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
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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

Dunlin attempting to eat a sand shrimp - May 8, 2017

A Dunlin, feeding on the upper beach at Bottle Beach State Park,
captures a sand shrimp and attempts to eat it

May 8, 2017

There is such a thing as biting off more than you can chew. Or, at least biting off more than you can swallow. In the photo above, the Dunlin in the front has just captured a small sand shrimp from the sandy beach. The other Dunlin thinks it looks like a mighty fine morsel and pursues the mighty hunter. 

After several evasive maneuvers on the beach, the first Dunlin manages to elude the pursuing shorebird. The Dunlin settles in to consume its prey. Only one problem... the shrimp is too large to go down easily. The Dunlin squeezes the sand shrimp in its beak, to break its exoskeleton, so the shrimp will bend. Next, the Dunlin waves the morsel back and forth in its beak, hopefully breaking it up more. Finally, the sand shrimp is dropped on the beach repeatedly and picked up to crack the shell in one more spot. 

When last seen, the Dunlin was spiriting its morsel away, uneaten. 

Red-necked Phalarope at Bottle Beach State Park - May 8, 2017

 Red-necked Phalarope at Bottle Beach State Park - May 8, 2017

Procession of the Species - Olympia - April 29, 2017

Scenes from
2017 Procession of the Species Parade
celebrating Earth Day, Spring and all Creatures

Olympia, WA
April 29, 2017

check out more photos from the parade at:

check out more photos from the parade at:

Band playing in alley at Olympia Arts Walk - April 28, 2017

Band playing during 2017 Spring Arts Walk 
in the alley opposite the Washington Center

April, 28, 2017
Olympia, WA

Baby Killdeer chicks in pink wildflower field - April 28, 2017

There are those days when you hit the photographic jackpot.
Today was one of those days. 

It was sunny this morning and so I decided to head over to one of our local urban birding spots to see if I could photograph any Spring migrants, like the yellow-rumped warbler or Black-headed grosbeak. I have been seeing many warblers, so I thought I would probably have good luck. 

As I was parking, I noticed an adult Killdeer towards the passenger side of the car. I got out of the car slowly, went to the trunk and quietly got my camera gear ready. For me, this includes setting the aperture and shutter speed, so that I am able to shoot as soon as I step away from the car. 

As I made my way around the driver's side of the car, I noticed a second Killdeer. I was thinking I need to ask my friend if the resident Killdeers on the roof of her office have laid a nest yet. Then, I noticed a very small movement. 

Very small movement indeed! About 20 feet in front of me was the smallest, cutest, fluffiest little Killdeer. It could not have been more than 2 inches from the tip of its' beak to the end of it's tail. What made it even more lovely were the explosion of small pink wildflowers surrounding this little chick. 

As I watched, I saw three chicks. Killdeers lay 3 - 5 eggs, so this pair is having success with their brood so far. 

One of the chicks decided to venture out onto the nearby blacktop, before being encouraged to return the relative safety of the grasses by its' protective parent. 

I watched the Killdeer family for about 45 minutes before I headed off for more birding. What a wonderful way to start my photographic day. 

Bushtits building nest from moss and lichen - April 27, 2017

Bushtits building their nest using moss, lichen, leaves and other materials.
Hawks Prairie Ponds
Lacey, WA
April 27, 2017

Male Bushtit exits the nest after depositing nesting materials inside.
The male bushtit has dark eyes

from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's web page on the Bushtit:
'Both male and female help build the remarkable hanging nest, a process that may go on for a month or more. The nest hangs up to a foot below its anchor point and has a hole in the side near the top that leads down into the nest bowl. The adults make a stretchy sac using spider webs and plant material, sometimes stretching the nest downward by sitting in it while it’s still under construction. They add insulating material such as feathers, fur, and downy plant matter and camouflage the outside with bits taken from nearby plants, including the tree the nest is built in. While the nest is active all the adults associated with it (the breeding pair plus helpers) sleep in it. The pair typically reuses the nest for its second brood of the season.'

Female Bushtit brings spiderweb to the nest.
The spiderweb binds the nest materials together.
Female bushtits have light colored eyes.
Bushtits are about 3 inches in length. They weigh between 0.1 and 0.2 oz. Bushtits weigh about as much as 2 or 3 pennies.
Male bushtit bringing nest materials.

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