Patches of Yellow

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This week’s photo, taken February 1, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS can be challenging birds to identify, since the amount of yellow can vary a great deal from bird to bird. Some show a visible yellow crown, and some have yellow throats. Most are adorned with yellow flanks, as is this individual.

They ALL have bright yellow rumps, hence the nickname “Butter Butt.” So, when you’re not sure about the identification, wait for it to take flight (you probably won’t have to wait long, since they are so hyper), and then look for the ‘pat of butter’ when it spreads its wings.

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Rear Window

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This week’s photo, taken February 3, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features the backsides of 2 GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS.

We are so conditioned as photographers to aim our cameras at the front of birds and other living things, yet a rear point of view sometimes displays details and patterns that otherwise would be hidden.

Don’t think for a moment that my goal that morning was to photograph birds from the back. Often, we just have to accept what we get. Occasionally, what we get is better than we originally thought.

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Forbidden Fruit

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This week’s photo, taken February 13, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE, an uncommon visitor to the west side of Washington state, and a rare species here during the winter months.

I suspect that this individual was munching on snowberries (the white out-of-focus dots in the background of this image). Apparently, the fruit of the Snowberry plant is poisonous to humans, so unless you are a Townsend’s Solitaire, you should consider consuming some other type of fruit.

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Year of the Bohemian

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This week’s photo, taken January 20, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a BOHEMIAN WAXWING, a rare visitor to western Washington.

The BOHEMIAN WAXWING, the slightly larger cousin of the more common Cedar Waxwing, hasn’t been seen in the greater Seattle area since 2010, but this winter many local birders have flocked to Magnuson Park and Discovery Park to view and celebrate this gorgeous species. I saw my first Bohemian Waxwing of my life at Magnuson on January 10 of this year, then 10 days later at Richmond Beach Park, I found 4 Bohemian Waxwings feeding with a large group of American Robins and European Starlings.

Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings are adorned with the same black facial mask, head crest and yellow tip on the tail, but that’s about where the similarities end. While the Cedar Waxwing has a yellowish tinge to its body, the Bohemian’s body is gray. The Bohemian also has a bit of white on the wing feathers, plus a splash of yellow. Perhaps the most noticeable difference: the Bohemian has a reddish-brown face, as well as a reddish-brown underside to the tail.

So, the next time you spot a flock of Cedar Waxwings, take a good look at each individual bird, especially this winter, and you may discover that you’re looking at a different kind of waxwing.

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Ruby

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This week’s photo, taken January 4, 2017 at Richmond Beach Park in Shoreline, WA, features a male RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET flashing a bit of its head color.

Most of the time, the brightly colored crown of the male RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET is not visible. It might reveal it to impress a female, to intimidate another male or a possible predator, or when it wishes to show off for a bird photographer.

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Wave Runner

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This week’s photo, taken December 26, 2016 on Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville, Florida, features a SANDERLING, a small shorebird that famously plays ‘chicken’ with incoming waves.

If you are old enough to remember The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, you may recall them showing video footage of a small bird running along the beach, while Johnny rapidly tapped his pencil on his desk to mimic the sound of the Sanderling’s feet contacting the ground. It doesn’t matter that in real life we’d never be able to hear the tiny bird’s feet hit the soft sand, especially with the constant roar of the ocean. All that matters is that it was a funny bit that Carson did on numerous occasions, and he loved doing it.

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Another Headshot

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This week’s photo, taken December 28, 2016 at Green Cay Wetlands in Boynton Beach, Florida, features a headshot of a TRI-COLORED HERON, a common medium-sized heron of the Southeastern United States.

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