September Visit to Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve

Great Blue Heron

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.


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