Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of the year - Birds

I wanted to put together some of my favorite pictures of the year - birds and places - so, in no particular order...

This was my first life bird of the year - a Sora at the Mary Theler Wetlands in Mason County.  I saw one more during the year, but the normal experience was to hear then without seeing them during the year.  This one was walking around right where I could see it.  I guess you can't be too picky about hiding when the water is frozen!

Ring-billed Gull - Gene Coulon Memorial Park.  One of my favorites because the light that day was great.  Beautiful birds.

Shorebirds (top) Tokeland - Pacific County.  Snow Geese (below) Skagit County fields.  I like watching a bazillion of any bird.  Sometimes you get a lot of birds and you can almost do a study of their flight, but other times they just form a  big messy blur of Bird. 

Horned Lark (Rattlesnake Mountain - Benton County) at top, and Cedar Waxwing (Cameron Lake Road - Okanogan County).  Colorful birds in dry places.

Thrushes! Hermit Thrush at top (White Mountain Burn - Ferry County), Mountain Bluebird next (Aeneas Valley Road - Okanogan County), then Western Bluebird (Bickleton - Klickitat County), Townsend's Solitaire (Badger Mountain - Douglas County) and Varied Thrush (Fort Flagler - Jefferson County).  This is my favorite family of birds - mostly for their songs.  Disappointed that I don't really have a good American Robin picture, even though it's one of only two birds I've seen in every county now (the other is European Starling!)

Gull (sp?) Cheney - Spokane County at top.  Falcon (sp?) Brewster - Okanogan County.  I put these two together because sometimes pictures can lie, and sometimes they just don't tell you enough.  The gull at the top (and I thiiiink it was mostly California Gulls that I watched at the State Track Championships in Cheney) was pink/red from light reflected off of the painfully red field at Eastern.  I liked the reminder to not read too much into pictures, as lighting can produce some odd effects on birds.

The falcon was one I had ID'd as a Peregrine initially, until I asked for an opinion and got "Merlin", then asked for another and got "Peregrine", then a lot of "Merlin", and... at this point I decided to leave it unidentified.  How thick is that branch? How big is that bird? How long is its tail?  All questions that aren't answered by the picture.  I like how much I learned about falcons from the picture

Sooty Grouse (top) Hurricane Ridge - Clallam County.  Chukar (bottom) Anatone - Asotin County.  I've heard them called "Fancy Chickens".  Game birds hide pretty well, and it was nice to get really good views of these ones.

A couple of Great Blue Herons here - top from Island County, north of Coupeville, and the bottom one from the field trip for Cornish College of the Arts up to Skagit County.

This was a picture of my first Swainson's Hawk, and was a funny one because I thought it was a Red-tailed Hawk until days later when I went back and looked over the pictures.  Someone had just posted a picture of a nearly identical bird, and it had me thinking that the Swainson's Hawk in their picture looked very familiar...

White-crowned Sparrow (gambeli) at top, and House Finch at bottom.  Not hard to find these guys, but these were some of the better shots I got of common birds.  The bottom one surprised me because I always have the dang camera on auto, and it will always focus on the closer branches, not the one with the bird.  Pleasant surprise!

Similar to the last picture, I was just glad to get this one in focus - a Harlequin Duck nesting on the Salmo River in the far northeast corner of the state. (Pend Oreille County).

A Common Merganser and Bufflehead at Gene Coulon Park in Renton.  This was from early in the year, and I sometimes take it for granted how spoiled we are for ducks and gulls down at the end of Lake Washington.

Eurasian Wigeon, Nisqually NWR, Thurston County.  An unusual bird that came unusually close back in February.
Northern Pintails, also from Coulon.   I rarely get good shots of birds in flight, so I was happy with this shot.  Didn't know what they were until I peeked at the picture!

Northern Shoveler, Ridgefield NWR - Clark County.  Loved this shot.  I mean... maybe one wing is a littttle higher than the other, but... otherwise, the gods of symmetry were smiling on me.

Wood Duck, Lewis County.  The first time my son saw one of these, he just laughed and laughed at how colorful they are.  Ridiculously colorful ducks! 

Bald Eagle - San Juan Island.  This was a very common scene during my visit there.

Sharp-shinned Hawk - Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, Wahkiakum County.  Any time I get the eye in a shot, I like it.  Puffed up bird, because of the cold, and also worth noting the lichen.  I was surprised there was no lichen growing on me by the end of the trip - it was everywhere that day!

American Kestrel - Ridgefield NWR, Clark County.  Not an uncommon sight to have some interesting bird on the signs at Ridgefield.  I think there are a few dozen of a Vermillion Flycatcher that showed up there in the fall!
My first Turkey Vulture of the year in Mason County.  We were in Arkansas for Christmas and there were so many of these, I stopped counting.  Turkey Vultures? Raptors?  Technically, no... I don't think they're equipped to kill anything, they just eat dead stuff, so I guess we're done with raptors.

Gray Jay in hand - Mount Baker, Whatcom County.  Hold out a peanut, and they come in.  Trying to get my daughter to do this with sunflower seeds and chickadees... almost there!

Two pictures from Douglas County:  Rock Pigeons (top) in Withrow, and Rough Legged Hawk east of Mansfield.  I think Bre snapped both of these - the bottom one for sure.  Roughies were a life bird for me just at the end of 2010, so getting to see one so close was a treat.  The pigeons just loooked cool coming off of the rooftop.

Glaucous-winged Gull escorting me from King to Kitsap County on the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

Lazuli Bunting, Martin Road - Skagit County.  This was at the start of my week-long trip to Eastern Washington in June-July. 

Red-throated Loon - Dungeness NWR Clallam County.  There were so many of these following Randy and I out as we looked for Snowy Owls.  I caught one of them above the surface, which always seems like an accomplishment with loons!

 Red-winged Blackbird - Mason County.  From the Theler Wetlands.  These were one of the first birds I can remember learning in recent years - just before I gave in and bought a bird book.

Sage Sparrow - Rattlesnake Hills, Benton County.  This was a lifer for me, and these are lovely, lovely birds.  The head tilt was repeated several times, but I haven't heard mention of this as normal behavior for a Sage Sparrow.

Calliope Hummingbird - Walla Walla County.  Tongue!  :)

And finally, a Wilson's Snipe from April at the Toppenish NWR in Yakima County.

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