April 22, 2014 Bridgeport Reservoir, California

Common Merganser drake
Common Merganser drake

Snow Squalls and a Wasted Chance at Some Bald Eagles

I awoke this morning to some pretty chilly weather and a little bit of snow. Wind was fierce last night, blowing in Spring snow squalls.

Snow squalls today
Snow squalls today

I drove down to the river below the dam once it stopped snowing, and got some shots of the common mergansers, cinnamon teal, and the mallard pair.

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

Mallard pair takeoff
Mallard pair
Common merganser pair
Common merganser pair
Common merganser pair
Common merganser pair
Cinnamon teal pair
Cinnamon teal pair

On the way back to the dam, I spotted 2 bald eagles harassing what I figured was a vulture in the top of a dead tree next to the road at eye level with the road.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

Unfortunately I still had my 1.4 TC on and had too much lens, so I lost time getting that off, then the camera had trouble focusing on the eagle in flight with a solid background of trees on the far slope of the river below, plus it had begun snowing again. The pair of eagles swooped in a circle around the tree twice while I tried to get a decent shot, but then a truck pulled off the road and headed down the dirt road directly under the tree the eagles were circling and drove them off. I never did get a shot in focus. What a great opportunity wasted!

Immature bald eagle
Immature bald eagle

The truck quickly turned around and came back on the highway and went on his way. I then noticed that what I assumed was a vulture in the treetop was actually a subadult bald eagle, so I made my way down the dirt road to try and get a shot before it took off. Alas, the only clear shot angle was directly into the glare of the sun behind the snow squall blowing through, so, once again, no decent photo.

Feeder full of yellow headed blackbirds
Feeder full of yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbird eating midges
Yellow headed blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

InGrassVert

Back at the campsite, my feeder that was full of jays yesterday now was full of yellow headed blackbirds.

Yellow headed blackbird eating midges
Yellow headed blackbird

 

Yellow headed blackbird eating midges
Yellow headed blackbird

As the sun popped in and out of the swift moving clouds, I couldn’t resist adding just a few more shots of the blackbirds grabbing midges, if you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed catching this action.

April 20, 2014 Bridgeport Reservoir, California

California quail
California quail

Yet More Birds and a Trip Up the Mountain

The feeding platform I put out on the birch tree on my site was overrun with a flock of 30 or so Pinyon Jays this morning.

Pinyon jays crowding the feeder
Pinyon jays crowding the feeder

This was my first time encountering these guys as they crowded the platform and cleaned it out and were gone in about 5 minutes.

White pelicans
White pelicans

I drove down the reservoir to the dam and got a shot of a couple of white pelicans, one of whom had one of the brightest beaks I have ever seen on one of these huge birds.

Buffleheads
Buffleheads

Farther down the Clark River, I encountered a great variety of ducks, but was only able to get a shot of these buffleheads. I’m going to have to think some about how to get close enough to these river ducks to get some decent shots because there is an incredible amount of all kinds of different ducks on this short stretch of the river.

Today was the day I was going to do Mono Lake, but once there I really could find very little to shoot. I have seen so many images of the tufa mounds on Mono Lake that I assumed they were scattered all around the lake. Turns out, all the shots I have seen were apparently taken on just one very short portion of the shore, most of the lake shore is just flat, barren, and boring. Really was a little disappointed in Mono Lake.

So, I decided to drive the 12 miles of Route 120 that were open. This road is the “back” way into Yosemite National Park, and not recommended for large vehicles because of the long climb up and over the mountains. The drive was truly enjoyable in the Prius, but there is no way I would want to attempt it with the RV. The road was gated 8 miles short of Tuolumne Meadows and the snow banks were still 3 or 4 feet high on the side of the road at that point. Spectacular scenery all along the way! ( I downloaded and somehow lost my shots so no images, I don’t know how I did that but hope I don’t make a habit of it ) The lakes up there were still completely frozen over and the old lodge buildings were still covered with several feet of snow. Kind of nice to be able to make a short hour long trip into the beauty of winter and then quickly reverse direction and return to spring!

California quail
California quail

 

California quail
California quail

Back home I noticed a pair of California Quail feeding around the campground, and, using my car as a blind, was able to follow them along for a few hundred feet as they did their thing and got some nice shots. I had no idea when I decided to stop at this campground that I would have so many opportunities to shoot birds, I had thought this was just going to be a stopover for Bodie and Mono Lake, what a pleasant surprise!

Yellow headed blackbird eating midges
All you can eat Midge buffet
Buffleheads
Buffleheads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 19, 2014 Bridgeport, California

Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

More Yellow Headed Blackbirds

As I warned in yesterday’s post, I was hoping the midges would return and bring the yellow headed blackbirds with them this morning so I would have another chance at them with some better light.

Yellow headed blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird

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

Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird

And despite last night’s rain and low temperatures, the midges returned in force!

Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

Got a kick out of this one, a good shot of two very different techniques for catching midges, one really working at it, the other content to let the meal come to him.

Yellow headed blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 18, 2014 Bridgeport, California

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

A Visit to the Mining Ghost Town of Bodie

After a great night’s sleep ( temps in the low 40’s and no one else in the RV Park, no obnoxious park lights, beautiful star filled skies ), I headed south on Route 395 to the old mining town of Bodie. After leaving 395, you drive 10 miles uphill on a decent winding paved road and THEN the final three miles, what they describe as a “ rough” road, without any doubt, an accurate description. The former mining town is located high in the hills at an elevation of 8000 feet, the air is a little thin up there, I was to find out.

As always, be sure to click on any image to see a larger, sharper version.

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

 

 

 

Pano

You pay a $5 entrance fee on the honor system and you do have to do some fairly serious walking about to see the old town.

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Home sweet home
Home sweet home
Home sweet home
Home sweet home

 

 

 

 

 

This is a California State Historic Park and they are preserving the old buildings in a state of “ arrested decay “, protected but not restored.

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

 

 

 

 

 

Bodie church
Bodie church
Bodie church
Bodie church

 

 

 

 

 

Bodie church steeple
Bodie church steeple

The old church is one of just a few buildings that you can actually see the interior without looking through old distorted dirty glass window panes.

Texture
Texture
Texture
Texture
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

As an artist, the building textures give inspiration to many future watercolors.

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

 

 

 

 

 

Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings
Bodie buildings

It really is very interesting walking around the remains of a mining boomtown that once was home to 12,000 people.

Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

Finally, I Get a Chance at Yellow Headed Blackbirds

Upon my return, as I entered the RV park, I noticed some yellow headed blackbirds in the shrubs alongside the empty campsites.

Midge hunter
Midge hunter
MidgeFest
MidgeFest
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

 

 

 

 

 

MidgeFest
MidgeFest
Midge hunters
Midge hunters
Midge hunters
Midge hunters
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbird
Midge hunter
Midge hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in the car and using the Prius as a blind, I was able to idle up next to them, only 20 feet away and watch them devouring flying midges.

Midge hunter
Midge hunter

Last night I was bemoaning the thousands of these little black insects, lining up at my door every time I came or went, just waiting to get inside. Genuine pests, fortunately, of the non-biting kind, these little guys turned out to be a blessing in disguise, bringing in these birds I have been wanting to capture for so long.

MidgeFest
MidgeFest
Yellow headed blackbirds
Yellow headed blackbirds

 

 

 

 

 

With the late afternoon sun at their backs, I didn’t have the greatest of lighting conditions, so I am hoping that the midges, and thus the blackbirds, will be back in the morning!

MidgeFest
MidgeFest
MidgeFest
MidgeFest