Local Birding Festivals

copyright Karen UlvestadIn the spring and fall, thousands of migratory birds travel through Washington state on the Pacific Coast and the Puget Sound area. Communities celebrate these migrations with bird festivals, that give opportunities to participate in lectures, workshops, and bird outings. . .

Here is the link to the rest of the article – Spring is the Time for Bird Festivals.

Note:  I’ll be teaching a Free mini-workshop on bird photography at Wings Over Water Bird Festival on Saturday, March 15th at 2 pm to 4 pm.

Puget Sound Bird Fest

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Every September, the Puget Sound Bird Fest is held in Edmonds at the Frances Anderson Center, and surrounding area. This year, the festival is being held Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8. The festival is put on by the City of Edmonds. Each year, the festival is an opportunity to attend a workshop, participate in a guided birding tour, kayak to observe birds, meet professionals in the birding field, and learn about birding. For more information, visit the article at September is the time for the Puget Sound Bird Fest.

Note: I will be giving a Free lecture on Bird Photography.

Where to find Migratory Birds


Bird migrations happen twice per year. In the spring, the birds are heading to their nesting grounds. Many of these areas are in the Arctic or inland from the coast. Along the shoreline, these birds are feasting on the spring bounty of food, to make the long flight to their nesting grounds. These birds can travel several thousand miles each spring and fall. For the full article, visit http://www.examiner.com/article/where-to-find-migratory-birds?cid=db_articles

Small Migratory Shorebirds

Migratory birds come in all shapes and sizes. There are several small shorebirds that migrate from the arctic nesting grounds south to the Pacific coast down to Panama during the winter months.

The photo below is a flock of Western Sandpipers during the spring along Puget Sound. These birds feed on the small crustaceans at the water’s edge. They will walk on mats of kelp to feed. This is a flock of 30+ individual birds.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The next photo is a flock of migrating Dowitchers taken on George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Island in British Columbia during the month of November. This was a small part of the flock. They stopped eating, and took flight when a hawk flew overhead. These birds were feeding along the edge of the cattail.

Photography Tip: Remember to be watchful and patient. Birds move quickly.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The last photo is a flock of Sandpipers in flight at dusk against the sunset colored water of Puget Sound. This was the last bit of daylight, and the birds took flight. They were feeding among the large rocks of the jetty.

For those who would like more information about bird photography, I offer classes through either the Pacific Northwest Art School or Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology.

Happy Birding. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Great Blue Heron Habitat & Habits

Great Blue Heron live in a variety of habitats. They have many different food sources, and their range is global. These birds grow to 48″ +/- in size, and are territorial.

Great Blue Heron can be found in farm fields, wetlands, lakes, rivers, salt water, and ocean environments. The photo below was taken in a marsh near my home. This heron was hunting, and kept cleaning his foot. Heron feed on frogs, fish, crabs, small rodents, and other organisms.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

When resting, great blue herons roost. The birds below are roosting in a marshland area. There are 5 herons in this image. They have perfect camoflage for their environment.

This is a freshwater/saltwater marsh, and is affected by the tide. During high-tide, the herons roost in the trees surrounding the marsh. Herons may roost and nest in groups, but they are territorial while hunting.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

In the photo below, the heron was fishing along a jetty on the shores of Puget Sound. The herons fish with the last of the out-going tide, slack tide, and the beginnings of the incoming tide. They are quit successful in hunting, catching and eating many small fish and crabs.

Photography Tip – It is best to photograph these birds with a longer lens. They maintain a large distance between themselves and people, though they can become familiar with individuals.

I’ll be teaching two workshops this year on Birding & Photographing Birds. The first is at Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology (Otis, OR) on May 28 & 29, 2013. The second workshop is at the Pacific Northwest Art School (Coupeville, WA) on July 27 & 28, 2013.

Happy Birding. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Canada Geese

The Canada Goose or Canadian Goose are common through-out the North American continent. Their nesting range is through-out the continent, and they winter in the southern portion of their range. There are several races, ranging in size from small (a little larger than a duck) to large.

Their migration takes place in April/May going north, and September/October going south. They are recognizable by their flight patterns. They fly in a “V” shape  or pattern, which is more energy effective for the flock. The photo below was taken on Puget Sound in Spring.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The largest population of these birds lives in the Hudson Bay area, where they number in the millions. Through-out the continent, there are local populations of the geese that are resident year-round. These geese are adaptable, and can be found near rivers, lakes, salt water and wetland/marsh areas. They feed off of grass and other vegetation. It is common to see them in farm fields, parks and other areas with grass.

This environment is shared with Great Blue Heron, various species of gulls, Western Sandpipers, Killdeer, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Caspian Terns and various species of ducks. The sound is home to Orca, Harbor Seals, and Sea Lions (Stellar and the occasional California)

The photo below was taken in Oregon during April. These are a smaller race of Canada Geese.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Resident flocks stay year-round, therefore raise young. The photo below was taken on a beach along Puget Sound. This is an area where a freshwater stream flows into the saltwater sound. The geese feed on the kelp, bathe in the stream and swim in the sound.

Happy Birding to All. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Short-earred Owls

Short-earred Owls live through-out the Pacific Northwest. Their range (breeding and wintering) spread across the North American continent, and south into Central and South America.

To find these beautiful birds, their favorite habitat is fresh/salt water marsh, open fields and dunes. They are most active late afternoon or early evening, and hunt at night.

The Skagit Flats is home to many Short-earred Owls. They can be seen flying later in the day or early evening, hunting for prey. The photo below was taken on Fir Island, in the Skagit River Delta.

copyright Karen Ulvestad
This Short-earred Owl was sitting on a fence post on Fir Island.

It is common to see them in this area (Fir Island).

Happy Birding. . .Karen

Wintering Migratory Birds

It’s that time again! It’s winter, and time to view different birds in our yards, neighborhoods and farmlands. The Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans are back in the Skagit Flats this year, and it seems like there are larger numbers of the birds.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The Trumpeter Swan flocks are feeding mostly between Highway 20 and La Conner to the west side of the Skagit River. The flocks average 15-30 birds each, and some are close to roadways. It is a great time to view them. The all white birds are adults, and the gray birds are immature (as in the photo above).

The photo below is a different group of Trumpeter Swans. This flock was near the Snow Goose Produce stand on the east side of the Skagit River. They took flight across the farmland near sunset.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

There are many other birds wintering in the Skagit Valley and Flats. In the mountains between Sedro Woolley and Newhalem, the Bald Eagles are feeding on the Chum Salmon run. Currently, there are about 121 eagles in the area. The season high reached about 250 eagles. There are many eagles in the Skagit Flats this year. They are hunting Snow Geese and other migratory birds.

The Snow Geese are moving around on the Flats. They seem to congregate on the east side of the Skagit River throughout the farmland. Their flocks are numbering in the tens of thousands. On the shores of Puget Sound, there are thousands of sandpipers this year. Many ducks are in the area too. Local resident birds include Short-earred Owl, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawks, and Great Blue Heron.

The last photo is of a Snowy Owl at sunset. Hope you enjoy.

Happy Birding. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad