Quiet day in the marsh

It was overcast and there wasn’t much happening in this corner of the marsh the day I captured this image. Most of the ducks were snoozing, and this mallard drake was resting in the cattails by himself. His iridescent green head really stood out among all the shades of brown in his immediate surroundings so I decided to add yet another mallard portrait to my collection.

mallard drake in the bullrushes

Chicken Little

barred rock hen portrait

I captured this image last summer, when this lovely hen was resting in the grass in a corner of her compound. Artists seem to love painting chickens, I guess the color of their combs contrasting with their feather colors are just irresistable. I like to photograph them because of all the interesting textures in their face area and the beautiful feather patterns.

Unfortunately, this handsome bird is no longer with us. A couple of months ago, she and her 5 companions fell victim to a predator that managed to get into the henhouse 6 nights in a row, absconding with one hen each night. 😦

Trumpeter swan

I was out at the migratory bird sanctuary last week, and got to see and photograph up close a trumpeter swan…a first for me! They don’t usually hang out in the sanctuary. I was very excited. He was gliding around in the long slough that runs alongside the entry road, just inside the sanctuary gates, and didn’t seem bothered at all by the attention he was getting from me and a couple of other visitors. When I paid my entry, I commented about the swan to the attendant, and she said he’d been there for three days, and hoped he wasn’t hurt because the rest of the swans had now departed the surrounding area for points north. When I got home that night, and downloaded my day’s photos onto my computer, I went immediately to the swan captures. I think I’m not mistaken in thinking this poor guy is hanging around because he’s having trouble flying — it looks to me as if his flight feathers have taken a real beating! I had noticed when watching him that he kept refolding his wings, as if they didn’t feel right to him. In the stretch image, you can really see how many of his feathers are lacking vanes, or at least have really ratty looking vanes. I can’t help but wonder how he ended up like that. Hopefully, he didn’t suffer any injury as well. If he’s otherwise okay, and doesn’t go for walkabouts, he at least is in a safe place until his new feathers grow in. At this time of year there should be plenty of aquatic plant material for him to eat, there are a couple of cultivated fields adjacent to the slough (inside the sanctuary) for him to meander around, and if he swims up to the other end of the slough he will find the parking lot and lots of visitors happy to give him some grain.

He looked so elegant and regal swimming around in the slough, I do so hope he’s going to be okay.

Pond for two

Two Canada geese on small pond
I saw this pair of Canada geese as I was driving by the field where they were checking out this little pond located in a low spot. Maybe they were thinking it would be a good place to raise a family. I liked the tree growing in the middle of the pond. It was perfect timing for capturing the image as the pair moved onto the bank a few seconds later.

Respecting others’ space…

Click images for larger view.

I went out to the migratory bird sanctuary yesterday. The day started overcast and dreary with a stiff breeze but altho it was overcast at the coast too, within an hour it had cleared off for a beautiful sunny day, even though I could see dark clouds hanging over the mountains and in the general direction of home. There were quite a few Canada geese being very territorial, the usual hoardes of mallards, northern Shovelers around every corner. I only saw 3 Sandhill cranes, one solo and one pair, and no sign of my crossbilled friend. No waders yet, but I saw a hummingbird flitting between newly opened hot pink salmonberry blossoms, and I was surprised to see tree swallows have already arrived, swooping around catching flies!

I must have been channelling my best bird energy yesterday because at one point I found myself between a gander aggressively chasing off a pair of would-be squatters, and the gander’s mate. The female that was being chased passed right beside me, and for a moment I wondered if the pursuing gander might turn his ire towards me, but when he reached me he stopped, shook himself, made eye contact almost apologetically then stood beside me for a few moments before meandering back to his mate. Later, in another part of the sanctuary, I threw a handful of grain on the ground for the ducks floating nearby and a pair of geese strolled over for a share too. The grain didn’t last long and everyone went back to what they’d been doing and I captured a few images. Then I sat down on a bench to soak up some sun and watch the territorial disputes that seemed to be going on all around me. The geese had settled down some distance away, and when I sat down the gander got up, walked over to where I was sitting and settled himself down at my feet, looking off in the same direction I was… Very unexpected. It was so tempting to reach down and stroke him, but that would have violated the trust he was extending to me. He stayed there until I moved on.

On my way back to the car I stopped in an observation area to watch a group of herons in a tree. A mallard hen landed on the railing while I was photographing, and when I looked up from my camera I found she was standing mere inches away from my face looking at me. No subtlety there whatsoever, lol! I got out some grain and she was eating out of my hand when a male redwing blackbird arrived and started harassing the mallard, trying to get her to leave. I had to laugh – she ignored him, focusing on the grain, so the blackbird became super-agitated, frantically pecking the mallard all over, but still with no success. I had some finch food in one of my pockets, so I offered the blackbird that seed in my other hand, thinking he wouldn’t eat directly from it. He was a little nervous at first, but he really wanted that seed, so eventually I was hand feeding both the mallard and the blackbird at the same time. Until a mallard drake landed on the railing, pretty much on top of the blackbird. Initially the blackbird flew away, then tried to return but the drake wouldn’t let him near. So I invited the blackbird to fly to my hand. It was clear he understood my intent, but he was quite anxious, made a couple of fly pasts, touched down briefly a couple of times, then landed on my finger and hung on for dear life while he finished the seeds. I really miss having animals at home so it was especially lovely having wild birds interact with me like that…

Resting goose

resting Canada goose, artistic processing
A visit to the migratory bird sanctuary on the coast almost always provides opportunities to photograph Canada geese, and they frequently can be seen resting beside the water’s edge somewhere in the sanctuary. I captured this one on a previous visit. She wasn’t disturbed at all by my approach from behind and didn’t bother to get up even when I had to squeeze past her to continue on my way.


Red in the face

Sandhill crane closeup
During migration periods in spring and fall, the nearby migratory bird sanctuary is a stop-off for a couple of dozen or so Sandhill cranes. But in the past couple of years there have been a handful of these elegant birds that have stayed year round, and have followed the lead of the ubiquitous mallards who shamelessly mob sanctuary visitors for food handouts. Two or three of the cranes will even eat from a grain-filled hand… There is one crane in particular that i like to hand-feed, one of the more mature birds, because his bill isn’t aligned well so that at the end point of the bill the upper and lower pieces cross slightly, enough to prevent him from picking grain off the ground. He seems in good shape physically so I gather he manages to feed himself one way or another, however I like to make sure he gets his share of the goodies when I’m there. He’s a bit more stand-offish than the younger birds, but gladly and politely accepts my offering if I make a point to single him out and approach him.