to the grass in the areas shaded by the bushes.  Never in the sunlight on the grass.

The evening improved things a lot.  The shade was now over the whole of the lawn and they would hop about finding their latest meal.  However, if I wasn’t already by the window, moving into position would spook them and they would be gone.  I consequently spent a bit of time sitting by the window with the camera in position waiting for another one to appear.  When they did, it was getting pretty dim.  However, high ISO is worth a go these days and there are going to be good options in post so why not?  I used the tilt screen to frame the shot to avoid moving the camera much and scaring them off.  It also provided a lower angle which helps.  Much hopping around and then eventually it was right in front of me.  How cute European robins are!

Pigeon Dynamics

Walking along the shore, someone had been feeding the pigeons.  The term rats with wings is often applied to pigeons and you can see why.  (I think rats are amazing creatures so it might be a compliment to draw the analogy.) While pigeons might not be too popular, they are incredible flyers and I find their flight and, specifically, their wings, to be amazing.  As we watched from a distance, they got spooked by a dog and all flew off.  However, they only circled for a short while before landing on a nearby roof.  Soon, they swooped down to the railings and then back to the ground where the food still was.

They repeated the process shortly afterwards and this got me interested.  Photographing wildlife can be tricky since you never know what they will do next.  Having some predictability can give you better options.  I decided to get around to the other side of them and wait for them to get spooked again.  With so many people walking dogs in the area, it couldn’t take too long!  Sure enough, they were soon back up on the roof.

I didn’t try to get any one bird.  That would be very tough to do.  Instead, I shot wider and with a higher shutter speed to freeze the action and waited for them all to return.  They kindly performed exactly as they had done before so it was a case of waiting and shooting as they all gradually made their way back down.  Some of them had really amazing poses as their wings flexed and folded as they flew to the food.  What amazing creatures they are.

Back to Some Old Cormorant Shots

Regular readers will be shocked to see more cormorants showing up on the blog.  These aren’t even recent shots.  I can’t recall why I was running through old images, but it matters not.  All that is relevant is that I came across some older shots I have of cormorants sunning themselves which I had forgotten I had.  This got me looking for others.  The result is a few new shots of my favorite birds to share on the blog.

Flicker in the Backyard

I have mentioned before the difficulty I have had when trying to photograph flickers.  They are so easily spooked.  When one showed up in the back yard recently, I knew there was no way I would be able to go outside and try for a shot.  Through the windows was my only option.  Two layers of glass are not ideal for photographic clarity, but it is better than nothing.  Even then I have to be cautious since even the movement within the house is enough to scare them off.  Some careful positioning and very slow movements meant I was able to get a few reasonable shots.  It wasn’t long before they were off, though.  Whether it was me or just time to go to the next spot, I don’t know.

Did These Geese Get Cleared Through the Zone?

This big flock of geese flew right by Boeing Field one afternoon.  There were tons of them, and their route brought them right across the approach path before skirting to one side of the airfield.  I didn’t hear them talking to air traffic and I don’t believe they had a clearance.  Maybe they will get a visit from the FAA at some point!

Kingfisher Fishing Successfully

When we visited Seattle not long after moving back to the US, I got a shot of a kingfisher as it sat on a cable at the locks in Ballard.  I guess this must be a good spot for kingfishers because, when we went down to see the boats, I found another kingfisher hanging out near where we parked.  The sound that they make is pretty distinctive and I heard it before I saw it.  It was sitting on a branch for quite a while before it dived down, grabbed something out of the water and landed on one of the wooden guides along the water to enjoy its snack.  I will have to spend more time down there and see if I can get some better shots of these speedy little critters.

Trumpeter Swans Along the Road

The snow geese are famous visitors to Skagit County in the winter, but they are not the only large birds to show up in big numbers.  The trumpeter swans also appear and, while they might not be in the large flocks of the snow geese, there are still loads of them around.  They also don’t seem to mind being close to the humans.  I had seen a bunch of them as I was driving around and pulled off the road at one point as so many were in the adjacent field.

The fun thing about photographing swans is getting them taking off.  Two or more of them flying at low level as they build speed is pretty cool.  You might normally wait for ages for this to happen but, with so many of them around, it seems as if there is almost always a take off occurring.  Consequently, while some might seem distant, you know another will be closer in before too long.  (I do like the head on look but that does require getting to more inaccessible spots usually.)

After shooting at the same spot for a while, I continued south.  I was getting back to an area south of Mt Vernon when I came across even more swans sitting right by a side road.  They were ridiculously close to the road and, when I pulled up and stopped, they did start to drift away a little.  I guess even swans can be slightly circumspect when it comes to humans arriving.  However, they quickly got used to me and I got some shots of them too!

Crow Plumage is Gorgeous in the Right Light

When people think of photographing birds, the more exotic types are going to probably be of more interest to many.  While I am obviously (if you follow this blog) partial to photographing an eagle or an owl, I also find the more common birds cool.  A pigeon has some amazing flying capabilities, gulls can look elegant in flight and crows have fantastic feather coloration.  One of them was sitting on a fence very close to me as I sat in the car.  The light was glinting off the feathers making the subtle colors show up nicely.  How could I not photograph it?  You might dismiss the average crow, but they can look very cool.