Sunday, 20 November 2016

Gopher Snake, California Bunny, Golden Plover (20161024) Last photo day in California for this trip

We drove home last night from Palm Springs in a Lightening and rain storm, a bit of an anomaly in Southern Cal.  and when we awoke on Monday morning it was still raining. I was disappointed to be held indoors for most of the day as I was hoping to get back to my favourite Bolsa Chica. Later in the day Neil and I decided to brave the remaining mist and head over. I knew the lighting conditions were going to be tough with ISO never being below 2000 just to get any image. The background skies in this Long-billed Curlew shot will give you some idea of the grey type of day it was.
These are such unique birds I just love shooting them whenever and whereever I find them. Here is a second image.
Now I am going to throw in a shot from a previous post that shows a Reddish Egret. I do that to provide an introduction to this video. This little "short" will provide more context of the conditions we were shooting under. The video to watch the entertainment is HERE.
As we made our way back to the car to head over to a separate area of the park we captured this Gopher Snake. Yet another first for both the blog and I.
Estimate length of this sweetie is about 6 feet. Here is a second, zoomed in image.
Whenever I get a chance to shoot uncommon birds for me, especially when I can get a number of them in a frame, I shoot them. Here are 6 Black-crowned Night Herons resting next to the Pacific Coast Highway at Bolsa Chica.
We didn't get away from the weather totally. Here you can see a few raindrops in this next shot along with a beautiful Western Grebe.
As we walked the other area we were pleased to find this American Golden Plover, that due to its postion allowed for a nice bokehed image.
If I have a current nememis bird for a great shot it is this one. The Belted Kingfisher is known to be a difficult bird to get, so I will have to settle for this ong distance landing image.
I thought this little group of Blue-winged Teals deserved an appearance here.
Then all of a sudden the Sun made an appearance and I was able to shoot this wonderfully cooperative California Rabbit.
When I was able to shoot this "golden" in golden light with a golden background I had to take the shot.
We had been watching this Northern Harrier make its passes back and forth along the shoreline. I found the use of its legs to help in steering the course to be very interesting. I don't ever recall watching a Harrier using this manoever.
I'll wrap up this post and this entire trip with what I think is a terrific Golden image taken in "golden" hour light, non silhoette version.
This just goes to show you why I love coming to Cali, even on a very tough day there are spots where you are ging to find subjects to shoot. It also is a great place to put a little "wild" in your life!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Phainopepla, Lizards, Black-throated Sparrow(20161023) A quick trip to 1000 Palms-an oasis in the desert

Even before we headed out to return home from Palm Springs I was able to get a nice shot of a Northern Mocking bird to get the day started on the right foot.
As you can see from the background we had overcast skies once again today. On the way back to Irvine we were going to make a couple of stops to see more of this strange and wonderful countryside. We headed off to 1000 Palms an oasis just outside of Palm Springs. As we arrived I was able to grab a quick image of a Phainopepla. It is a bird a little large than a Cardinal but very close in body shape. It is all black with a red eye. This image was take at quite a distance.
As we walked around the oasis it was was pretty evident there was plenty of life around, but it was all staying pretty well hidden or quite far off.  I Think this next bird may be a repeat for the trip. Is this another Rock Wren with some nesting material?
As we made our way from 1000 Palms to the next oasis in the link, only a couple of kilometers away, I grabbed this little lizard. I believe this is a Western Long-Tailed Brush Lizard yet another blog and lifer first for me and the trip.
Things were rolling along pretty well. Even in the heat (94F) there was still activity in the watery areas. I was able to get a little closer to this Black-throated Sparrow, so the detail is a little better. I believe this to be a female.
Here is a closer, though very conditions, shot of a Phainopepla. You can see the red in the eye, and even though there are many branches in the way, a better overall look at this bird.
There was activity all around the water and many of those movements were being made by the wintering "Butter-Butts". Here is a decent shot of another Yellow-rumped Warbler.
I am a little disappointed with myself as I took some photos of a small Orange minnow in one of the ponds and the images are not presentable. On the other hand I did manage to get an acceptable shot of these three little fishes. I have no idea what they are, they could be Pupfish. Yet more newbies for the blog!
Walking back from McCalum Grove, which was the second Oasis, we found this beautiful example of a Blue-sided Lizard. I love how his claws show on the rock.
I am pretty confident this is a second Western Long-tailed Brush Lizard of our walk today. Beautiful, quick and elusive!
As we stopped for a super Ice Cream, we were guided there by Yelp :) , I grabbed this image of another female Great Tailed Grackle in the parking lot.
As we swung over the mountains we took a couple of side roads to have a look at some of the views. At one of the stops, inspite of the wind, I was able to spot and quickly shoot this Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel, a favourite while in Alberta.
At another stop we grabbed some images of a Mountain Bluebird and this trio of Snow geese, two of which were in the Blue phase.
I'll end the post here, once again showing how easy it is to put some "wild" in your life.

Clark's Grebe, Western Grebe, Peregrine Falcon (20161022) Second part of our Salton Sea run

I was estatic with how the morning had worked out, with the exception of this being the first day of the California Duck hunt. That meant that just about every body of water was going to have hunters, and very little else around. As we made our way nortward along the eastern side of the Sea, we would "pop over" to the water to see what we might be able to find. I was very happy to capture this Clark's Grebe, only the second one that I've seen, the first being a rarity in Calgary.
Next up was this gorgeous Brown Pelly just hanging on the water on its favourite perch.
Just up the road, where there was a little creek entering the Sea, I found this very approachable Western Grebe. This is by far the best image I have ever taken of this particular specie.
Then we found this second Clarks, I included here as you can see the foot in the water. It'll give you some idea how far back their legs are on their body.
Next up, I spotted this beautiful bird of prey hanging out in the shade of the trunk of the tree, keeping an eye our for any oppertunities that might present themselves. I don't have a lot of shots of Peregrine Falcons, so I will shoot them every time I have a chance, even when they are as far off as this bird was.
At one of the other "stopovers" we climbed a viewing stand and I was really happy to be able to grab a couple of shots of this Roadrunner. We had seen a couple other "Runners" but we could never get shots of them.
I thought I would add a couple other images from the day so I threw in this White-faced Ibis with a couple of Snowy Egrets.
Here is a shot of 5 Black-crowned Night Herons that we spotted at the Southend.
There is nothing special about the situation, just that there were 5 of them.
Here is a shot of all three types of white egrets that I have found down here. Today is the first time that I have been able to find Cattle Egrets, they are the most numerous birds in this shot along with one Great Egret and two Snowys.
I'm throwing this next image in only as an evidence shot of a first ever bird for the blog and a lifer for me, a Great-tailed Grackle. This is a female.
So once again here is a shot of two first timers in the same image. A Cattle Egret and a male Great-Tailed Grackle, I really got lucky once again.
That pretty much wrapped up our day on the Sea, but we weren't quite finished. when we got back to Palm Springs we headed up the tram way to the 8500 foot mark. So I took a few shots of the "Springs" at night.
Then when we got back down the tramway, on the walk down to the car, and I do mean down, Laurel spotted this little Katydid! This is the second one I found this year, so into the blog it goes! A great way to finish the day.
It jsut goes to show you that if you keep your eyes open, you can put a little "wild" in your life, even in the dark of night.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

White-faced Ibis, Sandhill Cranes, Peregrine Falcon(20161022) An initial trip to the Salton Sea.

Well, I have been wanting to go to the Salton Sea for about 4 years now and this was expected to be a great day. Little did we know at the time that this was the opening day for duck hunting season in California. We headed to the SE corner and arrived just as the light was getting to a point of being usable. We went to the look out and could just hear the Sandhill Cranes with their chortle.As we walked into the park Sandy's and other birds were just "lifting off" and heading to the fields to feed for the day. I took too many shots that just weren't going to be usuable in my enthusiasm. Here is a shot of a portion of a flock of White-faced Ibis' in the morning sky.
This next image is more of a behavioural shot. We had spotted this Red-tailed Hawk on the top of the pole when we walked in. The next thing we know it is being attacked and driven off by a Peregrin Falcon.
Here just a short time later is the aggressor successful in attaining the best seat in the house from which to spot its next meal.
The morning was full of birds flying about and providing super views. I am happy with Ibis "fly-by" showing mud on its feet and the colouration in the feathers.
As in Bolsa Chica this wetland had its fair share of Godwits about. I always loved to shoot them in Alberta when I was able to find them.
As we got back to the car this Great Blue Heron was very accomodating and at ease with our presence.
We decided to just sort of stroll around the roads a bit to see what we might be able to spot. This pair of Sandhill Cranes were in a flock of about 100 birds.
Here is another pair. It was just super to see these large birds at a reasonably close range. We probably saw between 1000 and 1500 of these beauties this morning.
I'll just add one more shot of a quartet of these graceful birds to this post. When i lived in the Yukon the appearance of these birds in the skies really signalled that Spring was here.
As mentioned before where ever there are birds in these kinds of concetrations the predators are here too. This was a very cooperative Red-Tailed, not something I am used to with these birds.
We had spotted some small birds in the bottom of some shrubbery that turned out to be White-crowned Sparrows, California seems to be full of them, and on the top of the shrubs was this smaller predator bird. Here is my best shot to-date of a  Loggerhead Shrike.
Soon we were zooming down paved roads heading from one hotspot to another. I think I shocked Neil when I spotted this little fella just off the side of the shoulder of the road. I had been hoping to find some Burrowing Owls, this was our first of the day. Yet another predator bird taking advantage of the bounty.
We were able to re-position the car and get a little closer to this beauty. I chose this shot to share to show the eye and how far they bulge out in front of the pupil.
Here it is with both eyes looking at the camera. What a treat to be able to spot and shoot such a fierce hunter in the broad daylight.
Just a little further up the road I spotted this second Owl. I love how I was able to catch it with it eyes closed. The eyebrows look like one of my great-uncles. I also like that you can see so much of the beak.
Sorry for all the shots of the Owls, but they are one of my favourite birds. Here is the same bird with its eyes open.
I'll wrap the morning session of our day up here. What a super spot to stop. With environments like this available, California is an easy spot to put a little "wild" in your life every day!