Away from home: Eagle watching

The Skagit River area is the nexus for North America’s largest eagle migration. While they are resident in western Washington year round, eagle numbers swell as migrants head south from Alaska and feed on salmon runs in the Skagit River. Our three hour trip on the Skagit River promised a front row seat on this exciting spectacle.

Okay. It wasn’t a great spectacle, though we saw a lot of eagles…perched, like this one, along the river’s edge. We learned a lot about the migration and eagles. The real peak is in December when the salmon run is greater (and I had jury duty) and eagles leave their perches for quick meals from the river.

The river was beautiful. The open drift boat had heaters. And occasionally it stopped raining. I’d do it again but I’ll just say this time it was challenging.

Away from home: Skagit River

One of the chief reasons we went on a winter birding trip to the Skagit Valley was to take a trip on the Skagit River to view migrating eagles. We knew weather in January was likely to be, well, weather in January. In Washington state that usually includes precipitation. And it did. We were glad it wasn’t snow. We arrived early and, uhm, enjoyed this view from the car.

Lest you think all was lost, the river was beautiful.

Away from home: Great blue herons

We have great blue herons in Sequim but I was tickled with several unobstructed views that I had on our recent visit to the Skagit Valley. This fellow was perched in a tree; by the time I caught him in my lens he’d taken off directly overhead.

This one gave me a rather pleasing vanity shot.

Oh, those feathers! Great blue herons are really beautiful birds, aren’t they?

Away from home: Skagit swans 3

One of the most impressive views of the Skagit Valley migrating birds are the great masses of them when a flock takes flight. Camera in hand, I only caught a few here and there. The best I managed was here.

However many are in the air I find swans beautiful and elegant and often their wing movements synchronize as they fly.

They’re beautiful to see.

Interestingly, even in the middle of a flock swans take off and land without bumbling into one another.

Away from home: Skagit swans 1

Smaller flocks of trumpeter swans that gathered nearer to roads in the Skagit Valley permitted closer shots. Some foraged in grass, others in the muddy fallow fields.

Maybe it’s common among swans but I was impressed with this one’s version of swan yoga. Maybe it was sick of standing in mud but if this isn’t a variation on a yoga balance pose I don’t know what is.

As if to cap its performance it blithely tucked its head back, still on one leg.

Away from home: Skagit snow geese

The Skagit Valley, about a 3 hour drive east of Sequim (including a ferry ride), is a winter birding hotspot. I’d seen terrific photos and videos of great masses of snow geese and swans in the flooded agricultural fields. It seemed a practical way to see what I could learn about shooting birds by paying a visit. This scene greeted us not long after we arrived in LaConner, a sweet little town at the edge of the Skagit Valley.

We roamed the valley for a couple of days. This was as close as we could get to large groups of birds. We found many smaller flocks of swans not far from the road, feeding, resting, honking, and bugleing.

This was a group of hundreds. A wide angle lens would have done it more justice but I was still excited by the sight.

Away from home

We took a short winter trip to the Skagit Valley recently. It is an agricultural region north of Seattle. In the spring there are vast fields of tulips and daffodils and other crops. In the winter many flooded fields are temporary homes to migrating birds. We went bird hunting but also enjoyed the beauty of the area. So we’ll be exploring another part of Washington state in coming days.

For those who wonder, the white behind the trees is either low clouds, controlled burns, or chimney smoke. It’s too wet for wildfires.

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. today as he is honored on this national holiday: a brave, thoughtful, and articulate leader.