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Nov 26 2013

Went for Shrooms, Came Back with Birds

Inspired by Kenny and the small stretch of charming weather we’re having, I went on a quest Saturday to find mushrooms. Only some unutterable barstard’s mown down all the local fly agaric. And the ones I did find were – oh, shall we say, well past their prime and leave it at that? Bleck. And I was being lazy and doing the North Creek loop, which isn’t exactly a mushroomer’s paradise. I need to get me arse out to the woods, but after a month of sitting round sewing and a further three weeks of lying around being ill, I’m not up for the strenuous business.

Which turned out awesome, actually. I got you birdies!

My little cormorant. Image is a profile of a cormorant, which is standing on a small lump of wood or similar in the creek.

My little cormorant.

There are two ponds on this stretch of North Creek. One is up by where I work: it’s large, and somewhat screened from passers-by, and it’s where a lot of the cool kids hang out. That’s where you would normally see a cormorant, when they make their way over here. However, a bird-watching gentleman told me that pond is frozen, so everybody ended up coming down the creek to the second pond, which is smaller but deep enough not to freeze. It’s also easier for people to get to, which is why the birds and other animals who don’t appreciate humans tend to give it a miss. This cormorant was also giving it a miss, opting instead for a stretch of creek up near the beaver lodge. It wasn’t too happy about being in close proximity to people, but seemed to understand that we weren’t going to come down the steep banks after it.

This did not mean it was able to live its life undisturbed. The ducks were not at all impressed by its solitary black majesty.

 

Cormorant and duckies. A male and female mallard pair are sailing through the creek right past the cormorant.

Cormorant and duckies.

I thought it would photograph best with water as a background, but I decided to try another set of photos with the grassy bank behind. And green is, apparently, its color, because it really makes that orange by its beak and that green eye pop.

 

Cormorant against grassy bank.

Cormorant against grassy bank.

Here’s a nice close photo of it.

 

Closeup of cormorant.

Closeup of cormorant.

Look at those lovely patterns in its wings. Rather looks like someone spent a long time drawing it in various shades of charcoal gray and jet black, dunnit? That’s one of the many things I love about this camera. From the bank, I could barely make out the slightest shade of orange around its bill, and the body was just a solid black blob. The camera managed to resolve quite a bit with its spiffy optical zoom.

And you get a tableau like this, when the water stills after the ducks’ passing, and a noble bird is reflected.

 

Cormorant and reflection.

Cormorant and reflection.

So that was pretty awesome. Then I meandered the few steps down the trail to the pond, where a kindly birdwatching gentleman pointed out a treasure. See if you can find it in this group photo.

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely - it's very hard to see. (The photo shows a portion of the pond, full of ducks and other waterbirds, and hiding in the rushes is a green heron.)

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely – it’s very hard to see.

I’ll give you a minute. Also, a link to a larger version. Because I love you, that’s why.

Since the other pond was frozen, a huge congregation of wildlife had gathered down at this one. If you look round the mud flats, you’ll see lots of nutria having a nibble, as well as all the ducks, and this was just a small sample of the abundance.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

And amongst all the usual stuff, there was this wee little green heron, who should’ve left the locale long ago.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

I don’t remember ever seeing one before, so this was rather exciting, and made me feel better about missing out on mushrooms.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

I spent quite a bit of time up there, watching the heron hunt, and talking to the gentleman about all the wonderful things round here. He’s seen river otters on this creek, which means I’m going to have to spend more time along it. Otters! It’s possible that’s what got mightily offended when I startled it from the bridge the other day. It plopped off the bank before I could get a good look at it, and all that would poke out later was a head sorta like a nutria but not really, and kind of like a beaver only not, and it would look toward the bridge, see me still there, and make an angry huffing sound before diving again. Just like a church-type lady doing the “Well, I never!” routine. I felt kinda bad, but look, I was on the human part of the creek and stayed there, so I sort of felt like it was getting huffy over nothing.

Anyway. One last look at our hunting heron:

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Coming home, I saw a dragonfly. Yes, a big fat ol’ red dragonfly, so late in the season – I’d have shot a photo if it had landed, but it didn’t. Still. Absolutely magical, seeing a summer creature in the near-winter. It went well with the ladybug that was industriously climbing my window earlier.

Mah late ladybug. It's a silhouette of a ladybug that's climbed to near the top of the window, shot from inside the house. Just a tiny little thing.

Mah late ladybug.

And then Starspider and I went to the weaver’s store near sundown, taking the road along the lake, and those sunset colors on the water with the Cascades and Mount Rainier and everything – I wish we’d been in a position to photograph them for you. It reminds me why I moved here, and why I stay.

One of the best cities in the world, this.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    Birds! *EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!*
    Love the little green heron. It looks so small and inconspicuous, all huddled up like that (and a bit cold, although I don’t know – do the birds feel the cold yet?). So cute!
    Good luck catching sight of an otter or two!

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    I years of casual birding, my wife and I have only once seen a green heron! Lucky you. And those are really great cormorant pics. Now I’m going to have to see if I can figure out which variety it is. If I recall correctly, we have three sorts around here.

    1. 2.1
      kathyr

      It is a Double-crested Cormorant. The other two regularly occurring N. American species are Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, which are generally found on the coast and at sea. Double-crested are found in both salt and fresh water habitats.

      1. kathyr

        EDIT: The above should read “…other two regularly occurring N. American species ON THE WEST COAST…”.

      2. Trebuchet

        Awesome! Thank you.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    Forgot to add, perhaps the reason for the lack of shrooms is the overnight frost we’ve been having the past few days.

  4. 4
    heliconia

    Green heron! They’re cute little birds. There also seem to be some grebes (not sure what kind) among the mallards. In the second close-up of the heron, at least one of the birds above and to the right of the heron is a grebe, and I think I can see a few others in the wider-angle shots.

    I really like the cormorant photos, too. Cormorants can be awkward and messy nuisance birds (especially on the Great Lakes), but they can also be quite beautiful, and these photos really capture their more elegant side.

    1. 4.1
      petemoulton

      Green Herons are my absolute favorite avian photo subjects. They’re infinitely entertaining little guys, and very beautiful in the bargain. Ten minutes from my home are ponds–right in Phoenix, mind you–that host a nice-sized resident population of Greens, and I spend hours watching and photographing them.

      It’s also nice to find other people who appreciate cormorants; not everyone does, you know. These are excellent shots of a Double-crested Cormorant, Dana. They’re fairly uncommon at my Green Heron ponds, but Neotropic Cormorants have moved in to fill the void. It doesn’t matter, though: all cormorants have spectacular eyes.

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    I’d missed Dana’s mention of the nutria until I blew up the picture and noticed them. Cute, although they are (sigh) an introduced pest.

    I did find what appears to be a pied-bill grebe as well as a green-winged teal among the other ducks.

    1. 5.1
      heliconia

      Are you sure they’re pied-billed? I don’t see the black bar on their beaks. Though they’re the right shape, and I don’t really know what other grebe species look like in winter.

      1. Trebuchet

        No, not sure at all. I was mostly basing it on the fact that they look very small. There are, of course other grebes that are quite small. If I get ambitious I’ll dig out the bird books!

        1. rq

          Ooooh, it’s a UFD fight! Bring out the books, the heavy artillery! :D
          (I’m staying out of this one. Water birds aren’t my specialty by a long shot. But green herons are awesome.)

          1. heliconia

            I’m now within arm’s reach of a bird book, and it looks like pied-billed grebes DON’T have the black bar on their beaks in the winter. So it’s plausible that these guys are pied-billed grebes…and actually pretty likely, because all the other grebes (eared and horned grebes are similar in size) have much longer, thinnner bills. So Trebuchet wins the UFD fight!

  6. 6
    haitied

    Cool dinosaur pics!

  7. 7
    rq

    Speaking of dinosaurs, my kids have been thrilled lately to discover that dinosaurs are well and living among us. Even the sparrows, even the eagles, even the ostriches. :)

  8. 8
    catlover

    Love your bird photos! The cormorant photos are especially nice. Sorry about the shrooms, but you had fun and got all those great photos. I’m not a birder — I just enjoy our small dinosaurs.

    So glad you are feeling good again!

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