Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Great blue heron with attitude

Flipping back through some images from earlier this year, I realized that I have a handful of heron and egret shots from a sunset spent at Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands. I've had many experiences where great blue herons will fly away they moment they even think you might have seen them in the distance, but I've often found that when they are in fishing mode, they are easy to approach. That was the case for this beautiful bird, as it completely ignored the photographer crouching along the shoreline as it sought out many small fish to make up an evening meal.

What're you lookin' at?

Checking out this heron straight on definitely gives an air of attitude, but its attention was totally on the fish it was stirring up with its slow walk in the shallows, and not at all on me.

GBH snack

This particular bird was quite impressive with its fishing skills, as it rarely made a strike that didn't end with a fish. It was a fun opportunity to rotate the camera to a portrait frame as well, as other than the strikes, it stood tall throughout much of the encounter -- often with one eye peering down at the water.

GBH portrait

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peaceful moments

Well, a very busy past few weeks has kept me away from posting new images, but I did manage to slip out for a great early morning walk along Limantour Spit two weekends ago, and we went for a terrific camping trip to the North Coast redwoods this weekend (many images to come, I'm sure -- once I've actually had a chance to look at them). But first, I thought I would share two relatively serene scenes, at least as far as sanderlings go.

Peaceful beach (1of2)

For anyone that has watched these guys frantically pick at the beach and stay one step ahead of the waves, they seem to be in constant motion. It was a nice change of pace to capture some fleeting quiet moments with them before they picked up speed again and took off up the beach.

Peaceful beach (2of2)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marbled godwit at Pillar Point

Marbled godwit at Pillar Point (2of2)

In one of the shorebird ID books I have, they describe the marbled godwit as being the subject of many close encounters for beachcombers on western beaches, and I've found that to hold fairly true. In general, these guys seem less bothered than many other species to have people around, and this one was no exception. Every now and then it would give me a glance to ensure I wasn't doing anything fishy -- but it was mostly focused on finding breakfast.

Probing for breakfast (1of2)

In these shots, I liked that you could see the 'tongues' of all of the clams buried in the sand. Although, I had to wonder if that helped to give their position away to the many birds searching for them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Song sparrow in Tennessee Valley

Song sparrow

On one of my unsuccesful bobcat finding trips in February, my consolation prize was this lovely sparrow singing along the trail on the way out.

Singing sparrow

Perhaps contemplating its next tune:

After the long note

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quick Post -- Mid-afternoon redwoods

Mid-afternoon giants

Trying to get an even exposure during midday light was quite challenging, as was the fact that I left auto-ISO on by mistake and ended up with all ISO 1600 images. But regardless of the challenges of capturing these giant coast redwoods the experience always leaves me breathless. Even with hundreds of other tourists around, the magic of these trees still have an effect on most of the people who walk through there.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A pup's life

Around this time of year at Año Nuveo State Reserve, most of the adult northern elephant seals have gone back to sea, and all that's left are the weaners (the term applied to the young seals that have been weaned and left behind to fend for themselves). The shots in this post are from when the seals are much younger, only a few days after they are born in January. Our annual winter trip was full of babies this time, and it was great to be on the ground-level with them.

Its tough being a pup

When these cute little pups are born they're jet black, weigh around 75 pounds, and live on a diet of their mother's very rich milk (over half of it is fat). In the 28 days or so that they nurse they'll gain around 10 pounds a day and weigh upwards of 350 pounds when they are weaned. This is an incredible growth spurt, and it is quite taxing on the mother who fasts during her entire stay.


And while all of that growing might seem a bit tiring...

Cute scratcher

...its not all about lounging on the beach, feasting, and looking cute. After those relatively easy first four weeks their mothers will disappear back into the ocean, and the pups are very suddenly weaned. At this point they are completely on their own, and need to figure out how to swim, and even how to eat.

Mom, baby, and dad (?)

By the end of April the self-taught pups will follow their instinct and head out to sea. Amazingly, they'll all individually head north to feed along the coast and won't touch land again until they return to this same beach in September.

Elephant seal hug

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Running through the rain

Running through the rain

These plovers are always surprisingly large to me, perhaps since I've most often seen the much smaller snowy and semipalmated plovers. This guy was hanging out with a handful of other shorebirds at Pillar Point Harbor. I have yet to get a really good shot of one of these, and while I was attempting to do that this one decided enough was enough, and he sprinted away. Well actually he sprinted right in front of my in order to get over to some rocks.

Black-bellied plover running

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Organized chaos -- sanderling takeoff and landing

Watching these birds attempt to stay a step ahead of the waves is always a fun thing to do. Especially when there is a large flock involved, as its great to see them move in unison. But every now and then, they seem to misjudge the incoming water and have to result to a mass takeoff. My challenge on this trip was to attempt to capture the chaos, as well as the beauty, of such a scene. Below is a sequence from the action that followed a single incoming wave.

Chaotic Takeoff

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (2of3)

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (1of3)

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (3of3)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick Post - Sanderlings ahead of the wave

This weekend we took a late afternoon trip out to Point Reyes, and while we were more or less fogged out of the sunset I was hoping for, I did get to spend some time chasing sanderlings on Drake's Beach. I made some attempts to capture the chaos that occurs when a wave finally catches up to these little guys, and I did catch a few interesting frames of takeoffs. This first one is a bit more toned down, when the whole flock was running along the sand in front of the wave-line.

Always one step ahead of the wave