Acorn Woodpeckers and Their Granary Tree

October 25, 2020 at 6:36 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County, Video, Wildlife) ()

Male acorn woodpecker at granary tree

Acorn woodpeckers abound in this part of California, which is known for its oak savannahs. Blue and valley oak are the most common, with valley oak tending to be larger and the blue oaks more likely to grow on hillsides.

Male acorn woodpecker moving an older acorn

Acorn woodpecker families select and tend to a tree that will act as a granary to store their acorns through the winter. This one is a large valley oak at Atascadero Lake.

Green acorns will shrink as they age, and the woodpeckers will move them into smaller holes to make it harder for squirrels and other marauders to steal them. Watch them at work:

They have a clown-like appearance and are quite vocal as they work. It’s hard to miss them if you live in Central Coast California.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Montana de Oro Oct. 2020

October 24, 2020 at 5:45 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, San Luis Obispo County)

View from Sandspit Trail

After a month of smoky skies from numerous wildfires, it was nice to encounter just plain old fog on a trip to the ocean last week.

Fogbow, Sandspit Trail

The nearly full fogbow was a special treat that morning. The beach is popular with surfers, but there were still some nice birds to be found.

Snowy Plover

There were about eight snowy plovers there, two of which had bands.

A non-breeding black-bellied plover and a long-billed curlew were also there.

Black-bellied plover
Long-billed curlew

Songbirds were in the ubiquitous coyote bush which was fuzzy with seed.

California towhee
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Painted Lady butterfly on coyote bush

A couple of birds looked just enough different from the “regulars” but I can’t really ID them. Any guesses?

Blue-gray gnatcatcher in buckwheat

I walked the Bluff Trail at the end of the park road hoping to see the Abert’s towhees, which I had seen the same time of year six years earlier. No luck. I don’t know if it was just a migratory anomaly that year, but I’ve never seen them since.

Bluff Trail
California buckwheat

I’ll end this with the first view of that morning – Hollister Peak through the fog at the beginning of the Sandspit trail.

Hollister Peak through fog

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Eastern Sierras in Autumn

August 23, 2020 at 7:06 pm (California, Eastern Sierras, Nature, Nature photography)

While posting the images from my two trips this summer to the Eastern Sierras, I realized I neglected to edit the photographs from my Autumn 2019 trip, so here they are, with little commentary.

   The trip started in Fossil Falls, and ended at Conway Pass. The intensity of the fall colors didn’t seem as extravagant as my trip in 2015, but it was still amazing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eastern Sierras in July

August 5, 2020 at 5:02 pm (Uncategorized)

First light from Whitney Portal Road

Comet NEOWISE was the reason for my second mini-road trip of the summer. I’ve already made two posts on the comet, so this will feature the daytime landscapes from Lone Pine to Mono Lake.

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First light from Whitney Portal Road
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Moon sliver looking east from Whitney Portal Road

I adore the mountain scenery around Lone Pine and Independence, showcasing the gorgeous peaks looming above the valley. A huge earthquake shook this area between my trip in early June and mid-July, but all was quiet on the eastern front.

I was surprised that the night temperature was warm enough to sit outside and watch the stars in shorts. It had cooled down by morning, but the air stayed crisp and clear.

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From Fort Independence Road

Even though I had a “carefully planned” itinerary, I deviated from it to indulge in whims and adjust to lighting and weather conditions. Next stop: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

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Bristlecone Pine Poster Child

The iconic dead bristlecone featured on numerous posters and photographs is toward the end of the Discovery trail, which starts near the visitor center. At 10,000 feet or so elevation, and four months after hip replacement surgery and years of underactivity, I figured the 3/4 mile trail would be a challenge.

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It actually wasn’t too bad, even though I had to stop and rest a lot. There were some cool little flowers, stunted and small due to the harsh environment at elevation on the dolomite soils of the White Mountains.

The name of the tree comes from the bristles on the young cones. All the ones I saw were decorated with glistening sap, which lost the diamond sparkle in the photos.

Due to COVID-19 the campground was closed, but the picnic area made a nice lunch stop.

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From what I’ve seen on the Eastern Sierras and Hwy 395 Facebook page, the Sierras are known for spectacular cloud formations. This wasn’t in that category but still interesting.

I took a short trip down Hwy 120 to look for wild horses, but didn’t find any. I did find a field of small magenta flowers, though. I had hoped for a clear night to photograph the comet with Mono Lake tufas but it didn’t look like it would happen. So I found a great forest service dispersed campsite overlooking the lake and did time lapses of the Milky Way and the very short peek of the comet when the clouds cleared just enough. (See previous posts)

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Tufas from Navy Beach

It seems there are fewer tufas than there used to be. They are very fragile and were formed when the lake was deeper (before Los Angeles started draining it for its citizens) and underwater spring minerals combined with those in the lake.

I decided to head back to the Alabama Hills for another try at the comet, since the skies were packing with clouds. I even heard a thunderclap at Agnew Meadows in Devil’s Postpile. To get there I had to drive through the small town of Mammoth. I was stunned to see so many tourists in the midst of a pandemic. My favorite fast food stop for coffee and drive-up breakfast – McDonald’s – was now a huge Starbucks! I should have stopped there, but thought I was mistaken, and kept looking. I finally found what seems to be the only drive-up fast food restaurant in town – Carl’s, and got my coffee and breakfast burrito. Driving to the postpile, I passed under ski lifts that were loaded up with mountain bikes and their riders (each in separate cars.) Sooo many people…

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Cornflower, or false green hellebore

At the Devil’s Postpile entrance station there was an orange traffic cone that kept drivers from pulling too close to the window. Signs said visitors need to wear masks at the window, and the ranger did as well. She passed my brochure to me with a long-handled grabber. Very smart. Unfortunately, even though I was early, the parking lot at the trailhead was packed. Many groups of people were walking past unmasked and talking loudly on the narrow boardwalk. It disgusted me. They should have rangers at trailheads and the destination to enforce the state law on mask wearing. I turned around at the trailhead and went to Agnew Meadows, figuring to return in the off-season when the idiots weren’t around.

Agnew Meadow is known for wildflowers, but even better were the butterflies. The bright copper I photographed was by far the best, and a new one for me. Except for the folks backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, I had the place to myself. I didn’t cover too much ground because the butterflies and moths took most of my attention. And when I heard the thunderclap, I turned around as I had no rain gear to protect my equipment.

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Hot Creek Geological Site

I stopped at the Hot Creek Geological Site and took a little nap. After all, staying up half the night to take photos of the night sky takes its toll.

Although fishermen are allowed on the banks, people are not allowed in the creek as there have been super-hot releases of water with no warning, and people have been burned. It was in the 90s outside and steam swirled above the cobalt pool, so you KNOW it was hot.

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Arch, Alabama Hills

I found a great campsite at Alabama Hills (it helps to go on a weekday) and photographed the comet, then at dawn I marched down the Arch Trail. Only one other person was ahead of me, and it was already getting hot.

I had heard on the Sierra Wave radio station a historical tidbit about the Onion Valley Road. I had never heard of it before, and since it was close by I decided to explore before heading home. It was a lovely drive, and once there I just hung out near the road photographing flowers and interesting bees and bugs.

The ID of the species will have to wait, otherwise this post might never happen! I’ll end this with photos of some other wildlife seen during this extra-long weekend in the Eastern Sierras. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Keep social distance.

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Time Lapse Comet NEOWISE

July 30, 2020 at 6:41 pm (California, Nature, Nature photography, Night Sky) (, , , , , )

Comet NEOWISE put on quite a show in the Eastern Sierras July 18-20, 2020. My time lapses consist of dozens of still photos put into a video editor, then sped up about 2000 percent.

Because each exposure is 8-10 seconds, and the intervals are 15 seconds, the transitions are not smooth as they would be with professional astrophotography equipment. But they are still revealing. There was a lot of airplane traffic, and even a flyby of the International Space Station, which is the brightest streak. This was from my third night on the road at the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California.  I used the tungsten white balance setting to record a more natural looking blue sky. Read the rest of this entry »

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Comet NEOWISE

July 23, 2020 at 8:53 am (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Time-lapse) (, , , , )

I had been seeing some amazing photos of Comet NEOWISE the past couple of weeks but due to light pollution I could not see it from my home. So I took another road trip to the Eastern Sierras. First stop was one of my favorites: Alabama Hills in Lone Pine. The above photo was taken on Day 3. Unfortunately when I zoomed in the focus slipped and since it’s too dark to use auto focus or even manual focus, one needs to finesse the infinity symbol on the lens. It is definitely my best as far as composition and lighting, which was from a passing car. ISO 25,600, f4, 10 sec Read the rest of this entry »

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Montana de Oro

June 30, 2020 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, )

Mountain of Gold

When I first came to California in 2015, I fell in love with Montana de Oro State Park. I was living in Apple Valley at the time and had a job that gave me a 3-day weekend twice a month, which I took full advantage of.

Now that I live much closer, I feel fortunate to live so near to the most beautiful part of the California coast.

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Eastern Sierras- Day 3

June 29, 2020 at 5:00 am (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Lone juniper and clouds

There are many places in the wide open Inyo County forest lands to camp out, and whenever possible I look for free dispersed camping since I just park my car and sleep in it.

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Eastern Sierras-part 2

June 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm (California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, , )

Moonset at dawn from Alabama Hills

Day Two of my short road trip to the Eastern Sierras started with the waning full moon setting behind the mountains at sunrise. Hardly anyone else was up, so I had the view pretty much to myself.

Moonset condensed to 8 seconds
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Eastern Sierras-Alabama Hills

June 26, 2020 at 7:35 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Arch Trail, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

After more than six months of being “cooped up” due to a deteriorated hip joint, surgery to fix it, and COVID-19, my desire for a road trip was strong. I tried to convince my friend Marilyn, who had been with me since my surgery, to tag along enroute to her former job in Colorado (former because of the pandemic, sadly), but she opted to see the sequoias on the west side of the Sierras instead. So I was solo, and enjoying it immensely.

Alabama Hills
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