Oak Titmouse

Besides being a bird I rarely get to see, I just like this image: the old spicket, the drip of water, the weathered post, the green leaves against the bright background with just enough pattern to be interesting, and the perky bird pose. It all adds up, to my eye, to a very satisfying picture. :) Oh…and the bird is what used to be called the Plain Titmouse, until the Ornithological Union split the supposed species into three. This is now the Oak Titmouse, restricted to California. It is replaced by the Juniper Titmouse to the west, and the Plain is now restricted to the east. This shot is from General Vallejo’s home, which is part of the Sonoma State Historical Park.

Sony HX400V. 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 200 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. -1/3 EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro tablet.


Ragged Swallowtail

I spent the day on Sunday at the Wine Country Optics and Birding Fair at Cornerstone in Sonoma California. Cornerstone is Wine Country Visitor Center, in-door and out-door sculpture gallery, wine tasting venue for 4 vineyards, and collection of demonstration gardens from the area’s best know landscape gardeners and designers. It is a popular wedding destination, but on one Sunday of the year the extensive grounds are given over to the pop-up tents and tables of birding and conservation organizations and birding optics makers. I was, of course, there for ZEISS.

In the afternoon, when the sun and the air got hot, the crowds dwindled and I had a chance to wander the grounds. I sent 30 minutes chasing butterflies in a row of purple flowered shrubs. There were lots of skippers, several Monarchs, and this one lone, very worn, Western Swallowtail. The color contrast in this image is almost more than the eye can tolerate :). And the butterfly is so worn I am amazed it was still flying.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 100 @ 1/1250th @ f6.3. Program with -1/3 EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Madrone Curls

I love the bark of Madrone. I only get to see it when visiting California, but it is always a treat. It is such an unlikely bark for any tree to have. I can’t believe it is actually very functional, but there it is.

Sony HX400V at 38mm equivalent field of view. Macro. ISO 80 @ 1/60th @ f4.5. Program shift for greater depth of field. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro tablet.

Synchronized Feeding. Happy Sunday!

It is a long way from the parking at San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to where the birds are, or that is certainly how it seemed yesterday. I think it was a matter more of tides than anything. When I got there the mud was covered with water. By the time I had walked 3 miles in, the tide had receded enough to show some mud banks and the birds were feeding in the shallow water along the edges. I saw this group of American Avocets when I was already ready to turn around, from a quarter of a mile up the berm between the road and Tolay Creek and walked down to them. Glad I did. :)

There is nothing so graceful as a group of Avocets feeding. It is as close to ballet as birds get. The trick is to shoot a lot of random shots of the group and sort for the most graceful when you get home. Or at least that is what works for me.

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200 optical plus 2x Perfect Image zoom). ISO 80 @ 1/500th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought: I went to three recommended birding spots along the north end of San Francisco Bay and up the Sonoma Valley yesterday, and most of what I did was a long walk with not much happening. Yet, when I got back to the hotel I found that I had taken over 400 exposures. I processed 98 of them, and got a surprising number, and a surprising variety, of satisfying images out of the morning: Birds big and small, wildflowers, dragonflies (and Flame Skimmers at that!), some interesting architecture and artifacts, landscapes, ripe grapes in a vineyard just touched by fall, and the amazing red curly bark of the Madrone trees. Undoubtedly you will see some of them over the next few days :) Such wealth from a morning when it seemed, most to time, like nothing was happening.

Sometimes the wonder is in the words of the song, and sometimes it is in the punctuation. Sometimes it flows over you like a stream, moment to moment, hour after hour…and sometimes it punctuates the flow of time like rocks in a stream give shape and curl and churn to the water to delight the ear and eye. Wonder is wonder either way. Looking back on it, I had a wonderful morning, quite literally filled with wonderful moments, but while it was happening I was, perhaps too caught up in the many steps between those moments, in moving myself from one to the next. It happens.

Only when I got back to the hotel and actually, as they say (not perhaps really meaning it as literally as I do here) counted my blessings as I imported and processed images did I realize how full the morning was. Wonderful.

Something to give thanks for on a Sunday morning!


Cedar Waxwing Again!

I am pretty sure I mentioned this before but it is remarkable just how many Cedar Waxwings there are in Southern Maine this summer. They are everywhere and in good numbers. This specimen was part of a flock of maybe 20 birds working the edge of the meadows at Laudholm Farm (Well National Estuarine Research Center). The were in the trees and flew out repeatedly as I watched to take bugs from the tall grasses and brush in the meadow. At least some of them were young birds…this year’s brood, though this bird is in full adult plumage.

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200mm optical plus 2x Perfect Image zoom). ISO 125 k@ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Sunflowers in the Sun


These giant Sunflowers are from the garden at Laudholm Farm a few days ago. As I mentioned earlier this week, sunflowers in Maine rarely get the chance to go to seed. Our growing season is just too shot. If the frost holds off another month, these might make it. :)

Sony HX400V at 565mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/640th @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 2 tablet.

The spider and the dragon

When I went out yesterday to mow the front yard, there were a dozen or more tiny, late-season, dark-legged, off-colored Meadowhawks flying low and perching often. Most likely they were female or immature male White-faced Meadowhawks, but I can not be at all certain. As I was photographing this one close in under the eves of the house, it flew up and right into a spider web. I considered freeing it, but then the spider, which had been hiding under the lower edge of the siding on the house, scuttled out and attacked. So be it. Spiders got to do what spiders got to do. And I am almost as fond of spiders as I am of dragonflies. I think this is just one of the grass spiders…a funnel weaver of some kind, though the web seemed sticky enough at least to trap the dragon…or else its legs just got so well tangled that despite best efforts it could not free itself. An hour later the spider had worked the dragon almost completely up under the siding on the house. For scale here, the dragonfly is maybe an inch and a quarter long (3 cm) and I was shooting from about that same distance.

Sony HX400V. 68mm equivalent field of view, macro. ISO 200 @ 1/80th @ f3.5. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Sunflower Gleaning in the Afternoon

Sunflower Gleaning in the Afternoon


I took a brisk walk at Laudholm Farm a few afternoons ago, mostly for the exercise, but, of course, with one eye out for photo-ops (well, both eyes to be honest), This female American Goldfinch was near the end of the walk, coming back to the farm buildings, in the community garden with it’s giant sunflowers. Sunflowers do not often ripen to seed in Maine before the first frost, but the few seeds already ripe were attracting a variety of birds on this early September afternoon. I saw at least one male Goldfinch, and several females. This one posed nicely below one of the blooms.

Sony HX400V at something over 1200mm equivalent field of view (using the Perfect Image digital zoom). ISO 80 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Cropped slightly and processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Yellowlegs on a Log

I have not seen any Yellowlegs all summer until this week. Evidently they are coming back through southern Maine on migration. I saw a few along the Mousam River and this group in the pond behind the beach, the dunes, and the houses at Laudholm Farm. True, I have not been exactly haunting the beaches…not something I enjoy during tourist season…but I am always happy to see the Yellowlegs on their way north and south. The one standing, at least, appears to be a Lessor Yellowlegs.

Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200mm optical plus 2x Perfect Image zoom). ISO 80 @ 1/500th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Nubble Light

Yesterday I rode my bike to the beach early, and the sky was so beautiful that I decided to ride my scooter to Nubble Light, 20 miles down the coast, to see if I could get some good shots. It was my longest scooter ride to date, and quite an adventure as I had to ride through both Wells and Ogunquet in September Sunday morning traffic. :)

I made it to Nubble by 10am. I only had to go around the parking lot twice to find a slot for my scooter. A lot of other people had the same September Sunday morning idea I had. And, of course, the sky behind the light was clear. :( There were great clouds inland, and I got some shots of the the bay to the north that are memorable, but the Light itself was pretty stark and backlit to boot. I climbed around on the rocks and looked for interesting angles that did not include too many tourists for an hour or so, then went back to my scooter. I ate my banana. I actually had my helmet on and was ready to board when I happened to turn back for one more look at the Light. Wooo. Where did that nice cloud come from? I realized that the cloud cover inland was moving really fast…really fast…and while I had been eating my banana the leading edge had swung behind the light. I also noticed that the angle of the sun had improved so that the I now had light on one of the inner faces of the building. Excellent! Much to the dismay of the circling tourists in unparked cars, I took my helmet back off, and spent another hour retracing my steps, finding all the angles again…but this time with clouds! :) This shot is from down at the water’s edge.

Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. In-camera HDR. Nominal exposure: ISO 80 @ 1/800th @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

For more shots of Nubble from this trip, check out the Photoprowl piece.