Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pinnacles National Park

Pongo Breaks In His New Gear

March 30, 2014


  • Mono -- Hymn to the Immortal Wind
  • Heatmiser -- Mic City Son
  • The Decemberists -- The King Is Dead
Pongo got some new hiking gear, so I thought we'd break it in with a trip to one of his favorite places: Pinnacles National Park.

Pongo Busts Out His New Backpack
Stylish, ain't he?  If you can't tell, that's a big cheesy grin he's wearing on his face.  He loves spending the day at Pinnacles.

Acorn Woodpecker -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
Nuttall's Woodpecker
We don't get to see a whole lot of the park, unfortunately.  Dog are only allowed on the roads and campground.  Pongo doesn't seem to mind.  We walk around the campground and down the road a ways and he's happy as a clam.

We're used to having the place pretty much to ourselves, but Spring is Pinnacles busy season.  About half of the camping spots were occupied.  That's not too bad, but we didn't see a single rabbit or deer, and I'm sure it had to do with the extra human activity of the tourist season.

We saw a number of acorn woodpeckers and a single nuttall's woodpecker.  He was pecking a hole into a tree big enough for him to climb into.  He was building a home, I guess.

He.  She.  It could have been a lady woodpecker for all I know.

The Road We Walk On -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
California Thrasher
Pongo's taste for adventure has increased dramatically over the last year.  He doesn't seem ready to leave at any given point.  That's a big change from when I first started taking him out.  He used to get freaked out after an hour or two and I'd have to take him home.  I don't know if it was too much stimulus or he was worried about never getting back home or what.  That's not a problem anymore.

I saw a couple of condors flying high above the hills behind the visitor's center.  They were mixed in with a bunch of turkey vultures.  It's impossible for me to pick them out from that distance with the naked eye.  I could tell once I'd zoomed in on them with my camera, though.  The markings on the underside of the wings are very different for vultures and condors.  The pictures I got were pretty bad, but you can at least tell it's a condor in the photos.  I'm just glad I don't have to make my living doing this kind of thing.
California Condor -- Pinnacles National Park, CA

Monday, March 24, 2014

Marin Headlands & Lake Merritt

March 23, 2014

I didn't have the opportunity for a big adventure this weekend.  I was able to get away for a few hours, though, so I headed over to Marin to visit Rodeo Lagoon.

Rodeo Beach, CA
I read that there are often a lot of birds on the lagoon.  Not so, at least not when I got there.  There were a few canada geese and mallards.  A common merganser made an appearance at one point.  I saw a few surf scoters out on the ocean, but they were too far out to photograph.  So, I just spent a little time relaxing on the beach.  I watched the surfers.  The waves were big and they seemed to be having a great time out there.

Great Blue Heron -- Rodeo Lagoon, CA
I decided to stop at Lake Merritt on my way home.  I was in the mood for getting some bird pictures and Rodeo Lagoon had proven to be something of a disappointment in that regard.  It was a lovely day at the beach, mind you.  I just wanted more birds.

Hank -- Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
Hank was there, of course.  He's a white pelican from Klamath Falls, OR.  He was injured up there a few years ago and sent down to the lake to live.  I wasn't aware of this until recently, but Lake Merritt is the oldest wildlife reserve in the country.  The folks there take good care of him, feeding him fish, which you can witness first-hand if you're lucky.  I get the impression Hank is pretty happy, all things considered.

Greater Scaup -- Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
Lesser Scaup
I've gotten better at telling greater scaups and lesser scaups apart.  Greater scaups always look angry.  Lesser scaups usually look either a little dopey or "cool" in an Arthur Fonzerelli kind of way.  Simple, right?

Black-crowned Night Heron -- Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

Eared Grebe

A horned grebe and an eared grebe were sporting breeding plumage out on the lake.  They'll be heading off North soon, I suppose, along with most of the other waterfowl.  Not Hank, of course, he can't fly.

 Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yosemite National Park

Pongo Discovers the Sierras

March 16, 2014


  • Okkerville River -- The Silver Gymnasium
  • Sun Kill Moon -- Benji
  • The Band -- Live at the Academy of Music, 1971
  • The Flaming Lips -- At War with the Mystics
  • Sleater-Kinney -- Hot Rocks
It's been about a year since I've been to Yosemite Valley.  March is a great time to go.  It's not too crowded.  The weather is usually nice.  The waterfalls are flowing.  I prefer the valley with a nice blanket of snow on it, but that just wasn't in the cards this year.  March will do nicely, though.

California Mule Deer -- Yosemite National Park, CA
Ladykiller Strikes a Pose
I brought Pongo along for this trip.  He'd never been to the mountains before.  I was hoping to bring him to the valley for a snow trip, but there just wasn't a whole lot of snow this year.

As usual, Pongo worked his magic with the ladies.  He flirted with the rangers at the gate.  He gave them both a big grin and they though he looked very happy, which of course he was.  I told them he was excited to be on an adventure, which was absolutely true.  What I didn't tell them was that he's a hopeless flirt with women and he was working them over like he does all his other conquests.  He's shameless.

I should rent him out to desperate single guys in San Francisco.  Meet women in the city!  Money back guarantee!  I'd make a killing.

Upper Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
Mourning Cloak
I took Pongo on a four mile hike to Mirror Lake.  As usual, the "lake" itself was not impressive.  It's a fickle body of water.  It's completely dried up in summer, basically just a big cat litter box.  In December, when there's snow on the ground and the water is clear it's easy to see how it got its name.  It can be beautiful.  On this day in March it came off as just a slow moving, wide stretch of Tenaya Creek, which is basically what it is.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA
Notice how it looks more like Fall than Spring or Winter in photo of Mirror Lake?  It was like that throughout the valley.  Some of the trees were still clinging to last summer's remaining dried leaves, and there were plenty on the ground as well.  It looks like Yosemite is still waiting for a good storm to blow through and get Spring rolling.  It doesn't look like that's going to happen, though.  It's going to be an interesting year.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA
The high point for Pongo on this trip was getting face to face to a deer.  Well, maybe four feet away from being face to face anyway.

I was taking pictures of Half Dome on a paved trail near a meadow.  I saw the deer from about thirty yards away.  We stopped to watch it.  Pongo is always into the wildlife on these adventures.  He's very good at chasing little critters out from under bushes and he gets excited when he sees birds flying or hears ducks quacking.  He doesn't quite know what to think about deer.  We've had one other close encounter with a deer on a paved trail at Pinnacles, and it froze Pongo in his tracks.  He was confounded until the deer turned and ran into the bushes, at which point Pongo decided it must be prey and tried to chase it.

I didn't want to spook the deer, so we just stood where we were.  I thought the deer would move off when it saw us, but it did the opposite.  It walked right up to us.  Either it was hoping we'd feed it or it was yet another lovely lady caught in Pongo's web of love.  I have to admit, it seemed to be more interested in Pongo than me.  Pongo was pretty brave until the deer made a move to cross the path.  At that point, Pongo moved from in front of me to behind me and watched the deer from around my legs.  Big chicken.  

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
El Capitan
There's something about black and white photography and Yosemite.  Over and over again, I find myself preferring the black and white variations of the pictures.  I think part of it has to do with how receptive the images are to a lot of contrast in monochrome.  Ansel Adams used a lot of contrast in his Yosemite photography, at least in what I'm familiar with.  The big rocks lend themselves to it, I guess.  I'm no Ansel Adams, for damn sure, but I do like how some of these shots look in black and white, especially considering I was shooting in relatively high sun.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, CA

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline

I've got some odds and ends here from various sessions at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline in February.  Nothing too exciting, I think.  The photos are in no particular order.

Western Meadowlark -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
I saw a lot of Western Meadowlarks in February.  Sometimes up to a dozen at a time near the burrowing owl dens.

Lesser Scaup -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
I like how scaups show their true colors in good light.  Purple for the lessers and green for the greaters.

Canada Geese -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
Snowy Egret -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
I'm not sure why I find that picture of the egrets so amusing.  It's the hairstyles, perhaps?

Black-tailed Jackrabbit -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
Burrowing Owl -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
Snowy Egret -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA
Northern Harrier -- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, CA

Redwood National Park

Day Four:  Heading Home

February 24, 2014

The trip home was rather uneventful.  I took I-5 down to Grant's Pass then cut over to 101 on the 199 stretch of the Redwood Highway.  It took a little longer than going down I-5 to 505, but the coastline and redwoods make it worthwhile.

Smith River, CA
Highway 199 follows the Smith River as it nears the coast.  That's a rugged little stream.

Crescent City, CA
I love the redwoods.  I struggle to find good way to photograph them, though.  Their size doesn't usually translate to photos.  Although the size of the trees is impressive, it's the overall ambiance that is their ultimate pull.  There is a living peacefulness in these woods that is unmatched by any other place I've been.  In photos, all that can be seen are trees and ferns.

Redwood Highway, CA
The regular elk herds were present at Orick and Prairie Creek.  Their antlers are coming in for the year.  The big bulls' antlers are already larger than a yearling's.  The males and females are all mixed together right now.  Later, of course, they'll break up into harems and the bulls will duke it out for the lovely ladies.

Roosevelt Elk -- Elk Meadow, Redwood National Park, CA
I made one more stop at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge as the sun went down.  I didn't get a chance to look around much, but it looks like it's worth a visit.

Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA