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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bufflehead taking flight

A short series of a male bufflehead taking flight in Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay. It was a dreary morning with dark clouds and drizzle, so the shots didn't come out super sharp -- but I always like seeing a frozen moment of a birds footsteps on the water.

Takeoff in grayscale

Takeoff in grayscale

Takeoff in grayscale (1of2)

Takeoff in grayscale

Takeoff in grayscale (2of2)

Soaring away

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Finally -- a bobcat

After a handful of unsuccessful trips to Tennessee Valley over the past few weeks, I finally encountered a bobcat there. This is the first time I've ever been in the presence of a wild one, and even though it never came real close it was still awesome to have the chance to observe it.

First bobcat encounter (1of2)

The bobcat listened for prey along the trail and made a pounce into the bushes along the right side before disappearing for a few minutes. It sauntered back out into the path before briefly listening for a meal along the other side of the trail before it strolled up along the path and into the woods.

First bobcat encounter (2of2)

I also had the pleasure of bumping into local wildlife photographer Trish Carney, who was looking for bobcats along the same trail. I highly recommend checking out her website if you want to see some spectacular bobcat images (as well as many other species).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Resting giant

Sleeping giant

By now, most of the large male elephant seals are likely back out at sea, where they'll stay without coming back to land until sometime in July. This shot is from my trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve in January, and is of a sleepy large male along the loser's beach in the park. Since these guys are usually thought of as big ugly aggressive beasts, I like to show their more mellow side -- and really, they spend most of their time resting anyway. In this shot, I like how clearly you can see their eyebrows, which is a clear patch of nine fat hairs.

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quick post -- when you've got an itch, elk style

When you've got an itch...

Watching this bull elk scratching those hard to reach places was fairly comical, and seemingly dangerous with those spikes. Taken alone the Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore in January.

It seems like it might be fairly useful for helping to get rid of that thick winter coat too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blackbirds at Ano Nuevo

Brewer's blackbird ready for takeoff

I'm going back through all of my unposted shots from a January trip to see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Reserve in hopes of putting together a post about the pups, and remembered that I took a few frames of these curious blackbirds as we waited for our tour to start. These birds seem to hang around the picnic areas there, and were happy to land on posts only a few yards away.

Red-winged blackbird

I really like the pose in this shot (it looks sort of like he's mid-dance), although I wish the head was turned just a bit more so it was brighter.

Blackbird shuffle

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Northern Shoveler Pair

Shoveler Drake

There is such a great duck diversity around here -- much more than I ever saw growing up on the East Coast, and its fascinating to observe how different they can be. One that has always stood out to me as among the most beautiful and most interesting is the northern shoveler. For my first few years of bird photography I really wanted to get some nice shots of these ducks, but getting close to one had always alluded me. However, after I finally made a few trips to the Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City last fall -- I have more shots than I know what to do with!

Shoveler drake with water droplets

And while not nearly as stunning in coloration, the hens are still quite pretty.
Shoveler Hen

Monday, February 8, 2010

Standing out in the crowd

Standing out in the crowd

A sequence of images from a few trips to the Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City last year. There's an area where the dowitchers like to congregate on an underwater ridge, and occasionally a larger bird will hang out there too. I enjoy seeing different species mixed together, and this provides a nice opportunity.

Dowitchers relaxing with an American Avocet:
Shorebird reflections

With a Northern Shoveler, and their reflections:
Shoveler and dowitchers

And with a Marbled Godwit:
Dowitchers and a Godwit

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

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quick Post - Wild Hummingbird at the San Diego Zoo

Wild hummingbird at the zoo

There were a number of wild birds taking advantage of the nicely kept grounds of both the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park when we visited last December. This hummer was flitting about between the flowers growing along the paths before stopping for just long enough to let me snap off a few frames.

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

A forgotten trip to Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore


When I was looking for something to post on flickr the other morning, I ended up flipping back through the archives to a pre-dawn trip I took to Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore that I had forgotten about. This was the last trip I took with the D50 as my primary (read: only) camera. Later that week my D90 arrived, and I spent some time trying it out at a few locations, leaving these unsorted in the archives.

All in all, this wasn't a super-productive trip, but it was a gorgeous morning with clear skies for the sunrise. I spent attempted to photograph sanderlings with the first rays coming over the horizon, but I still need to go through those images. Soon thereafter, I headed back towards the other side of the dunes to explore some of the coastal scrub.


I was also treated to a group of turkey vultures sunning themselves in the early light while following the trail. They're a pretty ugly species, but it sort of fits well with their there important ecological role of scavenging.

Turkey Vultures at Limantour Spit

After wandering along the backside of the dunes during most of the good morning light without finding too much else, I decided to head back to the trailhead and then follow the Muddy Hollow trail back along the side of the salt marsh. The tide was very high that morning, giving a really nice flooded marsh plain -- which was quite stunning in the early light (see the top shot of this post). I also encountered some lovely song-birds in the bushes along the marsh edge, including this savannah sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

It posed quite nicely with those rich colors in the backdrop.