Thursday, January 4, 2018

My 10 best bird photos of 2017

Capturing a good bird photo requires a close subject, good lighting, an uncluttered background, and a well-posed bird. A wildlife photographer doesn't often have very much control over the conditions and the subject. So, a bit of luck is also required.

Travel back in time with me to last year and view my best photos of the year...

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican. Mission Bay, California. January 1, 2017.
I started New Years Day 2017 with the annual pelagic trip sponsored by the San Diego Field Ornithologists. While the just-completed 2018 trip started in dense fog, the 2017 trip out of Mission Bay was sunny. This pelican caught the low morning sun in the harbor as we departed.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl. San Diego River mouth, San Diego, California. January 1, 2017.
After the pelagic trip I stopped nearby to look for the Burrowing Owl I had missed a couple of weeks earlier. It was right there in the ice plant where everyone else had reported it! Easy to photograph as it was not 8 feet off the road with bikers and dog walkers going by continuously all winter.

Western Bluebird
Male Western Bluebird. Escondido, California. January 3, 2017.
On the pelagic trip Nancy C. gave me a tip on where I might have a good vantage point to photograph Zone-tailed Hawks that roost in winter at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They roost with Turkey Vultures in the Park, then fly out with them in late morning. I arrived too early, and had to leave well before noon--a better time, perhaps. But this Western Bluebird was a nice consolation. It really wasn't; but it was a nice photo, nonetheless.

Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird. Ramona, California. January 29, 2017.
Near the Ramona Grasslands Preserve is a farmland road of exactly 1 mile that is always worth a stop in winter for hawks, geese, and rather rare Mountain Bluebirds. This makes a nice complement to the Western Bluebird from earlier in the month.

Male Ring-necked Duck. Escondido, California. March 28, 2017.
Female Ring-necked Duck. Escondido, California. March 28, 2017.
In late March I caught a sunny morning with numerous ducks at Kit Carson Park in Escondido. I couldn't decide whether the bright male Ring-necked Duck was my favorite, or whether it was the simpler brown female. So I present them both here.

Yellow-breasted Chat. San Pasqual Valley, California. April 5, 2017.
In early April I birded the Highland Valley Trail in the San Dieguito River Park near Escondido. I was surprised and delighted to find an early Yellow-breasted Chat singing away. It was even better to get several very good photos.

Marbled Godwit. Imperial Beach, California. July 16, 2017.
Marlene was missing the miles of nearly-empty beaches we formerly enjoyed in Oregon. That's a bit difficult where every day is a beautiful day, and most of the population lives within 15 minutes of the beaches. So I took Marlene to the beach at the mouth of the Tijuana River in Imperial Beach. Though it is about a 45 minute drive from our home, it is Marlene's favorite. There are very few people on the beach and there are usually some interesting shells washed up. We ended up visiting several times during the year.

California Gnatcatcher. Escondido, California. October 11, 2017.
Sometimes the secret of getting a good bird photo is just to take lots of photos. The California Gnatcatcher is an endangered bird of San Diego's coastal sage scrub habitat. This is a habitat that is being plowed under for housing developments. So I take photos every time I see and hear these birds. They are tiny and active, crawling through the brush and peeing out from the foliage. So I'm pleased with this photo without a distracting branch cutting across the face as is typical for most of my photos of this species.

Rock Wren. Ramona, California. November 26, 2017.
Another run out to Rangeland road in Ramona provided me with Mountain Bluebirds, a Merlin, and a Burrowing Owl. Plus, I got excellent photos of a Rock Wren that seemed as curious about me as I was about it.

This completes my favorite photos from the year 2017. I'm impressed that it includes none of the photogenic and abundant herons and egrets. Though I do have many photos of them, too. I think I attended 4 or 5 ocean birding boat trips last year. I didn't come up with any truly extraordinary at-sea photos this year. Though a Brown Booby off San Diego would probably make this list if expanded to the top 12 birds. And I didn't travel much outside San Diego County this past year, so all the best photos were near home. I hope you enjoyed these!

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