Wood Duck pair posing for their Portrait - February 26, 2018

A pair of Wood Ducks showing off their finest plumage
The male is on the left. The dramatically, yet-less-colorfully feathered female is on the right. 

McClane Creek Nature Trail
Capitol State Forest
Olympia, WA

February 26, 2018

How a Wood Duck's plumage changes with light - February 26, 2018

Can you find the duck in this photo? - February 22, 2018

Female Gadwall camouflaged by cattails
Magnuson Park Wetlands
Seattle, Washington
February 22, 2018

Residents of the city of Seattle know all about the stresses of urban growth. Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. All the new people, buildings and traffic create huge stress for many Seattleites. Sometimes, all you want to do is head out into nature and disappear. 

The stresses of growth also impact the animals who call the city home. Fortunately for some, there are places to just disappear. Magnuson Park in Northeast Seattle is one of those places.

In order to deal with the pollutants in surface storm water and to provide overflow drainage during heavy rains, Seattle created a series of wetland ponds at the former naval air station. Ringed by dense plantings of willows, cattails and other native plants, the wetland ponds slowly cleanse runoff before it enters into Lake Washington. 

The ponds also create habitat for resident and migratory birds looking for a place to rest and recharge. 

The female gadwall pictured above is perfectly suited for the ponds. Her tan and brown plumage help her to blend into adjacent cattails. The cattails also provide nooks and crannies in which to hide from potential predators, such as the raptors common to the park. 

Below is a detail of the image above. From a distance, the female gadwall seems dull and understated compared to her male counterpart. Up close, it is easy to admire her intricate beauty and design patterns. 

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

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