Monarch Grove, Pismo Beach

February 5, 2018 at 8:00 am (Butterflies, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Video) (, , , , )

 

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Most of us will never make it to the wintering site of millions of monarch butterflies in Mexico, but smaller groves of migrating monarchs make their winter stopover in several places on the California Coast.

They hang like clusters of grapes on the branches, layered like roof shingles to keep warm.

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When I was there at the end of December I didn’t realize that my photographs had TWO tagged butterflies!

Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach CA Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach CA

An expert at Washington State University was able to read enough of the tag in the highly cropped images to say where they were tagged: Elkton, Oregon – 608 miles away! A community education center there raised and tagged 300 monarchs and at least two of them wound up in Pismo!

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From the Monarch Grove website:

“Our colony is one of the largest in the nation, hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies over the last five years. The Monarchs that visit Pismo Beach are a special variety. They have a life span of six months as opposed to that of common Monarchs who live only six weeks. This can be attributed to a unique fat storing system. However, even with an extended life span, those butterflies that leave in March will never return.”

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More information on the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove here.

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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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San Antonio de Padua Mission

February 4, 2018 at 7:00 am (California, California Central Coast, Photography) (, )

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The San Antonio de Padua Mission is on the Fort Hunter Liggett property, but is publicly accessible.

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Long after the mission was established, William Randolph Hearst bought the surrounding property for the Milpitas unit of the Hearst Ranch.

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In 1940, the Army bought the ranch in anticipation of American involvement in World War II, and in January 1941 it was known as the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation.

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The mission has been restored and is currently trying to meet earthquake construction standards. Information about the history of the mission and its fund-raising efforts can be found on the mission website.

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On Sunday, Jan. 28, the mission held its Cutting of the Roses celebration, with a delicious brunch (including mimosas and chorizo enchiladas!), and free cuttings from the rose garden during its annual pruning. It also offered potted cuttings and other plants for sale.

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I arrived in the area in late November, so this is the only rose I saw in bloom.  However, I have 8 cuttings and I hope that most of them will give me some lovely rose bushes. I also bought some narcissus, hollyhock seeds, and iris corms from the mission’s gardens.

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This was the mill for grinding wheat and grains. There are many remnants of the once-bustling mission village, including wells, a reservoir, and livestock pens.

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California Ground Squirrel on Adobe Wall Ruins

It’s a great place for birding, too – and I’ll post some of the birds I’ve seen around the mission in a separate blog entry.

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This is one of many missions located along or near U.S. Highway 101. Travelers along the 600-mile El Camino Real (the Royal Road/King’s Highway) will notice mission bells on shepherd’s crooks every mile or two from San Diego to San Francisco. The one below is on mission grounds.

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There are some of the original olive trees on the grounds.

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A male western bluebird stands guard over its foraging field.

The mission hosts retreats and has rooms available for overnight stays. Many of them are the small cells originally used by monks.

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Mass is held in the mission every Sunday.

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Many of the California missions are in the middle of some bustling towns and cities. The Mission San Antonio de Padua is still in its picturesque setting, with only Fort Hunter Liggett’s cantonment for a neighbor.

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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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Elk, Deer, and a Cougar

February 3, 2018 at 2:18 pm (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, )

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The area around Fort Hunter Liggett, California is known for its wildlife and scenic beauty. Herds of tule elk live on and near the post, and are often seen along the main public roads.

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I’ve yet to see a bull elk, but these cows posed so nicely for me in the early morning light that they were irresistible.

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Tule elk, Cervus canadensis nannodes, is one of three sub-species of elk found in California. The other two are Roosevelt elk (C. canadensis roosevelti) – a California native found in the eastern forested part of the state, and the Rocky Mountain elk, (C. canadensis nelsoni) – a non-native transplant found in northeastern California.

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The tule elk is only found in California. From the Point Reyes National Seashore website:

“Its numbers were severely reduced in the mid-1800s, primarily due to uncontrolled market hunting and displacement by cattle. By some accounts, fewer than 30 remained in a single herd near Bakersfield in the mid-1870s. A conservation minded cattle rancher named Henry Miller had the foresight to preserve this last isolated group discovered on his ranch in 1874. Until this discovery, tule elk were thought to be extinct. All of the estimated 5,700 tule elk present in 22 herds across California (as of 2016) were derived from this small remnant herd, thanks to his initial efforts.”

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Another place tule elk can be seen is the Tule Elk State Natural Reserve near Bakersfield. The proper pronunciation is “TOO-lee,” and refers to a type of sedge or bulrush found in marshy areas. (There is also “tule fog” in our area as well – a ground fog that tends to occur in the winter and spring.)

An excellent guide to tule elk and locations to see them is here.

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Black-tailed deer are quite common in California, and this young buck at Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County was very cooperative with posing in good light for me.

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He was with several does, who grazed with little concern for passing cars. Apparently the noise from live-fire training doesn’t bother these ungulates much. However, there are cougars to keep them in check, and one was seen inside the gated area of post a few weeks ago. From the Fort Hunter Liggett Facebook page:

“A mountain lion (cougar) was seen in the FHL cantonment Jan. 20, and was persuaded to leave by California Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden Matt Gil, and Lt. Donald Saucier, Fort Hunter Liggett Police Department. The 90-100 pound cat was in an area behind DPTMS, a half mile south of Javelin Court in the housing area. (Video by Matt Gil).”

Visitors to Fort Hunter Liggett will find a wealth of beauty and wildlife to appreciate, but they must not venture off the paved roads due to training, which often includes live-fire.

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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Pretty Pintails

January 22, 2018 at 7:06 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Photography)

Northern pintail drake

Several northern pintail ducks at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge near Sacramento, California were at the pond at the beginning of the auto tour. The soft light brought out the subtle colors and designs in their plumage.

Between snoozing, preening, swimming and feeding, the pintails deserve a post of their own.

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

 

As with most birds, the males sport fancier plumage, but the hens are also quite lovely.

Northern pintail hen

Reflections in the still water also made for a bit of visual poetry.

I found one drake with a band on his leg. Maybe someone can figure where he was banded and when based on what I was able to capture.

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Wildlife refuges are critical to preserving habitat for birds and other wildlife. Support your refuges. Buy a duck stamp or one of the America the Beautiful Interagency passes. The interagency pass is good for most federal recreation lands.

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, California

Pintail ducks, Colusa NWR, 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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Colusa NWR Birds

January 21, 2018 at 9:13 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

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Black-necked stilt

It was another foggy day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, but it didn’t seem to bother the birds much at the Colusa NWR to the south.

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Black-crowned night heron

I saw bird species that I hadn’t seen at the main refuge, such as the black-crowned night heron and cinnamon teal. Plus I was able to get much closer to several pintails, which I will feature in a post of their own.

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The auto tour was 3-miles long, and again, we had to stay in the car, which was a perfect blind. The road was a little narrow in spots, making it hard to pull over for people who didn’t want to linger at a particular spot. But there weren’t nearly as many folks there as at the main refuge.

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American pipit

My favorite method of birding-by-car is to keep the front windows rolled down all the way and my camera (Nikon D750 with 200-500mm Nikon lens – a long and heavy beast) on my lap. That way I can aim and “shoot” quickly when I see a bird.

I can blast the heat or a/c to counter the outside weather. If I can, I also turn off the engine so the vibration and the heat waves from the inside/outside air meeting won’t affect the clarity of the images.

I also like to video birds doing bird things, so I have a window mount for my Canon SX-60. It took awhile to find the right mount, which isn’t perfect but allows good coverage while minimizing camera shake. I didn’t do video on this trip, though.

I keep my camera bag on the passenger seat, and if I have another photographer in the car with me it works best to have them in the back seat so we can both have a clear view out both windows.

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American wigeon pair

There was a pond you could park next to at the beginning of the auto tour, and the ducks there were extremely cooperative!

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Red-winged blackbird

So was this red-winged blackbird

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Black-crowned night heron rookery

The black-crowned night heron rookery was seen from the bridge near the start of the auto tour, and you get closer views toward the end, too.

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Black-crowned night heron at rookery

The light was for the most part a bright overcast, which allows subtle colors and details to pop. Sunlight often causes bright highlights and deep shadows that are difficult to moderate, even in Photoshop.

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Great blue heron

As with nearly all of these photos, the birds weren’t close enough to fill the frame, so many of them are highly cropped. Fortunately, the lens I use is pretty darned sharp and can focus pretty accurately.

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White-fronted geese

Even though these refuges were 350-plus miles from home, it was a great way to spend a 3-day weekend.

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Colusa NWR

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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Morro Bay Birds

January 16, 2018 at 8:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

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Morro Rock

Morro Bay and the coastline to the north and south of it is my favorite part of the California Coast. It is also the most picturesque and interesting from my point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sacramento NWR in the Fog – Day 2

January 15, 2018 at 7:06 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

Tundra Swans

Even though the thick fog kept me inside until noon and persisted all day, it lent a beautiful background with muted palette to the photographs. There were perhaps thousands of tundra swans in the wet fields enroute to the Llano Seco unit northwest of the main refuge, and the above image is by far my favorite of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Tornado Kind of Day

October 22, 2017 at 11:52 am (Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Time-lapse, Video) (, , , , )

Funnel cloud forming

We didn’t actually see a tornado, but we almost did. This funnel cloud shaped up very nicely as viewed from Chattanooga, Oklahoma around 6 p.m., Oct. 21. My photographer friend recognized a storm spotter vehicle and we turned around to follow. As the squall line came in, it looked like some snaggle-toothed clouds were trying to make themselves into tornadoes, which had been predicted. (Technically, they aren’t tornadoes until they touch the ground.)

This funnel took about 3 minutes to form in the video, but I condensed it to 30 seconds. It didn’t quite have the energy to reach the ground, but we received a tornado warning on our phones as we watched it. The spotter (you can see the vehicle on the horizon to the right) may have called it in. We made it back to Lawton before severe thunderstorms hit, but this squall line formed around five small tornadoes in the area before the evening was over.

Thunderclouds from Hackberry Flat

Our initial plan that day was to visit Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge to see the sandhill cranes, but the dire weather predictions made us stay closer to home. I’m glad we did. We visited a small state park an hour north, then headed to Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area.

My friend is doing a photo collection of Oklahoma murals, so we stopped in Cordell so he could add this one.

Ornate box turtle

This ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata, was found wandering in a cemetery. The red eyes mean it’s a male. Female eyes are yellowish brown.

He checked me out every so often to decide if I was safe.

We also saw a coyote on top of hay bales.

Red tail hawk

At Hackberry Flat we began to hear thunder in the distance. It was sunny and breezy and we looked around, surprised. The skies took on a great deal of drama as the cold front met with the warm, humid air to the north and west of us.

The red-tailed hawk added its own flair to the wind-blown backdrop.

Cotton fields surrounded the area, and at times looked like snow.

The skies changed by the minute. We knew we should head home, but we squeezed in as much photography as we could. The severe weather was to our north and moving away from us.

Little tails threaded down from the wall cloud now and then, then were reabsorbed. We made it back to Lawton before we were hit with thunderstorms from this supercell. The KSWO-7 meterologists were busy busy busy last night keeping track of the little tornadoes and large hail in our viewing area, but thankfully all we got at my house was wind and rain.

Another Oklahoma experience!

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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Scissortail Ballet

October 17, 2017 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

One look at the impossibly long tail of the scissor-tailed flycatcher might make you wonder if handicaps this bird by its excess. But once you see the owners in flight, you realize the tails have a purpose.

They act as rudders of sorts, allowing the birds to dart after flying insects with finesse. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

October 6, 2017 at 4:52 am (Photography) (, , , )

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the most reverent and ritualistic ceremonies performed by the U.S. Army is the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The tomb is guarded every minute of every day. The guard is changed every hour (every half hour April to September) for the public to witness. This is the soldier who is coming on guard. Read the rest of this entry »

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