Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kingfisher Will Test Your Patience!

Wed. Oct. 29, 2014

The morning light at San Elijo Lagoon is outstanding today. I was told by another photographer that the Belted Kingfisher has been very active around the tide channel by the visitor center in Cardiff. There is lots of bird activity at the lagoon but, the Belted Kingfisher is always high on my bird subject list. When you hear that rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher you most likely are going to get a good sighting of his "tail end" by the time you get your camera up and focused. We keep hearing the rattling calls as they speed by... soon the Kingfishers calls are sounding more like "mocking" laughter as they appeared to be teasing all the photographers that are eager to get a few shots as they fly by making themselves as small a target as possible.

Searching and listening for hours... I finally spot one perched on a dead brush across the channel. It's the female Belted Kingfisher. I quickly jog from the bridge area hoping the Kingfisher will stay perched...

Approaching the first lookout deck by the trail I raise my camera for a shot, I can see that she is not happy about my presence even though I am across the channel.
She immediately departs and I am frantically trying to keep her in the camera frame as I click as fast as my EOS 7D Canon will allow.
At least she is headed south from her perch so I don't have to see the "tail end"

This photo shows the tiny feet of the Kingfisher looking more like a hummingbirds feet...The short legs with weak small feet, used only for perching. Kingfishers grab and kill their prey with their thick powerful beaks. They may slam and thrash a larger fish against the
branch or rock they are perched on until the prey is dead and can be easily consumed.
She veers away from my lens... and heads west.
As my camera is pointed at the channel and clicking away... I manage to get a few shots of a jumping Mullet.
LOL... I believe it is easier to get a shot of a jumping fish than get one close-up of a Belted Kingfisher.
A male Mallard Duck in full breeding plumage swims near by... I know they are everywhere and common but they are so beautiful with their metallic emerald green plumage. The reflection of the channel bank makes for a pretty shot.
Even a sleepy looking Western Grebe makes an appearance... but I am on constant alert looking and hunting for the Kingfishers.
A adult male Gadwall Duck in breeding plumage comes in for a landing, showing the red coloring on the wings that only the male Gadwalls have... But no Kingfisher sightings!
Gadwalls are very handsome ducks in a non-flashy way. They have no metallic greens or purples but a very beautiful fish scale pattern on the chest and shoulders. I keep hearing the Kingfishers and spot two of them flying up and down the Pole Road Trail on Rios.
I even spot a Western Meadowlark and managed to capture one shot. This is another bird subject that is very challenging.
Walking up by the back entrance, I finally spot the female Kingfisher! She is back on the dead bush across the tide channel again. Now I have to maneuver back to the observation deck without spooking her. I manage to get to a corner lookout surrounded by bushes... and there is a little boy on the bench playing with a truck that is making a grinding/rattling noise... much like her rattling calls... she appears focused on the noise and searching for the other Kingfisher or what may be making that unusual noise. I manage to get in position to get a few shots... 
The little boy keeps playing with his truck and she appears to almost be in a trance... which is good for me to finally get a few shots. I am clicking away getting ready for the flight shot...
It doesn't take long, there she goes again...This time, she drops down low, almost water level, and follows the channel south.
The green from the pickleweed reflects on the water surface as I capture her zipping past...
She veers to the center of the tide channel.
The beautiful blue ski reflects off the water.
The sunlight off the water is reflecting off the underside of her wings. This photo shows off the brown belt markings on the side that wrap around her belly.
Just when you think she is gone for the day, I see that she has stopped at the bridge... I now make my way to the bridge, trying to get close enough for my 400mm lens. I swear this bird knows the range of your camera lens! Just before you get to the ideal range for your lens, she takes off...
And of course I am shooting right into the sunlight. Look at those cute short legs and tiny feet. These birds are definitely one of my favorite subjects but can be so very frustrating, too. 

Her wings looks beautiful with the sunlight coming through.
You can see the transparent pattern on the tail feathers too.
A few shots and this time, she is heading straight for the North end of the Pole Rd Trail on Rios.
Last shot and I am ready to go home too... It has been a hard day of shooting this subject. Kingfishers will really test your patience at times but if you keep working and trying, you may get lucky and get rewarded with a few flight shots.
Have a lovely Thursday everyone.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Morning at Lake Cuyamaca

Sunday Oct. 26 2014

The wind gusts woke me about 4:30am as I wondered out loud if my 21ft toy hauler would be blown over by some of the high gusts that are normal here in Julian. Camping out for me is cooking everything in the microwave. A hot cup of water and a packet of Nescafe starts my day with a nuked frozen burrito for my average camping breakfast. Reading the last chapter of my Patricia Cornwell novel and waiting for the sunrise, I am enjoying the quiet of the country morning

I have gone to Lake Cuyamaca the last few days around 3:00pm looking to photograph the Bald Eagles but they were no shows. Today, I was going to try an early morning drive to the lake to see if these magnificent raptors may be spotted hunting for breakfast. Finishing my coffee and taking a walk with the dogs, I see that the sun is starting to come up but the stormy mountain clouds are making the sunrise look more like a sunset. I want to get a shot of the sunrise but I needed to rush to the viewpoint that overlooks the Wolf Reserve, that is about 4 blocks all uphill! Finally I get my shot after huffing and puffing to the hilltop. The sun had already cleared the horizon but the colors are fantastic. Now it's time to go to Lake Cuyamaca.

Lake Cuyamaca is suffering from lack of rainfall and the water has receded to where it is only about 5 ft at its deepest. I saw a Great Blue Heron standing in the middle of the lake on the south side just past the buoys and he was only in knee deep water. As I search the sky for any sign of Eagles, I  spot two large dark birds up high just below the clouds.
One is coming towards the lake, it is a Bald Eagle!
It always takes my breath away when I spot one soaring above. This is a fully matured adult Bald Eagle. When they reach maturity, they will have the beautiful white head and tail. The clouds make it very difficult to get any good shots. I am shooting east, and he is flying with the light to his back.
I see the talons come down... this shot has been lightened to show a little more detail but it is still a dark and dreary day.
He spots something of interest.. he has a target!
coming down quick...
I am standing near water level on the west side of the lake... he is descending towards the east edge of the lake...
It's impossible to see but the edge of the lake is filled with ducks, grebes, and coots all scattering. You can see a Great Egret to the left of this photo, the water is only knee deep. The Eagle has his sights on something...
He is in full focus.
He spots his target...
tracking his prey and swooping down.
Pure concentration... talons ready...
Going for the grab...You can see the turbulence of the water directly in front of the Eagle's talons!
Split second before the catch...
Got him!!!
And the Eagle surges upward...

Beautiful outstreatched wings.
Looking over his prey, securing his grip.
The Eagle pumps his huge wings and is ready to leave the area...
It is amazing how much water is dripping from his prey. This observation makes me believe this is a bird... maybe a small Grebe that he has captured. Pied-billed Grebes measure 13 inches long with a wing span of 16.
I don't believe a bullfrog would shed so much water but the photo is not clear enough to
show a positive ID of the prey.
With some height gained off the water, the Eagle is ready to leave the area.
Getting some speed, he hurries to a quiet safe place where he can consume his prey in peace...
Have a nice Monday everyone...