Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stormy shoreline, Lake Tahoe

Our trip to Lake Tahoe in October wasn't all bears and salmon, as we took a drive around the lake on Sunday afternoon. It was unfortunately a rainy day, but we did get periods of time without precipitation, which provided a chance to shoot some landscapes with a wonderfully dramatic sky. This shot is from the Sand Harbor area on the Nevada side of the lake during a mostly dry walk along the shore.

Lake Tahoe Shoreline

Since the sky had such wonderful color but was rather bright, I thought this would be a good chance to take some bracketed sets and try my hand at HDR for the first time. This is a combination of 3 frames, each one stop apart. I'm not sure that this was the most ideal situation for requiring a blended exposure, but compared to what I was able to do in a single frame in Lightroom it did seem to help a bit. I was able to retain more of the color in the sky, while still keeping the rocks evenly lit in the foreground. This is definitely something I need some work with, but it was a fun exercise all the same.

Wider view, Lake Tahoe

I've included a "making of" shot, courtesty of my lovely wife, since she takes such great pictures of me taking pictures. I had to laugh when I saw this one too, because I know she was chuckling at me during this shot since I had just explained how I would need to go to the furthest rock I could reach in order to get just the right composition. Of course, when I compare the results of my HDR efforts to what came out of my wife's point and shoot in auto mode, perhaps it wasn't worth the trouble!

Photographing Tahoe

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Salmon or trout?

While reading online about the Kokanee salmon run in Taylor Creek off of Lake Tahoe before our trip, I learned that bears in the area have a distinct taste for trout. In fact, one report said that its not uncommon for bears to catch trout in the creeks, but it was only recently (within the past few years) that select bears started capitilizing on the salmon run. We witnessed this preference first hand with the mother bear that we watched fishing in the creek.

Preferred meal

Just before catching this fish, she had a nice sized salmon in her jaws, and she had already eaten many by this point. However, she clearly got excited when she saw the trout and she dropped the salmon without eating it and lunged for this beautiful fish.

Carrying a trout

She had eaten most of the salmon on the rocks right in the stream, however, with this special prize it appeared that she didn't want to risk losing it back into the water and she quickly carried it up onto the bank before starting to eat. Her cub noticed what she was up to, and he definitely wanted in!

No sharing plates

Surprisingly, she was unwilling to share with the cub (at least at the current location) and ripped the fish out of its grasp while it tried desparately to hang on to the tasty meal, and she then carried it further away.

Sorry, cub

This time she went back up the hillside and out of view of the creek. The cub definitely stayed right behind while she went -- likely hoping for some scraps, and perhaps she decided to share once she was truly away from the chance of losing it back to the creek.

Over the hill

Here's a movie clip taken by my wife of the bear's decision to not eat the trout in the stream. You can see her hesitate at the rock where she was eating salmon, and when the trout really starts moving and she decides to take it to the shore.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Calling Plover -- Post 150!

Photograph of a plover calling out on the tidal flats in California

A plover (black-bellied, I believe) calling out along the exposed mudflats during a negative low tide at Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay. Our trip there on Saturday was a real treat, with a diversity of shorebirds on the flats and some nice tidepooling opportunities along the beach area. We even saw a baby octopus in one of the pools -- which I never would have noticed except for the courtesy of a family pointing it out.

Also, I started this blog in October of 2009, and this post marks the 150th so far. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to view what I've uploaded, and please do consider subscribing in your reader if you haven't already. Thanks!

Friday, November 5, 2010

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

This lovely sparrow was hanging out along the trail that connects Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility and Shollenberger Park in Petaluma.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stand up and celebrate -- Congrats Giants!!

It's time to stand up and celebrate -- congrats to the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants!! This was an awesome season filled with many highs and many lows that ended with a dominant postseason run, capped off tonight with the first championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco! Congrats Giants!!!

Stand up and celebrate -- the Giants win the World Series!!!

On a photography note, these "celebrating" snowy plover shots were taken along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore in September. I spent a lot of time laying in the sand with half a dozen plovers, just waiting for them to do something interesting. I'd often see them stretch there wings from the corner of my eye, but it seemed hopeless to actually have the active one in front of my glass at the time. But my patience paid off, and I lucked out with two frames of this stretch. I like the tiptoed stance in the top shot, and the details in the wings in the bottom, and both seem to give off a feeling of happiness and celebration, so I was hanging on to them in my queue waiting for this moment to post them to celebrate the Giants winning the Series! Go Giants!

Congrats Giants!!!!

One more snooze

Hitting the snooze

As with every Monday morning, it sure would have felt nice to hit that snooze button one more time. In honor of that feeling, here's a shot of a few sanderlings napping along Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. This is a start of a good week though, with 3 chances for the Giants to win the World Series beginning with Lincecum on the mound tonight!

And of course we have an election this week as well. For those of you in California, don't forget to vote Yes on 21 to fund our State Parks and keep these awesome wild areas safe and open to the public! More information can be found at this link.

Thursday, October 28, 2010



A female black bear with a freshly caught male Kokanee salmon in Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe. While this shot is an ok profile of the bear, I really loved how the salmon turned out. You can see what a beautiful fish they are when in the breeding form.

And a huge congrats to the Giants for their game 1 victory last night over Cliff Lee and the Rangers. I thought they would pull out a win against him, but not quite in that high-scoring fashion! Go Giants!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cub on a log

Cub on a log

A black bear cub finishing up the last scraps of a Kokanee salmon on a log alongside of Taylor Creek. This was one of the few frames where I was able to get some of the autumn color behind the bears as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stilted reflection

Black-necked stilt, with reflection

I have a bunch more bear images sitting in the queue, but I thought I'd go with something of a more typical variety for my blog this Monday morning to mix things up a bit. Here's a lovely black-necked stilt walking through the shallows of Shollenberger Park in Petaluma. I just love to see these birds, and I think they are especially striking in photographs with their starkly contrasting plumage. With the very shallow water along the edges of the pond, this frame really shows off the wonderfully long legs of this species. In fact, they have the second longest legs of any species relative to their body size, with only the flamingo being longer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stalking salmon, Black bear cub in Taylor Creek

Photograph of a black bear cub stalking salmon near Lake Tahoe

It was really fun to watch this playful cub bounce around the creek while his mother was focused on consuming as much salmon as possible. However, we did see the cub catch a few fish on his own which he would grab and then run to the other side of the creek to eat it away from the stream. Perhaps he's had a few get away from him before, and knows they are easier to keep track of on land. This is about as serious as we saw the cub, where you can tell he was intent on watching where the salmon were moving in the stream ahead of him. In the end though, he decided this was not the right place to catch a meal.

View more photographs of black bears.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cub along the fence

Cub on the fence

This cute little black bear cub belongs to the mother bear from my previous posts. It was really fun to watch him bound around the creek side, and he even caught a few salmon for himself. In this shot he's taking a quick break from chasing the fish to see what was happening upstream of the salmon fence.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A black bear finishing up a freshly caught Kokanee salmon. Early on in the encounter, she must have been fairly hungry since she ate just about every part of the fish but the tail. But by the end of her visit to the creek, she was being much more selective about the parts of the fish she wanted to consume.


You might have noticed the metal fence behind her, which crossed the length of the stream. This was put in place by the Department of Fish & Game to keep most of the salmon in the lower part of the stream in order to facilitate the collection of eggs for hatchery use. This created quite a concentration of salmon right at the gate, and the local bears definitely figured that out!

Here's a "making of" shot for this image sequence, courtesy of my wife. We were up on a stream bank (along with many other people watching the bear) and were remarkably close. In any other situation it would have felt too close, however, it was clear from the relaxed behavior of this bear that she was only interested in the fish, and she barely paid attention to the throngs of people watching along the shore.

Making of

And since this shot clearly shows my baseball allegiance, I'll sneak in a "Let's Go Giants!!" -- we're up 2-1 in the NLCS!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Salmon & Bears in Taylor Creek

Photograph of a black bear with a Kokanee salmon in its jaws

There are times when you witness wildlife and it more or less leaves you breathless. Our encounter with the black bears feeding on Kokanee Salmon in Taylor Creek this weekend was one of them. Thanks to some great shots posted by Tory Kallman and John Wall, I knew this was an opportunity that was just too cool to pass up a chance at seeing.

We arrived in the area on Saturday afternoon, and spent the rest of the day sitting along the creekside hoping for the bears to appear. Unfortunately, there were no sightings to be had, and instead we were just left with the smell of many dead salmon wafting through the air. To make it worse, the rangers mentioned that the bears hadn't shown up in a few days, and we started to wonder if we had picked the wrong weekend to come or had missed the chance to see them altogether. With heavy rain showers in the forecast for Sunday we were resigned to enjoying the many other features of this area and figured that a day spent chasing landscapes and autumn colors would suffice.

However, we just had to make a quick trip back to the creek before setting off on a trip around the lake on Sunday morning. And just by chance, within 15 minutes of parking and watching the salmon, there was some excited activity up along the road. The bears were back, and soon enough they made there way to the creek and really put on a show!

Here are two shots of the mother bear with a male Kokanee salmon that she pulled from the stream. I have a lot of sorting and processing to do, but there will certainly be more bears in the future of this blog!

Photograph of a black bear pulling a salmon from Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe

Friday, October 15, 2010

Almost time to relax

TGIF -- Almost time to relax

Its Friday morning, which means the weekend is nearly here and its almost time to relax. Lying out in the autumn sunshine like this Olympic marmot certainly sounds nice. Here's to hoping that you have an enjoyable and relaxing weekend! Taken in the Obstruction Pass area of Olympic National Park in September.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Like mother, like pup

A highlight of our August trip to MacKerricher State Park on the Mendocino coast was the harbor seals that hauled out on the rocks that were just offshore. This provided a great opportunity to observe them at relatively close range, and since there was water between the beach and their rocks, they were at ease when a group of onlookers stopped by.

Like mother, like pup

We saw a handful of young pups in the group, some of which were playing in the water, and some like this one were hauled out on the rocks. Based on the struggles we saw of other pups trying to get out of the water, I'm not quite sure how this little guy made it all the way to the top. But kudos to him, and perhaps some encouraging pushes from his mother were in order.

Mother and pup

I found the diversity of coloration and patterns on the seals to be quite interesting, and my personal favorite were those with the really dark colors like this mother. Perhaps her cute pup will one day grow up to look just like her!

Harbor seals

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Heron with prize

Heron with prize

A few weeks ago I posted a few shots from the archives of a great blue heron at Rodeo Lagoon in the act of striking at prey below the water surface. However, I didn't include any shots of the bird with its prize. I've remarked before at how small the fish were that it was catching, and I stand by that with this picture as evidence. It seems like it would take a lot of these tiny fish to satiate a bird of this size. I've got to give it credit though, it was remarkably adept at catching such small prey.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Photograph of one sandpiper isolated from the flock in Point Reyes National Seashore

A lone western sandpiper preening amidst a large flock of sanderlings. This was a sizeable group of shorebirds along the beach at Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore, and while laying in the sand with them I was constantly looking for interesting compositions and captivating subjects to isolate from the crowd. My eye kept coming back to the brown plumage of this bird, since it stood out against the grayscale of the sanderlings -- and eventually it started to preen, which further set itself apart.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On one toothpick

On one toothpick

A western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) standing around on Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore. At this point in time it had popped up out of one footprint in the sand to have a look around before plopping down into a different one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus

The summit of Mount Olympus as seen from the Obstruction Point area in Olympic National Park. When starting out on the hike I figured I would want a more wide-angle lens, however, I quickly changed my mind when I realized how small these glorious peaks would be in the frame. Instead, I slapped on my wildlife lens (Tamron 200-500 zoom) and felt that the way I was seeing the sights along the trail was much better represented by the tighter composition of 200mm. It also was nice to be ready when we saw an Olympic marmot along the trail.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grazing tule elk

Grazing tule elk

A bull tule elk grazing along Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore in August of this year. This area was one of the best for seeing them along the trail, since I could get a nice background of both Tomales Bay and the hills on the other side.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Take a bow

Take a bow

A sanderling (Calidris alba) in a high-contrast plumage phase (probably a molting juvenile) having a stretch and a bow. And really, with how much it stands out from the others who can blame it for showing off a little. Taken along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

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.