Thursday, April 29, 2010

Harbor seal pup at Salt Point State Park

A tender moment

We had a great weekend trip camping in Salt Point State Park, which is a gem of a park on the Sonoma Coast. On our first morning there we headed down to an overlook that is frequented by harbor seals. The mid-morning light was really harsh and these pictures are cropped more than I prefer to do, but the interactions between a mother harbor seal and her pup were fantastic to witness!

Nursing harbor seal pup

In addition to watching the little one pester its mom to nurse, we also got to see them swimming around in the somewhat sheltered pools between the rocks. Just like a human kid, the pup seemed to just want to keep in constant motion, when it really looked like the mom wanted to take a break out of the water for a while.

A scratch on the head

More than once, they were hauled out on the rocks and the pup would wiggle away and into the water. The mother would watch it for a while, and you could almost see the exasperation on her face as the pup would get too far away and she'd have to head back into the water and corral the pup back to the rocks.

Hungry pup

This is a different seal who was also hanging out there as well, occasionally stretching and trying to find that perfectly comfortable position.

Stretching seal

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day -- Old Growth Redwoods

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day to everyone! This year marks the 40th anniversary of this great holiday that helped to make conservation an everyday word in American households. When trying to decide what to post for this occasion, I couldn't think of anything better than some old growth coast redwoods. Being with these huge trees (the tallest species in the world) can't help but make you think of the stories of Mother Earth and her nuturing, life-giving trees.

Old growth redwoods

Today is a great day to bike to work, flip off those extra lights your not using, turn down the thermostat, or remember to take those canvas bags with you into the store this time. For more ideas on what you can do to celebrate our precious planet, stop on by The Nature Conservancy's Earth Day 2010 page. Or for a little extra inspiration from nature's beauty, head on over to the Conservation International Blog to check out the iLCP's Top 40 Nature Photographs.

Redwoods for Earth Day

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Trillium among Redwoods

These beautiful flowers (Western Trillium, Trillium ovatum) were blooming all over the understory of the old growth redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (part of the Redwood National and State Parks area). And of course the beautiful Redwood Sorrel was covering the ground as well (Oxalis oregana).

Trillium with Sorrel

This particular bloom was growing on top of an old fallen tree, and offered a chance to show it in its environment in the forest understory.

Trillium in the Forest

For the horizontal frame, I preferred the aperture to be open, really setting off the flower from the backdrop. But in the vertical composition, stopping down to f/11 really put it more in its place among the giants behind it.

Trillium among Redwoods

Monday, April 12, 2010

Brants in the Rain

Brant's are a lovely saltwater goose that I've seen a handful of times along the coast, but never been able to get some nice images of. However, during a February trip to Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay I was able to spend some time with a small group of these delightful birds.


It was a dreary morning, and as it rained on me during most of my trip down the coast, I was questioning my decision to have ventured out. But as usually happens, the times you think about turning around are often great. There was a light rain while I wandered the shoreline watching the shorebirds and some buffleheads that I posted previously. I didn't even bother with this group the first time I passed by, since the previous times I've seen them at Point Reyes National Seashore, they took off as soon as they saw me (long before I even thought of trying to approach them).

Brants at Pillar Point

However, this small group was really laid back that morning, and I was able to approach them easily while they searched along the rocky shore for a meal and collected raindrops on their feathers.

Salad bar

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roosevelt Elk in Redwood NP

Roosevelt Elk

One of the highlights of our trip to the Redwood National & State Parks area was encountering a large group of Roosevelt Elk, the largest subspecies of elk in North America. We spent a lot of our time on the first day checking all of the places listed in the park guides, but didn't find any elk there. On the rainy morning of our second day though, we were treated to a herd of ~30 females and a few young males grazing in a few random fields along US-101.

Herd of Elk

Just due to happenstance, they were right near the side of the road when we stopped, and that made it easy to get close without having to leave the car.

Roosevelt Elk

In fact, there were times that they came so close, that we could hear them literally ripping the grass as they ate.

Feeding elk

With those long shaggy manes, they reminded me very much of horses or camels -- not quite what I usually associate with elk! But they sure were beautiful, and it was awesome to spend so much time in their presence.

Grazing elk

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reason to celebrate -- Thanks for the votes!

Reason to celebrate -- Thanks for the votes!

The voting results for the 2010 Defenders of Wildlife photo contest have been released, and thanks to your votes, my image of Tomales Bay State Park won 2nd place in the Wild Lands category! (Full results can be viewed here, if you're curious.) It was such a cool honor to be named as a finalist among all of those other awesome images, and even cooler to be voted into second place!

If you're a member of the organization, keep your eye out for all of the winning images in the Summer issue of Defenders Magazine. And thanks again if you took the time to vote!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mule deer at Elk Praire

Mother mule deer

On our trip up to Redwood National and State Parks along the northern California coast, we saw quite a few Roosevelt elk (pictures to come, once they're sorted) but none in the places advertised as often having the elk. However, in the Elk Prairie of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we did see a trio of mule deer during our second day of looking for elk there.

Young mule deer

The prairie itself was beautiful, a large expanse of tall dry grass with redwoods lining the edges. While I only have a few shots of these deer there, a return trip during the fall elk rut is definitely high on my list -- since I think it would be awesome to witness in this area.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Photograph of a wild Douglas iris in Point Reyes National Seashore

A wish for a Happy Easter for all of you who celebrate this joyous holiday! May you enjoy the time spent with family and friends!

This is a beautiful Douglas iris growing wild near Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. During our trip there a few weekends ago, the fields were just covered in these awesome blooms.

I also want to send a heartfelt thanks to all of you who voted for my image in the 2010 Defenders of Wildlife contest! Thanks so much!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Singing loud and clear

I've always hoped to get some shots of songbirds singing, and this sparrow at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes was most happy to oblige.

Singing its heart out to spread the word

It sang and sang while I slowly rotated around its branch to try a few different angles, getting some of the sandstone cliffs and some of the sky as the backdrop.

Singing sparrow

Finishing up its last note:

One last note

I also wanted to remind everyone the 2010 Defenders of Wildlife Photo Contest voting period runs until Sunday, April 4 at 5pm Eastern. If you haven't already, I would like to encourage you to go to their site to vote for my image of Tomales Bay State Park, which was selected as a finalist. You can learn more about the contest and see my image in my previous post. Thanks!

Vote for my photo!

Friday, April 2, 2010

I need your votes – finalist in the Defenders of Wildlife photo contest

I need your help -- please vote for this image!

I'm honored to have one of my images selected as a finalist in the 2010 Defenders of Wildlife photo contest. There were over 10,000 entries, and the judges have narrowed it down to just 10 images split into two categories. My image, taken in Tomales Bay State Park, was selected as a finalist in the "Wild Lands" category, and the prize winners will be determined based on your votes. The grand prize winner will be going on a week-long photo tour of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks with expert wildlife photographer Jess Lee, who just had an image on the cover of National Geographic in March. The top 3 landscape images and top 3 wildlife images will also receive prizes, and be published in the summer edition of Defenders magazine.

Vote for my photo!

Please feel free to forward this page to any of your friends, relatives, or coworkers that might be interested in voting! You can even use the "Email Post" button at the bottom of this page to do so.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and especially for your votes in this contest!


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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