Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cardinals- Red Glory!

The Northern Cardinal, along with the Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse, are my backyard's most frequent bird visitors.  The cardinals, though, are more wary of humans than the other two and are a more challenging photography subject. 
The cardinals are elusive to my lens and the shots I do get are usually more at a distance.  Plus there's the desire to capture their image in direct sunlight, not shade, to show their brilliant red glory (for the males anyway).

These birdbath shots were taken from inside my house. 

I love the cardinals' black mask and fierce eyes.  They look intense and mean even.

I like how when they come into my yard the cardinals come in groups of three to five or more.  They seem to have "family values" and stick together which is cool.   
Munching on a sunflower seed.  Yum!
A female cardinal (above). This bird is one of the easier ones to tell the difference between males and females. 

Fierce and fun.  Love the Cardinals (but in baseball it's the Dodgers baby!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Northern California Birds

I kept an eye out and my camera ready for birds during my family's August visit to San Francisco and Northern California.  At the famous Golden Gate Bridge, a California Gull admired the iconic structure along with me.
These gulls are quite abundant.  My family and I spotted some down the coast at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. 

This is another gull we spotted along the coast.  Not sure the exact kind, unable to match using Google images and other sources despite the bird's distinctive black tipped beak.

Black Oystercatchers like rocky coastlines and that's where this one was spotted along the rugged Pacific Ocean coast.
I was excited to see this Red-Tailed Hawk at the Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.  I photographed it from a pretty great distance. 

I saw this next bird in different places along the Northern California coast, a little bit inland.  Looked like a Blue Jay but upon further research I discovered it to be a Western Scrub Jay.  It does have a scruffy, scrubbed sort of look.  The first time I saw one, I couldn't get a photo of it, but then I would see them a few more times in different settings and had more success.  The one below I found on a fence near the Point Reyes National Seashore visitors center.

This Scrub Jay in a tree is pictured at the Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

Another new bird for me is the White-Crowned Sparrow.  Spotted some along a path at the Ano Nuevo State Reserve along the coast south of San Francisco.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

San Francisco Trip

We just had an amazing week in the San Francisco area.  What a beautiful area and a nice reprieve from the hot and humid South.  What's not to love about Northern California?  You've got San Francisco (and Oakland), the rugged Pacific coast, the low, brown mountains, and Silicon Valley, the home to Apple, Google, Yahoo, McAvee, Intel and countless other cutting-edge technology companies.  Of course I took a lot of pictures, about 600 to be (somewhat) exact. Here are some of my favorites!
Here are my obligatory Golden Gate Bridge shots. Really liked the Presidio too, the old army fort that we accessed to get to the bridge. I was also very impressed with the Bay Bridge connecting S.F. to Oakland. This photo was taken from AT&T Park, home to the baseball Giants.  We caught a day game between the Giants and Cubs.

AT&T Park is a beautiful stadium with a neat location on the bay downtown. Statues of Giants legends Willie Mays (pictured), Juan Marichal, and Willie McCovey surround the park.  I wonder if Barry Bonds will ever be memorialized this way by the Giants.
We spent enjoyable time touring the Northern California coast north and south of San Francisco.  The water was a little too cold for swimming for those of us used to the Charleston area warm summer waters. The boys and I had fun rappelling down one bluff south of Half Moon Bay.  A rope was tied to the top to help people descend and return to the top.
We visited two lighthouses in the area at Pigeon Point and Point Reyes.  Point Reyes (first below) took a lot of driving then walking to reach, including more than 300 steps to descend and (ugh) to walk back up.  But well worth it for the views and adventure!

At Pigeon Point a worker told us, upon hearing that we are from Charleston, that this Lighthouse, built in 1871, is the same design as our Morris Island light.
Back to San Francisco for these last shots.  Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill was cool to see on our last night.  It was too dark to read the statue's inscription.  Only later via the Internet did I learn that it's of Christopher Columbus. 
I was struck by the residential housing in the city, its stacked, steeped and layered look. My older brother Matt is an artist in Alexandria, Va. This photo reminds me of one of his paintings. Hope you like this Shout Out brother!

Finally, a parting view from Treasure Island of San Francisco from across the bay. 
Hope this isn't my last visit to this wonderful and interesting part of America!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Birding Hot Day Hot Spot (Part 2)

Charleston's historic Magnolia Cemetery is the final resting place for many prominent people throughout the Holy City's history.  Hundreds of Civil War Confederates are also buried there, including a few hundred South Carolinians killed at Gettysburg.  The cemetery's ponds, Cooper River proximity and marshes make it a popular bird habitat. 

This posting is the second part featuring photos I took at Magnolia Cemetery in late July on a blistering hot and humid day.  This is probably my favorite photo from that outing- a Snowy Egret at a pond next to the remains of an old tree.
A pair of White Ibis standing by at Magnolia Cemetery
The distinctive American Anhinga at the top of this tree (note its webbed feet) and just below is an American Bittern.   
This Wood Stork's open beak indicates just how hot a day it was. My car gauge indicated 99 degrees outside while there then climbed to 102 during the drive home.