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Gray Hawk (juv) in Santa Barbara County!

Just a day after we returned from New Mexico, a juvenile Gray Hawk was discovered by Eric Culbertson in Carpinteria, CA – not only a first Santa Barbara County record but first record ever in California. To give you an idea of how improbable this is, this is a bird that is normally found in South and Central America. It’s range barely extends into the extreme Southeastern corner of Arizona. I’ve photographed them many times in Patagonia, AZ – just 25 or so miles from the Mexico border. The even cooler part is the bird decided to stick around the entire winter!


Range map:

I decided to take my chances waiting for morning rush hour to end and rush up the 160 or so round-trip miles to Carpinteria to photograph the bird. Lucky for me, the bird was perched in a cypress tree right on the side of the highway as I drove up. I almost felt guilty spending 5 minutes photographing the bird (before it flew off) and then getting back in my car to drive home. Total time invested: 3 hours.

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

 

Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Photography Adventures

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Coal Oil Point – More Photos

Oil Platform off Coal Oil Point
Oil Platform off Coal Oil Point

Aside from all the Snowy Plover action we got to see many other great things including a nice looking alternate plumage Sanderling on it’s southward journey from it’s Arctic breeding grounds.

Sanderling
Sanderling

Semipalmated Plovers, Western Sandpipers and a lone Ruddy Turnstone along the beach and at Devereux Slough several White-tailed Hawks perched above on suitable branches.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover

White-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kite

Along the trail around the Slough we could hear Hooded Orioles calling away and had a Hutton’s Vireo fly within 10 feet of my face! We also almost stepped on a Common Buckeye Butterfly that landed on the path just long enough for me to take a photo.

Buckeye
Buckeye

 

Posted by on July 15, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Coal Oil Point Plovers

We met up with friend Liz Muraoka at Coal Oil Point Reserve in Goleta, CA yesterday. The reserve encompasses a beautiful stretch of Santa Barbara County coastline immediately adjacent to the UCSB campus and protects a wide variety of coastal and estuarine habitats.

Western Snowy Plover Habitat
Western Snowy Plover Habitat

Largely undisturbed coastal dunes support a rich assemblage of dune vegetation and have become a nesting site for the endangered Snowy Plover. The reserve provides a unique and accessible research and teaching resource and is used by many university courses for field studies. It is also used and enjoyed by school children for field trips, birders, and the general public.

It didn’t take us long to spot adult Snowy Plovers running to and from the beach and their fenced in nesting areas. It took us a little bit to finally notice the chicks scurrying along the sand in between the adults. At first they appeared to be little crabs running to and fro and I finally exclaimed, “those are the chicks!” I immediately got to work trying to capture how amazingly mobile and agile the 1-2 day old chicks were.

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover

An adult stands guard nearby keeping an eye on the young chicks.

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover (adult)

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover

Liz also got a photo of me shooting the Plovers and if you click to the larger photo below you can even see the tiny Snowy Plover chicks in the photograph.

Me photographing Snowy Plovers
Me photographing Snowy Plovers

 

Posted by on July 14, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Figueroa Mountains

Figueroa Lookout

It was a beautiful afternoon in Santa Barbara County sunday afternoon so we decided to take a drive to the top of Figueroa Mountain – just 15 miles north of the town of Los Olivos. Many Coulter Pines adorned the hillsides along the way up and we were greeted by circling Tree Swallows as we reached the 4,500′ crest along with spectacular views of the entire Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara in the distance.

Los Padres National Forest

Tunnel Rd.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the other Canyons including the adjacent Foxen Canyon where I spotted a very light/juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

On the way out of Santa Ynez Valley we took a drive down San Marcos Canyon Road where we encountered over 30+ Yellow-billed Magpies! I don’t recall ever seeing that many in ONE SPOT. We initially only spotted 5 or 6 feeding alongside grazing cattle but that quickly increased as additional flocks flew into to join the others. I wasn’t able to get an exact count but there very well could have been over 50 in the general area.

Yellow-billed Magpie
Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie
Yellow-billed Magpie

 

Posted by on July 14, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Santa Barbara Channel Pelagic

Sunday, March 1 – Wes Fritz organized a pelagic aboard the Condor Express. The mission objective was to locate any Parakeet Auklets which sometimes winter as far south as Southern California. They have been recorded in counties just north of Santa Barbara County and a dead specimen washed ashore at Venice Beach in Los Angeles county last winter. To give you an idea of where Parakeet Auklets are normally found:



Parakeet Auklet Range Map

We set sail from Santa Barbara Harbor at approximately 0700 Sunday morning. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. No winds, patchy high/upper clouds and a sea that looked like glass. The combination of that and being on a large catamaran meant we felt very virtually no ship rocking. Perfect conditions for photography! Within 30 minutes of leaving the harbor we located a pair of Xantus’s Murrelet (scrippsi). They were quite cooperative allowing us to circle around them for optimal lighting conditions. At one point we were within at least 30′ of them.

After 15-20 minutes of spectacular views and photos of the Murrelets we continued on our way. Not even thirty minutes later, Paul Lehman shouted “STOP THE BOAT!!!!” And let me tell you, that catamaran can stop on a DIME. We all lurched forward as the captain put on the brakes. We were looking all around to figure out what Paul screamed stop for. We heard someone shout “PARAKEET AUKLETS”. A few moments later, one surfaced from underwater 50 yards from the boat. Moments later a second surfaced. The captain quickly tried to get the boat a little closer. More than 3/4 of the boat had cameras and you could hear everyone’s shutters going off at full speed.

The map below will give you an idea of our route. The top-left mark was where we located the pair of Parakeet Auklets. Top-right mark is Santa Barbara Harbor. The bottom-left mark is the Rodriguez Seamount – a 6,000′ deep trench.



GPS Ship Track Plot Map


San Miguel Island (Point Conception in background)

Aside from the Parakeet Auklets, I had an incredible photo day recording my best yet photos of Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklet and Xantus’s Murrelet:

Xantus's Murrelet
Xantus’s Murrelet

Xantus's Murrelet
Xantus’s Murrelet

Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet

Cassin's Auklet
Cassin’s Auklet

Cassin's Auklet
Cassin’s Auklet

Parakeet Auklet
Parakeet Auklet

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Pigeon Guillemot
Pigeon Guillemot

California Gull
California Gull

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

 

Posted by on March 2, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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