Central Coast Wildflowers

April 21, 2019 at 8:19 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers)

Jolon, California

My photos needing editing are covering my computer desktop, so I’d better get these up while the flowers are still blooming.

Owl’s Clover and vineyard, Jolon Road

Last year there were almost no wildflowers blooming in southern Monterey County, and the green grasses from the winter rains didn’t last very long.

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road

This year we’ve been supremely blessed, not only with a vibrant green landscape for the last six months, but now with masses of Kool-Aid colored wildflowers.

The scent of the lupines is often noticeable when they are not even visible, and can be overpowering when standing next to a sunny field of them. I call them California bluebonnets, because bluebonnets are actually lupines. I think Californians love them just as much as Texans love theirs, too.

Owl’s clover and goldfields decorate large swaths of the grassy meadows in the oak savannas.

The thing about the iconic California poppies is that they are quite particular about when they will open up. They have been closed tight for two hours after sunrise, and often close by 4 pm, especially on windy days. Very fickle.

The poppies in our area are more yellow than the ones in Southern California. I’m not sure why.

Male bald eagle

There is also a bald eagle’s nest quite visible in an oak tree. The female was busy in the nest, either rearranging the building materials, or (hopefully) tending to chicks.

One of my favorite sightings was a large flock (about 50) band-tailed pigeons, which I added to my life list only a few months ago.

Band-tailed pigeon

A birding friend visited me last weekend and we had a great time exploring the area near the Mission San Antonio de Padua; Jolon, Del Venturi and Nacimiento-Fergusson roads, and catching up on each other’s lives. Many of these images were from that visit. Enjoy the gallery.

Pregnant Tule elk

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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Carrizo Plain Just Gets Better!

April 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, )

I have viewed wildflowers in many parts of the country, from the giant lupines in Maine to the sub-alpine bouquets of Mount Rainier, the bluebonnet and paintbrush fields of Texas, and the superbloom in the California deserts. But I have never seen the type of expansive floral bounty as I have in the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The Temblor Range bordering State Hwy 58 to the east, and the Caliente Range to the west cradle a vast valley floor now full of lemon goldfields and daisies, goldenrod-tinted fiddlenecks, and patches of purple phacelia.

Caliente Range

I am so enamored with the expanse that I’ve stitched together a number of shots into a 5 or 8-image panorama. If these were enlarged to wall decor, the detail would be far superior to taking one wide-angle image and cropping it. I’ll only put one super-pano here, though, because the individual sections of the panoramics are more impressive on the “small screen.”

Temblor Range

The Temblor Range is the most accessible to visitors, who just detour off Hwy 58 into the monument. Patches of phacelia are spreading in the lemony hillsides, and a few patches of nascent orange poppies are making an appearance.

Several expanding fields of phacelia looking toward the Temblors can easily be seen from Soda Lake Road and the dirt roads that go into the Caliente Range, giving a bird’s eye perspective. As the sun warms the landscape, heat waves create distortions that decrease sharpness, and are magnified with a 500mm telephoto.

To avoid the weekend mobs, I arrived around 5 p.m. Sunday for an overnight stay at a dispersed campsite, of which there is a nearly unlimited supply. As a photographer, I am out photographing until sunset, and get into place before the sunrise, so I don’t need (or even like) the amenities and neighbors of a designated campground. Even that late, there were still many, many tourists, some taking family portraits in the wildflowers long after the sun had set!

Fortunately by morning, most were gone. I had the place to myself for several pleasant hours. I saw the crescent moon rise behind the Temblor Range, and a hint of peach in the sky as the sun followed.

One of the prettiest early morning spots was the road to the Van Matre Ranch.

There was an immense field of lemon flowers enroute, and a couple of guys were running a drone to show its immensity in an aerial view.

Thank goodness it hasn’t been trampled to death

A couple of obliging birds posed for me. The most numerous songsters seemed to be the horned larks, with their light and tinkly melodies.

Western kingbird
Lark Sparrow

The Elkhorn Road had been fenced off before the Panorama Road turnoff, much to my surprise, and probably had to do with the cattle roundup in progress. (This was from the left fork, both of which say Elkhorn Road on my GPS). I found the road closed on the right fork, which I assume is the main road. Sure wouldn’t want to try to make room for five of these big trucks on a narrow dirt road!

Cattle roundup

It must have been tough driving those huge trucks loaded with cattle over those bumpy dirt roads.

There are remnants of dozens of ranches (and some still-active ones) all throughout the monument.

My little Nikon Coolpix allowed for some closeups with decent depth of field to show the landscape as well.

Milkvetch

I used the Nikon D600 with 80-400mm lens for the mid-range images, but for the sharpest of all I stuck with the very heavy Nikon 200-500mm lens on the D750 body. It’s amazing how many landscape and bird photos I take right from the car!

Looking toward Caliente Range

As morning wore on, more folks showed up, but it was nothing, NOTHING like the weekend mobs. I kept thinking how lucky I was to be enjoying the peace and amazing richness of a land I’ve seen mostly wearing a brown and wheat-colored wardrobe.

Since I have mobility issues thanks to my unwilling marriage to Arthur Itis, I can’t do much hiking, but one doesn’t need to venture more than a couple of feet from the road to photograph some amazing flower-filled landscapes and blossom closeups.

At the end of February this was an untrammeled hillside. Now it is scarred. People ignore the chain and “private land” sign for their selfies.

I don’t understand why so many people feel the need to wander among flower fields, which then become carcasses that will never make seeds for the next generation, when they can get exactly the same photographs right next to the road. Seriously!

Even the local TV channels promote this bad behavior. The Leave No Trace ethic needs to be part of our overall ethos when out in nature. Leaving footprints can encourage more footprints, which become a social trail.

Soda Lake received a blessing of water for the last several weeks, but it is quickly returning to its usual state as an alkaline salt bed. Simmler Road cuts through Soda Lake and now that it’s been dry, is an easy road to travel.

A juvenile red-tailed hawk and a courting red-winged blackbird in the fiddlenecks weren’t intimidated by being outshone by the wildflowers.

An ever-changing quilt

I don’t know how it can get any more beautiful, but I was told by several people who had seen Carrizo in the 2017 superbloom that it, indeed, was.

I guess I’ll have to brave the crowds to see the unfolding changes, until the flowers go to seed, the land dries up, and the dormant seeds remain hidden until the next super-soaking.

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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Desert Birds

March 30, 2019 at 3:06 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

The black-throated sparrow is my favorite sparrow, and the first place I ever saw one was at Big Bend National Park, Texas. They are also common in Southern California, too.

This one’s bushy “eyebrows” look quote comical.

The males often perched on cholla spines to make themselves and their songs more obvious to potential mates. I don’t know how their little feet didn’t get poked.

Several years ago I had photographed them in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Mine Wash, along with some blooming cactus. I went back in early March and the cactus had yet to perform, but the sparrows were in full force.

Phainopepla male

The phainopepla eats mistletoe berries. In Big Bend it was juniper mistletoe. In areas of California where oak trees grow, it’s the oak mistletoe. I even have a pair that visits my yard in Paso Robles now and then, and presumably they have found mistletoe nearby.

Gambel’s Quail

The male Gambel’s quail is just as handsome as its cousin the California quail, the latter of which is found in western California up through the Pacific Northwest. This bird and the rest in this post were at Joshua Tree National Park.

The Gambel’s quail prefers the arid regions of the Southwest and Southern California.

The California scrub jay isn’t exclusively a desert denizen. I also have them in my yard, but they are quite handsome.

California thrasher

Although I was in the desert for the wildflower bloom, I was surprised there wasn’t much bird activity in the places I visited. However, another winged creature was almost an invasion – the painted lady butterfly.

Many people mistook them for monarchs, which migrate in large numbers, but honestly, they don’t look a thing like monarchs. There were hundreds of thousands of them, moving fast to whatever destination their little hearts desired. Unfortunately, many of them wound up as yellow splats on windshields and fenders. I’m wondering which plants their caterpillars will be eating when they all hatch. The wildflowers should be finished blooming by then, I hope!

Male phainopepla

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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Carrizo Plain Wildflower Feast

March 26, 2019 at 8:30 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers)

Phacelia

For some reason, people seem to think the purple wildflowers are the most desirable, or at least the best colors to set off the sunshine yellows of the goldfields and hillside daisies at Carrizo Plain National Monument.

State Hwy 58 bordering Carrizo Plain

Me, I’m a fan of yellow. Lemon yellow. The most brilliant yellow that has carpeted the hills and fields of this area. I do love it when a smattering of purple shows up, however. Yellow, green, purple. Sometimes goldenrod where there are the fiddlenecks. If I could get orange California poppies added to the quilt I’d be in wildflower heaven.

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Salton Sea Birds

March 16, 2019 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Burrowing Owl male

One of the great joys of living in California four years ago was discovering the burrowing owls at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge on the Salton Sea in Southern California’s Imperial Valley.

On my trip to view the wildflower bloom in the desert, I stopped by specifically to look for them. I was not disappointed.

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Carrizo Plain Wildflowers-March 3

March 6, 2019 at 6:44 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildflowers) (, , )

Yellow hillside daisies at Carrizo Plain National Monument

It only took a week and a little more rain and cool weather, and the yellow splashes on a few hillsides spread like wet paint splattered on the landscape. While most of the wild color occurs just outside the Carrizo Plain National Monument, it is clearly visible from Soda Lake and Seven Mile Roads.

I love clouds that add depth and an ever-changing light show, and because the plain is skirted by two rows of hills, the clouds were held back just enough to allow sunlight to dapple the soft hills.

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Carrizo Plain Winter Birds

March 3, 2019 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, San Luis Obispo County, Wildlife) (, , , )

Prairie Falcon

Last week’s visit to Carrizo Plain National Monument yielded some nice birds as well as a herd of at least 100 Tule elk about a half mile in the distance.

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Morro Coast Bird Festival – part 5

February 23, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Western bluebird male

The Morro Coast Bird Festival in January 2019 featured a variety of trips, many of them centered around the water. However, some of the best birds were songbirds.

Western Bluebird Male

I carry around a very heavy Nikon D750 with a Nikon 200-500mm lens. This is the sharpest lens I’ve ever owned, and combined with a good camera sensor allows me to crop a small portion of the image and still come up with a relatively sharp and minimally pixelated image.

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Morro Coast Bird Festival – Part 4

February 22, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , , )

Heermann’s Gull

My favorite gull is the Heermann’s, which I had never seen until I moved to California. In its breeding colors as shown above, it is a handsome bird, but only spends the winter with us.

Heermann’s gull

I saw quite a few of them at San Simeon during the Morro Coast Bird Festival in January 2019.

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Morro Coast Bird Festival – part 3

February 21, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Male bufflehead in flight

The Morro Coast Bird Festival was four days of amazing birding in my own “backyard.” Of course, most of the birds we saw were water birds.

Horned grebe

The horned grebe’s eyes are so red they show up in the water’s reflections!

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