A day in the Wild

Copyright © 2014 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I spent Saturday at two Wildlife Refuges: Merced National Wildlife Refuge, and San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s takes just about 2 hours to get there from my house even with a stop for coffee along the way. It’s a fairly easy drive, and the only worrisome part of the drive is crossing Pacheco Pass, and only in the two lane windy section. Fortunately traffic was light going, and not much worse on the way home.

I was hoping to see Sandhill Cranes which my friend Judi shared were starting to return for the Winter.

With the drought being pretty severe here the Refuges have had their water allotments cut way back so, there’s not much water there. I suspect that will influence the number of birds that winter there, and the numbers will be a lot fewer than in past years.

At Merced National Wildlife Refuge there are a couple of observation decks, and a large auto-route with quite a few pull-outs. I arrived not long after the gate opened, and only saw one other car ahead of me. For two hours we were the only people in the refuge. It was really nice not having cars pass me and frighten the birds.

Here are the only Sandhill Cranes I saw. They were in the last field, and as always very skittish. They started moving deeper into the field when I stopped. While I was imaging the group I had the good luck to see two more fly in.

Sandhill Crane Fly-in

There was a flock of White-faced Ibis here, and they were so hungry they didn’t worry about me at all. There were a few quite close to the road. This one just yawned when I crept up. I love the colors in their feathers.

White-faced Ibis: Adult Winter

The White Crowned Sparrows are returning everywhere, even here.

White Crowned Sparrow

It was foggy when I left home, and there was haze around the countryside, and Refuge. I had hoped to meet my friend Judi here, but the air quality was really bad. There had been a report the night before that the air quality would be bad and people should not go out. I got Judi’s message about that too late; after I arrived at the Refuge. She’s on bottled air and didn’t dare leave the house. You can see the haze in several of the images, but especially in this image of a Great Egret I saw. He didn’t bat an eyelash at my presence! Their stillness and concentration are amazing. I liked the back lighting, and the haze gave the image a soft, dreamy look.

Backlit Great Egret

The Coots are back, as are the Shovelers, Mallards, and some Greater Yellowlegs.  While photographing the Greater Yellowlegs I put down my camera to take in the pond. You can see how much the water has already receded/evaporated.

Pond at MErced NWR

…a Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

I have a lot of images to go through and can’t share them all in this post. I haven’t even got to the second refuge images yet.

Nikon D700| AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4| AF-S Nikkor 14eII Teleconverter| braced with this beanbag.

More to come…

White Kites…

Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been trying for weeks to get a decent shot of a Kite that lives in Moss Landing without success. That Kite likes to perch on a tree out in a Marsh which is too far away for my longest lens. Here’s the best I’ve been able to get. It’s soft, and there isn’t much detail. I used a Nikkor 70-300mm VR on a tripod for this shot in mid November 2011.

I hoped by renting the Nikkor 300mm f4 I would have better luck. I’d be able to use my Tamron 1.4x Extender with it and have a bit more reach.  With that in mind I took the rental lens with me last Saturday to Merced National Wildlife Refuge with my friend Rainey. We made a detour on the way to try to find some birds at another park and along the way we spotted this Kite perched on the branch. I was busy clicking away when I noticed it opened its beak, and then I heard it call then in came this other Kite!  Oh, how I hoped I nailed the shot with its beak open!

While this photo isn’t as sharp, or have as much detail as I would like it to have I’m thrilled it’s decent and I did get the shot with its beak open. You can see  a little more detail, but it’s still too far away for this lens plus extender.  Also when using an Extender  there is generally a loss of sharpness. With my aperture wide open and focused on the perched Kite I missed the opportunity to get them both in focus.  I was focused on the perched one.

I’m learning though. One thing I’ll do differently the next time is stop the lens down to f8. I expect the clarity will improve a bit.

A brief word on the Nikkor 300mm F4 lens. This is the 3rd time I’ve rented this lens . Each time I rent it I want one of my own! It’s a great lens.  It produces wonderful colors, and superb details if you can get a bit closer, and the Bokeh is yummy. I do wish it had image stabilization though. Hand-holding this lens isn’t easy so I’m using a tripod, or a pillow when I am shooting out of the car window.

Right after I took the picture above the perched Kite took flight. I got a little of his profile, and the sun peeked through the fog and overcast morning for a little while which lit up its chest nicely.

I do love the thrill of the chase so, I’ll continue to look for Kites maybe the next time they’ll be a bit closer.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 70-300mm VR & Nikkor 300mm f4 w/ Tamron 1.4x TeleConverter