Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eagles nest and dramatic skies

We walked out the front door tonight to a downpour with hail chasing kids home from the park and quickening the steps of dog walkers. We waited a couple of minutes, then headed out as the shower slowed and the sun shone through. 

We took the street where we are seeing and hearing bald eagles, slowing next to each house to see if we could spot the nest. See if you can spot the nest. I could only see it clearly through my telephoto lens.

Two nights ago, the eagle grooming himself in the snag exchanged greetings with another eagle we could hear in the trees.

We didn't see or hear any eagles this time. It looks like they are still working on the nest. It seems rather precariously balanced.

A few minutes later we were treated to rainbows and spectacular cloud formations.  For other favorite skies, visit my Places and Sky and Water galleries.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eagles near and far

We are seeing lots of bald eagles on our hill. When I was at the wildlife refuge last weekend, I noticed that the bald eagle nest above the twin barns was falling apart. I wondered if the increased foot traffic with the new boardwalk at the refuge is driving eagles higher up to nest. We are directly above the refuge.

Padme, Sean and I walked past the woodland where I saw a bald eagle a couple of days ago. The same eagle was preening and cleaning his feathers on the same snag. We watched him for a few minutes and heard him talking to another eagle that was out of eyesight. I asked a homeowner if he had seen a nest and he told me he heard there was one in the trees a few doors down, right where we heard the other eagle.

The sunset and clouds over the Olympics was glorious tonight. We got there just in time for the light show.

Eagles and Hawks online gallery

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Neighborhood eagle

Padme the wonderdog and I often find unexpected things on our walks, usually in the skies.

Tonight we spotted a bald eagle flying around a small woodland behind some houses about a half mile from our house. DuPont is surrounded on three sides by Joint Base Lewis McChord and on the fourth side by Puget Sound. Much of the base on the west side of Interstate 5 is wooded. One of the base's golf courses, the aptly named Eagles Pride, is just a few blocks east of our house. I have seen a couple of adult bald eagles head for this woodland at night. I don't see a nest but it might be farther back in the trees. We watched for a few minutes, didn't see any more eagle activity, and it started to drizzle. So we moved on for today.

I am gradually updating my Eagles and Hawks gallery. There are a few favorite images in the gallery. More this week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hummingbird ballet

Ballet? Tonight the hummingbirds were more like bomber pilots. Flash chased off another male Anna's and a male rufous.

Although I haven't seen any female hummingbirds at the feeders, I did see two female rufous hummers on the other side of a large red current thicket at the Nisqually refuge yesterday. I quietly moved to their side of the thicket but they were gone.

Meanwhile high above the ridge, eight juvenile and adult bald eagles practiced air dancing tonight. I was so fascinated that I forgot about the hummingbirds, which they were probably happy about. The eagles were too far away and it was too dark to capture any worthwhile images. So I watched, listening to the frogs on the ground and eagles ch-ch-cheer messages to each other.

Hummingbird Gallery

Friday, April 22, 2011


Tree swallow
 I spent a pleasant couple of hours at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon. There just is no bad day at Nisqually. There is always something different and often unexpected.

This winter, the refuge hosted a great egret, for example. They are rare in western Washington and even rarer anywhere in the Northwest in the winter.

After seeing an osprey outside my front door yesterday, I figured I would see at least one osprey at the refuge. Instead, I saw lots of swallows - tree swallows and what I thought was a different kind of barn swallow.

I found out the swallows that are making elaborate birdie condominiums are actually cliff swallows. I haven't seen any barn swallows yet this season. Lots of tree swallows, more down on the delta than up on our hill.

Visit my online Swallow Gallery for other favorites.

Tree swallow
Cliff swallows

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Osprey out front

What a treat this evening to see an osprey gliding on the winds above Chief Leschi Park across the street from my house. I expected to see a bald eagle or two but they must all be fishing down in the Nisqually delta. This was a perfect raptor gliding day: sunny and light winds. I wondered why this osprey was so far from the water. Maybe nest scouting...that would be cool!

To see more of my favorite seahawk images, visit my Osprey gallery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunset and moonset

The light has been incredible for the past couple of evenings. The sun glows through the evergreens, changing the colors of the woodland and the flowering cherries on the street.

This morning, the moon dropped golden over the woodlands and the neighborhood at dawn as it set in the south.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hummers - where are the girls?

Flash moving in

This week I put out two flower baskets, which helps block views between my two feeders. A male rufous and two male Anna's visit regularly, most frequently at dusk to tank up for the night. I haven't seen any female Anna's or rufous. I don't think the female rufous hummingbirds have arrived yet.

Rufous hummingbird

Tonight, a male rufous spent some time at the feeder, then flew off. A couple of seconds later, Flash landed in the same spot on the same feeder. Flash chased off another Anna's and took over both feeders.

Anna's hummingbird

Always watching
Padme the wonderdog and I spotted two male Anna's on our walk tonight - one about two blocks from our house and the other in the woods. Both were positioning and glowing in the sun. There do not appear to be any females around to impress with all that hummer bravado.

Please let me know any favorites you think I should add to my Hummer gallery.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bald eagle flight practice

Bald eagles can live up to 30 years in the wild. It takes juvenile bald eagles about five years to develop the characteristic white head and tail. Until that time, juveniles practice flight maneuvers, including spectacular mating dances midair.

I spotted three juveniles above Ridgeview Trail, soaring on thermals, making wide circles overhead. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Winged drama

The skies were clearing this afternoon although the mountains are still mostly obscured by clouds. Padme the wonderdog and I took one of our regular walking routes down to the golf course where there are sweeping sky views. There were lots of starlings and an occasional robin. Then I spotted a very large bird. I figured it was a bald eagle because it was, well, large. It was circling an area right at the ridge above Puget Sound. Herons are large birds that we see in this area too but they usually don't circle and glide on the air currents. I quickly pulled my camera out of my backpack. When I scanned the sky with the camera, the bird was just gone. Maybe it spotted dinner and dove to the ground?

A couple of seconds later, the bird moved up in the sky but there were two ravens above it. For the next several minutes, three ravens dive-bombed what I now could see was probably a red-tailed hawk because of the tail and head shapes. The hawk is actually upside down and the raven above it.

The hawk landed in a tree to regroup. You can see him with wings stretched out in the lower left corner. Above is a raven diving toward the hawk.

Two ravens flushed out the hawk which then flew off.  One raven circled the area, while another perched on a branch. I didn't see a nest in the tree but there might have been one nearby. 

Just another day in the bird kingdom. Visit my Nisqually and Osprey galleries for other favorites.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wings in the clouds

Great blue heron
Sun breaks in blue skies were sandwiched between a storm front to the east and towering clouds to the west. Just before sunset, we see groups of birds heading back down the ridge to the Nisqually delta. Tonight there were herons, eagles, and a lone Northern harrier. These herons were quite a ways off but I loved the interplay of wings and clouds.

Trio of herons

The tree swallows and barn swallows have returned to the ridge, which means mosquitoes are not far behind.

Pacific madrones above Puget Sound

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seahawk at Chambers Creek

Growing up in New Jersey, we would often visit Island Beach State Park. As a college photography student, I walked the dune trails and beaches regularly. I have two selenium-toned black-and-white images from those years hanging in my house. The park preserves the Atlantic coastline the way it was before side-by-side beach houses crowded The Shore, as we call it in Jersey. Early on, power lines were installed underground but several power poles were left in place for nesting osprey - or seahawk.

In all of those years, I never saw an osprey. Like bald eagles and many other birds, osprey were nearly wiped out from pesticide poisoning. They started making a comeback after DDT was banned in 1972.

About 90% of the pairs nesting along the coast between New York City and Boston disappeared between 1950 and 1970.

This guy defended his fishing grounds from a tree above the Chambers Creek fish ladder. His nest and his mate are downstream at Chambers Bay. I watched him chase off two bald eagles. There is a bald eagle nest downstream above the creek. Upstream, five juvenile bald eagles have staked out fishing perches.

Osprey are a little smaller than bald eagles but not much. They have a similar silhouette in the sky with a 6-foot wingspan. They are white underneath like a peregrine. I will be adding a few of these to my Osprey online gallery. Let me know your favorites.

Here's lookin' at you kid!
Fishing grounds above the fish ladder

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Redheads and pink trees

 I love birds of all kinds, from skittish chickadees and territorial hummingbirds to fish-snatching osprey and frenetic kestrels. I'm fascinated by how each type of bird has adapted to its environment. In order to catch bird activity in photography, my camera has to be ready and I need to act quickly.

I see a lot of birds on my daily walks with Padme the wonderdog. I usually take my camera bag but don't always have the camera out and ready to shoot. Mainly because it's usually drizzling here, so I limit how long my camera is exposed to moisture.

In the past month, there have been several occasions where bald eagles and great blue herons flew directly over me. I tell myself that would make for an uninteresting photo of the underside of a large bird against a gray sky.

Last night's woofie walk was no different. This time, though, I had my camera out with the longer (300mm) lens. I managed to catch a very active red-breasted sapsucker, usually a very shy bird. I was reluctant to use a flash but that would have made him sharper. These were photographed about 6:45 p.m. in low light at 800 ISO.

The light was dramatic yesterday evening. Our street is lined with flowering cherry trees that burst into bloom this week. Here is a favorite.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Flash's Aerial Ballet

The other Anna's and rufous hummers must be scouting out nesting areas. I've decided to call this new guy "Flash" because he likes to flash over to one feeder, back to the tree, then flash to the other feeder.

These were all photographed in very low light at about 7:45 p.m. with a 75mm lens. I usually shoot hummers with a 200-300mm lens, so I wasn't sure if I would get anything worthwhile.

I love the action in these images. At least a couple make Flash look more like a dragonfly on steroids. Too early for dragonflies but never too early for hummers.

Let me know if you think I should add any of these or others I photographed in April and March to my Hummer gallery.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Close-in humming

The rufous hummingbirds that arrived last week have not been around today. This male Anna's is a younger guy than my buddy Jim.

He's not wild about me hanging around the feeders but doesn't challenge me the way Jim would.

I had a chance to catch a few images of the nightly mega-feeding before it got too dark to see where he landed in the tree.

Ok, the last one is not a bird. I couldn't resist the glistening droplets on my new African daisy. The hummers might not pay attention to them but the butterflies will like them.

Check out the gallery of my favorite Hummers.