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Originally published Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 7:01 PM

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Kirkland park inspires wildlife photographer to new career

You might see him with his camera at Kirkland's Juanita Bay Park, a place Aaron Baggenstos loves to photograph. It inspired him to drop a humdrum job and pursue a dream.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Take a tour

Aaron Baggenstos, a Bellevue wildlife photographer and author of the photo book "Wildlife of Lake Washington," leads free tours at Juanita Bay Park, 2201 Market St., Kirkland. Contact him through his website: www.aaronbaggenstos.com.
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i've been going to that park for the past 6 years or so, for the same reasons Aaron... MORE
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Tales from

the Trail |

It's a wonderful surprise to see something so awe-inspiring when you least expect it.

That's what Aaron Baggenstos thought three years ago while standing at the boardwalk at Juanita Bay Park, visiting this Kirkland playground at his roommate's suggestion. There, he saw a grand wood duck in all its majestic colors, perched on a log in front of him, "the prettiest species of duck in North America," the Bellevue wildlife photographer pronounced.

There he also eyed an osprey splashing and snatching a fish out of Lake Washington a few weeks later.

Baggenstos has returned again and again since, sometimes four days a week, sometimes standing on the same viewing platform up to six hours with his camera and telephoto lens at the ready.

"It's a park that's incredibly diverse, with more than 200 species of birds, countless species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and fish," said Baggenstos, author of the photo book, "Wildlife of Lake Washington."

Baggenstos leads the public on free, hourlong tours upon request. "It's a special place for me because it's a place I learned to be a wildlife photographer."

About 60 percent of the pictures from "Wildlife of Lake Washington" were taken along the meadows, wetlands and banks of this 110-acre park, located near the northeast end of Lake Washington.

Never tires

It never gets old, he said. "You may see a bird that's rare that you'll not see again for two years or maybe never see again. It's exciting to come here not knowing what to expect."

He suggests bringing binoculars, especially to his favorite spots, the east and west boardwalks. You might see bald eagles and blue herons preying above, turtles perching on floating logs and other creatures under the cover of pond lilies.

"To truly appreciate this park you have to slow down," he said. That's become his mantra for living, too. A former safety-equipment salesman, Baggenstos, 27, got tired of the hustle and bustle and figured there had to be more to life. Last year, he decided to follow his two loves — the outdoors and photography — and started his own wildlife photography-and-tour company.

Recently, on a stroll over the same boardwalk he has walked about a thousand times, Baggenstos snapped pictures of a bullfrog by a marsh, a cedar waxwing passing a berry to a female in a mating ritual, and a dozen other birds atop the willow trees and Douglas firs.

"That's the beauty of this park," he said. "You might come here and see red-winged blackbirds along the water, like today, but then you come back and they might not be there. But you might see a pileated woodpecker or a rufous hummingbird. It's different every single day."

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle.

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