Thursday, May 28, 2015

SJWS - Monthly Bird Walk

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary has a monthly bird walk on the second Sunday of the month.  In May, that just happened to be Mother's Day.  Ryan was nice enough to let his bird-crazy mom drag him along at 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning on her first ever official bird walk.

According to the guide's announcement at the end of the walk we saw or heard over 58 different species in the course of the 3 hour walk.  It was such an amazing day!  In fact, it was the tipping point that pushed me to order my new camera - when I got home and saw how crap my pictures were after seeing so many wonderful birds, I just knew I had to pull the trigger on placing the order and am so happy that I did!

Here's what was remotely salvageable (although nowhere near the quality of the new camera):

Just to set the scene - this is a view of one of the 7 (or is it 9?) ponds at the site. 
"Pelican Island" out in the middle of one of the ponds.  If I remember correctly, there were some double-crested cormorants hanging out there as well (but not in the photo).
Then the pelicans decided it was time to take off... wherever pelicans go when not hanging out on the island.

Same bird a few minutes later...with a friend.
Tree Swallows everywhere...I can't get enough of their iridescent blue/green coloring.  So beautiful in the sun!
This pair sat on this branch forever.  The one on the right has a mouthful of bugs and I kept wondering why they were staying put so long and letting me photograph them.
Eventually, I realized there was a nestbox nearby and while I was not blocking it or close to it in any way, they were being good parents by not leading the "predator" (aka the Crazy Camera Lady) to their babies.  As soon as I moved on down the path, they went straight to the box. 

One thing the old camera IS really good at?  Taking close ups.  While this is not a bird, it was such a gorgeous Tiger Swallowtail butterfly that I had to share it.  It stayed still like this for a nice long time so I got some amazing shots of it.

I have no idea what these are, but the colors are so beautiful - the perfect way to finish off my Mother's Day bird walk!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Orioles in The O.C.

I continue to be amazed on a daily basis about the variety of birds that exist right here in my hometown that I have apparently been utterly oblivious to for basically my entire life.  Okay, I can sort of understand missing all of the brown/gray types that blend in with the branches, but really, how is it possible to have missed bright yellow birds like Goldfinches or Yellow Warblers...or even worse...a bright orange and black bird?

Remember the female and juvenile Hooded Orioles I showed from a previous post?  I've been on the lookout for the male ever since, but never really thought I'd find him.  And then, suddenly, one day as I was leaving work - there he was!

Sorry for the underneath views - this was one tall pine tree! 

And this bird was on the move almost constantly.  He was definitely foraging.

Here he's got a beak full of something - can't see if it's a bug or material for a nest.
I'm going with bug.

And he's off!  Disappeared after that.
And to think...I only got to see this because I had to leave early that day (Open House and concert at Ryan's school).  A few minutes earlier or later and this encounter wouldn't have happened!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paying Rapt(or) Attention

Although I see raptors all the time - it's always when I'm driving on the freeway.  They are either soaring overhead as I pass through Laguna Canyon or perched on a light pole or sign.  Pulling onto the freeway shoulder to take raptor photos seems like a bad idea - freeway driving in Southern California can be a blood sport.  So, I was thrilled to see that the Orange County Bird of Prey Center was going to host a raptor talk at one of the local parks.  Their goal is to rehab and release the birds (over 50 released in the last couple of months), but occasionally there are birds that are too injured or too imprinted on humans to safely release.  These either go to zoos or other rehab centers or OCBPC keeps them as education birds for these talks.

I'd been to a session before, but didn't have the new camera back then so I thought this would be a great opportunity for some up close photos without risking a 10 care pileup.  And I was right - the birds did not disappoint:

This is Spartacus.  He's a Burrowing Owl

This is Gus - he's a Western Screech Owl.
This is Dulce - she's a female Red-Tailed Hawk.

Isn't she beautiful? 
I just couldn't stop taking pictures of her.

And she was kind enough to show the undersides of her wings, too.

Such a gorgeous bird! 

Speaking of gorgeous...this is Tweak.  He's a Great Horned Owl.
Look at those amazing eyes!  I'm in love with the color tones in his feathers, too.  Definitely seeing a future jewelry design using the cream, brown, tan and butterscotch color scheme.
The raptor presentation wasn't the only educational thing about this event.  It was held in a park that is right close to my house, but for whatever reason, I've just never gone over there.  Look what I was missing:
Gorgeous scenery.

A full lake that is stocked with fish, the small creek shown in the photo above and this unusual sideways tree growing out over the creek.  This was my first attempt at taking a water reflection photo.

Tons of ground squirrels - this one is enjoying a nibble on a patch of...something.

I know they're considered to be pests, but I think they are cute, anyway.

And...just as we were getting the car to first Western Bluebird photo!
Oh, and I found time to make some bird-inspired jewelry over the weekend, too.  The earrings are done and the necklace design is laid out, but not strung yet.  And, of course, still have to take the photos before I can post about that.  Hint:  think crow feathers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

New Camera Test - Wild Bird Wednesday

It stopped raining long enough on Friday afternoon for me to get a few test shots done.  Took a while to get used to the weight of the new camera and the differences in settings and functionality, but I think I'm going to like it! 

This is at the extreme end of the zoom range so it is not as crisp as I would like, but I thought it was still pretty amazing considering I was all the way across a street and half a parking lot from this Eurasian Collared Dove.  In fact, I had assumed this was a Mourning Dove until I got home and downloaded the pictures.

Here's my little friend, the Cassin's Kingbird, enjoying his customary lunch spot in the mini-vineyard.  I'm shooting from inside my car about half a parking lot away. 

I think he's spotted something...

...and yes!  Mmm...a delicious bug.  He's quite the expert hunter - I wish he'd come to my yard and make a dent in the bug population here.

Now...what about dessert?
That was it for my lunch hour - clouds rolled back in and it started to look like rain again.  However, later in the day, I found the grounds clean up crew out in the field at my son's school: 

The crows were out in force and they were chasing most everyone else away...including the I couldn't get any shots of the blue birds or swallows.  Every time I'd get one in my sights, a crow would chase it away!  That's one of the many reasons I'm not normally a big fan of crows, but this is such a quintessential crow pose that I had to share it.

I was shooting from about two thirds of a soccer field away and from that distance, I thought these were maybe juvenile crows because they just looked like black blobs to the naked eye.

When I got home and looked at the photos, I realized they were European Starlings.
They even brought their kids along!

I actually had to ask for help identifying this bird - never occurred to me it was a juvenile.  Duh.
The only other birds that stuck around in spite of the crows were the House Finches.

"Do you MIND?  I'm trying to eat dinner in peace!" 

While the boys were out at the snack bar, the ladies were arriving to take their seats for the game.  The goal post works perfectly! 

Although keeping your footing on the net when the wind is blowing takes some practice!
Okay, everyone is seated.  Let's get the game underway!
All in all, I'm pretty happy with my first test run.  There's definitely some room for improvement, but considering that I'm still figuring out where all the buttons are and what they do, not too bad!


Camera Play Part 2

Still mucking about with the old point and shoot.  Images are still not the quality I want, but I managed to capture some interesting things so I'm sharing anyway: 

"Mom...I'm hungry."

"Mom...are you listening?"
"MOM!  I AM HUNGRY!!  Look at me flapping my wings!"

"And flipping my tail!"
"Finally!  Now, hurry back with the food!"
"Yes!  I'm ready...bring on the treats!"
"MMMMMMM!!!  Yummy!"
Thanks to the Facebook Bird ID Group for helping me identify these as a female and (obviously) a juvenile Hooded Oriole.  The male is a brilliant orange and black - have not seen him around yet but am still hoping to.  This little vineyard area is really quite the birding goldmine - I've seen something different just about every day I've gone on my lunch hour.
The Cassin's Kingbird is pretty much always, there, though.  He loves the top of this post. 

Although sometimes he does like to change things up and sit on the wire.  He's helped me with my bird ID skills as I initially thought he was a Western Kingbird, but have since learned that the more prominent white area under the beak and the white tip on his tail mean he's a Cassin's.
Ryan's school continues to be a good place to critter watch as well.  Not so many birds on this day because there were a lot of activities going on out on the fields, but I found this little guy getting an early dinner right outside the classroom.
Then I decided to mess with the macro function for a little bit.  This is part of that overgrown, raised garden bed and I noticed this plant had droplets of water all over it...
Some sections were in shadow and made for sort of cool, moody, alien-looking shots.
Other patches were in bright sun...
...and really showed off a wonderful light/water effect...
...I think this one might be my favorite!
Can't wait until I can get the images from the new SX50 processed and ready to share!