Black-throated Sparrow

Black-thoated Sparrow, Hellhole Canyon, Anza Borrego Desert

We went to the Anza Borrego Desert in Southern California to see the beginnings of the superbloom of 2019, but that did not mean we did not enjoy the birds. Hellhole Canyon was full of Black-throated Sparrows, all around us, singing, and perching up for us to look. Such a perky little sparrow! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/400th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.

Red-breasted Mergansers courting

This is not a great photo as photo go. The birds were too far away across the Little River Marsh from the overlook on the Laird-Norton Trail at Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve)…so far away that it took 2x Clear Image (digital) zoom to identify them. And then a heavy crop to make the birds big enough so that you can identify them in the photo. But they are Red-breasted Mergansers, and they were actively displaying and courting, and on the theory that any photo is better than none 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). 1/1000th @ f5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.

Heermann’s Gull

To my eye, the Heermann’s Gull is one of the most handsome gulls in North America. Of course, I don’t have to live them. I only see the Heermann’s on my yearly visits to southern California, mostly at La Jolla Cove when I go there to photograph seals and sea lions, pelicans and cormorants. There are lots of gulls always, but generally, at least by when I visit in late February, early March, only a few Heermann’s. I like the delicate grays set off by the red eye and bill. Sony RX10iv at 218mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 500. Processed in Polarr.

Mirror mirror: Avocet

An American Avocet at Famosa Slough in San Diego, California. And no, it is not the same photo flipped. Take a look at the legs, both crossed the same way. And they are from slightly different angles as I moved down the trail a bit before the second shot, which is why the birds looks “fatter” in the second shot. I just could not resist posting them side by side. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.

Wetting itself, Cormorant

I think this is a Brant’s Cormorant (but it could be Double-crested…hard to tell in this photo…there were more Brant’s than Double-crested that day). Sally (my daughter) and I observed a lot of this behavior off the cliffs at La Jolla Cove in southern California when we visited the end of February. I though at first it might be some kind of mating ritual, or territorial display, but after inquiring of “someone who knows better”, I now know that the bird is just wetting itself. Yes that sounds a bit off-color, but that is what my expert said, and I don’t know how else to describe it. The Cormorants get cold in the cool waters of Southern California, and have to come out onto the rocks to warm up and dry off. Then, when they get back in the water with their dry plumage, they are too buoyant to dive after fish, and have to wet themselves down…which they do by this vigorous splashing. The splashing gets water into the back feathers without their having to submerge. Simple enough, and makes total sense, when you know. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 125. Processed in Polarr.

Sea Lions, wet and dry

A wet Sea Lion and a dry Sea Lion have a very different look. The short dense fur is a sleek, smooth grey when wet, and a rough brown when dry. These two were on the rocks at La Jolla Cove in southern California when I visited the end of February and show the difference clearly. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 160 and 1/1000th @ f5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird, like this one photographed at Famosa Slough in San Diego, is generally the most common hummer in coastal southern California. This year there were almost as many, maybe more, Allen’s, but that is, in my experience, unusual. Famosa Slough is my go to place to photograph Anna’s. It is easy as there are generally at least 2 males on territory near the end of the trail on the north side of West Point Loma Boulevard, and sometimes one on territory in the little garden between the boulevard and the water on the south side. The trick is getting one to sit with the sun illuminating the gorget. This one cooperated for just long enough to snap off one burst, and then was gone again. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/640th @ f4 @ ISO 100. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr.

The good life… Sea Lion style.

Sea Lions are the original bathing beauties…and they spend a good deal of their lives sun bathing on the rocks. Living the good life in Southern California. These beauties are at La Jolla Cove north of San Diego. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 160. Processed in Polarr.

Odd (ish) Double-crested Cormorant

This is the first “black-tufted” Double-crested Cormorant I have ever seen. I took several photos just for the record, and I asked several local Southern Californians about the bird, without success. Finally I asked Paul Leman, who is not only a Southern Californian (at the moment), but perhaps the best known authority on bird distribution in North America. He is responsible for the majority of the range maps in almost all the field guides to North American Birds. He was able to tell me that it is only relatively rare for a Cormorant to have black tufts in breeding plumage instead of the bright white eyebrows of their fellows. He estimated that the number of black tufted Cormorants was certainly under 10%, but you do see them in any large group of Cormorants. So much for my chances of having a new species named after me. 🙁 Still, they must be rare enough, or invisible enough, so the rest of my southern California birding friends are unaware of them. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 200. Processed in Polarr.

Dusky-footed Woodrat, San Diego

Sally, my daughter, and I found a couple of Dusky-footed Woodrats uncharacteristically out and about in daylight, feeding on flower petals along the path in Tecolote Canyon Nature Park in San Diego, California. She almost stepped on one right at the trail-edge while looking at birds. I managed to get this shot through the thick foliage. I know. It’s a rat, and many people have a thing about rats…but it is one of our few native rats, and an interesting creature. It builds large domed nests of sticks and litter (and sometimes adds a tree loft in a nearby tree), often in villages or hamlets of a dozen or more nests (perhaps the origin of its common name, Pack-rat, though it is a solitary creature in all other ways), stores food, builds a separate “toilet” faculty away from the nest, has soft fur and furry tail. I find it appealingly cute…certainly as cute as any gerbil or hamster. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 500. Processed in Polarr.