Thursday, October 29, 2009

Calling dowitcher

Calling dowitcher

There were plenty of dowitchers (your guess is as good as mine for long-billed vs short-billed) lining the ponds along Radio Road. These are a beautiful medium-sized shorebird that I'm quite fond of, but haven't had a chance to photograph up close very often. Here, they seemed like they could care less about the flocks of bird-watchers milling around, and they happily went about their business.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finally found some skimmers!

Finally, some skimmers!

I've been fascinated by these birds ever since I first saw them in a nature documentary (perhaps the fabulous "Life of Birds" with David Attenborough), and have been itching to get them in front of my lens ever since I started getting into bird photography. Their range is supposed to be just in Southern California, but for a long time I had seen posts of the colony of these guys that live down in Redwood City at the Radio Road Ponds. Unfortunately, it took me a few years to finally take a trip there.

This is a fantastic location for all kinds of water birds (more about the species I saw in future posts), and you could get close enough to do some nice photography too. While the fading light was nice while I was watching other birds, it just happened to stay foggy while I was near the skimmers -- but regardless, it was still a lot of fun to have them in front of the lens. They were mostly interested in napping and a little bit of preening, so a good reason to go back for more in the future.

You've gotta love those bright bills with that oversized underbite.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stealing tomatoes

Tomato thief

Over the weekend, it was finally time to cut down the remnants of our garden, including our delicious and highly productive cherry tomato plants. Amidst the clipping, I discovered one of these very large and very green caterpillars on the soil. I had wondered if it was an invasive, since it almost looks tropical with its bright colors, vivid patterns, and large size (fat as my fingers and a few inches long) -- but a quick google search showed that its a native to North America, and one of our largest caterpillars, the tobacco (or tomato) hornworm.

To my delight, as I moved to the next plant, I found a handful of these guys munching on our little green tomatoes.
Poised to strike

In addition to their cute little red tail spikes, I really like the false eyes on their face -- it really looks like a bright eye, but upon closer inspection, it very much appeared to just be an evolutionarily creative spot.

For a sense of scale, here's a shot of me holding one on a branch that I rescued from the compost bin:
Caterpillar scale

It was fun to find these guys late in the season, but I suppose I'd be a tad disappointed if they had showed up earlier and eaten all of our tomatoes!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A friendly charge

This experience got the ticker revvin' a bit. After spending some time on the beach with the semipalmated plovers, I decided to head back to the car. As I walked down the east side of the dune, I found a lovely female deer who curiously watched me but decided not to run right away. By this time, I had already put away my tripod, so I decided to pull it back out and see if she'd stay around for a bit. Well, to my luck she did and as I made my way down to the junction of the beach access trail and the side trail that goes down the estero, I noticed this gorgeous buck who was likely checking me out for a while.


I felt a bit nervous to be lined up in his 6-point sights, but he seemed content just to sniff the air in my direction. Conveniently, I was standing right in front of a bench, so I figured I would sit down, set up the tripod, and see what happens -- it seemed to make more sense than continuing back towards the car, which was in the same direction that the doe had gone.


After he posed for a few shots, the doe had wandered further off and he had a decision to make. What he chose, was to run straight at me!


Now, he didn't do this in a threatening manner, but all I could picture was some of those "when animals attack" videos I saw when I was younger....


And I started to wonder just a little, if I made the right decision of not heading back to the beach


Thankfully, after getting my adrenaline flowing and before I had to dive under the bench, he veered off the path and into the bushes -- but first stopping to give me this perfect pose.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My first attempt at photo blogging

It seems like everyone is getting into the blogosphere now, and I suppose its finally time for me to give it a try. I've been posting my nature and wildlife images to Flickr for a few years now, and have built up an archive of around 700 images as of this posting. While I enjoy the community that Flickr offers, I also often have more to say of the story that goes into the pictures I take, and I feel like a blog is a better place for that to be.


Since shorebirds are my favorite subject, it seems appropriate to use them for the inaugural image. Here's a pair of semipalmated plovers along Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. What I love most about this image is the expression of the bird in the background. From this trip, I came back with a variety of plover portraits, but the images that stood out the most for me had something cute or different in the background. I suppose some could consider it distracting, but for me, it shows the expression of the birds and gives it a bit more life. While this pose was just the finish of a stretch during some preening, I see a look of pure glee -- sort of fitting for these cute little birds.

Here's the more "normal" version of this image. I like this one too, but it doesn't pull me in quite the same way.