I haven’t been to Juanita Bay Park much recently. The middle of summer is not a great time to go because the sun is high, the humidity is quite uncomfortable, the bugs can be in a bitey mood, haze makes photos even worse than the sun angles – you get the picture. I did head down one afternoon after work, though, just to see what was happening. The lake was covered in water lilies with the pads spread out in all directions. The flowers were not quite so common but there were still plenty. I was taken by how they were dominating a space that is normally wide open.
Much of the wildlife I end up photographing in Juanita Bay Park is the birds or the aquatic life. However, I do occasionally come across some other creatures as I stroll through and one afternoon it was some deer. I have seen deer in the park before. They tend to stay away from the more heavily trafficked areas, but they do cross the paths when getting from one spot to another. That was what happened in this instance. They jumped out of the bushes ahead of where I was heading and across to more foliage. I thought they would be gone but they stopped and munched on some of the leaves for a while. Not clearly in sight but not avoiding me either!
The arrival of warmer weather encourages the turtles to show themselves in Juanita Bay Park. I am used to seeing a lot of them but, one weekend, I wandered out to the water and there were more turtles than I had ever seen before. There was not enough space for them on their regular logs so they were climbing up on each other to get a spot to sunbathe. Seeing them stacked up like that was really funny to me and it certainly amused many of the other visitors. Plenty of shots were taken that day, I think.
I was walking through Juanita Bay Park when I saw this bird sitting on the sign. It sat there for a while before flying beyond it. I am not sure whether the sign was really directed at the local wildlife or just the humans but, if it was for the birds, it either can’t read or it was a little disobedient.
When you are watching wildlife, you don’t have the same considerations that you would for other people. I was down at Juanita Bay one evening and realized that there were a couple of otters on the bank. It rapidly became apparent that they were in the process of mating. This went on for ages. The male had the female grasped tightly. They would end up in the water where he almost seemed to be drowning her. Then they would end up on land again where he would continue to grip her tightly. The occasional yelp would be issued and then they were back in the water.
A load of people were gathered by this point watching this process. The idea that a large group of people would hang around and watch humans doing this would involve a violation of a bunch of laws – at least in the US. However, we are fascinated by animals so there we all stood. Eventually I had other things to do so, while close encounters with otters are prized, it was time to move on. I guess we shall find out before too long if we have a bunch of new little otters in the park.
Most of the animals in the park are pretty accustomed to the humans. Provided we remain a reasonable distance away, they are comfortable getting on with their lives. Get too close, and they will be spooked. The exception to this rule is red-winged blackbirds. They really seem to be quite blasé about the humans. Stand on the boardwalks and they might come and land on the handrail next to you and wander up alongside you. Sudden movements might scare them, but steady movements won’t phase them at all. While watching other wildlife, you can almost not realize that they are there. I find my phone is the best option for getting images because they are too close for the regular set up.
There are loads of turtles in Juanita Bay and, on a sunny day, they will be out of the water and sunning themselves. I saw a bunch of them on the shore and was not bothered since this is hardly a new shot. Then I noticed something that seemed outsized. I couldn’t make it out exactly but took some shots to review later. Turns out to be a different species of turtle to our regulars. This fella is way bigger than the rest. I don’t know if they are common in Lake Washington or whether this is an unusual visitor, but it certainly was large. The other turtles didn’t seem bothered, though.
There are plenty of great blue herons that hang out in Juanita Bay. While they are quite calm most of the time, they do get a little aggravated if they intrude on each other’s turf. If one flies close to another, a little spat will ensue. What is hard to tell is who is the one that is the aggressor and who is the one on the receiving end. A pair of them ended up circling and wheeling around over the water one evening. I wasn’t entirely sure how it had started but they were coming around on each other repeatedly. Eventually they went in different directions and it was all over. I’m not sure if either of them ended up in the space that they were fighting over!
In some previous posts I have discussed how aggressive the red-winged blackbirds can be towards the great blue herons. The herons are quite happy to eat the chicks of the blackbirds, so the aggression is justified. One of the herons was flying in my direction when a blackbird swooped down at it. It came in from above and behind and started to attack the heron. I got a sequence of shots as this evolved and my favorite is one where it actually looks like the blackbird is riding the heron. If only it had some reins!
Friday evening after work, the sun was out and, with the time having changed, it wasn’t getting dark too early. I decided to have a stroll down at Juanita Bay Park before going home. Of course, the camera came with me. Things were pretty quiet, and I was taking a few photos but decided it was time to head home. As I turned to walk back, I saw a friend of mine, Lee, walking towards me. I was about to greet him when he started running towards me and called out “otters”!
I turned around a pair of otters were swimming across the bay towards us. They came towards the little island area and climbed out on to the shore. It is a bit difficult to get a shot there, but I managed a few. They moved along the shore and then back into the water. They headed out to the middle of the bay. Clearly, they were planning on hunting so we gave them a little time. A short while later, one appeared on the surface with what looked like a fish.
Often, when the otters have a catch, they go to a buoy to eat it but, this time, they seemed to be heading back our way. I was hoping that they would come up on the beach to eat. Amazingly, that’s exactly what they did. However, it wasn’t a fish that they had caught. It was a duck of some sort. One of them had caught it and it didn’t seem interested in sharing too much. It proceeded to chomp down on its meal.
The sound of a otter’s teeth crunching the skull of a duck was hard to miss as it made it’s way through its meal. The second otter was keen to share but the first one would the carcass up and turn around to try and avoid the interloper. This was repeated several times. In due course, it decided it was done and just left the remains. I suspect some bits just aren’t that tasty. While I did get stills, the eating process was far more interesting as video, so I shot more of that. The feathers everywhere looked quite funny as they got stuck on the otter’s head while it ripped into the body.