Goose, Lindo Lake © Robert Sommers 2020

Monday, June 22, 2015


Scrub jay
It has been a long couple days. Post cardio conversion there is no alcohol, coffee or major exertion.

Very hard for me to chill and I definitely miss the coffee. Alcohol I can do without, I have a bunch of holes to dig for new plants when I am able and I can't wait to get on that.

My mailbox is full and will probably stay that way for a while. Can't deal. Sorry.

Haven't been answering too many phone calls, been reading a good book, Remarque's All quiet on the western front, one of the greatest tales about the nasty life of a soldier ever written.

Not sure if I am still in rhythm, will find out on friday.

Heard that my old friend and ethnographic art expert Jim Caswell dropped dead in his shop in Santa Monica last week. Great guy Jim, fair and honest. Nice man. Live it like it's your last day, people, because you never know.

I took a few bird pictures this weekend, nothing too great, honestly been struggling with the settings and iso.

There is a general rule of thumb in photography that the shutter speed should be at least the inverse of the focal length. So if I am using a 500mm lens which is actually about a 650mm on a cropped sensor like the D7200 I need to be shooting at around 1/1000th of a second. In order to get the shutter speed up while shooting aperture priority, you have to boost the iso and high iso equals noise. Lately my pictures have been noisier than I would like.

But as I always say, a lousy shot that says something is better than nothing, or a perfectly focussed shot that says nothing. So I snap away. Hope to keep learning and getting better.

Red shouldered hawk
Caught this red shouldered hawk the other day. Love his steely eyes.

My birder friend Beth did a bird survey with the dean of birding in this area the other day, Ken Weaver.

I saw their cars down at the mailboxes on my way to the hospital.

She sent me the list of their survey, which goes back to Cornell, I think. I think it is okay to post it here.

Here is the list from our river survey yesterday.  We also confirmed breeding for 13 species. Thanks for sharing your birding knowledge and keen eyesight! Ken 

On Sunday, June 21, 2015 12:56 PM, "ebird-checklist@cornell.edu" <ebird-checklist@cornell.edu> wrote:

Santa Margarita River Trail, San Diego, California, US
Jun 19, 2015 6:40 AM - 11:25 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:    Area covered:  River trail located near intersection of Willow Glen and South Stagecoach roads west along river to Sandia Creek Road.  Additional observers:  Susie Martin, Beth Cobb.48 species

Mallard  1
California Quail  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  7
Red-tailed Hawk  6
Common Ground-Dove  2
Mourning Dove  12
Black-chinned Hummingbird  11    Numbers, if anything, are low for this area.  A key habitat, live oak-sycamore woodland near water is abundant in this area.
Anna's Hummingbird  10
Costa's Hummingbird  1
Acorn Woodpecker  25
Nuttall's Woodpecker  9
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  4
Western Wood-Pewee  6
Pacific-slope Flycatcher  10
Black Phoebe  10
Ash-throated Flycatcher  7
Bell's Vireo (Least)  12
Hutton's Vireo  7
Western Scrub-Jay  7
American Crow  1
Common Raven  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  17
Cliff Swallow  1
Oak Titmouse  8
Bushtit  41
White-breasted Nuthatch  5
House Wren  6
Bewick's Wren  7
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  20    High numbers for this area.
Wrentit  25
California Thrasher  9
Northern Mockingbird  1
Phainopepla  13
Orange-crowned Warbler  8
Common Yellowthroat  33
Yellow Warbler  19
Yellow-breasted Chat  20    This bird's key habitat, willow woodland-willow scrub is abundant along the Santa Margarita River.
Spotted Towhee  32
Rufous-crowned Sparrow  2
California Towhee  16
Song Sparrow  10    Inexplicably low numbers for this usually abundant species.
Black-headed Grosbeak  17
Blue Grosbeak  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  11
Bullock's Oriole  3
House Finch  20
Lesser Goldfinch  50

This is a good list for me to have but I am struck by the birds that they didn't see that I see all the time. Like the hooded oriole I shot on Saturday.

hooded oriole
Or the red winged blackbird that lives in my redwood just a little bit upriver.
red winged blackbird
I am not a birder, I am a photographer that shoots birds, mostly raptors and the long legged kind, herons, egrets. There is a big difference. My friend Beth is a birder, although she claims to be a rank amateur, everything being relative in these matters.

She got thrown from her horse the other day, landed on her feet, but pulled something in her hamstring and is hobbling around, like I am at present. She was stoked to see a blue grosbeak with Ken and also some blue gray gnatcatchers.

I love grosbeaks and jumped at the chance to accompany her on the trail today to try and find the blue one once again. We met at the mailboxes at seven and walked down to the river.

The thing that is amazing about birders and I repeat I am not a birder, is that they have the bird calls and the particular behavior of the birds down so well. We saw all manner of birds today, chats and yellowthroats, phainopeplas and towhees, Beth knew the identity and call for all of them. It is very impressive.

Yellow breasted chat

It is really cool to learn from somebody that knows their stuff. There is no reason I can't learn more about these wonderful creatures that  I have lived next to for so many years. I want to increase my birdwatching acumen.

common yellowthroat

I know that the pictures are not up to my normal standards and I apologize. No excuses. You can use them for identification purposes anyway.

spotted towhee
 We called a few birds in and Beth showed me how they would triangulate our position, how sensitive they were to intruders and competitors. Fascinating. The beavers gnawed down a log last night and blocked the trail. It was hard for Beth to cross with her leg.

Saw a small raptor up high in a dead tree, probably a kestrel.

The other day I encountered a raptor I have never seen before on a wire in my yard. The camera was in the van beneath him so I couldn't get a shot. A large thin, elegant bird, almost looked like a peregrine falcon. Goshawk look.

My movement startled him and underneath him there was a flurry. He had been stalking a bevy of quail and my movements allowed them to scurry off. Wish I knew what it was.

lbb on reed

Anyway we hung out down on the river and did see some grosbeaks but not the blue although I think we did hear them.

black headed grosbeak
The black headed certainly ain't bad.

It is always a pleasure to learn from someone whose knowledge so far exceeds your own. I look forward to my next trip. Thanks so much, Beth!

Although this year's hawk season appears to have finally come to a close, it has been a pretty special year for me in terms of bird photography.

This was a fun year for the offspring, the hawk snake stuff was so fantastic to capture. I love the new camera and most everything has been working smoothly. Nailed some great shots with Ken at Lindo and Santee.

But it will only get better when I get the 150 -600mm lens, which I just have to get. That last bit of reach will make all the difference. Then you will see some stuff.


Anonymous said...

If one takes a deep breath and asks the diety or non-diety of choice for a steady hand one might just get away with a shutter speed equal to the lens focal length, say 1/500 for a 450mm. You might get away with it, I won't. My hands can get unsteady and I am already resorting to viewfinder magnifiers to focus a rangefinder. If I try to shoot a long lens with a low shutter speed I will probably pee my pants from concentrating so hard. But what the hell, if we can keep your bodies from running out of farfegnugen nothing else really matters anyhow :-)

Blue Heron said...

Not to toot my horn too much but I can show you a bunch of pics I took at 500mm 1/40th handheld that are sharp as shit.

Sanoguy said...

It amazes me how many different kinds birds are in the area. Nor can I believe how one can identify all of them. Great place to be!