Monday, March 30, 2015

Point Reyes National Seashore

Bark Bark Bark!

March 29, 2015

Pongo and I spent the afternoon at Point Reyes on Sunday.  The weather was incredible.  It was warm, not hot, with a light ocean breeze.  There were a few clouds over the ocean to keep photos in that direction interesting.  Of course, there were cows to be seen and even a few elk in an area I'd never seen them before.

Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
California Poppy
It's wildflower season in California.  In good years entire hillsides can turn purple or blue or vibrant yellow.  That's not happening so much this year.  It's the drought, I'm sure.  Still, there are nice little patches of color scattered about.  California poppies dot the grasslands.  I try not to take this time of year for granted, even if the showings aren't as overwhelming as I've seen in previous seasons.

Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
The story of this trip wasn't the flowers, though, it was Pongo and the cows.  Pongo loves cows.  He's become good at spotting them while we drive.  He usually knows cows are in the vicinity before I do.  He smells them.  Once he's caught their scent he'll scan the hillsides or whatever it is we're passing to spot them.  It used to be that he'd rarely see them.  He finds them better on his own and has even learned to follow mu finger when I point to them.  He'll hop from the front seat to the back to watch them as we pass by.

Pongo & the Cows -- Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
He sometimes gets a little nervous when we stop to look and the animals are close.  On this trip we stopped about six feet away from a cow near a fence.  Pongo was fascinated, as usual, and as often happens the cow was interested in Pongo as well.  Pongo and the cow looked at each other for a few minutes, and eventually Pongo couldn't take it anymore.  He barked three times at the cow then dove down below the window and refused to look back.  What a chicken.

Holstein Cow -- Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
After visiting the holsteins, we drove down to South Beach.  Dogs are allowed on the beach if they're on a leash.  So, obviously we took a little walk on the beach.  The surf looked pretty angry.  It was definitely not a good scene for swimming or surfing.  We walked close to the water but I was a little nervous about the angry waters so I didn't let Pongo out to anything above his knees.

South Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
South Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
Sail Jellyfish
The sand was covered in areas with little sail jellyfish that had been blown ashore.  They're not really jellyfish, I guess.  I've read sometimes they can cover a beach pretty thoroughly and they smell as they decay.  This wasn't anything like that.  I read that they normally float on the surface and are blown by the wind.  normally the winds blow them out to sea, but on certain years the winds shift and they get blown ashore instead.  I guess that's what kind of year they're having this year.

South Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
Finally, was we were heading out I spotted some tule elk on a hill between the North and South beaches.  I've never seen elk in this area before?  Are they commonly seen here?  My impression was that the elk were only out on the reserve at Tomales Point.  I guess not.  I know the local dairy farmers aren't too crazy about the elk.  Well, I like 'em.  Pongo does too, although these guys were a bit too far for Pongo to spot.

Tule Elk -- Point Reyes National Seashore, CA

Monday, March 23, 2015

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

March 22, 2015


  • Elliot Smith -- From a Basement on a Hill
Pongo and I got a late start on Sunday, so we stayed fairly close to home.  We went to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, which I always enjoy visiting even though I've never had an outstanding wildlife viewing experience there.  It's normally been a low-key two or three hours hanging out and taking the auto tour to see the ducks and blackbirds.  Yesterday was no different.

Great Egret -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA
One thing I can say is that there always seem to be a lot of great egrets there.  I'm not sure why that is, but I tend to get my best great egret photos from this place.

Great-tailed Gackle -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA
We saw this gackle alone in a tree singing his heart out.  Such strange sounds come out of this bird's mouth.

Red-tailed Hawk -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA
Western Meadowlark -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA
The strangest sight was these two cormorants sitting on a power pole like hawks.  I've never seen such a thing.  Crazy birds.

Double-crested Cormorant -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Salinas National Wildlife Refuge & Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

March 15, 2015


  • Led Zeppelin -- Led Zeppelin IV
  • Pearl Jam -- Yield
It was a busy week at work that rolled into the weekend, but on Sunday I was able to take off for the afternoon and headed down South to take a few photos at Salinas National Wildlife Refuge and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  It was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Salinas National Wildlife Refuge, CA
I didn't have a lot of time to spend at the Salinas refuge.  It was a spur of the moment stop.  I hiked around a trails that loops through the hunting area.  It's off season and relatively quiet.  If you want to get away from crowds this is a nice place to go.  I saw one other person the entire time.  I also saw a river otter, but he disappeared in the river before I could take a photo.

Salinas National Wildlife Refuge, CA
It's a pretty area.  I'll have to go back when I have time to explore the place more.  There's no auto tour or anything here, you've pretty much got to hoof it everywhere.

Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
As usual, Point Lobos held nothing back.  It was a beautiful day and the animals were putting on some entertaining shows.

Anna's Hummingbird --  Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
 Headland Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
The sea lion population was down.  They weren't out on the islands, either, they were right on the beach and rocks of Sea Lion Cove.  I'm not sure why they decided to move to the mainland, but it meant the trail down to the cove was closed.  That's OK, it keeps people from harassing them and sadly they need the protection.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
The gray whales are migrating up the coast.  I saw a lot of them offshore.  I need to go on a whale watching tour.  That has to be a lot of fun.  I've only been out on the ocean in a boat once and boy did I get sick.  I'll have to prepare better for the next trip.

Gray Whale -- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
Gibson Beach, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pinnacles National Park

Camping with Pongo

March 7 & 8, 2015

Photography tends to take a back seat when I take Pongo camping.  I tend to focus more on taking care of Pongo, making sure he's not getting into trouble but can still explore his environment as much as is allowed.

Pongo -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
Trips to Pinnacles aren't about photography whether or not we're camping.  Pongo loves this park, but he's able to see very little of it.  The only places dogs are allowed is the paved road (there's basically one) and the campground.  So, even when we're not camping there we spend the bulk of our time as the campground.

Pinnacles National Park, CA
Pongo loves that campground.  Wildlife is abundant, even when it's fairly crowded.  Rabbits, raccoons, deer, lizards and a wide variety of birds can be seen and heard.  We've also seen bobcats and coyotes nearby.  On this trip we were serenaded by frogs all night.  That might seem like it would be annoying but it was actually pleasant.  Pongo is fascinated by the sights and sounds of the animals that live in the park, it's the reason we keep going back.  I certainly don't need another picture of an acorn woodpecker.

Turkey Vulture -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
The turkey vultures were putting on a big show on Sunday morning.  There were about twenty of them circling and congregating on the dead tree near the visitor's center.  I was hoping to find a condor in their midst but no such luck.

Turkey Vulture -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
Turkey Vulture -- Pinnacles National Park, CA
We spotted a coyote in the meadow near the entrance to the park as we were leaving.  We've heard coyotes at the park before, but this was the first one we've actually seen.

Coyote -- Pinnacles National Park, CA