California Condors

November 10, 2019 at 3:10 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

California Condor – Orange 77

I have seen California Condors, mostly from a distance, though I did see some juveniles close enough to read their wing tags about five years ago at Pinnacles National Monument.

Purple 54 and Orange 20

But on Nov. 9, 2019 I was fortunate to go on our tour of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California where I saw approximately 8 free-flying and 14 captive condors in the flight pen.

Orange 77

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife 2016 report on the California Condor Recovery Program, the total world population of condors is 446, with 166 wild in California, 76 in Arizona/Utah, and 34 in Baja, Mexico.

Blue 28

Of the California population, there are a total of 82 in Southern California (2017 report) and 86 in Central California.

Black 40

Many in the flight pen were captive-raised and were to be released after learning from the older mentor bird how to interact, feed and fly. Some were trapped for medical checkups.

Pink 64 juvenile and a raven at flight pen

The wild birds are often at the pen, either waiting for their mates to be released, or perhaps as support or out of curiosity.

We met a few miles from the refuge entrance and were escorted to the bunkhouse where we carpooled to two observation points. The first one (above) had a view of the flight pen.

Flight pen

We were told that the condors generally become active around mid-morning when the thermals are stronger. Since they are also curious, they flew close to us to check us out.

Unfortunately they were against the light, so their coloration isn’t as clear.

Orange 77
Orange 20

Soaring against the expansive hills was a majestic sight.

Blue 28

We had lunch and then visited a hillside opposite of the first one. The light was much better, but the birds kept their distance. I wish our first visit had been to this side instead when the birds were more curious.

Flight pen.

Juvenile condors have black/gray heads, and attain their full adult coloration of white-underside wings and red heads around age six.

I drove home through one of my favorite places – Carrizo Plain National Monument. After six or seven months without rain, it was barren, a sharp contrast to the lushness of the flower-covered landscape in late winter.

Carrizo Plain- Elkhorn Hills backdropped by Temblor Range

There were hundreds of antelope squirrel holes, and I looked for burrowing owls but without success. I did catch two of the San Joaquin antelope squirrels, a species considered threatened in California.

San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel
San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel

There were very few birds actively foraging. I saw some white-crowned and lark sparrows at the southern end at a spring in an old farm yard, a flock of sagebrush sparrows and horned larks, and a single red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

There were more birds at the northern end, but by then I was rushing to get home by dark.

It was an exceptional day, and an amazing condor experience. Thanks to our tour guides for giving us this opportunity. Check out the Bitter Creek NWR website to join a future tour.

For more information on the California Condor:

Defenders of Wildlife

California Dept of Fish & Wildlife

US Fish & Wildlife

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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Critters of Jolon

October 21, 2019 at 10:24 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Monterey County, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, )

Tule elk

When I drive to work (as opposed to taking the bus or vanpool) I try to swing by some areas reliable for spotting elk or cool birds. I don’t always see the elk in their usual spots, but sometimes I get lucky.

This herd enjoyed a cooling rest stop in the marsh, which accounts for why their bottom parts are dark colored.

Late in the day they are backlit, which makes photography more challenging

I went in the morning last week, when the light was good, but the bull was nowhere to be seen.

The late-season calf is getting bigger.

The watering hole also attracted mule deer and wild turkeys.

Of course, birds are great subjects, too.

Yellow-billed magpie

The yellow-billed magpie has eluded me with perfect portrait poses or lighting. This one was pretty close, though.

Yellow-billed magpie

Even thought it was late October, the male red-winged blackbirds seemed to be trying to impress the ladies. Or maybe just each other.

A great egret (I still call them American egrets) is often seen in the area.

A kestrel and acorn woodpecker vied for the same pole.

I’ve visited this area many times in the two years I’ve lived here, and there is almost always something interesting to photograph.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

Join my Facebook Page

Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Monterey County Wildflowers

June 12, 2019 at 5:00 am (California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Harlequin lupine, Lupinus stiversii

We have had six months of pleasantly cool weather with plenty of moisture in California this year, and the Memorial Day weekend was a perfect time to look for tiny treasures in the Los Padres National Forest and environs of southern Monterey County.

The harlequin lupine (above) was perhaps one of the most interesting flowers I found, and it was only in a small patch of ground. They aren’t rare, but I guess they’re also not common.

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Pinnacles National Park – Wildflowers Second Wave

June 2, 2019 at 11:00 am (California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Wildflowers) ()

Elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

The first wave of wildflowers at Pinnacles National Park has gone by, and the second wave is going strong even though the grass has now turned brown and gone to seed.

California buckwheat

The California buckwheat was beginning to bloom, and this head was the nicest of the bunch.

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Coyote Lake Spring

May 19, 2019 at 1:49 pm (California, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Coyote Lake at sunset

I had an assignment in the Bay Area and on the way home I wanted to explore Henry W. Coe State Park. Unfortunately the annual backcountry weekend was limited to only a few hundred permit holders, and I didn’t realize a permit was needed even just to drive through, so I looked for somewhere else to play.

I passed by an artichoke field in San Martin. I love artichokes! (With butter, not mayo)

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Malibu Wildflowers

May 12, 2019 at 2:59 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California wildflowers, Nature, Nature photography, Wildflowers)

Phacelia grandiflora

The Woolsey Fire devastated the hillsides of Malibu last year, but fires bring out wildflowers, and the hillsides in and around Newton Canyon were filled with the lovely Phacelia grandiflora, painting the hills a lovely purple.

Site of Woolsey Fire several months ago

Fires release minerals back into the soil, and often in the Spring after a fire the area is lush with greenery and flowers. Some flowers, such as the fire poppy, only bloom after the heat of the flames awaken the seeds. I was not lucky enough to see any of those.

Cardinal catchfly, Silene laciniata
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Joshua Tree Wildflowers

May 5, 2019 at 11:24 am (California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Cottonwood entrance, Joshua Tree National Park

First of all, apologies for not posting this sooner. I visited this area in mid-March this year. I understand Joshua Tree National Park still has plenty of nice flowers blooming at the north entrance and other areas – albeit different ones.

Lupine and bladderpod
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Pinnacles National Park

May 5, 2019 at 10:42 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Wildflowers) (, )

Owls clover, west entrance

Flowers have been blooming all over California for a couple of months, and despite the end of the rainy season, they are still going strong. Early blooms go to seed and mid- to late-season blooms replace them.

Fremont’s Star Lily

These are among the early bloomers at Pinnacles National Park. The Fremont’s star lily is in the same toxic family as the death camas, which is what I thought it was at first. The park has a nice wildflower guide on its website which set me straight. This visit was on April 15, so the landscape will look different now.

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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.

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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.

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