5 Favorite Washington Nature Photos of 2014

This past year I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great nature experiences and fortunately, had my camera along for a lot of them. Exploring the Pacific Northwest is a never-ending adventure because there is such a diverse amount of habitats and wildlife to see and experience. I’ve ventured into the mountains, into wetlands, across the Sound and onto islands, not to mention all the places in the city, just this year alone. Here are some of my favorite shots I’ve captured from a variety of places in Washington, and why I consider each to be a memorable photo.

The Emerging Dragonfly

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I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years watching and photographing dragonflies in wetlands in and around Seattle, even learning to identify many species. Despite this, I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to witness a dragonfly emerging from its nymph skin. The closest I’ve come is finding empty nymph skins, which is pretty exciting in itself. This summer I finally got lucky at the Hazel Wolf Wetlands in Sammamish. This was our second visit and both times have yielded exciting finds. Walking across the wetland path this time, I had found several dragonfly nymph skins and picked them up for examination, but the last one I touched I quickly realized was not yet empty. As I studied it I realized it was in the process of emerging and so I sat down with my camera to watch and document. Finally witnessing the emergence of a dragonfly was one of the highlights of my summer. This shot was one of my favorites of the series I took.

Visit the full gallery to see the full emergence.

 

The Crow Roost

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At the start of 2014 I visited the huge crow roost in Bothell at the University of Washington and Cascade Community College campus. Here 10,000 crows fly in from Seattle and other surrounding areas every night from fall to spring and after they gather, they all fly into the trees in the wetlands creating a spectacular sight. This experience is way up at the top of my all-time favorite nature experiences. To describe it pales in comparison to the actual experience of 10,000 crows flying right over your head. None of the photos I took could capture the sheer numbers of the crows, nor their noisy ruckus, but this one illustrated it best.

View the full crow roost gallery.

Read my post ‘The Experience of 10,000 Crows’ and watch the video I made.

 

 Manastash Butterflies

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During the summer, our family ventured to the east side of the Cascades for a hike on Manastash Ridge. Simply crossing over the mountains dramatically changes the landscape and all the wildlife found there and I felt like a kid in a candy store chasing butterflies, bees and other insects. The birds were also very different and we saw some exciting things. It was a day full of excellent photos, but this one of two different butterfly species was my favorite. They couldn’t be more different in size and color and species and yet there they were, frolicking together in a symbolic show of everyone getting along. It warmed my heart in a sappy way.

View the full gallery of photos from Manastash Ridge.

 

Snow Geese

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Just over an hour north of Seattle are the Skagit Flats, a well-known birding area and winter home to  thousands of Snow Geese. If you’re lucky they’ll be in the fields near the roads and you can pull over and watch them. We stopped by at the end of a long drive from Seattle  through Widbey Island and it turned out to be an ideal day for seeing the Snow Geese. Previous trips resulted in poor photographs because of the overcast days, but this particular day in February was sunny, beautiful and the mountains and hillsides on the horizon were covered in snow which contrasted beautifully with the green fields.

View the full Skagit Flats and Fir Island gallery.

 

Close Encounters with Darners

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Any time I can find a darner dragonfly which has landed I do a little jig. They fly and never seem to land, but despite that I’ve been lucky enough to get some excellent shots of darners in the past. In September my husband and I took an anniversary walk through the Magnuson Park wetlands, one of my favorite places in the city to see dragonflies during the summer. Near the end of our walk we saw not one, but a series of five different darners perched along the trail over about 50 yards. The first I saw had wings so raggedy I was shocked it could even fly, but the final darner we saw was in pristine condition, a jarring contrast. To see so many darners perched and for them to tolerate me and my camera was truly a wonder anniversary outing.

View more Magnuson Park photos at the full gallery.

Read my post ‘Magnuson Park: Reconstructed Wetlands‘.

 

Visit my other 5 Favorite Photo posts:

5 Favorite Backyard Habitat Photos of 2014

5 Favorite London Photos of 2014

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World, coming Spring 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, ParentMap, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.
Kelly Brenner
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