Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Hooded Oriole

Right after I first started taking bird photos, I was lucky enough to get a few shots of a Hooded Oriole male in the parking lot outside my office.  It was quite a revelation to me that we had these brilliant orange and black birds in the local area and yet I'd never seen one before.  I've been on the lookout for them ever since and a couple of months later, I found one hanging out in the trees surrounding the parking lot at my son's school:
Don't you just hate those inconveniently placed twigs?

Aahh...much better.  Love it when the birds cooperate!

And even decide to sing for me!

That twig is back in front again, but I don't mind it so much in this shot since it's not covering up his eye.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

California Coast Trip - Day 4

After several amazing days in Cambria, it was time to head up the coast through Big Sur to our final destination of Pacific Grove, CA.  Since it was on our way, we decided to stop and see the elephant seals one more time.

Of course, there was still a lot of snoozing going on.
Their size is impressive, but gosh these guys are homely!
Out in the water, the younger guys battle on...

...sometimes playfully...
...and sometimes with teeth!
Farther out on the rocks, the Harbor Seals (who are MUCH cuter!) have a front row seat for the action, but give the impression that they don't know what all the fuss is about.
There was more action out in the parking lot.  This gopher snake was making its way along the path to the cars.
I think he just wanted to warm up in the sun.
I wanted to get a full length shot of him, but he was about 4 feet long so I couldn't manage it. 

I did, however, manage to catch his forked tongue flickering in and out.
I wish I could say I got lots of gorgeous pictures of the Big Sur coastline, but since I was doing all the driving, I didn't get much in the way of photos.  We did stop at a couple of the lookouts, but it was also exceedingly windy that day with lots of debris flying around so not the best conditions.  We did finally stop at a place called Nepenthe which is a combination of a couple of restaurants and shops built into the cliff side.  We enjoyed the outdoor cafĂ© and I did manage to get a couple of photos:
This is the view from the patio looking south back towards the way we came.
I got really excited when I realized this was not one of the ubiquitous turkey vultures we kept seeing.  However, clearly, I suck at flight shots LOL!

I believe it's a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
This Steller's Jay was keeping an eye on our lunch leftovers as well as on the hawk circling above.

This Jay had already been into someone's lunch as evidenced by the sticky stuff on his forehead feathers.

Didn't stop him from watching our lunch, too, though.  In case we might be kind enough to leave some behind...

After several hours of driving a very windy single-lane highway up the coast, we finally arrived in Pacific Grove.  We had just enough energy left on this day to go grab dinner, get the groceries for the week and crawl into bed, but we did get a wonderful surprise as we were driving back to the rental house after dinner:
A family of the local Black-Tailed Deer were having dinner along the side of the road near the house we were staying in.  Here's momma deer enjoying some tasty ice plant.

Here's a young male.

You can see his antlers...

...but they still have velvet on them.
Here's the fawn...

...so cute I about died on the spot...

Mmmm...baby likes ice plant, too.

And...is not afraid to stick its tongue out at the Crazy Camera Lady.
And here's mom and baby together...
I know there's some blur to these (it would take me a couple of days to figure out that I'd accidentally and without realizing it changed a setting on my camera)

But even with the blur...aren't they the cutest?
Stay tuned for the next installment where we do some more rock climbing and hunt for sea otters and other critters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Fluffy

I see Bushtits quite frequently, but they are so tiny and so darn fast that I find them quite difficult to photograph.  When you add in their propensity to always perch JUST BEHIND a big fat branch...well...I was quite thrilled to get this series of photos in a tree on my son's school campus in Aliso Viejo, CA, back in May.  I guess this little guy was in a posing mood...

I don't know what kind of trees these are, but they are planted all around the school and the birds do seem to really love them.

This might be my favorite shot I've taken up to that point in time.

He decided to hide a bit behind the pink flowers...

...but I don't mind it too much.

I mean, seriously, how can you not love these little balls of fluff?

Monday, August 24, 2015

California Coast Trip - Day 3

Day 3 found us still in search of a good tide pool adventure.  We kept seeing a blurb on the visitor's channel in our hotel room about a good location near Cayucos - a town about 20 minutes south of where we were staying in Cambria.  We decided to go check it out.

Since the GPS couldn't find something generic like "Cayucos tide pools", mom suggested we find the visitor's center in town and ask.  The lady there was really helpful and gave us some great directions to a place called Estero Bluffs outside of town and even a printed schedule of the local tides.  I had Google'd them already, but the on-line information was much less specific than what she provided.  Of course, the REALLY low minus tide was occurring around 2 AM and I love tide pools, but I'm not crawling around on wet rocks in the middle of the night :-)  We had to make do with a sort of medium low tide happening mid-afternoon instead.

Unfortunately, by the time we finished at the visitor's center, the entire town had shut down for a Portuguese festival and parade.  That meant we were stuck until they re-opened the road LOL.  We decided to make the best of it and have lunch and then we grabbed dessert at The Original Brown Butter Cookie Company.  Now, I've never had (or even heard of) brown butter cookies but...WOW!  Delicious.  We left with 3 bags of different flavors to enjoy for the rest of the trip.  My favorite were the cinnamon/sugar flavor and the original brown butter/sea salt flavor.  Ryan got a chocolate mint flavor.

Finally, the road cleared and we headed out to check out Estero Bluffs.

After parking on the side of Highway 1 and walking about a half mile out over a flat bluff, we reached a cliff trail down to the rocks.  The trees at the edge of the bluffs had quite a few Snowy Egrets perched in them, but my photos of them didn't turn out.  I think I was still hopped up on sugar from the cookies and my hand was shaking LOL.  Above is a shot of the rocks down on the beach.  It is technically low tide, but not low enough to really uncover what we wanted to see.

I did find this striped shore crab.
The more I sat and took pictures of him, the more he blew out this foamy, bubble substance from his mouth.  Maybe some type of defense mechanism?  I couldn't find any information about it in my on-line searches.  I put the camera way after this as I needed my hands free for rock climbing and crawling.  Keeping up with a 12-year-old boy is challenging sometimes!  After we arrived back at the hotel, Ryan announced he wanted to go to the pool (why you would do that when we have the whole ocean across the street is beyond me, but whatever) and mom volunteered to take him so I headed across the street with my camera to see if I could spot anything interesting before it was time to get cleaned up for dinner.
View from the bluff looking south over Moonstone Beach.  I hiked along the cliff top trail looking for birds or anything else interesting to photograph.  When I saw a group of people stopped still with cameras and cell phones all pointed out to sea and rapidly firing away, I hurried over to see what the fuss was about.

Humpback whales!  Feeding just a short distance off shore.  The black specks are various sea birds getting in on the feast.
This was tough - every time I'd get the camera focused and zoomed in, the whales would disappear.
Finally, I got this shot with a little bit of its back showing. 

And a little bit more...kind of reminds me of photos I've seen that people claim are the Loch Ness monster.  I could've gone on watching them forever, but it was time to head out for dinner.  As we headed back to the hotel after eating in Cambria, I realized that there was a spectacular sunset happening.  I screeched to a halt in the parking lot, left mom to finish parking the car, grabbed my camera and ran across the street to the beach.

Even in Hawaii I haven't gotten sunset pictures like this.
I wish my skills were better as I'm sure a more practiced photographer could have made something really astonishing out of this.  I was just happy to see all these unbelievable colors.
I did try different settings and zoom distances to see what would look the best.

I think I'm the most partial to these two where the sun was mostly covered by the incoming marine layer.  The colors are more subtle, but there's a greater variety from blues to lavenders, pinks, peaches, oranges and yellows.

This was the only night during the entire trip that we had a sunset like this.  They were all pretty, of course, but nothing with this kind of color.
Stay tuned for the next installment - we depart Cambria and head up the coast through Big Sur to Pacific Grove.  We have another encounter with the elephant seals, see some amazing coastline and meet some deer.