I’m still engaged in the shop these days but I thought I’d share these two images of frequent fliers along our coast here at Sea Ranch. The large heron in flight is a Great Blue Heron and we see them quite frequently along the bluffs and in the coastal meadows. The second image is of a Black Oystercatcher foraging along the mussel beds at Del Mar Point near the State Ecological Reserve. I photographed these birds back in March as spring was getting under way. These birds, while quite common here, are nevertheless beautiful to behold. The oystercatchers may not have the spectrum of colors of the GBH, but they have no trouble getting noticed due to their constant high-pitched chattering (similar to that of a Killdeer). All part of the symphony of sounds and sights here along our coast.
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens with 2x teleconverter.
I’ve been a bit busy in the shop these days so it’s taken me a while to get back to my blog. Back in the end of May I took an afternoon to scout out some cormorants during their nesting season. Specifically, these are Pelagic Cormorants, and they build their nests precariously on the rugged cliff faces along the coast. The first image shows a nesting pair. Their nests are usually easy to spot as there is usually a rather large swath of guano coating the rocks below the nest (locals call it “white washing”…really?)
I subsequently headed down to the intertidal zone to see what else I could see and shot some nice images of mussel beds being showered with the incoming tide. I also spotted this black oyster catcher feeding among the mussel beds. And before we leave the mussel beds I thought I’d share this image of an incoming tidal surge heading into shore.
Lastly, just a couple of final images of meadow grasses (bunny tails) and a rather interesting prehistoric looking sandstone formation on the edge of the bluff. It was a fun afternoon as I went through several different environments within a very small area. I just never know what I’ll find which makes the journey that much more interesting.
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens with a Nikkor 2X telextender; monopod.
Posted in Beach, Birds, Coastal meadows, Geologic Formations, Marine life, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Uncategorized, Wildflowers
Tagged Black Oystercatcher, Bunny Talils, Pelagic Cormorant
Over the last week or so the fog has moved in and out off the ocean at various times throughout the day. The light was very interesting because the fog was really just the marine layer which has a very low ceiling and allows the sun to filter through. I’ve come to really love these foggy days and thought I would venture down to the Black Point Barn adjacent to the Sea Ranch Lodge.
This barn and the small cabin structure near the Lodge are the only remaining structures from the 1870’s development at Bihler’s Landing. During Prohibition, bootleggers would often offload their ship’s illegal cargo onshore and store it in this barn. The structure deteriorated after the 1920’s until after The Sea Ranch was developed and the Black Point Barn was restored to the condition shown in the following images.
I love the light on these structures and I decided to use a 70-200mm telephoto lens to compress the distance and strengthen the effect of the fog on the scene. I also chose to soften the focus slightly in post-processing to give the images a more old-time look. I’ve photographed these structures many times and each time these old buildings tell a story about the land, the place and a time long ago. I’ll keep coming back.
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200 mm f2.8 lens; Induro monopod.
Its Memorial Day Weekend here at Sea Ranch and the tourists abound. Of course, more than about three people on the bluff trail at any one time seem like a crowd. So with the combination of high winds and tourists on the bluff trail, I decided to head to the woods.
There are several areas in the forests of Sea Ranch where sag ponds are accessible. Basically these bog-like ponds are remnants of geologic activity along the San Andreas Fault. Over the millennia movement along the axis of the fault creates these deep “scars” in the landscape which capture rainfall and remain wet most of the year. The wet soils are a perfect environment for corn lilies, shown in the first image. These lilies bloom in the winter with small clusters of white flowers, but in the summer only the tell-tale green corn-like leaves appear. This plant, while common around here, appears virtually nowhere else. What a treat for us!
In the last image I show a fairly common Clintonia which just seemed to ask to be photographed as a nice single specimen.
One of the nice things about the solitude and quiet of a walk in the forest is the ability to search your mind a little more deeply about the moment you’re in. It made me realize that the reason for all the tourists is in fact Memorial Day…a day in which we give homage to our fallen soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom to enjoy such moments as a walk in the woods. So it is to them, our brothers and sisters in arms who gave the ultimate sacrifice that I dedicate my humble offering today.
Ordinarily I would be a bit hesitant to glorify an invasive, non-native plant like ice plant, but sometimes you just have to take a breath and enjoy what’s right in front of you. I also thought that it would be a nice way to send some flowers to all the moms out there, being so close to Mother’s Day and all.
This time of year this section along the bluff at Black Point here on Sea Ranch is in full bloom from several colors of ice plant, and some poppies as well. The colors seem unreal, almost iridescent. Ice plant is native to South Africa and has invaded the California coast from top to bottom. It displaces many native species but can also serve to stabilize embankments, although there are almost always native alternatives available for bank stabilization. It’s difficult to remove ice plant once established and sometimes you just have to marvel at its bright colors and take in its beauty.
So, an early Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there and no letters please from the California Native Plant Society. It’s Mother’s Day…deal with it!
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens
We use a sheep flock here at Sea Ranch as a way of managing our fuel load (dry grasses and other natural combustibles). Once a year they make their way around to our meadow and munch away for a couple of days before moving on. I haven’t photographed them in a few years and, quite frankly, they were so noisy it was hard to ignore them. So I took my camera out back and had a fun afternoon watching these lovely ladies at work.
They really have such unique faces and expressions it’s hard to pass up sharing their unique beauty with the rest of the world. These are just a few of the little lovelies who shared our meadow for a day or two. They moved this morning and I miss them already, although their scent still seems to linger. Such is life in paradise!
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, monopod
It’s seal pupping season on the north coast so I thought I’d head down to Tide Pool Beach here on Sea Ranch. There’s a nice spot on the bluff from which to photograph moms and pups without disturbing them too much. Unfortunately when I got there I saw a pup that had recently expired lying on the beach. California has recently experienced a rash of dead or abandoned seal pups due to inadequate food resources available for moms to feed/nurse their pups. I have no idea about the cause of that little guy’s demise, but I could also see that he was about to become a part of Mother Nature’s great circle of life.
There were two turkey vultures there with only one thing on their mind. Unfortunately for the vultures there also was a pair of rather feisty ravens who had other ideas about their own place in Mother Nature’s circle of life.
As you can see from the images above, there is a considerable size difference between these birds. Nevertheless, one of the ravens took charge of the operation by grabbing a firm hold on one of the Vulture’s main wing feathers and had no intention of letting go. The vulture got highly annoyed at this kind of treatment from such a smaller rival. The vulture began spinning around as to try to grasp the raven with its large bill, but all he managed to do was to give the raven quite a ride. You can see from the images that the raven is completely off the ground yet still holding on firmly to the vulture. The raven took several more spins on the end of the vulture’s wing until the vulture finally gave up. After the ravens had their fill they left the vulture to lick his wounds (and his pride) and to clean up what was left.
I thought I would complete the circle of life theme with one final image, a mother and her pup bonding for life at the ocean’s edge. Life does go on; survival of the fittest…and apparently the most tenacious.
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens; monopod.
The Mendonoma Coast is the land of micro-climates. We live in what some of the locals here call “The Banana Belt”, where it can be totally fogged in at one location and in full sun just a few miles down the road. Such was the day last week when I hit the road to capture some beach shots. It was a little foggy where I was when I started out and as I headed north I noticed that the fog was lifting, the sky was cloudless and the wind was really picking up. As I looked south I saw that the fog was still clinging to the coast so I headed down-coast.
I decided to try Salt Point State Park which is only about a half hour south of Sea Ranch. The first two images were taken close to CA-1 in the late afternoon. The sun was poking through a little and it made for a nice mood where the glistening ocean mixed with foggy cliffs. The third image was taken on the edge of a bluff top where this nice little California Poppy was just hanging over the cliff. I just couldn’t pass it up.
On my way back home I decided to check out one of my favorite hedgerows to see how the fog may have transformed it. As I may have mentioned before, these Monterey Cypress hedgerows were planted by the original sheep ranchers as wind screens. The original landscape architects of Sea Ranch not only kept them but built a community around them. They are a signature part of Sea Ranch today. As these images suggest, the hedgerows can be a magical place to visit and walk through.
Enjoy wherever you are!
Equipment: Nikon D3s; Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 lens; Oben Tripod
Posted in Beach, Coastal meadows, Landscapes, Sea Ranch, Sea Ranch Photography, Seascapes, Sonoma County, Wildflowers
Tagged Banana Belt, Cypress Hedgerow, microclimate, Salt Point State Park