Point Reyes 1: Some Creatures Great and Small

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California / Nature / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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Friday, April 26, 2019. Point Reyes Peninsula. One of the best things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is that no matter where you are, you’re not far from nature. This is a place where you can finish your morning chores and still make it to Point Reyes for an afternoon of hiking and photography, have supper at the Inverness Park Tap Room, and be home at a reasonable hour.

We went for the wildflowers — having sent a fellow blogger there a couple weeks earlier — and ended up with more than we expected. The wildflowers were bountiful, but more subtle and intimate than at the Carrizo Plain. My wife had a heyday — and not too much hay fever — shooting them.

I found myself more drawn to critters.

Why did the coyote cross the road?

To give me a better angle, of course. Pierce Point Road crests just before you get to Pierce Ranch on the northern end of the peninsula. After the crest is a spectacular panorama of the Pacific, the northern peninsula, Tule elk, the ranch, and right in the middle of the road, a very handsome coyote. I stopped to get a photo. He sauntered off the road into the meadow overlooking the ranch, leapt over the taller flowers until he was framed by the barn, and stopped and tuned and posed with a smile. Then wandered off to sniff the flowers.

Swallows are very difficult.

They’re fast. They’re agile. They change direction at the whim of the insects they’re chasing. And they’re small. Tiny. 600mm (equivalent) lens? Ha! What’s that blurry speck at the edge of the frame? A swallow? Might be. It’s hard to tell. Shoot. Swallow equals black smudge. Again and again and again. Until Friday. There must’ve been a convention. A small flock of four barn swallow conventioneers were taking turns bombarding a flower for its tasty contents, and as they approached their buffet, they slowed down and hovered. The four shots below of one of them were all taken within seven seconds. Although it may not look like it, they are in sequence. They kept at it — and I kept shooting — until a turkey vulture glided down from a ridge, altitude six feet, and sailed right across the swallows’ food fest, gave me the evil eye, and flew off. The swallows scattered. Wouldn’t you? But I got my shots and they got their goodies.

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Crows are easy.

But no less impressive because of it. Pierce Point Ranch is only about ten miles as the crow flies from Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed. This one was not making any effort to intimidate, however. This one was making repeated straight-line passes parallel to the trail so I could get a perfect shot. Why else?

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More to come.

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100–400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

The Author

California based fine-art photographer featuring abstract, impressionist, and minimalist seascapes and floral-based images. Fine-art photography can be seen at www.amagaphoto.com All original images on this blog are copyright 2018, 2019 Michael Scandling. All rights reserved. No images on this site may be copied, duplicated, reused, published, or re-purposed in any way without express permission from the copyright owner, Michael Scandling.

40 Comments

  1. Swallows are difficult for sure. I wouldn’t even attempt it but I am limited to my older 300 f/4 so most anything smaller than a heron is iffy at best. The second would be my favorite, hovering over the flower. Handsome coyote too. Looks a puppy dog.

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    • Thanks Steve. I decided that this year was, among many other things, my personal swallow challenge. It’s going well so far. The second is the one that earned a “holy (crap)” on initial image review. And Mr. Coyote does look like a pup. Wouldn’t go pet him though.

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  2. Coyotes are not welcome here on Kiawah as our top predator is the beloved bobcat and the coyotes kill them. They are our deer population control as well so we are very protective of them! Your swallow/flower image is a great get Michael!

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    • Thanks Tina. Here in Silicon Valley, coyotes travel in pack of up to a half dozen. They literally terrorize the neighborhood. And I, too, love bobcats. I’ll post a portrait one day. But in this context, to my eye this one is handsome. That second swallow image is the one that nearly stopped my heart.

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    • You’re very welcome. I see that you reaped quite the photographic bounty. We love Point Reyes and are lucky to live so close. Your fence shot in yesterday’s post was taken in one of our favorite spots on the road.

      I seem to have some sort of vibe that invites critters to pose for me. Gift horse. Mouth. Not gonna look. (Would take a picture though.)

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  3. I would have thought that the second shot was a brown hummingbird without the other shots. I have the opposite effect with creatures. They pose nice and pretty, perfectly content to allow me to observe them. That is until I grab the camera with the long lens and then they pull a Houdini. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Fantastic sightings and captures, Michael. Great shot of the swallow dipping down on the Angelica. We were walking the same paths this week. The coyote seems to be noticing you. 🙂

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  5. I saw your discussion with Melissa about the swallows and finally got myself over here. I certainly do wish I’d been interested in photography and nature when I lived in the Bay area, but I’m enjoying seeing through the eyes of people like you, now. The swallow photos are impressive. I managed to photograph a pair once, and gave myself a gold star just for keeping them within the frame.

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    • Thank you, Linda. I’m glad to have you aboard. Enjoy the voyage. The swallow photos are a small personal victory. They are indeed very hard to capture. I do believe you earned that gold star, fair and square. I hope you explore of the rest of the blog. Much variety. I see from your bio page that many of your favorites are also my favorites.

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    • In my previous reply I read your comments while I was in the backseat of a car bouncing along a country track and thought that your “does look like he’s posing” was “doesn’t look like he’s posing.” Now my reply probably makes more sense.

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  6. Being a fan of Corvids, I do love that view of a crow. And the second swallow image is amazing – I don’t think I’ve noticed them pick insects off wildflowers like that, but it makes sense that they would. Sometimes blurred bird wings can work well, maybe in a large group of them. It’s a challenge in any case.

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      • Swallows are so graceful….but I love the sparkle on the crow’s plumage, and that tiny hook to the beak, and the angle is exciting.

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      • The crows were amazing. There were three or four of them taking turns flying up and down the path in a perfectly straight line about six feet to the side of the path at an altitude of about five feet. It’s almost as if they were saying, “Get the shot? If not, Jake will be by to give you another try. If you still miss, I’ll be back.” Corvids are really smart.

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