Barrow's Goldeneye foraging for mussels at Swantown Marina - February 19, 2018

The Barrow's Goldeneye is a common visitor to South Puget Sound. They love our abundant shellfish and other creatures, such as small crab. The male is very distinctive, with its black and white patterning and half-moon of white on the lower part of its face. In the bright winter sunlight, the head can shine deep blue or purple. 

Barrow's Goldeneye making a Spectacular dive - February 19, 2018

Getting ready to dive 
Almost completely out of the water
Look at those legs in the air 
Finishing the Dive
As you look at the sequence above, it may not strike you as impressive. This duck is able to launch itself from the water by thrusting its neck forward and pressing down hard on its tail. Most ducks arc over the water, but never rise completely above it. This duck was able to clear the water repeatedly. Most impressive.

Juvenile Double-crested Cormorant - February 12, 2018

Double-crested Cormorant on Budd Bay
Olympia, WA
February 12, 2018

News flash! Cormorants are really cool looking birds! Quite beautiful, in fact. 

For many of us, the name Double-crested Cormorant conjures up large, prehistoric-looking black birds perched with their wings outspread or gliding through the water like a modern-day Loch Ness monster. Take a closer look and you might be surprised by the beauty of the bird. 

This juvenile Double-crested Cormorant has grayish plumage. It will become matte black as it matures to adulthood. Its long, hooked beak is well suited for catching fish while swimming underwater.  The turquoise eye contrasts dramatically with the bright yellow-orange beak. Specialized eye muscles provide the cormorants with acute vision above and under the water.

In bright sunlight, the intricate feather pattern is a wonder to observe.

An immature Double-crested cormorant watching me closely. It has just come up from a dive and water droplets are glistening in the sunlight. Note the needle-like point of the bird's beak.

Double-crested cormorant taking flight. Despite their large body size, it takes them less than two seconds to become airborne. 

2018 Women's March in Olympia, Washington - January 20, 2018

Women+ Rally at Washington State Capitol in Olympia
click to enlarge

2018 Women's March in Olympia, Washington
January 20, 2018 

click to enlarge

March On!

Eagles at Mud Bay, Olympia - January 10, 2018

Wintering Bald Eagles at Mud Bay
Olympia, Washington
January 10, 2018

The changing of the season brings changes in wildlife. And in our area, that means BIG changes. Really big changes. Gone are the petite warblers of spring and summer. In come the raptors, big and bold. Few are as big and majestic as the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagles spend their winters in our area for several reasons. It is not nearly as cold or as dark as it is in the Alaskan territory. There is plenty of habitat and water. And, at Mud Bay in Olympia, there is plenty of food in the form of salmon carcasses. Area streams - McClane Creek, Perry Creek and Kennedy Creek - all have chum salmon runs which begin in November and end as the new year begins. All three of these creeks are relatively short and have significant tidal influence. 

As the tide goes out in the creek, the water disappears and carcasses of the spawned salmon appear. Gulls and other scavenging critters appear. And the Bald Eagles who have been perching so splendidly come down from the branches to feast.

It takes less than one second for a Bald Eagle to fly off from its perch. And, it creates quite a ride for anyone lucky enough to be left behind!

Bald Eagles develop their distinctive white heads over a period of five years. Male Bald Eagles tend to be about one third smaller than females. Markings are identical between males and females.

Although juvenile Bald Eagles have brownish heads, they are usually easy to differentiate from other raptors because of their size. They are 2 1/2 - 3 feet tall and have up to an 6 and 1/2 foot wingspan.

Yes, Virginia, eagles do yawn just like you and me!

Glaucous-winged Gull taking Flight - December 7, 2017

 Gull taking Flight

Glaucous-winged Gull taking Flight
Mud Bay     Olympia, Washington
December 7, 2017

2018 Pocket Calendars available from Michele Burton

Michele Burton Photographer
2018 Pocket Photo Calendars now available
Order yours today

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 2018 photo calendars Michele Burton

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Michele Burton and Stream Team at Fall Arts Walk 10/6/2017

Michele Burton Photographer
Thurston County Stream Team

Photographs at Fall Arts Walk
Starbucks Coffee
550 Capitol Way So.
Olympia, WA

Friday October 6
5 - 9 PM

Local nature photographer Michele Burton shares photos showcasing Stream Team events and activities. Come see the exciting opportunities Stream Team offers. Michele has been photographing Stream Team since 2013; many of her photos are featured in Stream Team's quarterly newsletter

Fall Chinook Salmon Run in Olympia - August 27, 2017

As the new school year appears on the horizon each August, another type of school is in session on Budd Inlet in downtown Olympia. From mid-August until mid-September, Deschutes River fall Chinook salmon make their way to the 5th Avenue Bridge in Olympia, where a small dam provides passage into the fresh water of Capitol Lake. Hundreds of fish swim at the base of the dam, getting their last taste of salt water before beginning the final swim up the Deschutes River fish ladder to WDFW hatchery located in Tumwater Falls Park. 

The Chinook salmon run draws crowds of onlookers to the 5th Avenue Bridge's viewing platform. Informational signage and volunteer Salmon Stewards from Thurston County Stream Team provide information about salmon and the annual run. 


Although they are less than three miles from their final destination, the returning salmon still face the obstacle of voracious harbor seals, who work in teams to chase and corral salmon. Some lucky salmon escape with a chunk out of their back. Others become a fine feast for the harbor seals. Gulls, cormorants and other animals stay close to the action in hopes of capturing a morsel or two dropped by the seals.

Skinning and filleting a really fresh salmon!

When the salmon are running, everybody eats!

Recently, a large number of farmed Atlantic salmon were accidentally released from a broken net pen near Washington's Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands. This news event led many people watching the Chinook run in Olympia to ask me, "Are these good fish, or bad fish?" As our conversation went along, I realized that many people don't know the difference between natural spawners, hatchery raised fish, and farm raised. 

Natural Spawning

Natural spawners are salmon who, after spending one or more years in salt water, return to freshwater streams to spawn. These salmon may be true wild salmon, such as the wild chum run at McLane Creek in the Capitol Forest, or hatchery raised fish which have been used to supplement a natural run, such as the chum salmon at Piper's Creek in Seattle

Natural spawners spend their adult life at sea and return to spawn without human intervention. 

In Washington, fishing for most wild salmon and natural spawners is restricted or prohibited to promote restoration of threatened or endangered fish.

Hatchery salmon

Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife runs an extensive salmon fishery program. This program provides salmon for both commercial and recreational harvest. From:

Hatcheries have operated in Washington State for more than a century, beginning with one hatchery on the Kalama River in 1895. Originally built to compensate for land use decisions that permanently altered large areas of fish-producing habitat, state hatcheries have since become an important part of the state's economy, releasing millions of fish annually for harvest by recreational and commercial fisheries. Tagging studies indicate that more than 75% of the salmon caught in Puget Sound and 90% of the salmon caught in the Columbia River originate from hatcheries, as do 88% of all steelhead.

One major milestone was the mass marking of virtually all hatchery coho and Chinook salmon released from state hatcheries. Using automatic fin-clipping machines, state hatchery crews mark more than 100-million fish each year for release from state and tribal hatcheries, allowing for easy identification of hatchery salmon on the fishing grounds. Mass-marking laid the foundation for a new era in selective fisheries in which fishers are required to release wild, unmarked fish.

When the Deschutes River Chinook reach the Tumwater Falls facility, the fish will be harvested. Eggs from females and milt from males will be combined to create fertilized eggs. Eggs and young will be cared for at a hatchery until they are ready to be released as smolts. The smolts migrate from freshwater to the sea, where they will spend one to eight years before returning to the Deschutes River to begin the cycle again.

Farm-raised salmon

Unlike hatchery salmon, which are released into the wild, farmed Atlantic salmon spend their adult lives in net enclosures in salt water, much like non-free range cattle spend their lives in pastures and feed lots. The Atlantic salmon are given feed and antibiotics. Farmed salmon do not swim free in the ocean and do not return to streams to spawn.

Open net pens or cages enclose fish such as salmon in offshore coastal areas. Net pens are considered a high-impact aquaculture method because waste from the fish passes freely into the surrounding environment, polluting wild habitat. Farmed fish can also escape and compete with wild fish for natural resources or interbreed with wild fish of the same species, compromising the wild population. Diseases and parasites can also spread to wild fish living near or swimming past net pens.

In conclusion

There are, of course, no good fish or bad fish. It is up to us to demand sustainable, environmentally responsibly raised and harvested fish. One of the best ways of doing this is educating yourself. Head down to Olympia's waterfront and learn more about salmon migration from one of Stream Team's Salmon Stewards. Or, head out to McLane or Kennedy Creek later this fall to see the Salmon Stewards when the native Chum are returning to spawn.

If you can't make it out to see the fish in person, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, where you can learn to make informed decisions about your seafood buying.

To see more photos of the fish at the 5th Avenue Bridge, go to

Solar Eclipse- August 21, 2017 - Time Lapse in Olympia, Washington

Watching the solar eclipse from Sunrise Park in Olympia. At the beginning of the sequence the sun is about 30% covered. The end of the sequence is right as the moon finishes its transit. This time lapse sequence begins at 9:54 AM and ends 90 minutes later at 11:26 AM PST

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