Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Season Otter Search at Jericho

On the 23rd, Black Jack and I joined our friend, Jock, for some picture taking at Jericho. It was a grey day, but our discoveries coloured the day bright.

The otter that I had seen a week or so earlier decided to make an appearance.
It moved incredibly quickly over both both land and water.
On the way to the fishing dock, I took this seagull (and many, many others)...
..and lots of ducks. My hesitant guess for this one is a Common-Goldeneye female.
At the dock, the crows were busy. I would have loved to do a better job of capturing this one, doing what I'm convinced is a jig.
This one was beautiful against the pink light.
On the way back, we saw this bird near the rabbit bushes. I was playing with different exposures, trying to get the bird to show up against a grey, but still bright sky. I am loving my camera more every day; it really tries its best, no matter how many mistakes I make. I am guessing this may be a House Finch.
A bit further on, we saw a Blue Heron by the pond. We watched it a long time, hoping it might fly off, and give us the opportunity to view its beautiful wings. It didn't. We were very close, and even with Black Jack, it seemed perfectly relaxed and confident. Just to the side, I took a break from heron watching, and caught a quick glimpse of this Northern Flicker.
And, here was the heron, as active as it became during the time we watched it.

(*Warning, if the sight of an otter eating a fish would be disturbing to you, skip the next photo.)

We met a photographer by the pond, and he talked about the otter. After an enjoyable exchange, he left, and shortly afterwards, we followed, heading back to the first pond. When I saw the same fellow standing quietly at the edge of that pond with his camera, I had a feeling "our" otter was the attraction. Sure enough, there it was, with a huge, and to my eyes, horrified-looking fish in its mouth.
It was honestly thrilling to watch that otter.
I don't think I will ever forget it.

On Christmas Eve, in the morning, I went back to Jericho, looking for signs that might make a Christmas theme for a blog post, but mostly, hoping to find the otter again.

Here, the Christmas theme.
No otter was to be seen. Another goal, to show the beauty of a crow in flight, has been longstanding. Not there yet, but maybe getting closer.
This duck looked new to me. From my book, it seems to be a Tufted Duck, but their eyes, in the book, are orange. Very confusing. Maybe, another Goldeneye?
This seemed to be a very scruffy crow. I wondered if it could possibly be a raven. It was a long way up in the tree, and it was difficult to judge its size. No way to be sure.
A Northern Flicker. My book lists three different types of northern flickers - Gilded, Yellow-shafted, and Red-shafted. I can barely tell the difference of one from the other, but am going with Red-shafted for this one. According to the book, the Gilded is an Eastern bird, and the Yellow-shafted has yellow wing linings.
A sparrow. Perhaps, a Fox Sparrow?
A bit saddened to have missed the otter, I headed out of the park, and stood at the top of some steps leading down to the seashore. This cormorant (Double-crested, I think) was most entertaining to watch.
I can't look at these birds without thinking of ballet.
A gentleman came by, and asked if I knew what this duck was. Looking way down, I could barely see it, but my camera stepped in for my eyes. A Harlequin, I believe. My very first in the Jericho area!
A closer look here.

Bill joined me for a second walk, much later in the afternoon. The otter finally made another appearance! Much further away though, and hidden behind lots of branches and logs.
I am amazed that my camera managed any kind of picture at all. The light was almost gone, and the distance it had to travel to find this otter was considerable. It has far better eyes than I will ever have, one of the things I love about it! I have looked each day since (including today), but that was my final otter sighting.
Here is my very dear Bill. He looks a little stern here, but what you see is actually determination. He has followed Black Jack for a very long time, under and around bushes, accommodating her search for rabbits. Finally, he has had enough. Time to assert himself, something his gentle nature hates doing. He won't pull on Black Jack, so the only alternative is to carry her. I love her expression. She is a tiny bit frustrated to have her search thwarted, but she also loves to be in his arms.
Bill and I walked around the back trail. I saw a Barred Owl there several months ago, and look for it every time I go to the park. No luck, but we heard the most beautiful bird song. Four notes, with the last pitch higher than all the others. Shiprock kindly gave me a much appreciated CD with bird songs, and I must check it out for that song. I do believe it was a robin, but it was so high in the tree, and it was so dark, it was another of those miracle shots for the camera. Take a moment, if you can, to look at that link to Shiprock. His photographs always leave me in awe. The link will take you to a Northern Harrier.
Christmas morning, I was, you guessed it, back at Jericho. A white Christmas it wasn't, although the pond was lightly frozen over, and frost did glisten here and there. Here was the view as I entered the park. The otter travels the three Jericho ponds, sometimes going under the bridge. It is usually the first place I look. No otter, but..
..this heron, standing rather precariously on the ice, peeking up as it preened in beautiful sunlight, made my day. To see its eye and a bit more detail, click on the photo.
A seagull,
a crow,
and some Turnstones, a bit further on, all seemed to be enjoying the sun.
Back to the pond, this seagull struggled to take off from the ice. One foot seemed to be under water, while the other was on ice.
I watched this crow from the bridge. It was a long distance off, and until I saw the pictures on the screen, I had no idea what it was doing. It would fly up and swoop down, but never go all the way to the ground. I'm used to crows breaking their food by dropping it on the ground, but this was not what it must have been doing.
My only explanation is play. Fly up, drop whatever that is..
..catch it before it hits the ground, fly back up, and repeat. I love crows!
Bill again joined me for a Christmas afternoon walk at, yes, Jericho. I love this duck for the expression, the fanned tail feathers, and just for the sheer entertainment. Oh, for better focus.
Again, we walked around the back trail. One day, I feel sure I will see the owl again. And one day, I also feel sure, I will see the otter. On Christmas Day, we saw what I will call a Dark-eyed Junco.
And then, this Black-capped Chickadee (I feel pretty sure.) This was a team effort. These little guys flit around so quickly, and it was almost dark. I trained the camera on one spot, and Bill, while still keeping a close eye on Black Jack, kept up a running commentary something like this: "One's coming, it's flying down, it's landing.. now!" It took us several efforts to finally get a photo. Not the best, but very precious to me. I don't know many men who are so willing to encourage an.. obsession? Hobby? Bill, in my view, is one of a kind. Thank you, Bill!
We finally were back at the pond, taking one last look for the elusive otter. No luck, but watching the ducks, seagulls and crows land and take off from the frozen sections was both worrisome and endearing to watch. Worrisome, because I always think they may sprain an ankle, in those skidding moments. I guess that's anthropomorphism to the n'th degree:) (If there is any new reader here, I sprained my ankle about a month ago.) As far as I could tell, all did okay.
This morning, another failed search, but the Blue Herons were giving quite a show. This fellow was beautiful. I waited around, hoping for a take-off shot, but that wasn't to be either.
A second heron was by the bridge. It sat for at least two hours. The way they can stretch their necks out is fascinating. I think they must almost double their height.
I met two photographers this morning. Part of the fun of the camera is sometimes getting to see my familiar territory with others' eyes. Jim Friesen, gave me his blog address. It is mind-blowingly beautiful, and I think you would enjoy that link as well.
The second photographer took time to help me understand my camera a bit more. I really appreciated that, although the birds stopped flying, just as I was perfectly set up for "in the air" photos. Still, it will help me, perhaps tomorrow, when I try again. It's a wonderful world, this photography one. In fact, as Jean would say, it's a wonderful world, period!


  1. Great shot of the otter and crow!!! Merry Christmas by the way. Do u shoot with canon ?
    If so I might have a good site for u.
    Hope u and bill had a wonderful Christmas!!

  2. Your otter looks as if he has a very special personality. I think he needs a name appropriate to an otter! Your new lens has taken you to a new level of photography already!! Phyllis

  3. Amazing photos, as always Carol. The close-ups of the otter are amazing, as are many of the bird ones.
    Every time I look at your close-ups, I wonder if I should rethink my decision to stay with a pocket camera - how I would love to be able to zoom in that close! Of course, I'd also have to borrow Bill to look after my dogs for me while I set up the shot - hahahaha!

  4. Thanks, Nev. No, my camera is a Nikon d90, and the lens I'm using most often these days is a Sigma 150-500. Too bad, but would love to hear about any great sites you discover. Merry Christmas and the very, very best in 2010 to you, Jen and Cooper. Loved Cooper's picture!! I didn't get myself together to send any cards, but am the only person I know who is still working on that, even as the holiday time flies faster than the speed of light:)

    Thanks, Phyllis. Yes, I'm wondering about a name. Also wondering if I'm seeing the same otter each time, or if there is a family of them. So far, I've never seen more than one at a time.

    Thanks, Jean. Yes, the camera is cumbersome and quite heavy. I haven't seen anyone else using one of that size without a tripod, and have definitely never seen anyone trying to walk a dog (let alone two or three or four) while using it. Then, there is always the necessary trick of cradling the lens and pointing it straight up whenever dogs approach, wanting to lick or smell it. I do manage with Black Jack but it is so, so much easier when Bill is with me. On the other hand, the pleasure the camera gives me in seeing wildlife up close and personal is just so intoxicating, I'm now hooked. Probably something for you to talk over with the instructor for your photography course. (I'll be looking forward to hearing about that.)

  5. A large number of very fine pictures interspersed here, and pretty find bloggery too. Some of the otter pictures, and some of the heron pictures are quite exceptional and hard to beat.

    They come across very well at the large size that can reveal minor defects. (Many of us others save our images at smaller sizes so that defects are not so noticeable)

    Cheers, and all the best, Shiprock

  6. Shiprock, thank you! Always love to get your feedback. Defects? You will have to point them out to me. Your photographs raise the bar to a level I may never catch, but it sure is fun trying.