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Tag Archives: Okanogan Highlands

I love to watch and photograph birds from my kayak. It is very quiet and animals are more comfortable around it than around an upright person. Of course, it’s not a stable platform and it’s always moving at least a little bit so not the absolute best for photography but still.

This time I found a very cooperative and tiny Western Wood Peewee that called and called and I am surprised I didn’t get any images with its mouth open. Also a baby American Robin, an immature gull and the elegant Common Loons. Topping it of was a beaver, dragging a branch to its lodge to feed its youngsters.

And on a hike I found a couple new to me, wildflowers.

I photographed this pair last month when they were still on a nest. Presumably, at that time they had one or two eggs and since then someone did see them with one youngster. However when we were there recently, there were no babies. A Bald Eagle probably took them. It’s hard work to raise kids.

In the first photo, I thought the bird was sleeping but on closer inspection, you can see the red eye watching me. Both birds were resting in the middle of the lake so I moved on in my kayak, looking at other birds and enjoying the day. I paddled back into a marshy area where I often see Ring-necked Ducks and American Coots and if I’m lucky, I get good views of tiny warblers too. This time I found both Common Loons in the shallow water. I kept my boat as still as possible and they both approached me, diving often and popping up in front or behind me. It was exciting to watch them underwater! They never seemed to come up with food so I don’t know what they were doing except maybe showing off? They did not appear distressed and they did not make any calls. They were very interested in a patch of cattails and I wondered if it was even possible that they had a little one stashed in there, hidden from danger but I never saw any movement in the vegetation. Perhaps they were just enjoying a rare sunny spell.

Most of these images are not cropped, shot with a 200-500 mm lens from my boat.

Another lake, another Hooded Merganser, this one with a big family to care for.

I love birding from a boat. Especially a human-powered boat like my kayak. On quiet water, the boat moves silently and smoothly and many birds are not disturbed by its presence. I still have to be quiet and move slowly and when I do it all right, I might get the opportunity to watch and photograph birds up close. Well, up close with a telephoto lens!

This female Hooded Merganser was pretty relaxed and let me watch her as she preened her feathers on a floating log near shore. After a while she decided, enough was enough, and flew away. She may have had a nest to tend somewhere around the lake.

I love to watch and listen to the Common Loons when I camp in the Highlands. For me, they represent a certain wildness that is not often present in my daily life. They are exquisitely beautiful birds with haunting calls. If a Bald Eagle approaches a lake with a pair of nesting loons, the birds will call back and forth to each other, as if keeping track of the arch predator, warning each other of the potential danger. Sometimes, it seems they call for fun or to welcome the morning sun or the end of the day. When other loons arrive on the lake, they call back and forth, perhaps in greeting?

I was lucky to see two loons on nests, one visible from a road and the other from my boat. They are sensitive to disturbance so I kept my distance from them.

Loons spend a lot of time preening to maintain their waterproofing and to line up their feathers. Read about that here. The most recent North Central Washington newsletter has articles about banding Common Loons in Ferry and Okanogan Counties. You can read that here.

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