Monday, January 26, 2015

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

January 25, 2015

Pongo and I made a trip to San Luis National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday.  It's one of the places I like to visit when I'm not moving very well.  The auto tours are long and varied.  Tule elk can be seen on every visit, although good photo opportunities are not guaranteed.  The bird life is abundant at all times of year, but this place really shines in winter.

Northern Harrier -- San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
A lot of times, as in the photos above, the wildlife is a little too far away to get good photos. Even so, I find these photos appealing.  There's something comforting about the drab colors of the tule reeds, which also provide a direct connection to the Native American past of this area.  These reeds were used by the tribes for making shelters, baskets, mats and even boats.  I wish the Native American culture was celebrated more in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

Northern Shoveler -- San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
I broke the auto focus on my 250mm lens last weekend.  While definitely a bummer, it gives me an opportunity to work on my manual focus technique until I make a move on a new lens.  I don't really see any sense in trying to fix this lens, the cost would probably be comparable to replacing it with a similar model and I think I want to move up to a longer, fixed length lens.  This one just doesn't quite have the reach I'd like.

Red-tailed Hawk -- San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
I've taken my best hawk photos at this refuge.  I got a few nice opportunities yesterday.  I saw dozens of hawks while driving the auto tours.  I was amazed to see so many in one area.  I expect to see a lot of hawks and harriers here, but yesterday's numbers were astounding.

San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
Tundra Swan
San Luis is a good place for seeing tundra swans and sandhill cranes.  The tundra swans were close enough for some OK pictures, unfortunately the cranes were keeping their distance from the roads.  I didn't see any deer or coyotes on this trip.  I think the presence of hunters has them maintaining low profiles.  In the summer it's not uncommon to see multiple coyotes on a single day.  Some people consider coyotes to be nuisance animals, but I think they're pretty amazing.

Red-tailed Hawk -- San Luis Wildlife Refuge, CA
I saw a barn owl out here once, so I always try to wait until the sun goes down before heading home in hopes of seeing another.  No such luck yesterday.  Still, Pongo and I had a nice relaxing time driving around the loops and seeing what we could see.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bixby Bridge

You Can't See a Dream

January 18, 2015

I was thinking of doing a series on Pacific Coast bridges in my other blog and realized I don't have any photos of Bixby Bridge in my collection, so I decided I needed to fix that before proceeding with that series.  I set out to rectify that yesterday.

Great Egret & Brandt's Cormorant -- Pacific Grove, CA
Great Egret
I got off to a late start, arriving in Pacific Grove around 3:00 in the afternoon.  I'd have time to drive along the bay and hit the butterfly sanctuary before heading down to Bixby Bridge, which is about fifteen miles South of Carmel.  Fog was kind of settling in over the town as I arrived.  It wasn't enough to make the pictures particularly moody, unfortunately.

 Pacific Grove, CA
The butterfly sanctuary turned out to be a bummer for a couple of reasons.  First, there weren't many many butterflies there.  Monsanto has been a pretty good job of killing them off with its Round Up weed killer.  Monarchs are fussy little things that feed almost exclusively on milkweed, which Round Up is very effectively killing off across the country.  As of last year, the butterfly numbers were down ninety percent from twenty years ago.  This year's count is 16,300, which I think is up from last year but still very far below the six figure counts of the past.

Monarchs -- Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Pacific Grove, CA
The second bummer was that I broke my 250mm lens.  Well, it still kind of works.  My tripod fell over while I was setting up for a shot earlier in the day and discovered in the grove that the auto focus no longer works on that lens.  It's the cheaper of my two lenses so if one was going to break I'm glad it was that one.  There's some comfort there, I guess.  I could have done without that, though.

 Black-tailed Deer -- Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Pacific Grove, CA
After visiting the butterfly grove, I headed down to Bixby Bridge.

Big Sur, CA
How many bridges have songs written about them?  More than I'm aware of, I suspect.  Death Cab for Cutie's "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is one of my favorites of theirs.  It tells something of a story, the writer's disappointment with not finding the soul of Jack Kerouac beneath the bridge.  Sometimes we build things up and can't help but be disappointed when we encounter the reality of these things.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, CA
Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, CA
Rainbow Beach, Big Sur, CA

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Presidio Golf Course

January 3, 2015

My son took me golfing at the Presidio as a Christmas present.  I couldn't have asked for a better present.

Boer Goats -- Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
The Presidio has its own little herd of goats.  They're used to clear out unwanted and invasive vegetation in those hard-to-reach places on the golf course.  Isn't that cool?  Using goats like this has actually become a common sight in the Bay Area.  They're very good at clearing steep hillsides of grass, and there's even folks you can call who will bring their "fleet of 800+ environmentally friendly, self-propelled weed eaters" to your back yard to clear out all the undergrowth.

Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
The Presidio Golf Course is old, at least for the West Coast.  The original nine hole were built in 1895, then expanded to eighteen holes in the 1920s.  The layout is not too long but it's difficult, with 13 uphill holes and greens that aren't designed to catch a ball like most modern greens.  It never feels unfair, though.  There seems to be danger on both sides on most holes, but the fairways are wide enough to contain well struck shots and there are no water hazards.

Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
I wasn't very pleased with most of the action shots I took.  Most of the tee boxes were in the shade and since carts were restricted to cart paths I wasn't able to move quite as freely as I'd have liked for good angles.  I was using my wide angle lens and the sports setting on my camera, which with my other lens shoots from 1/1600s to 1/2000s.  The fastest shutter speed I had yesterday was 1/500s, which isn't quite fast enough.  I'm going to have to figure out what was going on.

Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
The tenth hole has one of the few sunny tee boxes.  The photos from that hole give a sense of how pretty this course can be.

Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA
Presidio Golf Course, San Francisco, CA