Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Post #211 -- Some Southern California Photography

Sonia and I are back in the US! There was, however, some serious doubt as to our return from Chile; the Abbott Labs COVID AG-Card tests which we took with us kits were defective, so we had to cobble testing together the night before our flight from Santiago to Dallas (and onto Los Angeles). To compound the drama, Sky Airlines, a Chilean carrier, pushed our final domestic flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago back three hours, a circumstance which cut our connection time in Santiago from five hours to two. We landed in that capital, scampered off the plane, claimed our luggage, sprinted to the international terminal, checked into our American flight, and fought our way through immigration and security. By the time we hauled ass to the terminal's farthest gate, we had only ten minutes to spare. So yeah, getting back was a total circus!

We made it, barely.....

I'll write more about Chile in future posts, but I'm gonna keep it simple this time around and post some photos I captured in Southern California just before we left. Recall that we've rented our San Mateo apartment and become digital/guiding nomads through September. Without a place of our own, we crashed with Sonia's dad in Riverside County for five days pre-Chile. There is some excellent photography to be had in that area, and I'll present a half-dozen shots that I captured across two sun-drenched mornings.

Those who read this blog regularly might recall a post from early-December where I described a choice run-in with Greater Yellowlegs, a common bird that managed to avoid my lens for the eight years since I departed Massachusetts. And wouldn't ya know it? A month after that entry, I had an even better crack at the species!

Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 1000

Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS R5
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Besides those, I had mint opportunities at American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt. The color in all these shots is provided by the early-morning light reflecting off the rocky hillsides behind the impoundment. The stilt shot was taken earlier than the others; that's why it's the most color-saturated and dramatic of the bunch. The avocet waded hella close, and the crouched pose was the only way I could get the whole bird and reflection in the frame. Stoked with the water drop bouncing off the surface!

Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/4000 at f/4, ISO 400

American Avocet - Recurvirostra americana
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/4000 at f/4, ISO 400

OK, enough shorebirds. Let's finish with two raptors. Birds of prey are a weak-point in my portfolio, so it's always nice to fluff-up those galleries. While I had several nice Merlin shots prior to this awesome encounter, the Red-tailed shot represents my best frame of that species. I'm not sure what the Merlin is eating, but relative abundance and light-colored legs suggest Savannah Sparrow.

Merlin - Falco columbarius
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS R5
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS R5
1/2000 at f/7.1, ISO 1600
*opted for f/7.1 instead of f/5.6 to keep feet in focus when AF point placed on eye

And for those who made it this far, let me point you towards a gallery of my favorite photos of 2021. Several of the shots in this post made the cut, and you'll find a bunch of Chilean birds represented as well. There are 25 images in total.

Here is a link to my phots from Chile. I ask for one good frame a day when I'm traveling -- shooting in new places is really tough, especially without idiot-proof set-ups like in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Colombia -- so I'm super-satisfied with this haul of ~50.

And lastly, there is still space on the following tours which I anticipate leading for Tropical Birding:


  1. Going on one of your birding trips is on my bucket list, for real. I'm going to check them out!