Thursday, January 31, 2019

Brown Pelicans off San Diego

Always photogenic, here are some photos of Brown Pelicans off San Diego on January 1, 2019.

These happened to be all adults photographed this day. They are in breeding plumage with the dark hind-neck, which is white in non-breeding plumage.

You will note some birds with bright red gular pouches. This is typical for breeding California Brown Pelicans. Gulf Coast and Atlantic birds generally have gray or brown gular pouches, rarely red. But I note some of these birds have green gular pouches, so I don't know what to make of this supposed difference. Maybe it's an "average difference," and not an "absolute difference"? I do notice, now, that the head is yellower on the birds with red pouches. Perhaps the birds with the dull pouches are just not yet fully in breeding plumage? Perhaps their pouches will yet turn red and the tops of their heads yellow?

Perfectly, the term for a group of pelicans is a "platoon" or "pouch."

Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.
Brown Pelican off San Diego. January 1, 2019. Greg Gillson.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Red-shouldered Hawk at Lake Wohlford

I took a couple of trips to Lake Wohlford this past fall and winter. I'll be preparing a birding site guide soon. In the mean time, please enjoy these photos of a Red-shouldered Hawk found there.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk. Lake Wohlford, California. December 2, 2018.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My 10 best bird photos of 2018

Welcome to my second annual list of best bird photos from the past year.

My best photos from 2017 here.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret. San Diego River mouth, San Diego, California. August 12, 2018.
This high key photo of Reddish Egret is the one I'm most proud of for the year. It captures this rather rare bird in a typical, but exciting, pose. More photos of this bird are here.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican. San Diego Bay, California. August 19, 2018.
This immature Brown Pelican was photographed from the boat as we were coming back from a pelagic trip. The bird is photographed at eye level with warm afternoon light. It generally meets all the qualifications of an "artistic" bird photo. More.

Common Ground-Dove
Common Ground-Dove. Borrego Springs, California. March 18, 2018.
It's not perfect. The shadows of the noon sunlight are a bit harsh. There's no obvious catchlight in the eye. But I like it, perhaps because the species is uncommon. I especially like the pattern of the feathers across the breast and neck. More.

Scaly-breasted Munia. Escondido, California. August 10, 2018.
I chose this slightly smaller-in-the frame composition over a very similar one cropped a bit closer where the bird appears larger. The background grasses fade pleasingly away and the reddish-brown plumage of the bird stands out against the overcast sky reflected in the waters of the pond. More.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California. April 15, 2018.
The dove is in more shadow than I would like, so I opened up the crop so the bird is small-in-frame in order to show more of the blooms on the ocotillo bush--a habitat shot. The mottled background of the out-of-focus desert hillside provides a nice texture contrast to the thorny bush. More.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird. Lake Hodges, California. January 21, 2018.
I have so many photos of hummingbirds, especially this common Anna's. Nevertheless, this is probably my best Anna's on a natural perch, even if it is a stereotypical bird-on-a-stick (BOAS). The focus, the light, the pose, and the background are all good. More.

Mountain Quail
Mountain Quail. Palomar Mountain, California. June 17, 2018.
Okay, maybe it's the backstory and not the photograph itself. The bird is in harsh sun and shade, aided by some reduction of contrast in post-production. But to encounter such a shy and reclusive bird right out in the open was a special treat. The backstory.

Great Egret high key
Great Egret. Lake Hodges, California. July 4, 2018.
My first high key photograph. Not bad for standing on the footbridge taking shots of herons and egrets as they flew up river against dark overcast skies. Practicing camera settings with my new camera. More about this photo and the High Key style.

Bell's Sparrow
Bell's Sparrow. Borrego Springs, California. January 7, 2018.
The small-in-frame and backlit sparrow is perched on a twisted creosote bush. The three main branches all lead the eye back to the bird in the center. This bird-in-habitat shot is more about the composition than the bird itself. The bird alone would be a poor shot. More.

Verdin. Borrego Springs, California. March 18, 2018.
The head angle looking back at me is good and there is a wonderfully pleasing out-of-focus pastel-colored gradient background that complements the soft gray plumage of the bird. More.

Honorable mentions:

Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern. Imperial Beach, California. July 29, 2018.
The photo of this tern is not exceptional, with somewhat harsh overhead light. The head is in sunlight and the bird is in focus, but there is no catchlight in the eye. The background is solid blue sky which some find boring. But Gull-billed Tern is rather uncommon in US waters. And this photo captures it well. More.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker. Mount Laguna, California. October 7, 2018.
A pleasant but not exceptional photo of Acorn Woodpecker in the shade of the mountain forest. The diagonal perch adds some visual interest. It might have done better in warm early morning sunlight. More.

Marbled Godwit
Marbled Godwit. Imperial Beach, California. September 30, 2018.
This is an easy bird to photograph on southern California beaches. And photogenic, too, with those long legs and impossibly long upturned bill. There's nothing wrong with this photo, it's just such a common subject in a common pose. More.

Phainopepla. Borrego Springs, California. March 18, 2018.
One of my favorite birds. If only its head had been turned more toward the camera!