Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sanderling zzz's

Catching some Z's

Some resting sanderlings (Calidris alba) along the beach at Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore. As a whole, this flock of mostly sanderlings was actually fairly still. For anyone who has watched sanderlings for any length of time, that's rather unusual, since they seem to be in constant motion. And this was mostly still the case -- even though the flock generally stayed in place, the individual birds kept on the move, constantly shuffling positions. These birds were resting in the middle and eventually found themselves at the edge of the group. I like this shot both because it shows a restful side of a normally speedy bird, but also because it shows slightly different stages in the change from summer plumage to winter plumage. The bird on the right still has a bit of the chestnut coloring left, while the bird in the middle is in the plain basic plumage, and the bird on the left is somewhere in between.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time to stretch

Time to Stretch

A late afternoon walk along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore on an overcast Sunday was a real treat a few weekends ago. I first encountered a collection of perhaps 10 or so snowy plovers all hanging out in the same spot. Its always fun to watch them sprint between footprints in the sand before settling down into one for a bit. And while I was filling up a memory card on those adorable shorebirds, I didn't even realize that a huge flock of sanderlings (with a handful of western sandpipers too) had landed less than 100 ft behind me. So needless to say it was a great surprise to have creeped away from the snowy plovers only to finally stand up again before realizing the scene before me and heading back to the prone position. There was certainly at least 75 birds in this flock, and at this time they seemed to be in relaxation and preening mode.

Trying to pick out a single bird to accent was sort of difficult, as they were constantly scurrying about (even while appearing restful they almost never stop) and changing places. However, I did happen to have my lens on the right bird at the right time on a few occassions, to get some shots with a more interesting pose than just a standing sanderling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Western sandpiper on the beach

Western sandpiper

A western sandpiper (Calidris mauri) in breeding plumage strutting along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heron strike

A conversation I had this weekend reminded me about the efficiency of these predators, and how easily this great blue heron managed to catch small fish in the shallows of Rodeo Lagoon. It seemed like every time it put its head in the water, it came up with a meal.

Heron strike

Here's a frame when the heron was facing straight on. I like how you can still see the pattern of its head through the wall of water its forcing towards me.

Strike from the front

And if you'd like to see this bird without a wall of water in the way, I posted a few shots of it earlier this year: "Great blue on blue" and "Heron with attitude".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Relaxed bull elk

Relaxed bull

After coming over the hillside and chasing away two younger males who were mingling with the females (no fighting necessary, the smaller males just turned and ran to the outskirts of the group), this large male tule elk made himself a straw hat by digging around in the grass and then settled in to watch over his harem. He picked a spot that was right in a resting group of females, and he was alertly keeping an eye on the others.

Monday, September 20, 2010



Not to anthropomorphize too much here, but this frame really makes me smile since to me it looks like this harbor seal is hysterically laughing about something and even pounding its flipper as it laughs. Taken in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reaching for a snack

Stretch feeding

A western sandpiper stretching out to grab a bite to eat while on the run. Taken along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How much fun...

...can you have in a cattle grate? Well, if you ask this long-tailed weasel, the answer would be a whole lotta fun!

Photograph of a long-tailed weasel having fun in a cattle grate

I encountered this weasel while approaching a cattle grate crossing, and it really put on a show for me while it bounded between the slats, dropping in one area and popping up somewhere else. If you've ever seen river otters playing in a zoo, this it totally what it looked like. This guy was really playful, and seemed only to move in fast-motion -- that is, until it became curious about my car. It cautiously crept towards the vehicle (which I was standing a bit away from) and then would bolt back to the safety of the grate before creeping a little bit closer the next time. Eventually it was brave enough to approach, and was sure to inspect all of the tires and the tail pipe.

Checking out the area behind the tires:
Photograph of a long-tailed weasel checking out the tire of a car

Soon enough though, it realized that a car isn't all that interesting when compared to a cattle grate, and it bounded back to its playground.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A young swallow

Young swallow

A young swallow in the bush on a breezy morning in Shollenberger Park. This one was really getting tossed about on the branches, and it appeared as though it wished it had landed somewhere else.

Young swallow

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The calf and the king

One of the exciting things about visiting the Tule elk during the rut, is that in addition to seeing bulls fighting, there is also a chance to see the young calves. I had seen juveniles on previous hikes at different times of year, but in August of this year we were treated to seeing a handful of calves still with their spots! Before this trip, I didn't even know that elk were born with spots, and they sure are cute with them.

The calf and the king

While the composition was a bit tricky with that overcast sky above the hilltop, I really liked the contrast between the young calf and the large dominant bull in these shots. Who knows, perhaps this little one will one day have his own harem. I liked the shot below too, with the male seemingly keeping an eye out for, or perhaps on, the calf.

Keeping an eye on the little one

Monday, September 13, 2010

Least peep, on the run

Least peep, on the run

A least sandpiper cruising along the beach at MacKerricher State Park. While panning as it ran, I only managed a few shots that were sharp enough on the bird, and unfortunately I couldn't quite keep the tip of the tail in the frame. These guys seemed really comfortable while picking through the wrack on the shoreline, but as soon as they reached some open sand they took off at a sprint until they found some cover on the other side.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Fawns in the fog

Fawns in the fog

Last July I took what had to be the foggiest hike I have ever gone on. In the late afternoon, I headed over to Tennessee Valley in the GGNRA, and hoped to take advantage of the overcast light from the fog that was rolling in. This probably would have been great had I stayed in the valley, but something told me to do a more elevated loop, and I ascended the Fox Trail. It was on my way up that I began to fully experience what it meant for the fog to be rolling in over the headlands. At times I could barely see past the sides of the trail, and I certainly didn't expect to be able to do any photography. However, when these cute siblings materialized from within the howling fog bank, it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. Their mother wasn't at all interested in me, and she just continued to feed, but these two were definitely curious about me. And you've just gotta love the almost too-large ears on these guys!

Heavy fog, with fawns

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Olympic marmot

We spent our holiday weekend on the Olympic peninsula in Washington State, and had an awesome trip filled with great views and interesting wildlife! One of the highlights off of my rather lengthy wish-list for this too short trip was to see the Olympic marmot, which is an endemic species to the peninsula. We found this wonderful specimen sunning itself along the trail in Olympic National Park, near the Obstruction Point area.

Olympic marmot

To give a little perspective on the views these guys enjoy, here's a frame with some of the Olympic range in the backdrop.
Quite a view from this sunning stone

Here's a slightly different take on this pose as well, with the nearer hillside in the backdrop instead. I'm not quite sure which I like better, but I think I'm more drawn to the colors in the top frame.
Chillin' marmot style

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Separated from chaos

Safely away from the chaos

Harbor seals resting on offshore rocks, well away from the crashing waves behind them. Taken at MacKerricher State Park, near Fort Bragg, CA.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Show me your best side -- California Quail edition

Three different compositions of the same bird in this post, a male California quail along the trail in Tennessee Valley. This is the same bird that I posted a vertical composition of previously, who quite generously gave me a few minutes on top of his bush before realizing that only a lousy photographer was paying attention to him, and he probably should pick a different bush to woo the ladies from.

This frame is perhaps "Quail Classic" with nice posture and that standing tall kind of attitude, surely a stunning find for a female.
Photograph of a prim and proper California quail in Marin County

But this shot I think is my favorite of the bunch -- a quail with attitude! You can almost see him giving me a Z-snap and making a snarky comeback.
Photograph of a California quail with attitude

And lastly perhaps his right side is his better side, which he kindly gave to me while working the camera as well.
Photograph of a California quail in Tennessee Valley, GGNRA

On a more serious note, a Flickr member commented on my previous post of this guy about how was I able to get such clean bokeh while shooting at only f/8. The secret to this shot is that this is on a portion of the trail that cuts along an elevated portion of the hillside in Tennessee Valley. The background is actually a separate hillside across the valley, which is probably a few hundred yards off.