Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Post #61 - I love it when a plan comes together!

Whoa! Am I out of shape! My legs are still sore two days after my Sunday birding and hiking outing. Actually it was nothing terribly epic, just a visit to the western edge of the Santa Ana Mountains, the range that separates the more coastal Orange County from the more inland Riverside County. The main motivation for my visit was to find Black-chinned Sparrow and Costa's Hummingbird, two species that I had not yet observed in Orange County. eBird's "target species" feature successfully directed me to the location; It did not, however, warn me that the walk I planned to take would actually turn into a very strenuous hike. The Forest Service road leading uphill from Modjesta Canyon and the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary was equally steep and beautiful. My 500mm lens felt like a lead bar in my photo backpack as I made my way up the mountainside. I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the point where I took this photo!

Western slope (OC side) of the Santa Ana Mountains

Finding my target species proved painfully straightforward. Photographing them in anything other than a record context proved impossible as the eastern-rising sun was not yet high enough to light up the western facing slopes. It was a gorgeous morning, and I continued to fight my way up the hillside both to get a better view and to kill some time while the sun climbed yet higher. By the time I was 2 linear miles and 800 vertical feet above where I started, the sun was high enough to make photography possible. I turned back down the hill and, with the sun now at my back, focused on finding my most wanted photographic quarry of the morning, the Black-chinned Sparrow.

I eventually found one individual singing not far from the road. Bushwacking a bit, I slowly approached the bird. He was quite cooperative, giving me beautiful binocular views as I readied the camera. A bit of pishing piqued his interest. Shooting down the hill, he and his perch were framed against a perfectly clean and distant background. It was a really good feeling to see and photograph this sparrow this weekend.

Black-chinned Sparrow - Spizella atrogularis
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 7D2
1/2500 at f/8, ISO 800

As an incredible bonus, a usually reclusive California Thrasher made a quick appearance towards the end of my sparrow shooting session. Turning my lens his way, I cracked off a few frames before he disappeared into the underbrush. The light was a bit harsh, but I am happy with the results!

 California Thrasher - Toxostoma redivivum
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 7D2
1/2000 at f/9, ISO 800
Anyway, nothing too terribly exciting. Just a nice, relaxing morning out in one of the few quiet corners of Orange County. I am sure a return visit will occur in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

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