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Venice Beach and Ballona

Venice Beach

I’ve gotten out a few times in the past week but I haven’t had any time to post blog updates… I monitored the Least Tern population on Venice Beach last Friday – however, I didn’t see a single Least Tern! Strange… I know there’s a large population down in Huntington Beach still actively feeding young… There wasn’t much else. I counted 15 American Crows in the general area. Lots of Heermann’s Gulls – mostly 2nd/3rd year birds, a few adults and a few 1st year.

Least Tern Nesting Area

Heermann's Gull
Heermann’s Gull

On the way home I encountered a Cooper’s Hawk that flew right in front of me as I was about to pull into my driveway. It swooped into a Yucca type tree about 20′ off the ground. I grabbed my camera and immediately noticed what appeared to be a medium sized nest of sticks and twigs hastily thrown together. At first I thought it might be the Cooper’s nest until I realized what it was doing…in a split second it grabbed all the chicks from the nest and flew off. It all happened too quick for me to focus so I only got one shot of him looking at me moments before he grabbed lunch.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

For the past two weeks a baby Mockingbird has been waking us up every morning with it’s annoying little squeaking sound that it does… As if the adult singing all night long isn’t enough! It almost drives you mad until you see how cute the young birds are. Here’s a juvenile I photographed that finally made it out of the nest onto an open bush.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

On Saturday I met up with some birders from Mira Loma to help scout the area out for friends that will be visiting from Australia in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, they have quite a few target birds in mind…Black Oystercatcher, Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorant, Allen’s Hummingbird, Belding’s Savannah Sparrow and the extremely cooperative Little Blue Heron that has been occupying the Del Rey Lagoon and the Ballona Wetlands area for the past two months. We were able to get within 20′ of him!

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron

I went back out yesterday and hiked about 2 miles from Playa del Rey up Ballona Creek in search of Red Knots or any other interesting early fall migrants that might be passing through. Although I only encountered HUNDREDS of Willets, Whimbrels and dozens of Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers, 3 Ruddy Turnstones and a large group of Elegant Terns with mixed Caspians. I also came upon two Black Oystercatchers one of which that appeared injured and could not fly. It had worked itself back against the concrete tidal dam so I was able to get quite close to him. After taking a few photos I slowly retreated so as not to agitate him anymore than I already had.

Black Oystercatcher
Black Oystercatcher

I continued walking but didn’t really encounter anything else noteworthy… I did find a BCNH hunting in a small green patch of vegetation. The sun was probably 1-2 hrs from setting so it created beautiful lighting and I couldn’t resist trying to capture the Night Heron’s last hunt of the day. I waited around 30 minutes hoping he’d catch something that I could photograph but he must not have been that hungry!

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

And I end this posting with a note of disgust… As I walked back to the car I noticed 3 Mexican fisherman. One in a boat using a large net to scoop up fish from Ballona Cr. and the two others just walking along the shore (scaring all the shorebirds up). I noticed they were approaching the Black Oystercatcher that I had photographed earlier. I stopped and waited to see what they would do… The one bird that could fly waited as long as possible as if trying to protect the other bird but finally gave in and flew up and behind them and me. As they got closer they realized the Oystercatcher would not fly..so what did they do? They picked up rocks and started throwing it at the bird. I shouted at them but they clearly understood no English. So I started to walk toward them…they eventually got the hint and continued walking down the creek. Fortunately it didn’t appear the Oystercatcher was injured in any way. The other bird quickly joined him as the fishermen moved on. It’s really sad there’s people like that in this world!

 

Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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To Brant or to Rant…

For some reason I decided to go to Ballona Creek again this afternoon. I was there yesterday looking for the Brant and just as I was giving up it flew over me and up Ballona Creek…never stopping. So since I knew it’s still around I figured I’d try my luck today. I scanned the Creek and didn’t see anything so I decided to take some photos of Bufflehead that were pretty close to shore. After a few shots I threw my tripod over my back to start heading up the Creek some more.

About two steps out, one of my worst fears happened. My camera, lens, flash, etc. ripped off my tripod and fell to the ground behind me. I spun around to see my lens laying in mud, the body completely ripped from it. Upon closer investigation I found the body was completely fine ( Thank God ). But it appeared my 1.4x extender is what separated from the lens itself. The foot on the flash unit ripped off the mount and was covered in mud. The lens didn’t appear to be damaged other than where the 1.4x Extender broke off…I knew the whole mounting plate would probably have to be replaced as well as the extender itself. I picked everything up and waddled back to the car.

When I got home, I set everything on the dining room table for closer inspection. I realized that there was absolutely no damage to my lens, not even the mounting plate. The remains of the extender were still mounted to the lens and I was able to unscrew it revealing the lens was perfectly fine. Wow!!

I unscrewed the other half of the extender from the body and found the mounting plate on the body was fine – not even bent. There was some mud and gravel on the body which I wiped away with a wet cloth. After I got it all off, there wasn’t a single scratch or dent!

The flash had seen better days. A couple of big gashes but all cosmetic. I thought the foot was broken but it turned out is was the other half of the extension cable still stuck to it. It came right off revealing a perfectly intact flash foot. I immediately hooked it up to the body and put it onto my lens and found everything functioning like normal.

How lucky I am everything landed right between two giant boulders and onto soft mud.

So, how did it all happen? Well, pictures follow. As you can see, there’s a big mounting plate that my Wimberley head attached to. There’s also a clamp on the tripod itself that holds this in place. I always check to make sure everything “appears” secure by pulling on the mounting head, and checking the plate where the lens mounts too. But I never actually took a wrench and tightened the bolt that secures the mounting plate. Let this be a BIG lesson to myself and anyone else with similar set-ups!!!

Here you can see the other half of the 1.4x Extender still attached to my camera body:

The remains of the flash extension cable:

And, finally, what’s left of the 1.4x Extender:

So, replacement costs:

Canon 1.4x Teleconverter: $279.00
Flash Extension Cord: $64.00
Total: $343.00

And sorry to sound cliché:

Learning a valuable lesson: PRICELESS

 

Posted by on February 26, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Ferruginous Hawk, Playa del Rey

Robert “Roy” van de Hoek, from the Ballona Institute, called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that he had the Ferruginous Hawk [that’s wintering for the second time at Ballona] within close proximity. I rushed over to the Playa del Rey bluffs and just as I pulled up I saw the Ferruginous Hawk fly off to an even more distant power pole. After 20 minutes it flew off again toward the ocean where I lost sight of it. I decided to drive down a little bit closer to the beach to see I could relocate him. As I was pulling my camera and tripod out of the car it flew up and over my head, circling back and forth. Since I didn’t have time to get my tripod legs extended I just dropped to the ground, laying on my back shooting up at it. Without any time for preparation, I got some surprisingly good shots too. Again it flew off over the ocean and out of view.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

As I was waiting for him to return a striking adult Peregrine Falcon flew within 100 yards. There was also a Red-tailed Hawk and a couple American Kestrels in the area that would occasionally harass the Ferruginous Hawk each time it would land on a power pole.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk (w/Kestrel diving)

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

 

Posted by on December 9, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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Common Goldeneyes at Ballona

It took me a few days to finally photograph both the Male and the Female Common Goldeneye that have been on Ballona Creek. After Robert van de Hoek posted that he had the male on Del Rey Lagoon this morning, I raced down there to try and get some photos. I found him relatively quickly but he spooked and flew back over to the Creek. I immediately relocated him about 300 yards east along the creek. I rushed down there and ran closer every time it dove until I was able to be just 30 yards away precisely where it came back up for air!

Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye (male)

Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye (female)

 

Posted by on December 5, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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Common Murre at Ballona (on the creek no less)

Today, I had thoughts of finding a Stilt Sandpiper or a Pectoral Sandpiper (along the creek) at the back of my mind. Never did I think I would discover a Common Murre. I was on my way back to the car … after not seeing anything to speak of. I happened to turn around to see if I missed anything and noticed a Scoter looking bird (off in the distance). It was swimming rapidly away from me. I wondered how the heck I walked past it…must have dove before I saw it as I walked by. Anyway, I brought my binocs to my eyes and immediately saw a distinct white-rump blaring back at me. First thought that crossed my mind was Common Murre. I hurried up on it doing my best to get as close as possible without startling it. Sure enough, a Common Murre…..at least 1/2 a mile inland from the ocean….on Ballona Creek….and only 5′ away from the shore I was standing on. It wouldn’t turn at the right angle for optimal light but I snapped away anyway. Here’s a couple of the best shots I managed given the lighting situation:

Common Murre
Common Murre

Common Murre
Common Murre

 

Posted by on September 9, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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