I was practicing my panning skills on some gulls, when I decided to try for some abstract shots of the distant shoreline. This one turned out quite nicely.
We took a quick trip to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh on Saturday. Most of the marsh is part of the University of California Natural Reserve system, and is closed to the public; however a portion of it is owned by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and is open to the public. I had heard reports of a red fox in the area, and with all the recent rains we hoped to at least find some tracks. No luck on that front, but we were rewarded with so nice light and cooperative birds. The highlights were seeing every kind of Teal, a couple Northern Pintails, and even a Surf Scoter preening very close to the beach. A couple dolphins were also seen lounging and barely moving just offshore. All in all, it was a very nice morning trip.
“Cinnamon Teal” – Carpinteria Salt Marsh
A very cold storm was forecast for this weekend, with snow levels possibly down to 500 ft. We did get quite a bit of rain on Friday, but the precipitation was over by the time the temperature dropped. However, all was clear at dawn the following day. This made it really difficult to decide where to head out for the day, and I ended up staying close to home in the hopes the weather would get more interesting. Luckily, some large cumulonimbus clouds started developing over the mountains in the afternoon. It looked like the weather was clear along the mountaintop ridge, so I gassed up the car and we headed on up.
While at the gas station, we could see precipitation moving in from the east. Normally, our weather comes from the south or west, so this was a bit unusual. Even from such a distance (several miles) I could tell that the precipitation was not the usual rain. On the way up, we started getting fat drops of rain, which then turned to icy pellets, and actually started accumulating on the road. When we left Goleta, it was almost 55F, but had dropped to near freezing by the time we reached the ridge-top.
The precipitation had intensified greatly and a large amount of graupel was falling and accumulating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this form of precipitation, so it was very cool to experience something new. Photographing in these conditions is always a challenge. The lighting conditions and weather were changing rapidly and with the road conditions deteriorating, I couldn’t spend a lot of time up there. However, I managed to come away with several images that I like.
“Cumulonimbus Clouds” – Lake los Carneros, Goleta (2-stop, soft, GND Filter)
Birds in flight and weather seemed to be the theme of the past week. After weeks of beautiful, but boring weather, we finally had a few storms come through. I’ve always looked forward to stormy weather, because that usually makes for great landscape opportunities. Now I have another good reason to cheer for the rain… animal tracks. Since I’m not seeing much of the bobcats anymore, I’ve come to rely on finding their tracks to know that they’re still around. But I’m getting far off topic.
Since there are two pairs of White-tailed Kites starting to nest near me, they have been an obvious photographic target. I already have a huge catalog of Kite photos, so I’m making an effort to photograph them more creatively, or at least photograph behaviors that I’ve missed before. I’m also working on shooting some video, since some of their actions are difficult to photograph.
“Passing Zone” – Male and Female White-tailed Kites
The beautiful sunset skies disappeared last week and left us with warm days and cold nights. Morning frost is generally uncommon here, but was in abundance last week. Thankfully the weather is changing and it looks like it will be a wet week. Clear skies may not make for nice sunsets, but are good for photographing White-tailed Kites hunting in the last light. I should have spent more time photographing them and will have to work on that the next time the weather cooperates.
The theme of the past week was quite appropriate give that today is Valentine’s day. Many birds have either paired up or are in the process of doing so. Both pairs of Kites are actively nest building, the Mute Swans will probably start laying eggs sooner rather than later, the two Kestrels are back together, and we have seen two Cooper’s Hawks flying together in the evenings. Not to sound too sappy, but love is definitely in the air.
“Togetherness” – Mute Swan pair
The theme of the past week has been the intense sunsets. It’s interesting that I’m primarily out looking for wildlife, but when I put together a collection of my favorite images from the week, only one contained an animal. This is one of the things that makes photography so exciting… you never know exactly what will catch your attention on any given day.
There has been another pair of White-tailed Kites seen at LLC over the past few weekends. I’ve only seen them on weekends, which is a bit strange. Yesterday it was confirmed that they are intending to nest somewhere nearby. The resident pair seems to be tolerating them so far. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
“Alien Landing” – Goleta, CA