I have taken a ton of photos of the hummingbirds that come to our feeders in the back yard. However, a cooler shot is one that involves real plants rather than a metal feeder. We have hanging baskets which have sometimes provided food for the little critters but the majority of the flowers in our baskets this year do not seem to have interested them. Only one of the flowers seems to get some of them to feed and it is a narrow trumpet shaped flower that seems to thrive on the far side of the basket away from me and the light.
Of course, the sun does move so, with a little patience and forethought, it is possible to get in position and try to stay very still so as not to scare away the blighters. I have had some backlit results but they aren’t very appealing photos. They are better than nothing but getting on the right side of things is the goal and one I have finally managed to achieve. If I could get better angles, that would improve things but there are a good start. Now to spend more time waiting for them and try to avoid freaking out the neighbors in the meantime.
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?
Trying to see the wolves at a zoo is not always an easy task. They tend to like to find a place to relax that is out of sight so, unless they are active, you might struggle to even see them. We got lucky on our last visit to Woodland Park Zoo as we came past the wolf enclosure (the second time as it happened) just at the time they were being fed.
I’m not certain what they were being fed but it looked like rodents of some sort. They would toss the food to the wolves and they would grab something and then head off somewhere away from the others to eat in peace. That included one that came our way. It was making quick work of its snack. The sound of the food being bitten through was slightly unnerving but, thankfully, the pictures don’t convey that so you only have to look at the outline of whatever it was they were eating!
With the feeders in our backyard, I have been able to shoot plenty of photos and videos of the hummingbirds coming in to feed. This has been a lot of fun but it has always lacked a little something because of the artificial nature of the environment. Our recent acquisition of new hanging baskets for the backyard has changed this a bit. They are plenty of tiny flowers in these baskets and these have appealed to some of the hummers.
Not all of them, though. The majority still seem to prefer the sugar water in the feeders but some like to work their way around the flowers. This requires a lot more flexibility from the hummingbird to get in to the flowers but they make it look so simple. The flowers are only in sun for part of the day so some of the shots I have got have been in shade while others have been better lit. What matters, though, is that a bird against a flower backdrop has a far more natural feel to it than when they are feeding from one of the artificial food suppliers.
I spent most of the time getting stills of them working around the flowers. It all looks good when you are watching it but only certain angles make for good photos. I did get some video too so a little edit of that is included below.
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.
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!
There was a tank full of sardines at the aquarium that caught my attention. This was something that was really hard to photograph but I tried anyway. The sardines were swimming quickly in shoals and they looked much as you would expect them to – a sleek, silvery fish zipping through the water. The thing that caught my eye was they way that they opened their mouths to feed. The shape of the head is narrow and clean but, when they open their mouths, flaps of skin unfold to create a huge opening allowing them to scoop up food from a far wider area. A few of the shoal would do this at any one time so you never knew where to look but they would open wide for a second or two and then close up again. It totally transformed their appearance.
The shoreline of San Francisco Bay has a bunch of ducks. Of the ones I see a lot of, there are two main species. The Mallards are a duck you will see almost anywhere. The others are the Shovelers. As the name suggests, Shovelers like to shovel around in the murk at the bottom of the water to see what they can find. Their bill is shaped to help with rooting around in this mud. The result can be that their heads are no longer the color of the feathers but are, instead, covered in mud.
There is plenty of muddy shallow water along the shore so the ducks will often take off and head to different feeding grounds. It’s fun to try and get them in mid-flight. If things are closer, they will save energy and paddle to their next spot. The best shots are when they come up covered in mud. They look almost surprised by what a mess they are!
This seems to be a really good year for sea life. Having had a really successful trip out watching whales from Monterey Bay, the whales have decided to come closer. There have been sightings of humpbacks inside San Francisco Bay this year. More recently, my friend Roger has seen them feeding on the coast just south of the city. I joined him for a while. We could see a number of the humpbacks lunge feeding just off the beach. They were a little far from us but we still had a good view.
The whales start below the surface and surge upwards with their mouths open grabbing a mouth full of water and fish. They then spot out the water and eat the remnants. We found that the seagulls were the guide to where the whales would be next. They would mill around, awaiting the next feeding, hoping to get a spare fish in the process. As they spotted the whale coming to the surface, they would all converge and this would be the guide to where the whale would be next. Sometimes, the whale was just coming up for breath so you never knew which it would be. When there is only one whale, it tends to alternate although not always. With more than one, it is a guess.
A few days later, I was out with Nancy and we decided to see if there was any activity. The previous spot was not showing any sign of whales inshore. A couple of spouts further out but nothing feeding in the shallows. Instead we tried Pacifica where they sometimes come in near the pier. Again, nothing. We were just starting to drive off when I saw what appeared to be a spout inshore. I parked up and wandered over to see if there was anything. Nancy stayed in the car but knew something was up when she saw me turn and run back to the car. A whale was in the surf feeding.
We moved along the beach watching the whale burst to the surface and grab mouthfuls of water and fish. A lot of people quickly gathered to watch the feeding. The birds were still the clue but now we were down on the level of the waves so sometimes things got obscured by the water. Even so, we were right there to see what was going on. Soon the whale appeared to be full and moved offshore. It was still swimming around near the pier when we headed off. I don’t know whether this was a regular feature or we got lucky but it was very cool to watch.
The focus of a trip like the one we took with Monterey Bay Whale Watch is to see the whales. However, you can always come across some other creatures as you go on your way. Heading back in to the marina, we passed a Sea Otter mother and her pup. She was diving on food and leaving the pup to bob up on the surface. She would bring some food and then dive down. I was up at the front of the boat when we saw them. The early evening light looked great on them. Of course, as we passed them, our shadow took the good light off them just when they were in the best location to get a shot. I did head to the back of the boat as we stopped to see if I could get some other shots. We soon left them to their thing, though.