Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

What do you see?

Life in the wild is all or nothing. Creatures either live or die. Someone once pointed out that the wild creatures living near Union Bay are professionals. Amateurs do not survive long when it comes to hunting and hiding, even if they are living in a city.

Your challenge this week is to look carefully at the first photo and the next three. Look as if your life depended on what you see. Then we will take a closer look at what is in each photo and you can determine for yourself how you think you might do in the wild.

In the first photo the two crows are obvious...
... but how about the red-tailed hawk in the lower part of the photo that the crows are harassing.

Yesterday, the hawk had been sitting, watching and waiting in a nearby tree. Something must have moved near the ground as the hawk swiftly flew down into the brush and began peering closely. When the hawk moved the crows immediately stopped feeding and came to drive the hawk away.

Oddly, the crows had been pecking at the ice. At first it looked as though they were removing small seeds that were embedded in the ice. 

At a second glance it actually seemed like they were breaking the seeds against the ice. Either way it seemed a bit odd and unusual to see and hear a couple dozen crows pecking away at the ice.

From a photographic point of view the black of the crows against the bright reflecting ice was a real challenge. In the photos above I could get the ice in focus but no definition in the black of the crows.
In this photo I did better with the crow but lost almost all the definition in the ice. I am curious if anyone has a good solution to this challenge.

The crows kept after the hawk...

...until it moved out of the brush to a higher limb. However even that was not good enough.

In the end the hawk had to leave the area completely.

In the second photo the beaver's lodge is obvious...
...but did you notice the heron perched on the lodge? It is interesting that the beaver does not discriminate against milled wood. It will use wood of any type to construct its home.

In the third photo the sparrow was dead center and in focus but none the less if you were just walking by and not searching hard it would be easy to miss.

In the fourth photo a yellow-rumped warbler is out on the ice searching for food.

It must be finding something.

I caught a few photos the first time I passed the area before the warbler flew off in to the brush.

Later when I returned the warbler was back in the same area and hard at work once again. I hope you enjoyed this week's challenge.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


Odds and Ends:

 Along the way yesterday I passed a few other birds...
...a marsh wren (not a bewick's wren, see Harsi's comment below)...

...a house finch or on closer inspection a crossblll (Thank you, Twink ) and...

...a golden-crown sparrow.

Also earlier in the week on a warm day Elvis (or a relative) was spotted near the mouth of Arboretum Creek. This winter it has seemed as though the pileated woodpeckers do not venture this far away from Interlaken when the weather is cold. It could be fun to see if this theory holds any water.


  1. Thank you! That was fun.

  2. Beautiful post, Larry. I love the challenges you presented. They get at the very heart of what I find so enjoyable about watching nature. The more you slow down and observe closely, the more the secret world of birds (and other critters) is revealed to us.

    I especially enjoyed your photos of the crows on ice! As a photographer, I could have spent hours just playing with their black shapes and reflections in the ice. Wonderful.

    The wren you have labeled as a Bewick's Wren, looks to actually be a Marsh Wren. Take a peek at the field mark differences between the two in Sibley and especially compare the markings on the back and wings of both birds.

    All my best,
    Harsi Parker

  3. Thank you! I noticed those markings in the field and thought I don't remember seeing those before, but I forgot about them when I was writing up the story. Thank you for the kind words and continuing my education!

  4. Great photos.

    One solution to the light level problem is a technique called "high dynamic range" (HDR). Using this method, you take multiple pictures of the same scene at different exposures ("bracketing" if you will), and then combine them later with software, compressing the different ranges of light intensity into one cohesive image.

    1. Thank you. I guess I always disregarded that idea thinking the birds would move, however I think I have read that newer cameras can be set to take multiple "bracketing" photos automatically which might improve the odds. Thank you for the thought.

  5. Thanks, Larry, these are exquisite!!!

    1. Thank you. During the winter months I think the yellow of the warbler is especially attractive to sun-starved Seattleites.

  6. Wonderful post and series of photos, Larry. The shot of the three crows and two reflections is fantastic - I'm a photographer also and am especially blown away by that one! As always, your way of seeing the world is marvelous. Thanks so much for sharing these with us!

    1. You are very kind. Funny, I almost left that photo out, but it struck me for some reason. I really appreciate your comment as it encourages me to listen to that odd little voice in my head.

  7. Thanks --fun and very helpful too!

    1. You are welcome. It sounds like I need to do more of these in the future.

  8. Enjoyed your photography and stories. Beautiful observations.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, it is very nice to hear.

  9. Hi Larry, it's Mick Thompson. I really enjoyed this post too. I totally missed the hawk in the first one, but I did get the others, although it took me a bit to see the Heron.

    I know what you mean about getting the exposure correct in situations like the crows on the ice. It's so hard because you really need two exposures, one for the crows and one for the ice.

    What I do is, in aperture priority mode, I adjust the exposure up 2/3 or even a full stop to get close to the correct exposure for the crow. I think in this case, the crow would still be a bit too dark and the ice a bit to bright. Using Lightroom, I would adjust the exposure down until the ice looks pretty good, then use the adjustment brush tool to bring up the exposure on just the crow. It may not be perfect, but I'd give priority to the exposure on the crow and, hopefully, the ice will still look like ice.

    The HDR idea is a good one, but only works if the crow is perfectly still during all three exposures. I'm no HDR expert, but that's been my experience with it.

  10. Thank you! It is amazing how the birds can blend in. Sometimes I can't figure why they would have so many different colors and then against a particular background they simply disappear.
    I do use Lightroom but my post-processing is very limited. I would rather be outdoors taking another photo...but none-the-less I will have to give that adjustment brush a try. It just might help me save a photo I would otherwise disregard. Thank you for the guidance.

  11. Love your photos, Larry! The quiz(?) was fun to take.

  12. Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  13. Really nice work, Larry. I particularly like the single crow on ice, back to us. That one knocked my socks off. I realized a few years ago that my response to a photo is nearly 100% visceral. My favorites have always been the ones that walloped me emotionally. Your crow photo did that.

    1. Thank you! I hope you are enjoying the photos and cards.