A Brief Visit to the Redwoods on the Way Home

After years of trying to capture the beauty of the Redwoods with the most expensive camera equipment money can buy, and failing miserably, I still couldn’t resist taking pictures with my iPhone on our way home from Santa Rosa, and, realistically, they’re almost as good as ones I’ve taken previously when I used a top-of-the-line Canon with wide-angle lenses.

No matter how many times we stop here on the way home, I am amazed by the size and

Redwood Canopy

height of these trees, 

Leslie Dwarfed by Redwoods

so tall they seem to block the sky itself.

Redwoods Blocking the Sky

If it weren’t for the shattered giants blocking the trail, you might think these giants were immortal.

Shattered fallen Redwood

Unfortunately, I still haven’t discovered how to create pictures that convey the awe-inspiring magnitude of these forests or that convey how being made to feel so insignificant can also be liberating.  

A Last Look at Doran Beach

Although the fog had largely considerably by the time we walked Doran Beach, there was still enough left to blur anything in the distance. So, even though I could actually get closer than I could on our first visit when it was a bright, sunshiny day, the images are much softer (or, blurry, depending on your perspective).  

This Willet in winter plumage standing on one leg almost blends into the beach,

Willet standing on one leg

though not quite as much as this one actually lying down, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Willet do before.

Willet Resting on Beach

It was foggy enough that this Marbled Godwit’s bright colors (see previous Doran Beach shots) seemed remarkably subdued. 

Marbled Godwit

By the time we finished our walk, the sun had finally broken through and these Turkey Vultures’ red heads and red legs were perfectly clear.   

Turkey Vulture on the Beach

Though it’s impossible to miss Turkey Vultures flying overhead in California, I had never seen them this close before (and at 80 I don’t particularly want to see them any closer).

Not far away, a small flock of Sanderlings hurried up the shoreline.

Sanderlings on the Beach

We also saw several of what I originally assumed were Horned Grebes, but when a California birder told me that she was trying to decide whether they were Horned or Eared Grebe it made me see them in a totally different light.  Most we saw were too far away to be positively identified, but this one was near to where we had lunch and was clearly an Eared Grebe in transition from winter to breeding plumage.

Eared Grebe in plumage transition

Eared Grebes are quite dramatic when in full breeding plumage, and that’s the only way I had ever seen them before, so I was surprised how much they look like Horned Grebes in winter plumage. A little research showed that although they breed in slightly different areas, they both overwinter on the California Coast, which may mean I’ve been misidentifying them for a while now.

A Second Visit to Doran

Our second visit to Doran Regional Park with Jeff and Debbie was quite different than our first trip by ourselves.  Debbie had been reading about a new walk that crossed the wetlands, a trail we had never heard about. The weather was quite different, too, a thick fog blocking out the sunshine that had marked our first visit.  We got to see birds that we hadn’t seen on our previous visit, especially Egrets.

A hundred yards down the trail a Great Egret blended in beautifully with the fog as it hunted prey (the camera and Photoshop made it more visible than it seemed in real life).

Egret Hunting in Fog

As I’ve mentioned before, I actually like walking in the fog but generally am not happy with the photographs I get then.  

This photo of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets grooming themselves in a pond is an exception, though; it’s my favorite shot of the day.

Egrets Preening

The fog was gradually burning away as we finished the loop and headed back to the car, but there was still some fog left when I got this closeup of a Snowy Egret on the other side of the pond.

Snowy Egret in Reeds

By the time I got to the other side where I took a picture of the egrets grooming, the fog was entirely gone, and I took this shot.  I definitely don’t like this shot as well; the whole feeling is gone for me.

Egrets Preening

The photographer in me is always in search of sunshine because that’s when I usually get my most memorable shots, but past experience has shown that it is possible to get beautiful shots under all kinds of conditions.  You just have to be open to what’s in front of you.

A Different Kind of Magic

Our second trip to the California Coast was to Shell Beach, about seven miles north of Doran Regional Park.  We did this on a previous hike with Jeff and Debbie, and I was hoping we would see the White-Tailed Kites we had seen then.  In anticipation I’d brought my 600mm lens with a 1.4 multiplier, my current favorite birding lens when I’m not shooting from the car or from my tripod.  In retrospect, I wish I had taken the 100mm-400mm lens, but wishing you had the “other” lens is common when taking photographs.  It’s about as helpful as wishing you were forty years younger and could carry two cameras.

You can’t take very good scenic photos with an 840 mm lens, so I did what I’ve done several times in the past, pulled out my iPhone 11 and took this shot.

It turned out better than I expected, though I’m sure it would have turned out better if I had brought my wide-angle lens for my Canon R5.  

This closeup was taken much further away with my Canon R5 and 600mm lens is sharper with more detail but doesn’t seem as “scenic” to me.

We only saw a few common birds, like this Savannah Sparrow.  

I did manage to get a shot of a Tiger Swallowtail, though, something I only see months later in the Puget Sound.

Shell beach is the main attraction on this section of the coastline, but these rocks are another attraction. They don’t look very big in a photo, but there were actually two climbers with ropes and harnesses scaling them.   They remind me of the Stonehenge replica that overlooks the Columbia River in Klickitat County, WA.  

In retrospect, I wondered if these rock formations had inspired someone to construct a small magical maze filled with various offerings mostly collected from nearby

with what appeared to be an abalone shell containing coins and a green piece of jewelry at the center of the maze.  

I really wish I had had a drone so that I could have gotten a shot of the whole maze with all the various offerings, but my iPhone had trouble getting a shot without my feet appearing in the middle of the picture.