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. 

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