A nice looking late season storm is about to arrive!
An oiled Red-throated Loon was swimming around a local lake on Thursday and Friday. My girlfriend and I had just finished discussing whether or not it could be rescued from the water, when it swam directly towards us and clumsily hauled itself out of the water. That made rescuing the bird a more realistic proposition and we quickly made a call to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. Thankfully, the loon showed no signs of returning to the water, and within ten minutes a volunteer arrived and was able to easily capture the bird. Hopefully it is now much cleaner and on its way back to the wild.
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.
Crows are such trouble makers… This one decided to antagonize a pair of American Kestrels by seeing how close it could land and creep up to this one. Other than staring at the crow, the kestrel was smart and didn’t react to the crow’s antics. Frustrated, the crow flew off and tried to land next to the female kestrel, who was perched at the very top of the dead pine. Fortunately for her, there wasn’t room to land. In defeat, the crow decided to land on an adjacent branch. I’m not sure about the kestrels, but I know that I got a good laugh watching the crow try to land on the thin dead branch only to have it break and fall. That was the last straw for the crow, and it flew away in disgust.
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