May 3, 2014 Northern California Coast

California coastline
California coastline

Day Trip Fort Bragg to Gualala

I left for the coast around 8 Am, driving west on Route 20, up and over the coastal mountains to Highway 1. Route 20 is full of sharp turns and long winding ascends and descents of 6% grades through the heavily forested mountains. Though a little tough on the motorhome, it is mostly a fairly doable road for a larger rig, though it would be a little harrowing, to say the least. My goal for today was to head south on Route 1 and make it down to Gualala where I had turned around and headed back home the other day.

As usual, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Mendocino rookery islands
Mendocino rookery islands
Nesting cormorants
Nesting cormorants
Mendocino rookery
Mendocino rookery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mendocino rookery
Mendocino rookery
Mendocino rookery
Mendocino rookery

 

 

 

 

 

I turned off the highway and ventured west through the little town of Mendocino out to the Mendocino Headlands where I was distracted from my journey by the gulls, ravens and vultures buzzing around the nesting colonies of cormorants and murres on the near offshore islands.

Western gull
Western gull
Western gull
Western gull
Turkey vulture in flight
Turkey vulture in flight
Raven in flight
Raven in flight

I spent the better part of two hours working on flight shots of these birds that were gliding past my position on the edge of one of the bluffs, flying by at eye level, then above, and then below me.

Turkey vulture in flight
Turkey vulture in flight

I suppose this should be a little unsettling, when the vulture is studying my condition so carefully! Perhaps he is thinking he could really go for a Big Mac?

There were several art galleries and interesting looking shops in town that would warrant a return here in the future.

California coast
California coast
California coastline
California coast
California poppies
California poppies
California poppies
California poppies

As usual, I was stopped many times along the way by the roadside wildflowers and shoreline scenery.

Point Arena lighthouse
Point Arena lighthouse
Point Arena lighthouse
Point Arena lighthouse

I drove out to the Point Arena lighthouse to give the dogs a break and stretch our legs.

Surf around the arch
Surf around the arch
Surf around the arch
Surf around the arch
Surf around the arch
Surf around the arch

Along the drive out to the lighthouse there is a stretch of rocky shoreline with dramatic surf crashing along the shore.

This stretch of Highway 1 from Fort Bragg to Gualala has some very impressive scenery along with an abundance of wildflowers, as well as nesting birds on the large rocks just offshore, a place I hope to return in the future for a longer, more intimate study. My short time here this spring has been marred by unusually warm weather resulting in a constant haze over the shoreline making crisp, bright landscapes an impossibility. Perhaps a trip here a little earlier in the year would yield some better results.

Raven in flight
Raven in flight
Mendocino rookery
Mendocino rookery
Western gull
Western gull

 

 

 

 

March 21, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Scissortail flycatcher
Scissortail flycatcher

A Mixed Bag of Birds

Another solid overcast cloudy day here on Goose Island. Sunday, I leave here for South Llano River State Park out in the hill country of central Texas so this may be the last post for a week or two as it appears there is no Verizon coverage out there.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Bluebells
Bluebells

I am hoping to find wildflowers in bloom out there as well as spring migrants and there is supposed to be a large turkey population in the park. I have noticed quite a few flowers starting to appear in the pastures here in Lamar.

Scissortail Flycatcher
Scissortail flycatcher

This flycatcher was caught doing his thing along the fence line of the pasture on 12th Street.

Turkey Vulture landing
Turkey Vulture

Not just another pretty face!

Great blue heron
Great blue heron

This great blue heron was just passing through

Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills

as was this roseate spoonbill. In addition to the whooping cranes, there is a large variety of birds using the pastures and the pond within as a roosting and/or feeding resource.

Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Long billed curlew feeding in the shallows within the state park.

A gathering of whoopers
A gathering of whoopers

Not a great photo, but it is rather unusual to see this many whoopers peacefully hunting together, usually they tend to stick to pairs or a family unit of three and aggressively chase other whoopers away. Today, these guys were actually kind of boring to observe as there never were any flare-ups amongst them.

Whooping crane in flight
Whooping crane in flight 
Whooping crane
Sharing a pasture

I kind of liked the dark background this grazing cow provided for the whooper.

Whooping crane family flying in
Whooping crane family flying in
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 5, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Black vultures
Black vultures

Cool weather and drab birds

Cool dreary weather continues but since the start of cabin fever is setting in, I drove out to the pastures again with hopes of snagging a few whooper shots. No such luck again though. In an attempt to keep my photography skills somewhat sharp during this serious lull in the action, I scouted out some of the more drab birds around here that I could get somewhat close to. With no light whatsoever to work with, these are not exactly great photos, but at least they get me thinking as a photographer again, someday this lousy weather will end.

As always, just click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue heron hunting with snowy egret
Blue heron

I suppose the great blue heron doesn’t actually qualify as a truly drab bird, especially if you find him in a rather colorful setting. With a little sunlight, these probably would make for some decent images.

Blue heron hunting with snowy egret
Blue heron
White pelican
White pelican
Laughing gull
Laughing gull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue heron hunting with snowy egret
Blue heron hunting with snowy egret
Blue heron stalking
Blue heron stalking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey vulture landing
Turkey vulture landing
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

 

 

December 28, 2013 Goose Island, Texas

Duck hunters and decoys
The reason there are no birds around Goose Island

Finally, today there was  an actual, honest to goodness sunrise, and a sunset also! It really has been a dreary stretch of weather here on the Texas coast as of late, grey skies and rain showers pretty much nonstop. Still though, much better than shoveling snow and battling ice.

Sunset over Rockport
Sunset over Rockport
Sunrise over Goose Island
Sunrise over Goose Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, with the sun finally out and some blue skies, I took another spin around the “Big Tree” loop in Lamar in hopes of seeing some whooping crane activity, but once again, nothing to photograph except these shots of duck hunters, sitting 15 feet from the road where last March, I had my tripod set photographing whoopers and ducks. It appears that duck season finally ends January 26th, so, although it appears I will have no luck getting any photographs here now, perhaps when I return in March, the birds will have settled back in.

Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

 

It seems the only birds that the constant airboat racket and shotgun blasts doesn’t seem to scare out of the area are the vultures, who probably associate the sounds with a good chance to scavenge birds the hunters leave behind.

 

 

I actually have nothing against hunting myself, though I have never been a hunter. Hunters do serve a purpose in keeping numbers of birds, and animals, in check, and the money they pay in licenses and fees goes a long way to saving critical wildlife habitat, and that helps all of us wildlife photographers in the end. However, I do have some concerns about the sportsmanship of some of these guys right here on Goose Island. I have witnessed hunters firing from the boat launch right in the middle of the campground, certainly not safe, probably illegal. Today, while watching a lone duck swim warily in the direction of a set of decoys, only about 50 yards offshore from my location and a good hundred yards from the decoys and the duck blind, I watched as the hunters blasted this poor thing with six shotgun blasts while it was sitting on the water ( guess that is where the ” like a sitting duck ” must come from ), probably not illegal, but certainly not very sporting. I wonder what there might be to salvage, as far as eating, after a small duck has been filled with 6 rounds of shotgun pellets. I have also witness more than one group of hunters hunting from the side of the road here, back where I come from, definitely illegal.

Duck hunters
Duck hunters
Blue Heron swallowing fish
Down the hatch