Sunday, February 21, 2016

Same Old, Same Old

One of the deep pleasures and comforts of birding is finding the same species in the same place year after year.  In other words, the Anna's Hummingbird that I have seen in the exact same blackberry bramble every year is quite possibly offspring of the one I first noticed there five years ago.

This was the case yesterday in Skagit. Last summer there was a pair of Killdeer just west of the bridge by the church on Fir Island Road. Saturday morning in the same area there was a pair of Killdeer doing their hyper-sensitive, hyper-vocal thing. Same pair? Their kids? Who knows, but encountering the cyclical nature of animal life, and affirming that landscape and its food offerings are indeed destiny for birds resounds deeply. It's like being in the bosom of family and intimate friends after a long separation--their habits, inflections, idiosyncrasies are so ingrained in our memories, that we involuntarily anticipate them.

And on a more superficial note, who can resist these birds--those jaunty stripes? That vivid red eye ring? The comical bobbing? And fledglings are even more endearing in their long-legged fluffiness. The shots above are from a brood on UW campus a few years back.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Requisite alligator-disturbingly-close-to-potential-meal photo from the Everglades.
The prospect of seeing new heron species in Florida last week was very alluring.  I never tire of the Great Blue Heron's elegant-clumsy silhouette, but I was eager to meet some of its southern cousins.

Little Blue Heron strutting through the Everglades.
My bird fantasies were exceeded--not in number, but in the close-up views I got of the Little Blue Heron and the Tricolored Heron in the Everglades. Some of the birds are acclimated to people, so saunter past or sit still in front of human visitors without much anxiety. (Don't get me started on the idiot who pointed his SELFIE STICK in an Anhinga's face...) This luxury of proximity afforded revelatory views of their plumage which I never would have experienced otherwise.

The Little Blue is, in its non-breeding plumage, grey-blue, but its neck feathers have a very subtle wine-colored aspect as well--not possible to appreciate from afar. The Tricolored's neck has a more obvious russety-wine coloration and buff-colored plumes cascading down its rump.

Tricolored heron in Shark Valley Visitors Center in the Everglades.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nictitation Felicitation

Taken seconds apart a few days ago in Key West, these two photos illustrate how the fiery orange-red eye of a juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron is suddenly and fleetingly obscured by its nictitating membrane. In fact, it happens so quickly, I'm never aware of it while shooting birds--only afterwards when I'm reviewing files on my monitor.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "Birds have what is known as a nictitating membrane or 'third eyelid'. This is a clear eyelid, closest to the eyeball. It is transparent and can close and protect the eye when hunting."