Friday, November 21, 2008

Seattle, Washington

Last week I was in Seattle, Washington for a conference held at the Washington Convention Center on Pike Street. The conference was very good, but Seattle was impressive. Busy, active, alive and clean are descriptors that come to mind quickly. No matter the age or gender of a person, it's a jeans and hiking shoes city. My kind of place.
On Saturday morning I took the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton and back to do some Puget Sound birding. I was not disappointed. Life birds for me were Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Glaucous-winged Gull and Common Murre. You might ask how I identified the Pelagic Cormorant from the larger Brandt Cormorant which was also present. That's how - size. Even with body half underwater, the Pelagic Cormorant appears a similar size to Herring Gull. They were often floating in the water together or perched together on a piece of debris. There were probably other life birds, e.g. Black-legged Kittiwakes, which I am sure I saw flying by (right size, fast flying and different flight style) but did not see field marks to count. There were also small. floating alcids which I could not get enough on to make an identification.
Pigeon Guillemots were common and beautiful. I should have cropped the above photo before posting it here, but this is how they are seen on the water. Little birds surrounded by lots of water.
A pleasant surprise were the Glaucous-winged Gulls. A flock of four and often more chose to accompany the ferry all the way across the sound and then made the return trip too. In the full quality version of the photo below you can actually see the bird's "toenails." I am quite certain I've never gotten a shot of a gulls toenails before (see earlier post If at first you don't succeed, keep trying.)
I stayed at the Red Lion Hotel on 5th Street between Union and Pike streets. I would recommend this hotel both for cost and for comfort of the accommodations. Also, there was a very nice pub, The Elephant and Castle, on the lower level that served a very good, locally brewed porter. What do I know about porter? Nothing, except that it was good.
Seattle is not an inexpensive city, but it seemed wonderfully livable. Now I need to find a conference in Portland, Oregon to attend!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

If at first you don't succeed, keep trying

November 12th through the 15th I went to Seattle, Washington for a conference. During down time I took the #11 bus to the intersection of Madison St. and Lake Washington Blvd. to visit Washington Botanical Gardens for some birding. Despite diligent searching I did not see one life bird, or even an annual bird, here. I did find many flocks of chickadees, kinglets, and bushtits. Bushtits are tiny, flitting little birds. One bushtit flock was feeding in a low bush just along the path. My camera is not great for taking photos of fast moving birds (or even slow moving birds,) and to make matters worse, I'm not great at bird photography. But, I keep trying. I got out my camera and started shooting. I took many photos, and not just those shown above. I deleted three times as many showing only blurry branches and leaves. Believe it or not, at least there's a bird in each of the three photos above. Can you find the bird?

But, to my surprise and happiness, when I downloaded the photos to my computer, the little guy below was amongst them. I think this is quite possibly one of the best bird photographs I have ever taken. I have absolutely no idea how I got this shot. Pure luck. Because my photos are generally not great, I don't even bother to look at them until after downloading them. Then I'm deleting more than I'm keeping. I have cropped this shot to make the bird bigger and easier to see in this blog. But the original image, though smaller, looks just as nice.

Some good bird photographers are probably looking at this little bird and wondering, "what's so great about that?" My response - "you try photographing a Bushtit.

Addition to this original post made on June 29, 2011:

Keith Saylor, from Michigan, posted this charming video on the Michigan birders listserve.  Completely captivating.  I've linked here to keep for occasional viewing.

Bushtit young leaving nest

Thanks, Keith