American Kestrel | Soo Baus

The Skagit Valley is beautiful any time of year. With opportunities for outdoor recreation, the famous tulip fields, farms and local produce, and stunning mountain, water, and valley views, it is easy to find a reason to plan your next trip there. However, the fall is a particularly special time for birders and photographers alike.  

A few Seattle Audubon members and local photographers share their stories from the Skagit about what makes photographing in the Skagit so special and how they captured these beautiful images. 

Savannah Sparrow

Photographed by Protik Hossain

Location: Mount Vernon, Washington

Camera: Sony A1 with Sony 600mm f/4 and 2x teleconverter

How I got the shot: I love red. When I am out taking photos, I am subconsciously drawn to subjects of the color red. So, on this beautiful spring morning, I came across this stunning patch of red tulips and immediately knew where to set up my camera. I visited the tulip fields in Mount Vernon in the hope of capturing Savannah Sparrows. All was perfect, except the birds were pretty skittish. I waited motionlessly and patiently observed the behavior of two different individual birds. Soon, I started getting a hang of their pattern and began to successfully predict what they were going to do. Then, after about an hour (or two?) of effort, I was finally be able to capture what I wanted—this image.

Protik Hossain is a fine-art wildlife and landscape photographer. He loves spending time outdoors and is passionate about capturing beautiful and unforgettable moments in nature. He is based in Redmond, Washington.

More of Protik’s photography can be found on Instagram at @protik_photography, or on Facebook at @ProtikMHoissainPhotography.

House Finch and Short-eared Owl

Photographed by Soo Baus

Location: Bayview Edison Road

Camera: Nikon D850

How I got the shot: This is one of my all-time favorite photos of a Short-eared Owl and a House Finch perched on a blackberry branch. Nothing happened to the little friend; the Short-eared Owl was more interested in finding a vole for dinner.

Tree Swallows

Photographed by Soo Baus

Location: Skagit Wildlife Area

Camera: Nikon D500

How I got the shot: This was photographed in the spring of 2017. It was my first-time photographing Tree Swallows at Skagit Wildlife Area. This pair was busy flying in and out of this nesting hole. This image captures their funny “heated” exchange. While there were no audible sounds, their beaks were open as if they were yelling at each. 

Soo Baus works at Harborview Medical Center Level One hospital as a Trauma/Surgical ICU nurse. The first bird that she photographed was an Anna’s Hummingbird outside her house in 2015. This hobby has given her a chance to relax in nature after stressful days at work at the hospital.

More of Soo’s photography can be found on Facebook and Instagram at @SooBausPhotography.

Snow Geese

Photographed by Mick Thompson

Location: Fir Island near Conway, Washington

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 500mm lens

How I got the shot: I found a flock of Snow Geese off in the distance in a farmer’s field. As I was taking some photos, I noticed that they were all slowly moving closer and closer until they were right in front of me. In a split second, they all took off at once and I was able to get this nice shot of a white wall of geese.   

Mick Thompson is a retired IT manager who is a volunteer photographer for the National Audubon Society. His photos are used by National and many chapters throughout the country and is a regular contributor of photos for BirdNote. Mick splits the year between Redmond, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. 

More of Mick’s photography can be found on Instagram at @MickThompson2.

Common Loon

Photographed by Melissa Hafting

Location: Semiahmoo Spit, Blaine, Washington

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

How I got the shot: I was lucky to catch this bird flapping its wings after preening. He was busy eating crabs and also fighting with a second Common Loon who would repeatedly try and drag him across the water. After a bit of fighting they started to tolerate each other.  I lay down on the ground and the loons didn’t seem to mind my presence as our eyes met and they swam toward me going about their business. It was a magical moment to catch these breeding plumaged loons being so close to me and so radiant. They cried out their wailing calls to one another and I never tire of that sound. There is absolutely nothing common about a Common Loon.  

Melissa Hafting runs the British Columbia Rare Bird Alert website. She also designed and leads the BC Young  Birders Program. She is also a biologist, bird guide and photographer. She was a judge for the 2022 Audubon Photography Awards and loves to travel the world looking at birds. She is passionate about making birding more inclusive for all, especially for BIPOC birders like herself.   

More of Melissa’s photography can be found on Instagram at @BCBirderGirl. 

Trumpeter Swan

Photographed by Bev Bowe

Location: Fir Island, Skagit County

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II

How I got the shot: I was searching a mixed flock of mostly Trumpeter Swans, looking for Tundra Swans, on Fir Island when a flock of Trumpeter Swans landed in the field I was searching. This is one of my favorite photographs from the Skagit area, even though it is not perfect, but rather soft and grainy; it reminds me of a painting and evokes in me a sense of fall in this area. 

Black Phoebes

Photographed by Bev Bowe

Location: Wiley Slough on Fir Island

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II

How I got the shot: Long thought to be a rarity in this area of the state, Black Phoebes have become year-long residents here at Wiley Slough, where there are now at least two known breeding pairs. I watched as this adult made numerous trips into the wetlands, each time returning with giant dragonflies for two recently fledged young waiting on the wire above me. This particular youngster opened wide for the enormous treat coming its way!

Bev Bowe is a graduate of Seattle Audubon’s Master Birder program. When not leading field trips and participating in surveys for local organizations including Seattle Audubon, Bev serves on the planning committee for Puget Sound Bird Fest. In addition to birding, Bev reads voraciously, volunteers in animal rescue services, and loves road trips to interesting places.

More of Bev’s photography can be found on Instagram at @BevBowe. 

Bald Eagles

Photographed by Glenn Nelson

Location: Fir Island, Skagit County

Camera: Nikon Z9, Nikkor 500mm f/4e, TC1.4x at 700mm, 1/1000, f/8

How I got the shot: I trek frequently to Skagit Valley in the fall and winter to photograph raptors and Snow Geese. This moment brought an intersection of both. As I was lining up a shot of the Bald Eagle couple, gigantic flocks of Snow Geese passed overhead. Too high for any definition, they are the fuzzy dots in the background.

Glenn Nelson is the Community Director at Seattle Audubon with significant experience within the Audubon network. In addition to past service on the Audubon Washington Board of Directors and several projects with the National Audubon Society, Glenn has been a volunteer on our Equity & Justice Committee and was a part of the Equity Project Task Force, which recently completed a comprehensive audit of Seattle Audubon’s internal and external practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many also know Glenn as the founder of The Trail Posse (, which explores the intersection of race and the outdoors. He is a founding member of the Next 100 Coalition, a national alliance of organizations of color advocating for equal access to public lands, and the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, which holds the outdoor industry and conservation organizations accountable for diversity. His photography is published in Bird Photographer of the Year and has been honored by North American Nature Photograhy Association and Share the View.

More of Glenn’s photography can be found on Instagram at @thetrailposse and on his website: 

Get to know the Skagit

For more ways to enjoy the Skagit Valley for birding and otherwise, visit:  

Explore other articles in this issue of EarthCare Northwest

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By Claire Jackson

We’ve all done it, pulled out our smartphone to capture an image of a bird, and it didn’t turn out like the other beautiful bird photos from Instagram. Member Claire Jackson talks us through a few creative ideas to utilize those blurry photos, and some simple ways to improve your shot for next time. 

Ethics in Bird and Wildlife Photography 

By Kamriell Welty 

Local wildlife photographer Kamriell Welty shares her experiences capturing beautiful bird images while respecting and protecting wildlife and the land, and educating others on ways to minimize impact to her subjects.  

Disability and Bird Photography 

By Monique McClure 

Out a friend’s window, from her car, on a scooter, and at her doorstep are some of the many ways Monique McClure enjoys watching and photographing birds. As someone with a disability, she explains how she came to love birds, and how greater accessibility in the outdoors is something we can all consider and support.