When watching the herons hunting in Juanita Bay, you never know exactly what they are going to catch. Something like a stickleback will be a relatively easy thing for them to swallow once they have caught it. On one occasion, though, a heron caught something a little longer. I am not good with different fish so can’t tell you what it was but it had a long body and a tail with some power. The heron had the front of the fish in its beak but the back end was still flailing around. The heron was hoping to win the battle but the fish made sure to give it some healthy whacks around the head before it finally succumbed.
The salmon that come through the locks in Ballard come in three waves according to the park rangers. There are three types of salmon and each type comes at a slightly different time of year. (I’m sure the sales like this so they get three feeding times!). Within the fish ladder, they have a viewing gallery which allows you to see the fish as they loiter for a while before surging up the next step in the ladder against the flowing water.
It is quite impressive to see how fast they can go when they make an effort. They swim gently against the current in the viewing area waiting for a time that seems appropriate to them. Then they align themselves with the inlet port through which the water is rushing. This needs a dose of acceleration to avoid being pushed back into the gallery and then, once they are stabilized, a surge of effort and they zip up the port. Photos don’t do it much justice but video is a better medium. The reflections off the glass are not ideal but you will get the idea.
If you stand by Juanita Bay for a few minutes, you will see fish leaping out of the water periodically. The carp are spawning and they leap out all the time. Getting a shot of a leaping fish seems like it would be almost impossible since you couldn’t know where they would be leaping next and getting lined up would not be possible in the tiny instant that they are out of the water even if you did see them immediately. However, there is some hope.
For some reason, the fish will often leap twice in roughly the same place. However, they only seem to do it when you are not training your camera on the spot where they last came out. I will watch with the camera down and see them jump again and again. Bring the camera up and they don’t play ball – normally. However, I did get lucky on one occasion. I got a second leap as I pointed the camera at the location of the previous ripples.
I had an even better chance on a later date. I was staring down into the water and could see the shape of a carp as it swam just below the surface. I didn’t know whether it would be possible to get a clear shot of it in the water but started tracking it anyway. Then it turned and came out of the water right below me. I couldn’t have been better placed to get the shot. I’ll take a good dose of luck any time.
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.
The Wild Bites food stands were scattered around the zoo. One of the restaurants was serving a salmon dish. They were set up right next to the bear enclosure. The two brown bears in the enclosure seemed to be very interested in the food. The smell of the fish was wafting in their direction and their noses were twitching like crazy. They had been given their own food at the same time but I think that they were a lot more interested in our stuff than theirs. I can’t say I blame them because it did taste great.
The salmon head to spawn in phases with the three different breeds coming at slightly different times. They head through the ladder at the locks in Ballard in the fall but, before they head into Lake Washington, they pause in the approach area. The transition from salt water to fresh is something that they have to adjust to and the area just by the locks where the fresh water is spilling out provides a good place for them to get adjusted. They can stay for a couple of weeks or more. The result was that we saw a lot of salmon swimming around in the waters by the dam. This was not a risk free occupation as shall be covered in a future post.
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.
This post is about fish. No other reason than I was running through some shots and came across these pictures from the Ocean Coast Aquarium in Newport OR. Taking pictures of fish through thick aquarium glass is a bit of a crapshoot as the distortion can be bad and the potential for reflections is high. Since fish can be so fascinating, though, I always give it a go. Most of the shots turn out to be disappointing but a few work out. Some of the fish have happy looking faces (allowing for some anthropomorphizing) while others look sullen. You can let your imagination run riot.
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.
As the locks at Ballard transfer the water, they manage to catch a lot of salmon at the same time. It was very common while we were there to see the salmon leap out of the water. Some would leap out and crash back into the water on their sides while others would leap upright and nose back in to the water like a dolphin. Catching this on the camera was a touch trickier. I have a lot of shots of splashes as the salmon has just reentered the water. I did get some on video though so you know I am not totally making this up!