So far 2014 has been a good year for me in birding and shooting birds at Point Lobos. I have spotted four new species for me and been able to photo a number of rare visitors. You can see some of these on the birds page.
The primary reason for this success is persistence. There is a strong correlation to the number of bird species I spot in the Reserve to the number of hours I spend in the Reserve, go figure.
Male Harlequin Duck, Point Lobos State Reserve – 2014
The good fortunes started in February when I arrived at the Reserve early and spotted two male Harlequin Ducks at Weston Beach. I had seen a female Harlequin in the past, but the males were definitely a treat.
Summer Tanager, Point Lobos State Reserve – 2014
And then the other day, I spotted a young male Summer Tanager, a new bird for me. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me and attempts to shoot it with my iPhone were less than successful (15 shots and only 1 with the bird in it). So I hoofed it back to the truck, then returned hoping that the bird hadn’t moved on.
The bird was still there, but stayed down in the brush. Finally after about 20 minutes of walking back and forth to spot it, it flew up on to a branch in plain view. Persistence is a good thing.
Real close, but shot with a 400mm lens from over 100 ft.
This is a question that Docents at Point Lobos deal with all the time. We have to evaluate the situation and make suggestions as best we can. As near as I can tell the Marine Mammals Act says that you can’t intentionally disturb a marine mammal, but does not give specifics on distances or activities.
We have guidelines that say you can’t be within 50 ft of one or 150 ft of a mother and pup. I haven’t found the origins of these guidelines, but they seem reasonable.
And yet, you can be 30 ft away and not disturbing the otter at all or be 200 ft away and talking in a loud voice that obviously disturbs them. For me if I am taking a shot and the otter looks at me, I am too close. It is time to back away quietly.
If the otter responds to your shutter, you are too close, back away.
That’s my submission to the Carmel Art Institute’s “The Magic of Point Lobos” competition and exhibition. All five were accepted and will be on display from September 28 to October 18.
Let’s start with the birds. They are similar shots, a Black-crowned Night Heron and a Snowy Egret, both are tense and searching for food.
The primary difference is that the night heron is on a rock and the egret is on floating kelp. That and the egret is a striking white.
The wave shots capture the magnitude of a big wave day at the Reserve. These are days when you feel and smell the waves as you drive in. The first stop is Sea Lion Point, where a few young sea lions missed the memo about getting off the rocks.
Down at Bird Island the waves can get so big that they climb up to join the clouds and generate water falls where they don’t exist.
And we finish with the cat. A bobcat in Mound Meadow to be exact, looking very regal like his cousins in Kenya.
Bewick’s Wren – 2011
It is usually pretty hard to predict what you will see on a birding outing, unless you are going to the local pond looking for mallards.
But sometimes the world works like clockwork and past performance does guarantee future results. Such is the case with the annual termite hatch.
Every year, the first rain gets termites stirring in their underground chambers. After the rain passes and the ground warms, legions of termites with newly grown wings march up and take flight.
Only to be eaten by the birds who have also been waiting for the day.
This is a day to see wrens and warblers. Those little flits, you hear but never quite see, throw caution to the wind as they gobble up the termite hordes.
Yellow Warbler – 2011
Bewick’s Wrens were out in force, grabbing termites off the ground and occasionally in the air. The Townsend’s Warblers were big on picking them out of the air. And while I tried, I was unable to catch a mid air grab.
There was also an “new” warbler for me, the Yellow Warbler. I think it fits into the category of birds that I have seen, but never noticed.
Chickadees, juncos, and quail were also filling their gullets with termites. It was an easy day to be a bird.
And as a result, an easy day to be a birder.