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

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looking for Love

Fall is a time of courtship, and early in the week it still felt like the kinder, gentler part of the season. Maybe that is where the term Autumn came from. Yellow leaves were still in the trees and the sunshine still felt warm. However, the midweek cold stopped the flow of sap in the trees and wiped away the last traces of summer. In just a few days, tons of leaves have dried up and fallen. Now every footstep creates a crackling, crunch and the icy water signals that winter is creeping down out of the Arctic.

Speaking of ice, can you see the ice on the spruce cones? 

The summer birds, apparently smarter than us, have headed south. The winter birds have been arriving for some time. We now have Buffleheads (with iridescent feathers), Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, Green-winged Teals (first photo) and many more moving in around the bay. Everywhere, bright new feathers are on display. Both male and female birds are cleaning and preening and trying to look their best.

The colors of the male Gadwall are subtle, and yet, brilliantly crisp all at once.

None the less, there is always one last feather to adjust. 

Did you just lean your head to the right? If so, I suspect it is a self-preservation instinct, to help us make sense of what we see. These little things remind us, we have more in common with our fellow forms of life, than with the technology that permeates our lives.

 This female Northern Shoveler takes a short hop...

...then she deploys her air brakes…

…before diving head first into the water. Can you see the color on her beak and the dark of her eye, underneath the water flowing around her head?

She comes up smiling, seemingly, pleased as punch, with her bathing theatrics. 

 This female Mallard seems to prefer a shower over a bath.

 Who knew she had "water" wings?

 It can be hard to make heads or tails of her approach. First she is down...

 …then she is up.

 I guess this is the part...

 ...where the instructions say… 

 ..."Repeat until fully satisfied with the experience!"

 Finally, she shakes off the excess water.

Then she crawls up on a log to dry off...

…but first a little stretching…

…a bit of preening...

...and then a final air drying.


 The behavior of this male Gadwall may seem similar to the bathing sequences above;

however, the following activities appear to be territorial in nature.

The bottom line, "This female is mine!"

 These two photos display a similar approach between the male Buffleheads.

Also, as part of the Bufflehead courtship, the couples appear to do nearly-synchronized diving. Often, the male seems to be slightly behind; although, in this case, the speed of his dive is so fast that his body is still up in the air before gravity can suck water into the spot he just vacated.

This is the same bird as in the earlier iridescent photo, but with the light at a different angle; he now appears only black and white.

Parting Shots:

Did you notice the Chickadee in the earlier photo?

This is one hearty, little, northwest bird that knocks the ice off the cones to get to the seeds.

This is most likely a Marsh Wren with a morsel in its mouth and its tail in an odd balancing formation.

This is most likely a Cooper's Hawk, hidden at the very top a a tall tree on Foster Island, crowing at the sun, early on Monday morning.

By the weekend, Kingfishers were forced away from their normal locations due to ice covering their prefered sites.

Speaking of ice, on Thursday morning, just as the sun crawled above the frozen horizon, a half of a dozen airborne Gadwalls descended towards Duck Bay. The sun was shining directly into their eyes, as they lifted the front edges of their wings to slow their progress and aid their gentle descent. When they were about 10 feet above the surface of the bay, it seemed as if their leader somehow awoke and called out, "Abort!, Abort!, Ice on the runway!" A mad scramble followed, with a dozen wings pumping the air for traction. Luckily, all six birds were paying close enough attention to avert disaster. 

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



  1. Beautiful photos, Larry! Thank you. from Leah Wegener, Centralia WA

  2. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy the beautiful sunshine and stay warm in the process! :-)

  3. It's always such a joy to read your posts and see your gorgeous photographs, Larry. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos as well as describing the birds' behavior - such a fascinating read!

  4. I very glad you enjoyed them and thank you for letting me know. I am keeping my eyes open for the Trumpeter Swans hopefully they will be arriving soon.

  5. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. Stunning photography with knowledge of your subjects. You always capture what the impatient eye might miss. Wonderful!

    1. Thank you. It is always a joy to step out the pressure of modern life and simply observe nature. It calms the spirit and restores a sense of balance. Nature is a gift to be treasured and protected. :-)