California Quail

Though we supposedly have California Quail in the Puget Sound area, I’ve only seen them once or twice and even then I just caught a glimpse of them so I was thrilled when we ran into two different flocks at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa. I was on the lookout for them because I’d seen them in nearly the same area a few times before.

However, I’ve never managed to get this good of shots before. There were several female quail and both Lael

and I got some nice shots of them.

Both the female and the male have striking plumage, but the male’s plumage seems a little more dramatic.

Although I decided later I should probably have taken a camera to San Francisco when we went there the next day, I didn’t, so these were the last shots taken on a great family vacation to Redwoods, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco.

Lake Ralphine

I could only fit in a single trip to Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake on this visit to Santa Rosa and that was rather later than I usually walk there. We didn’t see quite as many birds there as I’ve usually seen in the past, but I’m not sure if that was because of the time of day or because I’ve seldom visited Santa Rosa in April.

Even if I failed to see a single Acorn Woodpecker, my personal favorite, on this visit Lael and I found lots of other subjects who were too intent on absorbing sun rays to notice us. This might be the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo, much larger than the turtles we usually see around home.

Right behind him was a Double-Crested Cormorant that seemed nearly as ancient as the turtle.

While I was out trying to sight a Swan or Night Heron, Lael was focusing on the intrepid ground squirrels that scamper the shores of Lake Ralphine

and on a hybrid goose.

I think I took pictures of both on earlier visits, but over time they seem to have faded into the background for me, probably undeservedly.

Snowy Egret Tiff

I’m not sure why this Snowy Egret has his feathers standing on end , but this was my favorite sequence from shooting the heron colony in Santa Rosa. Although I’ve seen shots of Snowy Egrets like this before, I’ve never managed to get one myself. As excited as the egret on the left is, the one building the nest seems totally unconcerned.

Beauty Rising

As if to confirm my prejudice that Snowy Egrets are more photogenic than Great Egrets, these three shots illustrate the kind of cropping I would have loved to have had in yesterday’s post.

Great Egrets

Although I got some shots I really love while shooting the Heron Colony in Santa Rosa, as I stated in a previous post, I really wish I had taken my 100-400mm lens instead of my 400mm fixed lens. I love the wing pattern on these Great Egrets shot against the backlit sky. I hate that they were all so close that I ended up cutting off part of their body. Worst of all, I suspect I’ll never get a chance to photograph on a gray day where the sky disappeared into the background.

If I didn’t love the wing pattern so much I would have simply deleted these shots, but they allowed me to see the Great Egret Wings in a totally new way.

so I’m going to post them here

so you, too, can see the amazing construction of their wings.

I’ll end the post with a shot from a totally different angle with the proper contrast with the background to show that I really do know how to crop shots.

Night Herons in Santa Rosa

Since we don’t get Night Herons in the Pacific Northwest, I’m always pleased when I see them in California. In fact, we often drive out of our way to Colusa National Wildlife Refuge just to see the large flock there. Usually we see them tucked into the branches or hiding in the shrubs around the lake.

It’s very rare to see them out in the open like we did this one at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa.

It’s even rarer to see them with as fish in their mouth like this one.

I’ll have to admit, though, that I was thrilled to be able to shoot them from a completely different angle like I did at the Santa Rosa rookery,

particularly shots of them flying up into the tree to build their nest.

Santa Rosa’s Rookery

It would be an understatement to say that I wasn’t prepared for what I saw at the Santa Rosa nesting area. I was expecting to see one species of birds nesting, not four different species. I was especially surprised to get a shot of this Cattle Egret in my first photo,

the only shot I got of a Cattle Egret in the hour I was there. In retrospect, I wondered if there was more than one but I got distracted by the very active Snowy Egrets.

I did expect to see Night Herons since they were mentioned in the original article, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There were also several Great Ibis in the tree,

though I wasn’t always able to distinguish them from the Snowy Egrets in the tree.

I got way more shots of Snowy Egrets

than any other bird, though I’m not sure if that was because they have always struck me as more photogenic than the other egrets or because there was actually a lot more of them

I’ve seen several rookeries, but they’ve always contained a single species, like all Great Blue Heron or all Night Heron. I didn’t realize how close I’d be to the tree and how hard it would be to move further away and still get decent shots until I got there. I should have taken a 100-400mm zoom lens so I could frame individual shots — though zooming in an out is always hit and miss on a flying bird. Finally, I should have had at least three or four hours available to get the best shots possible. When I go back in the future I’ll be better prepared, though I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled than I was on this visit.