Marbled Godwits at Bodega Bay

I’ll have to admit that I was really tempted to try to get closer to the Godwits when I saw them near the lagoon, but Leslie and Jeff were across the street ready to start our beach walk, so I thought better of it. As it turns out, I was glad I started the walk instead because about half way down the beach we ran across a small flock of Marbled Godwits feeding on the incoming tide.

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Although they retreated as we got closer, I managed to get even closer to them on the was back up the beach.

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While they had all been resting on the shore when I first saw them across the road, they were much more active feeding on the beach, which made it easier to get close to without scaring them off.

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I was amazed by this shot

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where you could actually see whatever it is that they eat. I’ll have to admit that the shot makes me a lot more curious about exactly what it is that they are catching. I certainly never knew there was anything like this right under the sand.

In the end, of course, what really matters is the shots you get, and who doesn’t love beautiful tail feathers?

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Birding at Bodega Bay

Although we went to Doran Beach on Bodega Bay to walk the beach and get away from Santa Rosa’s high temperatures, not to bird, the first thing I noted on the wetlands opposite the beach was a beautiful Snowy Egret which had obviously become so accustomed to human visitors that it took no notice of them, even when they were holding a 400mm lens.

Beach or no beach, I couldn’t resist briefly photographing him as he stalked the wetlands.

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I was a little surprised that instead of edging away from me that he kept moving closer

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and closer.

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As often happens while birding, while observing a particular bird other birds will suddenly appear, almost as if the mere act of standing still, becoming part of the environment, reveals everything that has always been there. Suddenly a small flight of terns swooped behind the Egret, which, in turn, startled a flock of Plovers into flight.

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Several of the plovers, in turn, landed next to another flock of birds.

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Of course, it was only after I zoomed in on the image that I realized that it was a flock of Marbled Godwits, birds I’d sought out on the Washington Coast but had no luck finding. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any way to get close enough to them to get a decent shot.

Bodega Bay Head

Just because I realized long ago that I am never going to be able to capture the way I feel looking out into the ocean doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying to capture that feeling. Certainly our latest trip to Bodega Head was no exception, especially with brilliant sunshine.

Here’s the view looking South,

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Northwest,

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and North, up the coastline.

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Reminder to myself for the future: don’t bother trying to shoot HDR where waves are involved — way too much blur to deal with.

Luckily, when landscape photography proves too difficult, I can always fall back on wildlife photography.

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Slow Birding at Spring Lake

I may have become slightly spoiled by past birding at Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake because I wasn’t impressed by how few birds I saw on this visit, though it is the first time I’ver ever seen a Cedar Waxwing there.

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I did see a single Night Heron,

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which seemed determined to hide from the huge number of people who were out walking Labor Day.

In fact, it wasn’t until my second walk, mid-week, that I saw anything vaguely interesting. This might have been the first time I’ve ever gotten a shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch.

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I really wasn’t sure what the heck this brown and white pile was, particularly since it seemed to be guarded by a Snowy Egret. If you click to enlarge the photo you can barely make out the immature Swans.

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I’d never seen them with brown feathers before, much less without a parent nearby.

For some reason, though, all the adults were at the other end of the lake gliding elegantly by.

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The real thrill of this visit, though, came when I heard what sounded like a jet right behind me and looked around to see the small flock of Swans launching themselves.

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Not sure what caused them to take off, but it was a thrill hearing those powerful wings overtake me. They were so loud that I almost ducked instead of turning around and snapping several shots.

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Although I knew that this wasn’t the best time of year to visit the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge and that first light isn’t the best time for lighting, I can’t imagine not stopping by the refuge on our way to Santa Rosa. It’s that delightful even in off-season and ridiculously early in the morning.

We got this shot of a young buck just after sunrise,

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and if it wasn’t for the quality of light I would have just deleted it without a second thought.

Much of the refuge hadn’t been filled with water yet, but the areas that did have water were certainly filled with large numbers of ducks that seemed aware that hunting season is near.

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No matter how I early I get out birding at home, I’m never serenaded by a Meadowlark,

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a great way to start any day.

Although we didn’t see some of the rarer birds, like American Avocets, we did see several Snowy Egrets, one of my favorite birds to photograph.

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We even saw a single Night Heron.

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The best shot of the day, though, came at the end of the tour when we sighted this Peregrine Falcon

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posing in ideal sunlight while both Leslie and I shot away. Although I’ve managed to get shots of Peregrine Falcons even at home, I’m pretty sure these were the best shots we’ve ever managed to get — even if it was Leslie who actually captured the shot.

In the Morning Light

With a long drive in front of us, I wanted to get an early start on our last day in California and get a last look at The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge even though I knew the light wouldn’t be ideal at that hour.

We finally got to see the flocks of Snow Geese that we hadn’t yet seen, though the orangish, sunrise light gave them a different look than I’ve seen before.

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The same light gave this male Northern Shoveler an almost surreal look.

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We didn’t see a single Avocet, but this Black-Necked Stilt

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appeared almost as pinkish as Avocets do.

Later, I wished that we had the same light when finally got to Mt. Shasta,

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but by then the sun had ducked behind the clouds, giving it a very different look.

Days like that give you a real sense of just how subjective light and the resulting colors can be.