The Red-masked Parakeet is endangered in its home range in Ecuador and Peru, but it is doing very well in California. Feral populations are thriving around San Diego and San Francisco. It was imported, breed, and sold as a cage bird known as the Cherry-headed Conure for many years. There are also established populations in south Florida, in the larger Miami area. These birds came daily, in a flock of more than a dozen, to the pepper tree in the courtyard of the Marina Village Conference Center during the San Diego Birding Festival at the end of February, into March, where they were photographed by a few hundred eager bird photographers attending the event. The feral Parrots and Parakeets for southern California are becoming a “thing” among birders. They even have their on conservation organization and web site :). Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
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 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.
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.
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.
Pelicans are among the best birds to practice your Birds in Flight skills on. They are big, so the camera focuses well, and when they are using the air currents over waves or breaking surf, or along a cliff, their flight is relatively predictable, so they are easy to track. Plus, the boldly textured feathers in all seasons, and the colorful breeding plumage in season, make them attractive subjects. Finally, shooting from sea cliffs in southern California, they are often at or below eye-level. This bird was below the cliffs at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr.
I think it might be the guano streaked cliffs behind the bird that give this shot, to my eye, a slightly prehistoric aspect…and the pose of the bird below only adds to the effect. In reading this morning I discovered that the modern Pelican probably dates back 30 million years, so, yes, the bird is indeed legitimately prehistoric. La Jolla Cove, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 400. Processed in Polarr. This is a good example of the tracking auto focus of the RX10iv. I have the whole sequence of the bird coming in and landing.
A mother and a new-born Harbor Seal recognize each other by the unique smell of each other’s breath…but it has to be learned and you can observe mother and child nose to nose soon after birth and repeatedly over the first few hours of life exchanging breaths. Later, when the pups are in the water and crying for their mothers, you will see adults approach the pup and check the breath to see if it is theirs. Adult females can be quite aggressive when approached by a pup that does not have the right smell. I always enjoy these nose to nose shots. This was taken on the outside of the seawall at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla Cove, in La Jolla, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000 @ f4 @ ISO 250. Processed in Polarr.
At the other end of La Jolla Cove from Children’s Pool and the pupping Harbor Seals, there is a good sized colony of Sea Lions. This group of adolescents was having a mild altercation over the occupation of some rocks above the shoreline. It is rare to see an adult sea lion without scars…so these confrontations do get more violent as the sea lions mature. La Jolla Cove, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 160. -.3 EV. Processed in Polarr.
While we were watching Western and Clark’s Grebes at Lake Hodges, at the north edge of San Diego, this Western came in close to shore, apparently to see what we were doing, and to make sure we were no threat. It is mating season and this is, again apparently, a territorial display. With those red eyes, it does not take much to make a grebe intimidating. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 160. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.