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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Driving home from a friend’s house late the weekend before, I had to stop to get photos of a toasted cheddar moon and blazing red telluric Mars just above it. Little did I know that, courtesy of the fires raging in Washington, Oregon, and California, we soon wouldn’t be able to see the sky for a week or more.

The smoke began to funnel northward through the I5 corridor late in the week. At first it looked like fog. Then, on Saturday, September 12th, 2020, we woke up on an alien planet. It looked like Mars outside– yellow, hazy, dark, and foreboding.

This is the Edmonds ferry dock at Brackett’s Landing. The whole world looked like pea soup. You could barely see the ferry that had just left.

The ferry loomed like a ghost ship and was then sucked into a void. Normally you see an opposite shore. Today, there was nothing, just the edge of the world.

I zoomed in as the ferry plowed westward, but at best it seemed like an apparition in a sandstorm.

These photos have not been edited at all. This is how the beach actually looked that Saturday. You can see scuba divers coming in. I found it odd that people were still out diving, but does hazardous air quality affect visibility in the water enough for them to care?

Even the plants’ colors seemed off. Everything was saturated in this weird, otherworldly glow, like we had survived some nuclear horror and were slowly crawling out of our shelters afterwards.

As I snapped the photo of the famous orca, I mused how it appeared to be swimming in pollution. Then it hit me– how similar this is to the disgusting pollution our resident orcas live in. This is what we do to their world. This is a constant for them. Because we so callously pollute the water, each local orca could be considered a floating superfund site.

We used to rejoice when their babies were born. Now we just pray they survive the lack of traditional food sources and the industrial waste. They often don’t, and humanity goes on complaining about lack of entertainment during COVID, or rioting, or obsessing over the latest cosmetics, ignoring their cries.

I have stood here many times, but I’d never seen it look so foreign.

All day, no matter where I went in two counties, I noted an absence of birds. Far fewer birds than normal braved the rancid, tar-filled air. This crow and his seagull buddy foraged along the beach in tandem with few others in sight.

Yep. It was definitely Smoke Time.

Arriving at the north end of Lake Washington, this panorama seemed straight out of a sci fi movie. We were supposed to have temperatures nearing 80 degrees with near full sun, but last time I’d checked the temperature it was 58.

Walking out on the dock felt like walking out to the edge of a flat earth. You usually see land on all sides. Seattle, however, had disappeared. The middle of this scene had simply vanished. There was smoke, and then there was nothing.

Gazing down into the lake’s milfoil mass, I imagined one of those menacing merpeople from Harry Potter reaching up and grabbing me. No thanks.

These logs, although fixed, appeared to be swimming away from the yawing nothingness in the middle of the lake.

A gaggle of geese bobbed around like nothing was happening, the lighting exactly like the filters used to portray Mexico City in the movies. Ever notice that, that Mexico City always shows up in hazy brown or sepia tones on the big screen?

These old pilings looked like a pathway into another place or time.

Zooming in, no birds roosted here today. None flew through the air either. Aside from traffic noise, there was an eerie stillness.

One rebel Canada goose floated leisurely through the soup apart from the others.

As I was chatting with a local, we looked up and said, “what’s that?” It was the first time we’d seen the sun in a couple of days. It was a grapefruit-hued pinhole in the sky, barely piercing the blanketed glop of destruction.

The sun’s reflection in the water was just as bizarre.

At times there was a blush or rose color playing upon the undulating mocha of the lake.

While forecasters had originally said the smoke would start moving out earlier this week, that didn’t happen. The Seattle area was enveloped in a dense yellow fog again this morning… except it wasn’t fog. By afternoon we saw a bit of sunlight, prompting me to go to Juanita Beach in Kirkland to see what I could see.

Sure enough, there was the sun, sparkling down upon the latte-like lake. Yet it seemed to be a sun from John Carter, Pelelandra, or Tatooine.

The ducks were happy enough. But there were still no birds in the air.

It seemed like dusk, not afternoon.

Beyond the boardwalk there was just a fisherman and faux fog. No Seattle. No 520 bridge. Just empty space, because the west is on fire and we continue to pray for rain when there otherwise would have been summer through the end of September.

Smoke veils the air like souls in drifting suspension, declining the war’s insistence everyone move on.

Jayne Anne Phillips

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Earlier this week I drove down to photograph the latest developments in the West Sammamish River Bridge project. I shared pictures of the three bridges there in The Final Countdown, two of which will soon be lost to time.

Almost all of the trees on the west side of the bridges have been removed to make room for a crane. It is painfully obvious what a necessary screen they were as the road now has a plain view of messy industrial sites beyond.

On the south side of the bridges is the local boat launch on the west and Rhododendron Park to the east. As I glanced to the east, I was elated to see a big tree on the edge of the park full of cormorants.

There were cormorants everywhere. You can usually find a couple paddling down the slough here, but 1… 2… 3… They were almost impossible to count as these trees (plural) seemed to be a beachfront disco/single mingle spot for the local population. Other two-legged species gathered around the trees to photograph the gathering.

I counted 57 cormorants perched in these trees at one point, but some kept rushing off as others arrived. I chuckled inside because 57 cormorants sounds like a vintage car… a ’57 Cormorant. Try it on an unsuspecting teen and see if they respond, “yeah, yeah, that was a great car.”

These appear to be double-crested cormorants. The ones with lighter feathers may be juveniles. Not being a cormorant expert, The Cornell Lab’s page on cormorants sheds a little light on this.

Once again being sans tripod, I struggled to find stability during these zoomed in shots. This one turned out a bit out of focus, so I played with it to highlight the striking emerald color of these birds’ eyes.

My Nordic ancestors thought of cormorants much as we think of angels now. Cormorants were believed to bring warnings from the Folk of the Forest and therefore functioned as protectors.

Do you believe in angels? I do. Thursday night some friends prayed for my safety. Friday morning I had a narrow escape from a sudden danger. I’m certain that some invisible friends helped guide me through.

These birds weigh about three to five pounds each, so these branches must be sturdy enough to host such a party. I noticed that none of them landed on the trees and touched each other. They liked being close, but didn’t seem to interact much. Perhaps they too are practicing social distancing.

Here come more! Those of us near the base of the trees were amazed.

If you are familiar with Packard automobiles, they had a distinctive hood ornament often referred to as the “swan.” But it’s said to actually be a cormorant.

These birds of a feather didn’t make a lot of noise. This video of their call demonstrates why stumbling upon a group of these at night can be unnerving. Years ago I was ambling along a different spot on the slough in the dark and froze when I heard what sounded like 35 hoarse cats hacking up hairballs. I had no idea what was “hargh”ing at me just offshore that night.

According to Wikipedia, Phalacrocoracidae is a family of about 40 species of aquatic, fish-eating birds. We call them cormorants, but some in Britain call them shags. Curious about the etymology of this word, I learned that this French-sounding term, cormorant, is Middle English, comes from the French cormoran, which before that came from medieval Latin’s corvus marinus, or sea raven.

Keep your eye on the bird second from the right. He or she cracked me up. I think they were really enjoying the sun.

And back and to the right…

A little forward, to the left now… It was like bird yoga. You’ve probably noticed the dangerous snarl of fishing line on the top branch. People do fish at this spot. Personally I wish we’d just leave the fish to the birds in such places, especially with the bridge project starting as it’s disrupting their habitat.

That’s about a four-foot wingspan on the left.

This appears to be the wing drying behavior that double-crested cormorants do when they land. Not all cormorants do this, curiously. The sun was very warm in this spot on an otherwise chilly day. This wing drying is also associated with the Christian symbol of the cross, which may explain why the cormorant occurs on certain European crests.

Here you can see their magnificent black webbed feet. Since they are primarily designed for life in the water and swim with their feet, their legs sit towards the back of the body so they’re not the most graceful walkers. In the water, they are fish killing machines, a fact that has caused humans to mistreat them in some cultures. A cord was tied around their neck so they couldn’t swallow fish, then men would use them to hunt fish and take their catch from them.

Interestingly, this type of cormorant will nest in trees or on the ground depending on the habitat.

As graceful as these birds are in the sky and water, there is still something vaguely pterodactyl about them to me. Perhaps it’s because they are among the so-called earlier birds. They seem to be a survivor from a distant past.

When Dylan Thomas proclaimed his love for his wife in a letter, he said, “I will come back alive & as deep in love with you as a cormorant dives, as an anemone grows, as Neptune breathes, as the sea is deep.” As this bridge project continues, I hope the locals like these big black diving birds survive unscathed.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Every January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. What are you doing for the noble, nimble nut-burying ninjas in your backyard this year? Here are some smashing ideas from the National Wildlife Federation.

And if you don’t appreciate this compilation of squirrel videos, your cat will.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Driving through Kenmore, Washington last Sunday– the day of the big Seahawks game versus the Panthers– I spotted these two feathered fans at a major intersection.

Kirkland has its cow and coyote statue that is duly decorated for such occasions, but I’d never seen these bike racks gussied up before. So I grabbed ye olde cell phone camera.

Herons are dear to Kenmore. There is a colony of Great Blue Herons at the Kenmore Park and Ride right on bustling Bothell Way. Who ever thought a park and ride would be a birding hot spot?

Seahawks Herons 1-17-16

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Read Full Post »

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