Saturday, July 23, 2016

Post #71 - Summer birding doldrums, pelagics, festival plans for next few months....

I was really hoping that my most current photography would be able to drive content for this blog. Unfortunately, in the metro-nightmare that Los Angeles has proved to be, I have had an incredibly tough time finding publicly accessible places to shoot than aren't overrun with people (the greater LA now has over 20 million people, SoCal nearly 30 million, counting legal and illegal). With inland temps at the yearly highest, the mountains and coast are packed with people seeking more moderate temperatures. So, not only is birding on the slow side, but moving around is even more difficult than usual. 

As frustrating as I find life in crowded Southern California, the easy access to pelagic birding is really, really awesome. Last weekend I took a Sea & Sage Audubon trip from Dana Point in Orange County. It was a relaxing day on the water, highlighted as much by socializing as by birds. I spent much time gabbing with Olal Danielson, one of two Big Yea Birders who already already surpassed Neil Hayward's 2013 ABA Big Year record of 749 species (the other is John Weigel). Olaf has an entertaining blog that can be found here. As for birds, we did have decent looks at the usual sheartwaters, Brown Booby, all 3 jaegers, and loads of Black Storm-petrels. Most of these were well out of what I consider acceptable photo range, but I collected a few distant shots anyway. The highlight of the trip was certainly my lifer Blue Whale! The huge beast surfaced very close to the boat. My 400mm was way too much!

Blue Whale, or at least part of one.
That bump is his/her blowhole.

Black Storm-petrels
Long-wings, light Carpel Bar, notched tail.
These have slower, deeper wingbeats, and a more buoyant flight 
than other dark Pacific Storm-petrels
Quick pelagic photo quiz - answer at bottom of post!

Right now I have a number of additional California pelagics scheduled for the upcoming months. Hopefully some exciting stuff will show up! My currently scheduled trip right now are below.
August 21 - San Diego
September 9 - Monterey
September 10 - Half Moon Bay
September 11 - Monterey
September 17 - Dana Point, Orange County

Luckily, I'll also be headed to Southwest Wings Birding Festival in Southeastern Arizona as the keynote speaker next week! I'll be birding Southeastern Arizona before and during the festival, so I'll hopefully have something exciting to report after that. Fingers crossed.

View of the Santa Rita Mountains (from the south)
An old shot from the bike trip, May 2014
No people! No Traffic! Can't wait!

While we're on the topic of festivals, I should report that I'll be back in Texas for not one but two more festivals in the next year. The first of these will be my second go round at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen during the first week in November. This year I'll be leading four bike-birding field trips. The two iterations that I lead last year were so much fun that participants requested more this year! Its really nice to see that bike-birding is catching on with others.

Clay-colored Thrush - Turdas grayi
An old shot from December 2014 during the bike trip, Texas
 Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/200 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

And...excitingly, I yesterday finalized plans to be the keynote speaker at the Wings Over the Hills Birding Festival in Fredericksburg, Texas the last weekend of April 2017! I love birding the Texas Hill Country (no crowds, lots of open space), so I am super stoked to make a visit to that region next year. If you've never visited the area, I'm sure the festival would be a good introduction to the region's birds. It'd be a great way to tick the two endangered songbird species, Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked warbler, if they're still missing from your life list! I biked through Fredericksburg in 2014, and I can attest that it is a really nice little town. You can read my account of that visit here.

Greater Roadrunner - Geococcyx californianus
 Canon 400mm f/5.6 on EOS 7D
1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Also, since proper photography is so slow around here right now, I have kept photo-engaged by adding a few fun things to my photography website. The most notable of these is a collection of ABA rarity shots that I have seen in recent years. It by no means includes every rarity I've ever seen in the ABA area, just the ones I've been able to document since 2010 (when I started photographing birds regularly).

Photo is a mostly leucistic Black-vented Shearwater. We saw several leucistic types among the roughly 5000 Black-vents we saw last weekend. 

Until next time, try not to let the election coverage make you mad!

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