Carrizo Plain in November

January 1, 2019 at 6:01 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

This image reminds me of Zabriski Point at Death Valley. I visited Carrizo Plain National Monument in Central California the day before Thanksgiving 2018. The most stunning natural phenomena that day were the lenticular clouds forming stacks of flying saucers due to the turbulent atmosphere preceding a rare rainstorm.

Lenticular clouds stacked like pancakes

I jazzed it up quite a bit for the top image, but the clouds weren’t that dramatic.

They were more like this
Lenticular cloud

I’ve seen these clouds regularly over Mount Rainier. They usually meant rain or snow within 24 hours. However, out here, the rain came within a handful of hours.

Bell’s Sparrow

The Bell’s sparrow, along with the Sagebrush sparrow, split from the former Sage sparrow. Visual differences are hard to figure sometimes, but the songs are a bit more distinctive.

Loggerhead Shrike
Prairie Falcon

If you compare the landscape along the Sprague Hill Road with the previous post taken a month later, you’ll see how quickly that rain helped to green up the landscape.

In another month or two, there will be wildflowers blooming!

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
This was just outside the monument.
I’m not sure what the rock composition is to make this patch so distinctive

Carrizo Plain National Monument is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and offers a very different landscape from that of the rest of San Luis Obispo County.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Let’s hope for a good winter of rains, to bring back the green to the hillsides. To cover the plain with flowers. To keep drought at bay.

Happy New Year!

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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Carrizo Plain Christmas Bird Count

December 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , , )

Barn Owl at old Goodwin Ranch

I missed the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count with the Morro Coast Audubon Society due to acute bronchitis, so I was happy for the chance to do the one at Carrizo Plain National Monument on Dec. 29.

Barn Owl

I always hope for at least one new bird or one great photograph. I didn’t get my new bird (mountain plover) but I got some stunners of a barn owl. It’s not a bird I’ve seen a lot of, even though they’re quite common.

This was one of a pair the others in my group had seen in a tamarisk tree. The house resident said there are two pairs that normally take up residence in the old barns and granaries, which have fallen into disrepair.

Barn owl

Although the tree is right next to the house, this owl was extremely wary. Every time it flew into the tree and I got a good look at it, it flew out. I hated to keep harassing it, so I ended the game with a few nice images. There was a large nest in the tree as well, though it’s not certain if the nest belonged to the owl. With the plethora of available covered buildings, I doubt it, but they are known to nest in dense trees.

Kestrel

The count circle was divvied up into sections, and I went with four other women, two of whom had done that area before. Even though I had visited Carrizo several times, this was my first CBC there.

Red-tail hawk

We spent quite a bit of time at the ranch, as the birding was pretty good. The resident of the home had a bird feeder frequented by many lark sparrows and house finches, with some white-crowned sparrows thrown in. There were western meadowlarks, mourning doves, horned larks, and a variety of other usual suspects in the area. Even though there was a hill with many ground squirrel type holes, I couldn’t coax out a burrowing owl.

Western meadowlark

Although the morning started in the low 20s, it warmed to the 50s and a few lark sparrows sprinkled the soundscape with their buzzy melodies. Western meadowlarks also felt a tinge of spring in the air and let out a few notes as well. Meadowlarks tend to be more cooperative photo subjects when they are singing.

Western meadowlark

Horned larks

I saw many more horned larks during a Thanksgiving visit. They tend to travel in large flocks of 20-100. This was on the small side.

We also saw 10 Bell’s sparrows on the edge of Soda Lake. The heat waves distorted nearly all photos taken at any distance, so I don’t have one of these guys, but the distinctive feature at a distance was their very long tails which they cocked up like a miniature roadrunner when they scurried along looking for seeds.

I ventured out of our count area while the others returned to tally the results. I wanted to look for the mountain plover, which would be a life bird for me. No luck at the areas they had been seen in the past. But I did find this prairie falcon.

Mountain bluebird

Several mountain bluebirds were also in the area, and this one caught the sunlight just right.

The blue was absolutely neon!

Say’s phoebe

Say’s phoebes were also on the prowl, especially as the insects became more active as the sun warmed the landscape.

The roadrunner (beep beep!) had crossed the road in front of me, ran down a dry wash, and back out the other side at high speed.

Carrizo Ranch

There is a private ranch on the Sprague Hill Road, which offered some ribbons of green (alfalfa?) in the still-brown landscape.

Carrizo Plain National Monument Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 29, 2018
Carrizo Plain National Monument Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 29, 2018

Just a reminder: This is one of the public lands whose employees are either furloughed or working without pay. Shutting down the government is a tyrannical abuse of power and shouts “failure!” to those we sent to represent our best interests. Our natural, cultural and social heritage is too valuable and precious to be used as a pawn in power grabs. Pay attention to who and what you support, or these lands will just be another commodity for corporations to exploit. End of rant.

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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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Christmas Eve Birding

December 26, 2018 at 5:15 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, )

Black Oystercatcher

There was patchy fog in Paso Robles, and I figured it would be thick at the coast, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’d heard about some good birds at several of the Estero Bluffs State Park lookouts and wanted to add a few to my life list.

I was fortunate to find both harlequin ducks, although they were in different spots on the “Fig Tree” trail.

Black Turnstone

I also added the black turnstone to my life list and photo collection!

Peregrine Falcon

I couldn’t believe it was warm enough to wear a tank top. I’ve been out there on a summer afternoon when it was windy and darned cold!

Cayucos from the Estero Bluffs trail

I was happy to see some colorful-billed surf scoters riding the waves.

Then there were the usual suspects.

Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) warbler showing its butterbutt
Turkey Vulture patrolling the shore

Juvenile double-crested cormorant

Before I made it back to the car, the fish scale clouds rolled in. I knew rain was coming, but I tucked in a short trip to the Morro Bay Marina boardwalk. It was uncharacteristically quiet, perhaps because of the incoming rain.

View of the Back Bay, from Morro Bay Marina
Morro Rock

Unknown shorebird

I gave myself a headache trying to figure which species the above bird was, but I’ll add its name when I find out. It was at Estero Bluffs, and I think it was about the size of the black turnstones. A gentle mist began by the time I was in the car, and we received another welcome dose of rain overnight.

Our coastal hills turn green in winter – thanks to the rain!

This is my favorite viewpoint on State Hwy 46 between Paso Robles and the coast. It’s starting to look like Ireland!

I hear “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” – the original version — is on TV now, so I must end this post to give my Christmas Day a proper ending.

Happy Holidays to all!

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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Whales!

November 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm (Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

Humpback whale diving. Notice the barnacles and what looks like kelp growing on the tail!

My friend from Maine and I went on a whale watch tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, Nov. 13. We saw several humpback whales and a pod of orcas (killer whales.)

A closer view

Although I lived in Tacoma, Washington for 18 years, I had never seen orcas. So this was a new experience for me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hi Mountain Lookout

October 15, 2018 at 7:27 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife)

Cinnamon-colored American Black Bears
When I found out from the Morro Coast Audubon Society that the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout was having an open house, I cut my Eastern Sierras trip short and drove home so I could learn about the work being done to save California condors from extinction.

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Mission San Miguel – Birds

September 1, 2018 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, )

Cliff Swallow

This is the 4th in a series of photographs of Mission San Miguel, California.

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Birds of the Oaks

July 8, 2018 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

Acorn woodpecker female

Since I live in the Central Coast area of California, there are lots of oak trees, mostly blue oak, and there are some very nice stands of large valley oaks as well. The acorn woodpecker is extremely populous here, since there’s a plethora of acorns. You can see how striking they are with their black-and-white plumage topped with a red cap, and white eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Camp Parks – Wildlife Oasis, part 4

June 19, 2018 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Great egret with mouse

This great egret finds the grasslands of the Parks Reserve Forces Training Center, aka Camp Parks, to be an excellent hunting ground. Its bill was already quite bloodied before it caught the mouse. Read the rest of this entry »

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Camp Parks – Wildlife Oasis, part 3

June 18, 2018 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Turkey families were abundant at the Parks Reserve Center Training Area, also known as Camp Parks, in the Bay Area of California.

Two hens and about 20 chicks were in this group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Camp Parks – A Wildlife Oasis in Bay Area – part 1

June 16, 2018 at 9:52 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

Female northern harrier

An Army Reserve training installation in the San Francisco Bay area is small, but when it comes to wildlife, it is a powerhouse. Read the rest of this entry »

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