My Skagit trip was primarily looking for geese, but I was also going to see whether the short-eared owls were back out and about. I ended up in East 90 again which has a solid reputation for the owls. As I pulled up, various other raptors were flying very close by, so I knew the chances of seeing stuff were going to be good. Unfortunately, the owls were not playing ball. There were loads of them flying but they seemed to have staked out their interests further across the fields and away from the road. The northern harriers were the ones close by. The owls seemed to be wheeling about each other off in the distance so I had to make do with longer range images of them and get some of the other residents instead.
Trips to Log Boom Park are usually to see the floatplane activities from Kenmore Air’s base but it also gives the potential for some other airborne photo subjects. On one trip a short while ago, the conditions were a little harsh with strong lighting from overhead, but the local fauna was helping out. Getting eagles there is not too unusual but the warmer weather does mean the possibility of ospreys showing up and they did oblige. No close action as they were fishing but they did get some food from the water and even occasionally managed to fly our way while carrying their successes.
My visit to Cattle Point in search of foxes had me trekking along the cliff tops hoping to spot some creatures on the prowl. I met a local couple that suggested they normally saw foxes further along the coast and so I headed that way. As I kept moving, I did get some wildlife encounters but it was with bald eagles rather than foxes. They were soaring along the cliff tops using the updrafts. At one point, one popped up over the edge close to me and stared at me briefly before gliding on. I was too slow to pick up the camera and instead watched it fly by. I did catch some of its compatriots later in my walk, though. If I’m not getting foxes, eagles are okay but I can get them at home!
The reintroduction of red kites in the south of England has been very effective and they are now widespread across the south. While were were visiting recently, I was initially excited to see one but rapidly got used to them being around. We didn’t have to go far before we saw one. The forked tail makes them easy to identify compared to the longer established buzzards. Getting a good shot of one was a different story.
While we were walking through Longparish, we saw one hunting near the river. The conditions were rather overcast so, while I got a few shots, they weren’t as clear as I would have liked. However, the next time we were walking that way, the sun was out, as was the red kite! It was just a case of getting lucky and having it come around to the side where I could get some good light on it and then I was able to catch some shots. There was actually a buzzard circling nearby but it didn’t come very close. I guess it was camera shy.
I started my morning of a trip to Whidbey Island at Moran’s Beach. This is a good location for morning arrivals at the airfield but it also provides a nice view out into the water. You can get some wildlife passing through if you are lucky and I was. A bald eagle was hunting in the area. It was hanging out in the trees just north of me and then heading out to the water. There was a fishing boat working not far offshore. It was attracting a ton of attention from the local gull population and they were swarming around the boat. The eagle was also interested, though. It would swoop through periodically, looking for a cheap snack. The gulls were not too impressed by the interloper!
Nancy and I had made a trip up to La Conner for lunch one weekend. Having previously had a chance to see some owls up on the Skagit Flats previously, I decided to go back there again on our way home. I went to the same spot and saw a ton of people but not a lot of wildlife. I wasn’t going to make Nancy hang around waiting to see if anything showed up so we headed on our way. The route to the road home is along a couple of narrow roads and, as we went down one of them, we saw a shape at the side of the road.
I stopped and backed up the road because a short-eared owl was sitting on a post right next to the road. All of the people were waiting about half a mile away and this owl was just sitting here. I didn’t want to spook it so I pulled up near it and then snuck around the back of the car to get the camera from the trunk to see if I could get a shot before it took off.
This I managed but the owl didn’t seem terribly bothered by me being there. I got more confident stepping out to get shots and it just stayed where it was looking for something to eat. I was behind it and it was looking left and right but, if I moved, it would turn its head to look directly at me. I got a few stills and then switched to shooting some video. The same thing with its motion. I had to make some more dramatic moves to get it to look directly at me before it lost interest and went back to checking for prey.
Eventually, we decided to leave it alone and drove along the road again. We had barely gone a quarter of a mile when we found another owl on the power lines. This one was a bit more twitchy about my presence. I managed to get a few shots of it but it flew off quickly. There was a harrier nearby at the same time so things got a little busy but, much as we were trying to go home, the wildlife was intent on providing a reason for us to stay around.
A few times recently I have been down at Juanita Bay Park when the eagles have been hunting. While everyone thinks of bald eagles eating fish, they are also happy to eat birds if available. We have had large flocks of coots on the lake and they are a plentiful food source. They stay close together on the surface but, when the eagles fly close, the flocks will get startled and start fluttering around as they try to evade the predators.
The eagles are not bothered about the flock. They just want to isolate one of the birds which they can then take out. They will swoop around until they can take out one bird which they then land on top of and sit on it while it drowns. Once it has stopped moving, they take off and carry it back to the pole in the bay where they can eat at their leisure.
Before you eat a coot, you need to pluck it. The eagles make quick work of this and, with a breeze blowing, the air is quickly filled with feathers as they clean up their kill. Once that is done, time to tuck in to dinner. A coot is quickly eaten and then they fly off to a log to wash up before retiring to a tree to rest and digest. If there is anything left of the carcass, you can guarantee that the crows will be paying close attention and will close in to take care of matters.
I spent the Friday of Seafair down at the shore of Lake Washington watching the flying demonstrations (and taking the occasional work call). The planes weren’t the only aviators over the lake though. Despite a TFR being in place, a local osprey decided to ignore it and cruise along the shore line. I never saw it actually dive after any prey for the whole time I was there. Instead it would just start towards the south end and gradually drift northwards. After it had completed the leg, it would return to the start and repeat the process.
Fortunately, it was very close to the shore and nowhere near the display box so there was no risk being posed to the performers in the show. However, it was quite a distraction to everyone around where I was and we would turn to watch it rather than the display aircraft each time it came through. Initially it was a little offshore and a bit of a reach with the long lens but it came progressively closer in and was right overhead on a number of occasions.
There is a log in the water in Juanita Bay that is just above the surface. It provides a good spot for the eagles to land when they want a drink and need to clean themselves. It is a bit far from the viewing platforms but you still get a good look at them as they rest and sort themselves out. Watching wildlife do things like this seems perfectly normal but, I think law enforcement might be involved if it were humans!
The eagles that live around Juanita Bay are busy hunters. However, hunting requires a load of effort and it is surely easier to steal someone else’s meal. An otter had caught a fish and climbed on to one of the buoys that mark the protected area of the bay to eat it. As it got close to finishing, one of the eagles swooped in and grabbed the remainder of what it had. The otter didn’t seem too bothered so maybe it had eaten the best of the meal and was okay to let the eagle take it without a fight. The eagle went to the osprey perch and then ate whatever was left.