Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Post #137 - Honduras and Colombia bound!

I am so sorry for the lack of recent content, but my recent writing efforts have been directed to finishing my book about my 2014 bicycle Big Year. I am currently editing 104,000 words down to a hopeful 90,000, and in the background I am looking for an agent to start the publishing process. I am actually very happy I wasn't under contract - and pressured - while writing, particularly as a first-time author. Without deadlines, I was able to throw out what was a nearly complete but generally terrible first draft and start over to produce what I think is an infinitely better second (no publisher would have signed that first effort anyway). This book is infinitely less another Big Year account than it is a more general story of adventure and self-discovery, a narrative I hope will appeal to equally to birders and the more general public. With the challenge of the bicycle and the adventure of the open road coupled to my more personal history of alcoholism, I think it has that chance. But we'll see. Maybe no one but my mom reads it. And that's cool - but not really. Here's a holdover photo from a February San Diego trip regardless.....

Brandt's Cormorant - Phalacrocorax penicillatus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/800 at f/8, ISO 800

I was hoping to have the writing done this summer, but my timetable has been shifted up since I am going to be away for all of June and July. I'll first head to Honduras from June 4-10 for my inaugural taste of that country. I'll be mostly in the western third, and I hope to crank out some content from that trip as soon as I return.  Please stay tuned for that, both here on The Speckled Hatchback and on the Nature Travel Network!

After Honduras, I'll travel to Colombia from June 15 to August 3rd (7 weeks!) to help the Audubon Society with the promotion and development of avitourism in that recently stabilized country (more info here and here). Colombia hosts more than 1,900 bird species, the most of any country, but hasn't yet developed the sort of birding infrastructure and revenue stream as has Costa Rica, for example. I will be scouting locations in the Southwestern (17 days) and Eastern Andes (24 days) and developing sample itineraries that individuals and tour companies can use as templates to fashion their own, more personalized Colombian birding adventures. The original goal was to have 10 birding trails in different regions of the country, and I was peripherally involved in the first two of those, The Northern Colombia Birding Trail and The Central Andes Birding Trail. It will be really cool to play a larger, more integral role in the next two, The Southwestern Andes Birding Trail and The Eastern Andean Birding Trail. In between my work on those projects, I'll revisit Colombia's Coffee Triangle around Pereira and Manizales for a week of personal travel and intensive photography with the most understanding and patient woman in the world (Sonia, my wife!)

Red = Southwestern Andes (Audubon)
Yellow = Eastern Andes (Audubon)
Blue = Coffee Triangle / Central Andes (personal)

I will certainly write a lot about my Colombia experiences, but that probably won't happen until fall,  once I have fulfilled all of my contractual Audubon responsibilities. OK, one last holdover to keep everyone quiet until the next entry!

Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/250 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Friday, May 4, 2018

Post #136 - Hello neotropics, goodbye shorebirds - with photos!

As anxiously as I await the return of neotropical migrants each spring, their arrival is admittedly a bit bittersweet since it signals the looming departure of shorebirds, my favorite and most obliging local photographic subjects. Since I moved to the Bay Area exactly a year ago, I've learned a ton about shorebird distribution and behavior, particularly as I tend to visit the same spots over and over. I know which species can be found and photographed on which tides, and I understand how the light and angles change through the seasons. In some ways, I feel that photography has opened me up to a level of behavioral study that traditional birding and its often listing-centric approach completely misses. These last two weeks have been particularly exciting as most of the birds have molted into the breeding garb ahead of their own migration back to the arctic. Here are a few shots to send the bird off. I hope you enjoy them.

***Click all images for nice, higher resolution view***

Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 1000

Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri
 Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Breeding plumage Dunlin had been a particular photographic nemesis, so I decided to take control of that matter this week. Realizing the birds were in beautiful plumage bit would be gone very soon, I decided to crawl a long way out on the bay mudflats to get the shot I wanted. It took about an hour and half of crawling and pausing, but they finally got completely used to me and let me do my thing.

Operation Dunlin - here was my track. 
I probably crawled 60-70 yeards.

And here's what I looked like afterwards.

 Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Canon 500mm f/4 IS +1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

I can't wait for these guys to return in the fall! As for what will happen the next few months, I probably spend a lot of time photographing terns, though I'll have to drive south on the bay to best do it. Otherwise, summer birding and photography is kinda slow around here, so I'll have to work really hard to scrape out shots in the next few months. Gotta get a good Pigeon Guillemot flight shot in Pillar Point Harbor.....