Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Mallard Duck with Feathers Stuck to Its Beak

I had some business to do in north Tacoma today (had to go to the Xfinity Store a.k.a. Comcast because our DVR was glitchy. They gave us the new X1 box and a year promotion on it for $10/month.)

Whenever I go up there, I usually go by Point Defiance. I was disappointed today that the cloud cover was kind of thick, which made shooting with my long lens difficult. With low light and wildlife there’s a lot of compromises to consider. If you raise the ISO, your photos come out more grainy. If you open the aperature, the field of focus becomes too narrow. If you lower the shutter speed, camera shake plus wildlife movement becomes an issue. All in all, you have to compromise with one of those settings.

I’m still trying to figure out what setting I can compromise on. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised that I got some photos worthy enough of showing here.

It turns out that 3200 ISO on the Canon Eos Rebel T3i can be an acceptable setting, especially if you’re taking photos for the web or for personal memories. There will be grain, but if you don’t plan on using the photos at their full resolution, or plan on printing them, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, ideally you should wait for a sunny day, but nature can’t be planned for. Oh, if you’re taking photos of ducks that are there every day, then do re-visit on a sunny day and use a lower ISO. But if you want to capture the moment, don’t hesitate.

Female Mallard Duck Close-up

Aperture: f/11
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
Canon Eos Rebel T3i
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 Auto Focus APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Adjusted in Photoshop Elements Camera Raw
(adjusted clarity, saturation, & contrast)


September Visit to Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve

Last week I visited Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve.  It was my first visit after about a 3 month hiatus.  It was sunny and in the high 50s.  It wasn’t too windy and I was warm enough in my usual jeans and hoodie attire.  (I think I need to get some leggings to wear under my jeans for the colder months.  And a hoodie with ear flaps.)

The high tide was around 11 feet at mid-day.  I saw 4 blue herons close enough for photographs.  There were also a few other herons in the distance.

Great Blue Heron Hunting at Nisqually

Great Blue Heron Hunting at Nisqually

The first two blue herons were along the Nisqually Estuary Trail (before you get to the boardwalk).  One of them was hunting in the shallow waters on the Puget Sound side of the trail.  He found a little crab.

Great Blue Heron Catches a Crab at Nisqually

Great Blue Heron Catches a Crab at Nisqually

The other one was in the tall grass on the side of the trail closest to Interstate 5 highway.  It looked like the grass had been mowed, which I was surprised about.

Blue Heron at Nisqually NWR

Blue Heron at Nisqually NWR

While I was taking these blue heron photos, I also captured this photo of a large flock of birds.  I think they are juvenile Red-Winged blackbirds but I could be wrong.  (Please comment below if I’m wrong… thanks!  My first guess was Starlings because of the spots but the beak color is dark and they’re smaller).

Juvenile Red-Wing Blackbirds (?)

Flock of Juvenile Red-Wing Blackbirds (?)

I also saw a unique Blue Heron with white wing tips off the boardwalk.  (I think it was by the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform.)   Other birders told me that he was part albino and has been there for a couple of years.  He didn’t mind us watching and spent a lot of time grooming.

Great Blue Heron - Part Albino - Nisqually

Great Blue Heron – Part Albino – Nisqually

Sometimes he would stand on one foot and scratch his ear.

Funny Photo of Blue Heron Scratching

Funny Photo of Blue Heron Scratching

There were Harbor Seals sunbathing in the distance (really far away, you would need binoculars to verify that they were Seals.)  There was also this seagull trying to eat a flounder.

Seagull with a Flounder that's Too Big to Swallow

Seagull with a Flounder that’s Too Big to Swallow

It took him a long time to swallow that fish!  He kept dropping it and picking it up again.  I captured over two minutes of this funny dilemma on video:

At high tide, there were still some exposed mud flats that were like a little resort for small shorebirds.  I had a hard time identifying these guys, but I think they are Western Sandpipers.  If I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments below.

Seagull and Western Sandpipers on mud flats along Nisqually Boardwarlk

Seagull and Western Sandpipers on mud flats along Nisqually Boardwalk

I also checked out the Nisqually River overlook and saw a Spotted Towhee foraging in the brush by the water:

Spotted Towhee at Nisqually NWR

Spotted Towhee at Nisqually NWR

The water levels were very low in the marshy area along the Twin Barns Trail.  We’ve had a drought this summer so I guess that’s no surprise.  The trees were still almost fully clothes with leaves.  There were maple seed pods on the trails.  I saw one snake on the wooden path part of the trail.  This is a common occurrence, as I think I’ve seen a snake about 25% of the time I’ve been there.  (I think it was a Garter Snake.)

I think I saw a Peregrine Falcon on one of the dead trees.   I got a photo but it’s blurry.  I’m really bad at estimating distances (anyone know the distance from the Nisqually Estuary Trail to the dead trees?) but the bird of prey was far enough away that it was hard to focus on, even with my Sigma 500mm lens.  It looks like I should have switched to manual focus.  Next time I will have to try.  That and use a tripod.  (I have a tripod by carrying it is a difficult task for me.  Yes, my lens is heavy but not as awkward as a tripod.  For me, personally.  Maybe something will change my opinion on that someday.)

Maybe a Peregrine Falcon?

I guess this photo goes to show you that I take bad photos too.


Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse by George Mendoza

An Elaborate Bird House for the Birds and Squirrels!

Do you remember this book from your childhood? I just came across it recently and wanted to share with you the elaborate bird house illustration that’s in this collectible children’s book.

Bird House Illustration in Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse

In this book, Ms. Mouse is an architect who designs houses for animals. Some of the designs are like mid-century modern. The bird house is supposed to feel like a spaceship. The book is by George Mendoza and the colorful and super creative illustrations are by Doris Susan Smith.

What I love about this illustration is that the birds are drawn to resemble real birds. There are Barn Swallows and House Sparrows. The yellow bird reminds me of a Grosbeak but I think it may be something else. This book was apparently first published in the UK under the title “House by Mouse” in 1981, so these may be European birds. The text was changed for the U.S. version which came out in 1983. But the beautiful illustrations remained the same.

Illustration from Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

Illustration of a House for a Worm that’s inside of a pear!


Frog House Illustration


Need a House? Call Ms Mouse Endpaper Illustrations

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse Endpaper Illustrations


Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse Cover Photo

This is a picture of the U.S. version, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1983.