SEATTLE ARBORETUM: Wild Things

Male Gadwall in a small arboretum pond

I came to the Washington Park Arboretum to photograph colorful garden flowers; alas, spring seems to be a bit late this year, so I spent most of my early March afternoon photographing wild visitors to the park.

Today was a birdy day, with a knot of half-a-dozen Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, a Brown Creeper, and lots of Black-Capped Chickadees.  Robins were doing unmentionable things deep in a flowering forsythia. A pair of Gadwalls fed on a tiny pond and didn’t seem to mind that strange photographer laying on the ground and pointing a lens at them.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, a tiny bird constantly in motion, pauses a split second for a portrait

Mosses were lush and feathery to the touch on this spring day. A few people were happily walking dogs, jogging, identifying birds, and taking pictures. As a counterpoint, in thick brush I happened upon a grief-stricken informal memorial to a child from an anguished parent. It reminded me of a passage from a Dave Mathews song:

Lying in the park on a beautiful day

Sunshine in the grass, and the children play

Sirens passing, fire engine red

Someone’s house is burning down on a day like this”

The good and bad, happy and sad, swirl around us in a cloud of molecules and electrical impulses every day as we go about our lives.

A parent’s sad memorial to a son. Among other touching words, the driftwood sticks are inscribed “In Memory: My son and best friend … You beat us there, but we’ll meet you there … We love you.”

Woman walking with her dog on a beautiful spring day

Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a native shrub, lights up the March woods with its candle-like flowers

Extreme closeup of beautiful moss; I have never had training in moss identification, so I don’t have a clue as to the species

The graceful base of a huge old rhododendron

Water play, or so it looked to me

Female swimming among beautiful reflections

Adult female Gadwall with an orange bill. The female was more actively feeding than the male–within about four feet of me at times. She would sit in one place on the water, vigorously “paddling” downward with her legs, causing her to rock rapidly back and forth. Then she would “tip up” to feed, with tail stuck into the air. I believe her rapid leg motion helped to stir up matted aquatic plants so that she could more easily harvest them when she stuck her head underwater, but it is also possible that she was after aquatic insects. The male Gadwall kept a wary eye on me as I watched the female feeding.

I had always thought of male Gadwalls as rather plain ducks–especially in comparison to Wood Ducks–but the barred feathers have an understated elegance of design up close

The shape of a Gadwall’s head is interesting, with the fat cheeks and narrow head

In case you hadn’t guessed, I love photographing ducks from a low angle, though it gets increasingly difficult to haul myself up from the cramped position when I’m finished

Beautiful and subtle colors and patterns adorn the male in breeding plumage

Cone and needles of a Weeping White Pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’)

A male Ruby-Crowned Kinglet showing a bit of its scarlet crest, which is often hidden

Turkey Tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor) growing on a fallen log

Patch of moss growing on the bark of a fallen log

I have posted several previous blogs about the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle.  Go to:

Azaleas in SeattlePretty in Pink, Spring in Seattle, and Monet in Seattle’s Arboretum.

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com. I also have some inexpensive, smaller pieces for sale at an Etsy Website.

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website.


Author: leerentz

BS and MS in natural resources, with early career work as an artist and nature center director. Became a full-time photographer in 1990. Sells photographs at art shows nationwide. Publication credits include National Geographic, Alaska Magazine, National Wildlife, Audubon, and scores of other magazines, books, calendars, and electronic media.

76 thoughts on “SEATTLE ARBORETUM: Wild Things”

  1. I found your blog of of the Fresh Pressed Page, congratulations for being there. Your photos are lovely as is your writing. Somethings that I noticed in your photos…the Indian Plum blooms, you’ve captured a thread of a silk web and the photo of the extreme closeup of moss, a small opening caught my eye and I pondered what might be peeking out from the other side.
    Your photos of the ducks are wonderful and I was awe struck by their beauty. The patterns in their feathers is divine, reminds me of the texture of tweeds.
    The memorial was indeed a tender moment.

  2. I love the arboretum (though I haven’t been this year yet). Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos- they beat the heck out of my point-and-shoots. I’m definitely going to check out your other Seattle photos.

  3. Beautiful, Beautiful Photography. I love to photograph flowers – added challenge when they are blowing in the wind – sometimes get that “Photo” though.

  4. The moss above which is unnamed,common or Latin requires none. The photo is immaculate. The light and colour go so well together. Nice work.

  5. I love your work! And I love the arboretum! Every time we pass it going over Lake Washington we remember we need to go again, especially during Spring and Fall. So beautiful… and free! Great place to take visitors.

  6. I am so glad you were FPed or I would not have found your site. Thanks for these great photos, in such loving detail. I visited this arboretum years ago when friends lived in Redmond–I have not thought of that day for quite some time. The water fowl were great that day too.

  7. Love your work. The attention to the subtle designs that appear within larger elements is riveting (the pattern on the duck & the geometry of the moss). Is that really a rhododendron? I have never seen such thick branches on one! It must truly be ancient to be that thick. Great post!

  8. These are beautiful shots. I’m halfway around the world in Malaysia but I felt like I could reach out and touch the subjects in your photos.

  9. I love your work! And I love the arboretum! Every time we pass it going over Lake Washington we remember we need to go again, especially during Spring and Fall. So beautiful… and free! Great place to take visitors.

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