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Old Apr 4, 2010, 11:16 PM   #1
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Default Not exactly wildflowers...

Yesterday I went out looking for wildflowers. I found lots, it was a fun, satisfying day even a bit exciting - the dirt road I drove, which is normally well graded, has suffered in this winter's rains. There were a few obstacles requiring high clearance and careful driving - so not only did I enjoy nature, I got a little adrenalin rush with some unexpected mild 'wheeling. A good day all around.

I'll post the flowers in another thread sometime this week (I haven't processed them yet), but thought I'd offer some other subjects.

This one you'll probably yawn at, but I liked the way it came out. A common raven, looking for a meal. I watched 2 of them wheel and scan the mountainside for quite a while.



A few poppies looked like they had been eaten by something, they looked pretty ragged. Not far from them I spotted this caterpillar? I have no idea what it is. Penolta - hope you spot this and can tell me what it might be (and how are your nerves, a friend of mine in Redondo Beach said it was quite a rock-n-roll).



This lady bug was very active. I can't tell you how many pictures I took, trying to get the focus right before it disappeared under a leaf or out of frame. Just trying to keep it in the viewfinder was bad enough and there was no way to use a tripod.



Some other insect that gathers pollen. These were really tiny, I was close to 1:1 and I've cropped the picture a bit.



On the way back I drove past the Gorman Hills. The yellow flowers sure look like Goldfields now. But what caught my eye wasn't the splendid display of color, it was the white in the scene that caught my eye.



There was a very large flock of Great Egrets stopping off for a rest on their migration. It was a magnificent sight! I've seen a few egrets in this area before, but never in this number (in this picture I think I count 13 birds, and there were others elsewhere on the hills).

The pond is home to a number of bufflehead ducks, or at least I see them there quite often. So when I saw some black and white birds at a distance, I assumed that's what they were. When I looked at the monitor I was surprised to see that they were stilts - or at least that's what I think they are. I've never noticed them before.



Some more egret shots I liked:



Not exactly where you normally see these beautiful birds.



Not sure you can see it, but this one has dinner in it's beak. I guess if you can't find enough water for fish, lizards will do.



It was such a treat to see so many of the giant white birds, and I took a ton of wildflower pictures, it was a very satisfying day all around.
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Old Apr 5, 2010, 5:48 AM   #2
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What a lovely series! From detail to broad sweep - great color and composition, and amazing discoveries all along the way! Personal favorite is #7 - the 2 egrets on the yellow hill...
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Old Apr 5, 2010, 2:06 PM   #3
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Thanks, Mole, for the compliment. While that picture isn't probably the best of the birds themselves, it does give you an idea of just how improbable the scene seemed to me - all those yellow goldfields and the stark white birds.

I had noticed the previous weekend that my macro skills had gotten rusty - I got more keepers this past weekend, but still need some more practice. Not quite sure what I'm doing wrong, I'll figure it out.

The macros and closeups were taken with the Viv S1 105mm macro, with the exception of one all of the egrets were taken with the DA*300. The wider one with so many birds was taken with the 77 and gives you an idea of just how far away they were for the most part.
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Old Apr 5, 2010, 7:46 PM   #4
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What a great set of photos you got Harriet.
I agree with mole #7 is fantastic! And yes, the stilts are "black neck stilts" I believe.
I can feel your excitement in capturing these great shots. BTW, I just pick up a little 4x4 tracker so, I'm looking forward to getting off road a bit myself but, I'm going to try to keep the adrenalin rush down to a minimum because it makes it so much harder to hold the camera steady.
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Old Apr 5, 2010, 8:12 PM   #5
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What an assortment, Harriet. I don't think I ever saw egrets in all the years I lived in California. Glad to hear you had such a good day. It shows in the photos. And, I look forward to seeing the flower post.

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Old Apr 5, 2010, 10:35 PM   #6
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Be careful with that Tracker, don't bend it right away. And a hint - the shiny side is supposed to be up. I'm sure you will have a great time with it.

Egrets are actually pretty common, though not around Bakersfield. I've seen some along the coast and also at Bass Lake, in the Sierras as well as around the Salton Sea. Once in a while I'll see one beside stopping off briefly at the I-5/405 interchange as they migrate north. I've seen them quite often in the spring around this pond, one year there was one that stayed around for several weeks. They are such beautiful birds, one of my favorites (though not to photograph!).
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Old Apr 6, 2010, 1:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
A few poppies looked like they had been eaten by something, they looked pretty ragged. Not far from them I spotted this caterpillar? I have no idea what it is. Penolta - hope you spot this and can tell me what it might be (and how are your nerves, a friend of mine in Redondo Beach said it was quite a rock-n-roll).
We rolled around for quite a while on Sunday - we are getting too old for that kind of excitement any more!
Can't help with the caterpillar - there are just too many little green jobs like that, and not all are butterflies. I suspect this is probably a moth caterpillar, for which I have no comprehensive reference. You can post your picture in the ID help section of the Bug Guide, and someone might recognize it:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/6/bgimage

I like No 7 too - Great Egrets do look out of place there, but they are actually great lizard hunters, as well as fishermen. There was one at the Bolsa Chica Reserve a few years that specialized in hunting them them, stalking the trails, while all the others were in the water fishing. And yes, as GW said, the black and white birds are Black-necked Stilts - not uncommon in suitable habitats locally.
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Old Apr 6, 2010, 2:38 PM   #8
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Thanks for the reply, penolta. I'm not sure I'm interested enough to follow-up with the caterpillar - it's pretty featureless.

I've seen the black-necked stilts elsewhere, just was surprised to see them in this pond. I had chosen a slightly different spot to check things out, which gave me a clear view of this part of the pond. I don't know if the stilts live there year round and I've never noticed them before or if they were migrating like the egrets.

I've got to get down to Bolsa Chica one of these days - I met while shooting the egrets who was up my way looking for wildflowers. He had stopped to capture the egrets and was using a 100-400 on a tripod. Large lens, but I was rather envious - my 300 is an awesome lens but I would have liked to have something longer that day.
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