Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Colored pencil: Cottontail

Colored pencil: Desert Cottontail
Desert Cottontail.
Colored pencil based on photo from Lake Hodges, California on April 26, 2017. Greg Gillson.
It has been just over 6 months, now, since I started nature journaling. Well, in actuality, I've really only done journaling in the field one weekend. My field drawings and notes are really slow and crude--I need much more practice. However, I have done nature art based on my photos. Does that count? I've tried for photo-realistic colored pencil illustrations. It fits my personality--careful, detail-oriented. Colored pencil is a very slow medium.

And my visualization is slow--I am still learning how to see color and value (light and dark). In fact, I may have studied the photo of this cottontail for two days before putting pencil to paper. You can't do that in the field!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Spring 2017 San Diego pelagic birding trips

I attended two San Diego pelagic trips this spring, one in May and one in early June.

The May trip had sunny skies, making for better (more colorful) photography. A number of Scripps's Murrelets were found, as expected in spring. We started out with an approachable pair early--not always easy, and they continued in small numbers throughout the day.

Sooty, Pink-footed and a few Black-vented Shearwaters were spotted. Other regular species included Western Gulls, Black Storm-Petrels, Elegant Terns, and Common Terns.

Just after noon, Jimmy McMorran photographed a distant Cook's Petrel. Somehow I didn't hear anything about it on the boat, and only learned of it after returning home. I guess I could have been in the galley having lunch. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the way it happens on a large and noisy boat. Of all the regular pelagic species on the West Coast, Cook's Petrel is one of the few I have yet to see. I've certainly seen more than a handful of much rarer species. Cook's is one of those true oceanic species that rarely approaches the coastline closely enough to be seen from one day pelagic birding trips from shore and back.

We ended the day with a pod of Common Dolphins just offshore from the San Diego Bay mouth. They had driven fish to the surface and we had 10 Brown Boobies fishing here among other birds, flying over the dolphins--very exciting!

Pink-footed Shearwater
Scripps's Murrelet
Pink-footed Shearwater
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Common Tern
Black-vented Shearwater
Brown Booby
Brown Boobies and Western Gulls feeding over a pod of Common Dolphins
Common Dolphins
Common Dolphins and Brown Boobies.
Brown Booby.
California Sea Lion.
Sailboats in San Diego Bay.

The second trip was on June 11. A couple of Black Skimmers flew around the bay. I believe I was the only one to identify a late Wandering Tattler flying about the rocky beach at Ballast Point as we motored past. This trip had quite a few Least Terns nearshore.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was a single Black-footed Albatross in the early morning--spring is the best time for these in San Diego waters. Otherwise, they are regular much farther offshore in the main California Current that flows outside the islands of the Southern California Bight.

The trip featured quite a few storm-petrels. Storm-petrels are small and flighty, and rather skittish and seem to be afraid of the boat. I took dozens of photos in the hopes that a few would turn out. I think the overcast skies helped lower the contrast when photographing these against the bright water. Identifying storm-petrels requires much experience to get a feel for the ID--backed up with photos whenever possible. Shape and flight behavior is key for identifying most seabirds--especially the all brownish ones! We had Black, Ashy, and Leach's, including several white-rumped Leach's or Townsend's (either is unusual in spring), but none photographed well enough to be definitely identified as Townsend's.

In late afternoon we came across some rather early Craver's Murrelets. This is a species that was more common in the 1980's, fairly rare at the turn of the 21st century, and regular again in recent years.

Elegant Tern
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Elegant Terns
Sooty Shearwater in heavy wing molt.
Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross
Ashy Storm-Petrel
Ashy Storm-Petrel (left), Black Storm-Petrel (right).
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Leach's Storm-Petrel
Ashy Storm-Petrel (left), Black Storm-Petrel (right).
Ashy Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Pink-footed Shearwater
Craveri's Murrelet

Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Trailer
Yesterday at this time I had never heard of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. But an article on the writer and director Luc Besson appeared on Wired (here) and the trailer looked exciting (here). So I convinced Marlene to go with me at the 5 o'clock showing right after work.

Briefly, this is Star Wars and Avatar story lines combined by the writer and director of The Fifth Element. Its 2 hours and 17 minutes of run-time is action-packed with more space ships and alien species than any other movie you've seen. Its a fun romp with action-packed chase scenes, explosions, battles, and "sci-fi action violence" that gives it the expected PG-13 rating.

But there's nothing new here. You'll findLuke and Obi-Wan at the cantina, Jabba the Hutt and Luke Skywalker facing off, underwater monsters trying to eat the ship with Padme and Anakin, Leia and Han in the garbage chute, Coruscant "car" chase with Anakin and Obi-wan, faceless soldiers encased in all-black shiny plastic, Obi-wan and Anakin facing off the droid attack in the hangar bay on Naboo, a changling.

How about blue-colored aliens at peace with their environment destroyed by the military but a flawed soldier comes to rescue their planet? Ya, I've seen it before.

There's no character development, no intelligent conversation. Just action. This is an exciting, colorful, "summer fun" sci-fi action movie that will appeal to Star Wars fans. But it lacks originality.

RobertEbert.com review