Showing posts with label Cesar Chavez Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cesar Chavez Park. Show all posts

Friday, April 8, 2011

The owl that wasn't, Berkeley Marina

Burrowed burrowing owl - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This is a shot about a shot that I had in my head but was never able to get. After finding this owl in a burrow that was an ideal location for a nice ground level image right near the fence to keep the dogs out, I had high hopes to come home with an image of this bird standing tall by its burrow. I returned to the park many times this spring, but each time the owl stayed tucked away inside. On my last trip in March, I finally saw it half-out of the hole -- but by then the grass was too tall for the shot I wanted anyway. Such is the joy of wildlife photography though. Not that there's joy in not getting a shot you want, but there is much joy when the stars align and the animals actually do what you were envisioning in perfect light. You never know when it will happen -- so the more potential images you have stored in your head, the better ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

California ground squirrel, Berkeley Marina

California ground squirrel in cute pose - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

By this time of year the burrowing owls should have left Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to spend the summer months in their breeding grounds. While the owls are the main wildlife draw of the park, there are plenty of other subjects around including lots of song birds and raptors, and of course a lot of California ground squirrels.

Squatty ground squirrel - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It's always interesting to see the interaction (or lack thereof) between the burrowing owls and these squirrels. The fact that they are basically the same size probably has something to do with that, since I think they are too large for the owls to consider prey. So instead they seem to tolerate each other at close range, and since they share the shame aerial predators, I would guess the owls appreciate having the extra eyes around.

Ground Squirrel Snack - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I was sitting on the ground photographing an owl in its burrow last month, this cute subject came strolling into my line of sight. Initially I was frustrated by the brown blob in the frame, but I quickly decided to refocus and snap off a few frames of this photogenic critter instead.

Caught in the Act - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Friday, March 11, 2011

Singing red-winged blackbird, Berkeley Marina

Singing blackbird at Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The blackbirds are starting to make a real ruckus, which must mean that spring is just around the corner! These are two shots from an evening walk at Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. At least two burrowing owls are still there, although we couldn't find the third that we had seen earlier in the season. Perhaps it was just below ground, or maybe it has left for the summer.

Red-winged blackbird calling from the branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Monday, February 7, 2011

Burrowing Owl at the Berkeley Marina

Western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Another shot of a wintering burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina. One of the great things about these guys is that when they find a burrow they like, they'll keep it for a while -- which means that they are reliably easy to find once you know where they are. I'm still waiting for a nice shot of one of the birds that is in the grassy area for this season. I have plenty of shots of it more than halfway in its burrow, but I'd like one with a bit more owl showing. However, this owl hangs out on top of a rock quite frequently, which means you can see the whole bird.

Owl glance

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Look into my eyes... Western Burrowing Owl at the Berkeley Marina

A western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina. A small colony of these cute little guys spend the winter in Cesar Chavez Park. This one decided to settle outside of the fenced in area designated for the owls, and instead picked a burrow in the rocks along the shoreline.

Western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Owls have such amazing eyes, and I find it nearly impossible to look away from them in images. The striking yellow color really stands out from their camouflaged plumage, and it's a hypnotic stare. Thankfully, this guy was much more worried about what was going on up along the trail (ie, dogs) than in me, but it definitely makes for more interesting images when he glanced my way and stared into my soul ;-)

Western burrowing owl watching the trail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Monday, January 24, 2011

Great blue heron at sunset

Great blue heron at Sunset -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

We were looking to stretch our legs a bit last evening, but it was too late to go anywhere interesting in Marin, so we decided to check in on the burrowing owls at the Berkeley Marina. We saw two owls, and some other people that we talked to there said that there are as many as four reported in the park. However, right when we got to the park, this great blue heron was hunting rodents in the middle of the playing fields, and I ended up spending most of the good light left in the day on it.

Focused hunter -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The bird was pretty easy to approach since it was focused on the many gopher holes that cover the fields. We found a nice position and sat down in the grass with it. A handful of times it became very focused on a certain spot and appeared to get ready to strike, but the rodents were lucky this time, since we didn't get to see it catch anything. Eventually, it was spooked by the firing of a bottle rocket and it flew away.

Sunset heron -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I was excited about the potential of the setting, since the grass is starting to get some height to it. That meant that if I lowered the tripod so that the camera was maybe 6-8 inches off the ground, I could capture a bit of the sea of green around the heron. In the bottom two shots, I really like how the out of focus grass took on a painted quality, with the bunches looking a bit like brush strokes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Late light, tall grass, and a burrowing owl

Late light, tall grass

These shots are from March of this year at Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley. By this late in the spring, the grass had grown high, and the burrowing owls seemed to enjoy the extra cover. Thankfully there was a narrow tunnel through the grass that stretched from the bird to the trail, and I was able to get an unobstructed shot. I've been sitting with the images from this series in my queue for quite some time, and today finally felt like the right day to post some. I'm not sure why I passed them over for so long.

Late light, tall grass

Shared as part of World Bird Wednesday -- click here to check out the other posts for this week

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Surprise! The burrowing owls are back!

Surprise!  The owls are back!

Well, its not really a surprise that the western burrowing owls have returned to Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley marina, since they are annual winter visitors, but this one sure does look surprised. Actually though, it has such huge eyes since a dog was walking by. They appear to be fairly used to people stopping for a look, but if a dog wanders too close to the fence, they get visibly agitated.

I'm quite impressed with the new permanent fencing that was erected in the off-season to protect the owls from people and dogs getting too close. Instead of that hideous orange plastic netting, there is now a nice permanent fixture with a few cables running between anchors. Its much easier on the eyes, and also would allow for ground level shooting now, assuming that an owl was perched in a place that you could see it from along the trail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quick Post -- Western Burrowing Owl

From a February walk in Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina.

Western Burrowing Owl

This bird seemed particularly nervous about overhead predators, glancing skyward every few minutes.

Watching for predators

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Western burrowing owl in late light

These shots were taken a few weeks back when we went to Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to check out the wintering burrowing owls. A mix of overcast skies and breakthrough setting sunlight really gave a nice feel to the scene -- and of course the fresh winter grass is so bright and green this time of year!

Western Burrowing Owl

Checking out the guy crouching behind the fence:
Burrowing Owl Staredown

It was a windy evening, and occasionally the owl looked a little displeased to be so wind-blown.
Burrowing owl in the wind

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The owl and the squirrel

A lesson: never turn your back on a squirrel.
Never turn your back on a squirrel

Getting closer to the unsuspecting owl:
Unsuspecting owl

Actually, these guys seemed to tolerate each other quite nicely. It was sort of surprising to see the squirrels come right up into the owl's space, and that the owl really didn't care. It's more fun to post shots that make it appear as if there was some tension, but really they were pretty indifferent.


Both focused on the same thing:
The owl and the squirrel

The California ground squirrels are generally regarded as a nuisance, but when not bothering someone's agriculture or garden, they are actually kind of cute.
California Ground Squirrel

Ground squirrel

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Western Burrowing Owls at the Berkeley Marina

Burrowing Owl at Cesar Chavez Park

After spending an hour or so around sunset the night before at Cesar Chavez Park on the Berkeley Marina (see the post), we came back the next day to try our hand again at spotting the western burrowing owls that winter there. I've read that there are five individuals there this winter, and we spotted only two of them on this trip.

Camouflaged burrowing owl

These guys are actually quite small (not all that much bigger than the ground squirrels that were so abundant in the area), and were really hard to spot initially. They blend in perfectly with the area around their burrows.

Burrowing Owl at Cesar Chavez Park

Mostly they spent their time squatting in or right by their borrowed burrows, and we only saw this one fly once over a short distance. Unfortunately, it was due to a human visitor who decided it was pertinent to make hooting sounds and lean over the protective fence towards it. This spooked the poor little guy and it flushed back to its further away hole. This was really a bummer for me, since this was the only time we found one of them close to the fence, and with a nice green area around it too.

Burrowing Owl at Cesar Chavez Park

Once back to the burrow, he stood outside of it, and we got to see all of him for a short time before he dropped back inside. Regardless of if it was inside or out of the burrow, those big golden eyes were always dancing about.

Burrowing Owl at Cesar Chavez Park

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sunset over the Golden Gate

Sunset over the Golden Gate

Over the weekend we headed out to Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley to look for the small group of western burrowing owls that overwinter there. On Saturday, we didn't find the owls, but we were treated to a remarkable sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge

I've often seen images from Africa where the sun looks incredibly huge while it sets over the horizon, and I've wondered why that happens and if it happens here too. It was amazing how large the sun looked, and it was a reminder of how quickly our planet rotates around its axis -- it only took a few minutes for it to completely pass behind the bridge and slip from sight.

Golden Gate Bridge sunset panoramic