The Orca and the Sea Lion

While I was bird watching yesterday, November 23, 2022, at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, all effort to find birds came to a temporary halt when at least 4 Orcas appeared far out in Puget Sound.

As a huge male Orca swam toward a channel marker buoy, a sea lion that was lounging on the buoy decided it might be a good idea to lounge a little longer, until the orcas move out of the area.

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A Tale of Two Tails

This week’s photo, taken November 11, 2022 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a very obliging HERMIT THRUSH.

Last week, I mentioned that one difference between a Swainson’s Thrush and the similar-looking Hermit Thrush is the reddish-brown tail of the Hermit Thrush (clearly seen in the photo above).

For comparison, below is last week’s photo of the Swainson’s Thrush with its brown tail.

It’s unusual to see these shy and secretive thrushes out in the open. They are often at least partially hidden in foliage, making it ever more challenging to figure out the exact species. But, heck, if bird identification were easy, bird-watching wouldn’t be as much fun, right?

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Passing Through

This week’s photo, taken September 24, 2022 through our bedroom window in Seattle, WA, features a SWAINSON’S THRUSH perched on one of our backyard bird baths.

This long distance migrant probably spent the summer months on its breeding grounds in Canada or Alaska. Now, it is heading to its wintering grounds, which are likely in South America.

One way to distinguish it from the similar looking Hermit Thrush is that the Swainson’s Thrush sports a brown tail, while the Hermit’s tail is reddish-brown. Thanks to this cooperative bird for providing us a clear view of its tail.

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Small, Medium & Large

This week’s photo, taken September 14, 2022 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features: on the water in the front row – RED-NECKED PHALAROPES; on the water in the second row – unidentified gulls; in flight – BROWN PELICANS.

To really appreciate the size of a bird, it helps to view it next to a bird of a different size. Most gulls are considered to be fairly large birds, until they show up in the vicinity of pelicans. A phalarope is a small shorebird that, when in the company of pelicans, may appear as tiny as a warbler.

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Move Back, Please

This week’s photo, taken October 5, 2022 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHER.

This tiny bird appeared out of nowhere and alighted on a branch about 5 feet from me. I stood still, holding my breath and hoping it would fly to a slightly more distant perch, since my camera’s minimum focus distance is about 10 feet; even my binoculars can’t focus on an object a mere 5 feet away. Then again, when a bird is that close, who needs binoculars?

Apparently, the flycatcher read my mind. Within a few seconds, it flew to a branch about 12 feet away, and I got my photo.

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Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

This week’s photo, taken Sept 30, 2022 at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, a few miles west of beautiful Walla Walla, WA, features WILD TURKEY, the none alcoholic version.

My significant other, Laura Dean, and I recently visited southeastern Washington for 3 days, where Laura gave two presentations on her book, Music in the Westward Expansion. For more info on her book tour, including a photo of a 1867 piano that Laura played during her Prosser program, click on: https://lauramusic.biz/2022/10/04/walla-walla-and-prosser-washington/

I accompanied Laura as her official driver and roadie. I also found time for some bird-watching.

While walking the grounds at Whitman Mission, we arrived at the creek and were surprised to see 7 Wild Turkeys at the water’s edge. Apparently, the turkeys were not too thrilled to see us because at first sight they took off running. Although it was only late September, the nervous birds may have thought it was mid November and that we were in search of some meat for our Thanksgiving meal.

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Eastside Beauty

This week’s photo, taken Sept 30, 2022 at Fort Walla Walla City Park in Walla Walla, WA, features a BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE.

If you hope to find a Black-billed Magpie in western Washington, you may be in for a long wait. Yet, if you drive over the Cascade Mountains to the east side of the state, a magpie might be one of the first birds you see. Because of their large size, long tail, and black, white and blue feathers, they are hard to miss. Also, they know they are attractive, so they often show up where we humans spend some of our time – along highways, in parking lots and city parks – just to remind us of how good-looking they are.

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Sleeping In

This week’s photo, taken September 23, 2022 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a juvenile NORTHERN HARRIER.

At 10:49 this morning, a Northern Harrier launched out of a tall conifer, carved a few circles in the sky, then straightened its flight path and headed south. The colorful hawk may have spent the night in that tree, and when the daytime temperature began to rise, it decided it was time to resume its fall migration.

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Loud Tapping

This week’s photo, taken September 5, 2022 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a male PILEATED WOODPECKER.

As I walk through the park, I hear some slow, strong tapping. I figure it’s either a person doing some carpentry work, or it’s a woodpecker (and a mighty big woodpecker because the taps are quite loud). Following the knocking noise, I soon sight the sound’s source: a Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker.

Incidentally, the Spanish word for woodpecker is “carpintero,” which translates to “carpenter” in English.

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The Smallest

This week’s photo, taken August 30, 2022 at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort near Leavenworth, WA, features a PYGMY NUTHATCH catching a moment of morning sun.

Nuthatches tend to eat insects in the summer, and seeds and nuts in the winter. Found only in western North America, the appropriately named Pygmy Nuthatch is the smallest nuthatch in the world.

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