Category Archives: Raptors

April 13, 2017 Bodega Bay, California

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Monday morning I left the Mariposa Fairground and made what I thought would be a 4 hour trip to Bodega Bay on the California Coast. My 4 hour trip ended up being closer to 7 hours when I made the mistake of heading north from Mariposa on Route 49, a road I had not driven before. Well, turns out there are a few 7% grades to climb and descend, as well as about a thousand sharp switchbacks and hairpin turns along that route, and, although it was nothing my rig couldn’t handle, I seldom found myself going much over 20 mph.

And then, when I finally reached route 101 and turned north to Petaluma, I encountered some of California’s infamous commuter traffic heading north to home after a work day spent in the San Francisco area ( I’m guessing ). Four lanes of northbound traffic were squeezed down to two lanes at a point where there was an on ramp with traffic backed up forever, and this resulted in a traffic jam of about seven miles moving at stop and go speed and taking around an hour to cover the those seven miles into Petaluma where I was finally able to get off the highway and head west to the coast on uncrowded secondary roads. I have no idea how these poor folks can handle this day after day. This backup was caused strictly by traffic volume and not by any kind of construction or an accident along the way … this would be a daily occurrence!

Without a doubt, this state has got to have the most dangerous aggressive drivers I have encountered. Couple that with the deplorable condition of most of the roads in the state and horrific traffic conditions and suffice it to say, this is not a fun state to travel in. Add in the higher cost of everything out here, gas  ( where does all the gas tax money actually go since it obviously isn’t showing up in highway maintenance ), camping fees ( my spot in Bodega Bay is $34/night for a primitive site and is much less than anything else around here ),  and food ( I was going to treat myself to a fresh seafood dinner in one of the local restaurants, but checking out menus and realizing that it would be over $50 for any sort of meal, I had a sandwich at home ). But then, there is an unbelievable amount of unique and gorgeous natural features in the state, so it pretty much is a must see state. Grin and bear it, I guess.

Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay

Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay

Anyhow, I finally made it to the Westshore Camping Area in Bodega Bay around 5 PM and was able to get into a site that had three midweek days that were unreserved. All the reservable sites in the campground were reserved for the weekend, so I hoped maybe someone would move out of the two first come, first served sites before my three days were up … and lo and behold, both sites opened up the next day and I was able to claim one of them and thus can stay here through the weekend now.

Weather continues to be very wet, rain every day so far with just one 6 hour window of sun and cloudy skies when I was able to zip up Route 1 for 30 miles and get these shots.

Campground Wildflowers

Campground Wildflowers

Some spots of nice wildflowers but no poppies in bloom yet, still a couple of weeks away.

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Probably because of the weather, but traffic on Coastal Route 1 is pretty light right now, making it a very pleasant drive.

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

California Coast

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

At the mouth of the Russian River, Route 1 climbs up to hundred feet or so above the beach and you get this view of a stretch of beach where the harbor seals haul out.

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Russian River Harbor Seals

Wonder what the “sleep number” is on those rocks, these guys look like they are pretty comfortable.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

This Peregrine falcon was perched atop a sea stack only a few feet from the edge of the highway …

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

… keeping an eye on everything while doing his morning preening routine.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

I’ve never encountered one of these birds that was so unafraid of humans nearby. Of course there was no way you could get out to where it was sitting, but still quite unusual for a bird of prey to be this unconcerned with human activity so close by ( less than 100 feet ).

Hillside Grazers

Hillside Grazers

Along Route 1, you have some incredibly steep drop-offs to the cliffs and beach hundreds of feet below, with no guard rails, so most people probably don’t even notice the cattle grazing of the green hillsides on the other side of the highway. These animals have to be in some kind of shape to handle the steep grades of their pasture land.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

About 30 miles north of Bodega bay is the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve, where rhodys grow wild up to 30 feet tall under second growth redwoods. Unfortunately, I was a little early to catch the rhodys in bloom, but it must be something to see in a month or so.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

The four mile drive ( single lane one way gravel road ) takes you through a dark, damp, coastal rain forest. Lots of moss and ferns to see in addition to the rhodys and redwoods.

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February 26, 2017 Ogilby Road BLM Area, California

Burrowing Owl Portrait

Burrowing Owl Portrait

Finally Some Opportunities to Shoot a Few Birds

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

I drove north from my campsite on Ogilby Road to check out the Cibola NWR, a refuge I have visited twice before. The fields were green but the birdlife pretty sparse at the refuge, perhaps because the migrants have already taken wing to begin their northward migration.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

However, the Burrowing Owls were here as they usually are, and I can never resist spending some time with these diminutive ( about the size of a pigeon )  little raptors.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Back home at the campsite, the feeders I have put out are finally attracting some action, such as this male Anna’s Hummingbird,

Male Costa's Hummingbird

Male Costa’s Hummingbird

this male Costa’s Hummingbird,

Gathering Nest Material

Gathering Nest Material

this female ??? hummingbird, with spider’s silk wrapped on it’s beak,

Male Rufous Hummingbird

Male Rufous Hummingbird

and this male Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

The female hummingbirds coming to the feeders far outnumber the more colorful males, although this female Rufous is fairly colorful herself.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

My tray feeders have attracted White-crowned Sparrows,

??? Sparrow

??? Sparrow

??? Sparrow

??? Sparrow

along with these unidentified sparrows,

??? Sparrow

??? Sparrow

plus a few House Finches and one solitary Verdin, drawn in by the oranges I put out in the tree. Unfortunately, the little Verdin has been completely uncooperative in allowing me to catch him in action.

With my dental work complete, I hope to now be able to spend some serious time attempting to get some decent Hummingbird shots.

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October 17 – 19, 2015 Las Vegas, New Mexico

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

While having the work on my motorhome done in Santa Fe I had searched Google Maps for a place to spend a few days of peace and quiet and perhaps find some wildlife to photograph. Noticing the close proximity of the Las Vegas NWR to the town of Las Vegas and the Storrie Lake State Park, I decided this was the spot.

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

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

I had forgotten that I had visited this NWR several years ago, but quickly recognized the place when I approached the refuge. Back then, I pretty much had no luck at all in finding anything here. This time, however, there were some songbirds around along with a host of raptors.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Thought this was kind of an appropriate greeting upon entering the refuge.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

There were several juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks hunting the meadows in the refuge, but curiously I did not spot but one mature one in three trips through the refuge.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk Portrait

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk Portrait

Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon

I’m not positive on this ID, but I believe it is a Prairie Falcon, and if so, the first for me. There were several spotted, but this was the only decent shot I could get of these small skittish creatures.

Female Northern Harrier

Female Northern Harrier

Female Northern Harrier

Female Northern Harrier

I found several female Northern Harriers flying over the meadows, and as usual, no males.

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Female Northern Harrier Preening

And I spent about half an hour shooting this very distant one doing her preening routine, sure wish she had been closer, these were shot with the 600mm lens with a 1.4 extender attached.

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Female Northern Harrier Preening

Western Meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

And now I will add a lifetime supply of meadowlark images. I don’t know if the number of meadowlarks here was due to migrating birds coming through or if there are always this many here, but there were hundreds of these guys along the refuge roads, as usual, singing up a storm.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

I get a kick out of the expressions I sometimes get from my photographic subjects, this guy looks like he is disgusted with my intrusion on his singing performance.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

I did say a lifetime supply of these guys!

Kind of nice to get back doing one of the things I enjoy most .. bird photography. I next must make a stop in Amarillo, Texas to get my Prius body work done and then it’s on to Salineno, Texas, for a five month volunteer stint at the Salineno birding site. So, for those of you following this blog who look forward to the bird images, there will be some nice stuff coming, for those of you that enjoy the “travelog” features, well, the next several months will be the first time since I began full timing that I will be stationary for an extended period of time. But please stay tuned anyway!

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July 14, 2015 Anchor Point, Alaska

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Last Days on the Kenai Peninsula

Today will be my last day here at the Halibut Cove CG at Anchor Point, thus the end of my time on the Kenai Peninsula. My week in this campground has been a welcome respite from the cramped, noisy conditions I have experienced in most of the places I have camped here on the Kanai. Adequate spacing of sites makes quite the difference.

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

Scavengers

Scavengers

I’ve spent the last several days checking on the eagles on the beach right here at the campground, as well as watching the fishing charters come home and had the opportunity a couple of days ago of seeing up close and personal what a 380 pound halibut looks like. BIG! The huge fish was stretched across the deck of the charter boat and was easily six feet plus long. I can’t imagine what it must take to fight something that size up through 200 feet of water, I’m not sure I would enjoy the experience, sounds like an awful lot of work to me. I am told that once they reach this size, they are not that great to eat so bringing in something this size is mostly for the bragging rights, I suppose, and $$$ if the angler is entered in one of the lucrative halibut derbies conducted around here.

Scavengers

Scavengers

Giving Up on the Fireweed Shots

Mount Lliamna

Mount Lliamna

The image above is of Mount Lliamna on the far shore of Cook Inlet, taken on one of the few blue sky moments I have encountered here in the past few weeks. This inactive volcano tops out at over 10,000 feet in elevation and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The prevailing weather patterns here make days like this quite rare. Most of my month and a half down here around Seward and Homer have consisted of gray, dense cloud cover with rain showers almost every day. Never any heavy rain, just overcast conditions almost daily, not prime weather for any great landscape shots.

Fireweed Above Homer, 1993

Fireweed Above Homer, 1993

Notice the fields full of fireweed in bloom in the distant background ( as well as in the foreground ) of the image above, one I took twenty-two years ago on one of the back roads above Homer. I was really hoping to see this again on this trip, but alas, it was not to be.

After fruitlessly roaming hundreds of miles on all the back roads down here on the tip of the peninsula searching for fields of blooming fireweed, I am forced to give up and head north for my camping reservations in Denali National Park. Here and there I am finding small patches of fireweed in bloom but nowhere am I finding the solid pink fields that I remember from my previous trip here. In another week or two, I am sure they will be here in profusion, but I will be several hundred miles north by then.

Roadside Grazers

Roadside Grazers

Moose, Moose, Moose

One thing I have been quite sucessful at finding around here has been moose!

Mom and Calf

Mom and Calf

That is, cows and calves, but absolutely no bulls, at least not around here.

Roadside Grazers

Roadside Grazers

Roadblock

Roadblock

Roaming all the back roads in my fruitless search for fireweed landscapes has put me in close quarters with many moose mamas and their offspring.

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

And it isn’t just out in the boonies that I encounter these guys, I had quite a bit of luck near town on Skyline Drive as well as at the end of East End Road. I imagine that the moms are clever enough to realize that the close proximity to humans and their dwellings, rather than being a bad thing, is actually a much safer spot for their offspring because of the lower incidence of predators this close to humans.

Posing

Posing

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Today, on my last trip into Homer, I encountered this mom and calf grazing along the very end of Skyline Drive. With no traffic, and thus no disturbance, I was able to shoot a ton of images from the car without disturbing this duo. The calf, at first very unsure of what to make of my presence, was particularly endearing. Twice during the half hour I spent with them, the calf approached my vehicle to a distance of only twenty feet or so, staring and sniffing, trying to figure out what I was. Mama fed contentedly and unalarmed just a little farther back.

Staying in your vehicle, not getting out and trying to get closer, is one of the best ways to get some closeup shots of these guys, not to mention safer, since mother moose can be quite protective of their youngsters.

A Painful Lesson?

A Painful Lesson?

Junior was experimenting with various types of plants, to see just what was palatable, here sampling Cow Parsnip, not sure this is something that they actually do eat,

I'll Try Anything Once

I’ll Try Anything Once

here trying a bit of metal, heck, how do you know if you don’t try,

Too Far to Reach

Too Far to Reach

and here trying to sample some short mowed grasses, but their long legs make it difficult to graze anything that low to the ground, so …

Getting Down to Business

Getting Down to Business

he has to kneel down to partake, something you also see that they have to do when drinking from a shallow water source.

Scratching an Itch

Scratching an Itch

These calves are a delight to observe as they go about discovering their new world, but as I head farther north I hope I can can locate some of these guys Dads.

And so I depart the Kenai Peninsula, heading first to Anchorage, and the Toyota dealersip there for my 40,000 mile routine maintenance service, then a little farther north to the Wasilla area for a few days of exploration, before continuing north to Denali National Park and my reservations within the park at the Telanika Campground at the end of the month.

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