Friday, April 30, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: Dressed to impress

Mandarin Duck Drake on Lake, Kirkland, Washington

As soon as the eggs are laid, most female ducks are on their own. They are left to raise the young by themselves. And for good reason: the male ducks, called drakes, command attention.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

We all have a role on Earth Day

Golden-Crowned Kinglet Among Cherry Blossoms, Snohomish County, Washington

A lot of environmental activism focuses on what others need to do. Switching to clean energy. Stopping pollution. Conserving large swaths of land. And so on. But individuals play a role, too. We can’t afford to act as if taking care of the planet is always someone else’s problem.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Finale

Sapsucker on Elm Tree

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

For all the times I talked to the sapsucker, it never talked back, so I’ll never know if it was mad at me for pruning the tree. If it was mad, however, it was mad for only a month. I was on my way out to the car when I was nearly blinded by the glowing light reflecting from its vibrant head. “I’m glad you’re back,” I told it and I went inside to fetch my camera.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 8

Sapsucker on Elm Tree

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

It took a couple of weeks for me to get another chance with the sapsucker, but it did come back — right as I was pouring glass into the recycling bin. I chuckled as it positioned itself on the trunk of the elm, just above my eye-level. But then why would a noisy bird be bothered by my racket?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 7

Mule Deer in Forest, Washington Coast

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

It’s now June. The flowering currant stopped flowering a month and a half ago, but I still see the hummingbird occasionally feeding on the flowers of some overgrown blackberries that I need to clear. As the lockdown orders drag on, photography work is giving way to yard work.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 6

Kinglet Leaping From Elm Tree

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

Those who freak out about the rows and rows of sap wells forget that people are like sapsuckers. We drill into maple trees just so we have something to pour over pancakes. Maple trees survive us; most trees survive sapsuckers.

Sapsuckers are not murderers. They are farmers. And their harvest feeds the neighborhood.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 5

Sapsucker Damage on Elm Tree

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

Judging from the results of a Google search, most of the people who discover they’re living with a sapsucker do the same thing: Try to find ways to get rid of it. It’s an understandable reaction. As I was now seeing firsthand, the birds do extensive damage.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 4

Sapsucker Damage on Elm Tree

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

I didn’t see the woodpecker that day — I couldn’t see anything through the mess of branches — but I saw the evidence it left behind. From its handiwork, I could even identify it. It was a medium-sized woodpecker known as a red-breasted sapsucker.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 3

Hummingbird with Flowering Currant

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

I first noticed the tapping when I was concentrating on a hummingbird flitting around our flowering currants. They are plants that I brought to the property. They have a history in my family.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Hidden Life..., Part 2

Elm Leaves Backlit

(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)

I’m a nature photographer. In a normal year, exotic travel is a critical part of the job, or so I tell myself. I’ve crawled inside the magma chamber of an extinct Icelandic volcano. I’ve sat on a beach in New Zealand at sunset as some of the world’s rarest penguins marched by. I’ve stood in the footsteps of the Impressionists to capture a modern take on the white cliffs that plunge into the English Channel.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree

(This is the first installment of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. Subsequent parts are available on the blog here, and the entire project with additional images is available as an e-book.)

It’s a tree only a bird could love. It wasn’t always this way.

The man who originally owned my house must have spent hundreds — if not thousands — of hours carefully sculpting the Wych elm he imported from Europe. He allowed a single column to grow to a height of about 10 feet, pruning any stray growth below the crown. Branches fanned out from the top, but he forced those to point back down to the ground.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The hummingbird calendar

Hummingbird Hovering Among Red Flowering Currants, Washington

I’ve been thinking about how over the past year it seems we’ve gone back in time. Like really far back.

I spent most of my time within just a few miles of my home. And there are many days I don’t leave at all. But what really struck me was how I now notice the passing of time.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: Listening

Song Sparrow Singing, Washington

We often talk about what we can see, but sometimes it’s enjoyable seeing what you can hear. With songbirds returning for spring in the northern hemisphere, spend five minutes listening to them sing.

(This is part of the 5 Minutes in Nature project, a series of activities that are designed to help you recharge by spending five minutes concentrating on nature. Learn more about the project here, and see past activities here.)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Look at all the eagles

Bald Eagle in Flight, North Cascades, Washington

When I was working on my bald eagle book 10 years ago, the bird often drew attention. Many times when I was photographing one, people would stop and talk about how cool it was to see it.

Fast forward to this past week. I was in a field with several other photographers when a pair of bald eagles circled over us. Nobody else looked up. Short-eared owls were deemed more interesting.

This isn’t a case of something being wrong. Rather, it’s a case of something being right.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: The selectively forgetful bird

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee in Snow, Washington

When I launched the 5 Minutes in Nature project, I purposely avoided talking about specific plants or animals. This project is about finding your own connections to the natural world. I also didn’t want to suggest something that you would never see in your own area.

But today, I’m going to introduce you to the chickadee. It’s a fascinating bird. And you can find it almost everywhere. You can likely even find it now before other birds arrive for the spring.

Monday, February 15, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: Backyard bird teamwork

Spotted Towhee in Snow, Washington

Have you ever taken the time to observe how many different types of birds use your yard? In this 5 Minutes in Nature activity, we’ll venture out to appreciate the variety of birds and see how they get along.

This post is part of the 5 Minutes in Nature project, a series of quick activities designed to help you relax and build a deeper relationship with nature — a few minutes at a time.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Honoring those who help us see

Great Blue Herons Hunting in Edmonds Marsh, Washington

I don’t remember exactly when I met Bill Anderson, but I remember where: the Edmonds marsh. That’s where most people met Bill.

Some 150 years ago, the marsh was a thriving saltwater estuary — a valuable habitat for hundreds of different species as well as a corridor for salmon to return to their spawning grounds. It’s on its way back to that point now, one of the few such environments in the greater Seattle area.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Fir Island blues

Break in Storm Clouds at Dusk, Fir Island, Washington

This photograph looks like dusk at a saltwater marsh, but that’s not what it’s really about. It is my first image of 2021 and it has a lot to say.

Monday, January 25, 2021

5 Minutes in Nature: Diving for dinner

Ring-Necked Duck Diving, Magnuson Park, Seattle

I suspect for most people, ducks are the first wild creatures they remember encountering. Ducks are everywhere and some species, like the mallard, don’t show much fear toward people — probably because we have a reputation for tossing bread at them.

We now know we shouldn’t give them bread. It’s like junk food for them, making them feel full without giving them the nutrients they need. But it’s still fun to watch them feed. Take five minutes to study them.