A fellow raptor-lover / naturalist friend of mine lives on a boat by Point Richmond, and this winter she convinced the harbor master to install a platform on the breakwater in hopes that osprey would nest there. They did! Osprey have been continuing to be present in increasing numbers here in the Bay Area, and I was able to get to see the nest last week, just a week after the two babies hatched. It was difficult to see them because they are still so small, but I hope to return to see them in a couple of weeks when they are more visible.
Right when I got there, dad (named Lee) had just caught a nice sized striped bass and was looking for a place to start eating. The fish looks like it is saying “oooooooohhhhhhh shit.” Valid.
My friend said that he typically has been the one hunting, and the female sits on the nest with the young since they hatched. Evidently he seems to always get this size and type of fish, and there were reports about a year ago of a surge in the density of striped bass in the Bay. He usually finds a spot to eat the head, before he delivers it to the nest. Today though, he left a nearby perch possibly due to the high winds and he went right over the nest. But not before the gulls harrassed him for his dinner.
The gulls are always looking for an easy meal, and two great-blue herons that were on the breakwater were not pleased …
A double-crested cormorant popped up right by us on the dock, beautiful creatures.
Pops decided to re-locate after mom (Eileen) had fed herself and the tiny little hatchlings. He went on a perch just to the side of the nest to keep working on dinner, as the sky turned to pink and purple with the setting sun.
Special thanks to Shirley for all the work she does and her love for these birds.
Beautiful day out by Salmon Creek in Sonoma County – a bit of sun before the marine layer rolled in thick like a fluffy down comforter over the beaches and dunes. Lots of red and gray fox track and sign, even more striped skunk track and sign. Almost no new rabbit sign. I’m beginning to think that perhaps the area is like an animal beach-condo timeshare – evidently the skunks have it this time of year and the rabbits are vacationing elsewhere.
This red-tailed hawk has some really interesting plumage, it reminds me of a bird I saw once in the high desert in Washington. You can see there is tan mixed in with the brown and white on the back, and its head and especially neck feathers are really light. Beautiful bird, very striking.
This osprey and I were able to see eye-to-eye today on composing this photo. Much appreciated! Their eyes are HUGE compared to the rest of their head.
We watched a coyote hunting from across the creek for quite some time, it seemed to be stalking through the high grass, occasionally stopping to dig or pounce. Sometimes it would get really excited and stand with its ears facing the ground, while its tail whirled around like a helicopter blade behind it! It made a short trip to the waters edge, but all the water fowl were already tuned-in to its presence. A doe and two fawns watched it with interest from within 50 feet – the coyote didn’t even give them a look. Rodents and insects seemed to be on the menu today. So fun to watch this guy hunt!
We had quite a few nice red fox trails to study today, this is a good example of a classic red fox track (front foot on the bottom). The diagnostic “bar” in the metacarpal pad of the front foot is very evident in this track – it’s not always clear, but if it is it can be one helpful sign (of many) to differentiate red fox tracks from coyote tracks.
I didn’t get a picture, but we observed what we believed to be two or three pomarine jaegers (a type of flying sea bird) offshore attacking some elegant terns out at an area where many birds were feeding. It was my first sighting of this species, and evidently it’s uncommon to see them from shore (usually they are seen from boats further out to sea). There were quite a few dead murres along the beach, these are also ocean-going birds, but curiously they come onshore almost exclusively to die. Often people see these birds on the beach and try to save them, not realizing that they are already doomed. Many a kind-hearted person has been confused and heart-broken trying to help these birds. I photographed one last year down towards Moss Landing near Monterey. They look a bit like penguins when they are sitting or moving out of the water.
Down on the beach there was a large flock of marbled godwits feeding in the surf line, using their long beaks to probe in the sand for crustaceans – occasionally they would flush and fly down the beach all together.
Great day out on the coast, very thankful to live close by to such natural beauty.
Want to get better at shooting birds in flight? Try practicing on tree swallows flying over a river catching insects … in poor light. Everything else becomes much easier, let me tell you! Just to remain standing and not spun around and on my face in the sand or river was a minor success.
The osprey were out and about as well, with two or three pairs fishing and perched in the area. There are many nests around the river and out towards the coast in Sonoma County, always amazing to see these birds in action. They seemed as interested in me as I was in them …
Watching it all unfold was a tree full of vultures, trying to warm up on a chilly and foggy West County morning on the river.
I was spoiled the other day while observing peregrine falcons (besides the fact that I was observing peregrine falcons!) – a fellow East Bay photographer, George Suennen, let me borrow his “more advanced” (aka more expensive) lens setup for a couple of shots (Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Lens with a 2x teleconverter). I REALLY REALLY don’t want to like this piece of equipment, but … WOW. Very gracious of him to offer for me to use it, I’m not sure if I thank him or curse him for putting that thing in my hands!!
Right now I typically shoot with a different Canon 300mm lens – the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (but I DON’T have a 2x teleconverter attached – which brings the L-series lens setup to an equivalent of 600mm!). To understand the difference in lenses, a visual comparison is in order of course. Both images below are cropped close to 100% but no other post-processing has been applied (sharpening, contrast/brightness adjustment, etc). The same camera body was used. The difference between the lens setups is very evident.
Are the results worth 14x the amount of money more? I suppose that’s an individual choice. It’s certainly understandable why this lens is rated one of the best in the Canon lineup, and a standard for many sports and wildlife photographers. Until I make the jump, I’ll have to continue to get close to subjects without disturbing them to get clear shots … which is a large part of the fun – and helps to force me to really get the most out of my equipment and techniques.