Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Post #104 - Let's give the most common birds some love!

Sorry for the long time between posts! Our LA > SF move complicated things a bit! Here we go!

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am an unabashed ABA lister (or at least as unabashed as my budget and often conflicting photography interest permit!). Those playing similar listing games at the patch, county, or state levels certainly understand the premium that is placed on finding unusual species within your area of interest as that's what the listing game is all about. Rarities will always and understandably engender an excitement that more ubiquitous species like Mallards and Rock Doves will never - and that's OK.

Anyway, while it is difficult to get excited about super common birds from a purely birding perspective, I totally appreciate them from a photography standpoint. I think of it as a good challenge to present common birds in ways that people might not have have before seen. Take this shot for example. When was the last time you saw a Rock Dove in anything resembling a truly natural setting? This is a bit deceiving as it was taken at an urban park in Los Angeles, and I did have to maneuver my perspective around a bit so as to keep the branch but to avoid the cement edge to the man made pond. But, if you didn't know anything about the usually urban circumstances of this bird, you could totally imagine that this shot was taken on the edge of some real lake in some natural location.

Rock Dove - Columba livia
Los Angeles County, California, March 2017
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II + 2x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/8, ISO 800

Sometimes all it takes is a bit of personality to see a common bird in a new light. Such was the case with this particular Herring Gull. I actually headed Revere Beach in Boston to shoot Piping Plover chicks on that day. This bird appeared as soon as I set foot onto the sand. He walked directly towards me and just started cackling in my face, apparently in search of a handout. I thought he'd make a fun subject, so I cracked off this frame of him squawking at me. I think this result shows his assertive personality perfectly! Super detailed headshots are always a fantastic way to show common birds in new and interesting ways.

Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Revere Beach, Boston, Massachusetts, July 2011
Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 400

Here's another common bird that I tried to present in a different light - literally. I took my dog to the dog park in Long Beach one evening when I saw this guy floating peacefully on the adjacent pond. My rig was in the car from a photo outing earlier in the day, so I grabbed it and went to work. I deliberately kept the view wide and underexposed the frame so as to generate a wide swath of dark water. Here it's the photographic technique more than anything else that renders the photograph of this common bird effectively dramatic!

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
Long Beach, California, April 2017
Canon 100-00mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 7D2
1/1600 at f/8, ISO 640

Next up is this female Mallard that I photographed in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx in New York City a few years back. It too was in an urban pond. I would have ideally had a bit less lens (which would have let me capture even more of the water), but I was super stoked with the result nonetheless. I actually love how her golden-brown tones blend with the yellow water as reflected from the surrounding fall foliage. So, yeah, this a bird we often overlook, but, given the right attention and presentation, she can really shine!

Mallard (female) - Anus platyrhynchos
Bronx, New York City, October 2011
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 7D
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 640


Anyway, and without going into too much detail, I'm currently nursing another calf injury, albeit on the other leg this time. This not only complicated our move from LA to SF, but has kept me generally at home for the past two weeks. I did finally make it out to Half Moon Bay on Sunday for my first Bay Area birding/photography outing. My mobility is still a bit limited, so I decided I'd photograph whatever I could find within about 200 yards of the parking area. Despite much foot traffic on the trail, I did manage to approach this Song Sparrow for a few seconds. I was very happy with the result, a result which actually precipitated the idea for this entry. 

Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
Half Moon Bay, California, May 2017
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 7D2
1/1250 at f/9, ISO 800
*I closed down lens since I was very close 
and wanted more depth of field on the bird

One last note about common species; They're common for a reason. Most of them are incredibly adaptable generalists that can thrive in a wide range of situations and habitats. Like it or not, those species most able to adapt to human wrought environmental changes are best positioned thrive into the future. So, for that reason, common birds are at least deserving of an evolutionary nod from us.

That's it for now. I am scheduled for my first pelagic this weekend, so hopefully I'll have something exciting to report on that front. I've never done a spring pelagic up here before (minus the cruise ship from last year), so it will be interesting to see how unfolds!

As always, please do consider following this blog if you like the content. You can do that on the right hand side of this page, just below the blog archive section! Thanks!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Post #103 - Goodbye LA, hello San Francisco! Peregrine Falcon showcase!

Wow, it seems like an eternity since I wrote on this blog! All of the Belize/Guatemala entries were written in the days following that trip, so I've had a bit of down time since then.

First I want to say 'thanks' for sticking with me as we crossed the 100-post mark a few weeks ago! I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the Central American narrative at that time, so I figured I would make some form of little announcement now. I started this blog in February of 2015, and the writing has been fairly steady (a bit less than once/week) since then. I am always worried that I am going to run out of content at some point. Thankfully that day hasn't come yet. As long as I keep taking photos, I imagine I'll be able to scrape out something for you!

Sanderling - Calidris alba
Canon 400mm f/4 DO II + 1.4x III on EOS 7D2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Thinking about the where the blog has been and where it is going, I am going to change the tagline from "Using birds to explore the natural world" to something a bit more descriptive of my actual content. Right now I'm leaning towards something more fun, something like, "Bird watching, bird photography, bike-birding, and all general nonsense in between". I am open to any suggestions you might have on this front, so let's hear 'em!

Also I have created a new and improved Facebook page to disseminate content, updates, photos, videos, and everything else. It's called Dorian Anderson Birding and Bird Photography. Please check it out and "Like" it to keep abreast of what's happening!

Mostly though I wanted to make a quick mention of my move as the movers are coming in a few hours. I have not hidden the fact that the move to LA was tough, mainly because of the number of people, the lack of personal space, and the fact that its nearly 20 miles of concrete in every direction from where I've lived for the past 2 years. All that being said, there are a lot of things I am going to miss, the weather, the great birding, and the SoCal birding community among them. Most of my frustrations were on the photographic front since I was so used to having my own space to shoot in New England. I will say that the last 4 months here have been very photographically productive, so I think LA just required A LOT of time to get used to. It's actually a bit frustrating as just when I think I finally have the light, crowd patterns, traffic flow, shooting locations, rules, and so on figured out here, it is time to move again. I am certainly ready to go, but I've kind of made my peace with the SoCal monster in the last few weeks. I mean, I have had regular access two Peregrine Falcon nests in that time!

Male Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
Los Angeles, California
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/7.1, ISO 400

Same male
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 7D2
1/1600 at f/7.1, ISO 400

Same male
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 7D2
1/1600 at f/7.1, ISO 400

His female mate
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 7D2
1/2500 at f/4, ISO 1600

Male again
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 7D2
1/2500 at f/7.1, ISO 400

Female from the other pair
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

As for San Francisco, we'll actually be living just south of the city in San Mateo. I am so stoked that well be right on SF Bay which means a return to bike-birding! My bike is all tuned up and ready to go. I'll do most of my bike-birding on the bay, but I hope to venture over the coastal mountains to Half Moon Bay (20 Miles) as well. While I need a car to haul my photography gear around, I plan to do quite a bit of bike-birding on the cloudy days when I generally forgo photography. With the bay so close, it'll be easy to sneak out for an hour here or there, something that it was impossible to do here in LA since we lived in the middle of so much sprawl.


San Mateo outlined in red

So, that's what's going on here. I am super stoked to be moving to another great birding area. The access to Half Moon Bay will be awesome, particularly the pelagic birding from that port. I am also going to look into getting an inflatable kayak to paddle about the Pillar Point Harbor. That will give me an entirely new shooting opportunity. I expect there will be some amount of adjustment period to my new surrounds, but, as I went to college at Stanford in Palo Alto, I have a decent base of Bay Area knowledge already. So, with that I'll sign off, pack up the computer, and hit the road!


Oh yeah, I almost forgot! I got a ABA bird two weeks ago in San Diego. White Wagtail for ABA seen #716! This is a VERY distant record shot!