Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

Babies Are Growing Fast!

Leave a comment

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA, May 13 – June 1, 2018

The baby cormorants are exploding in size, seemingly overnight. There are a few small newly hatched chicks but most are nearly the height of their parents. They do not have flight feathers yet but they sure like to exercise their underdeveloped wings. Still covered in fuzzy gray feathers with some white spots they are quickly darkening in color and will soon be sleek. The rock ledge is crowded with families and most birds stand nearby, but not in, their now too small nests.

I also discovered two nesting California Gulls among the blooming iceplants just above the cormorants. I have yet to see any baby gulls. These gull are actually the biggest predator of cormorant eggs and small chicks. Now most chicks are larger than the gulls.

I will include photos from May 13, May 18, May 27 and June 1. You can see the striking difference in the size of the babies. In one photo from May 18 you will see a brown immature Brandt’s cormorant from last years brood. It’s the only juvenile I have seen while visiting this site.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without my permission. Thank you!

 

This gallery contains 22 photos

More Wildflowers; Spring 2018

Leave a comment

Wildflowers Spring 2018

Here is this year’s photographic crop of wildflowers that I have not yet posted. Most of these flowers were seen in open space on Skyline Blvd., Quail Hollow County Park, along Alba Road where I live, Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, and various other locations I found myself wandering with my camera.

Please do not reproduce without permission. Thank you!

This gallery contains 89 photos

The Babies are Hatching!

Leave a comment

May 12, 2018, West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA

The eggs at the Brandt’s Cormorant colony are beginning to hatch! Gray, reptile looking chicks are showing their heads and begging for food. Many of the pairs are still incubating eggs. Both parents spend time on the eggs/ hatchlings. Photos a bit blurry, but you can see the babies.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission!

 

 

This gallery contains 12 photos


Leave a comment

THE SEA – The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip Part 3

The Sea – The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip
April 29-May 4, 2018

The sea pretty much speaks for herself so I won’t write much here.

But I will mention the unusual formations at Bowling Ball Beach, south of Point Arena. When there is a minus low tide – which we had – the famed “bowling balls” (about the size of large beach balls) with their “bowling lanes” emerge from their watery home. They are naturally occurring geologic formations called concretions. We went twice, on a sunny morning and a foggy morning. I few of the shots were long exposure.

Ocean

I am in love with Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is

always grief more than enough,
a heart-load for each of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all the blast and welcome
of her sorrowless, salt self.

– Mary Oliver, from Red Bird

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission . . . from me!


Leave a comment

THE FAUNA – The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip

THE FAUNA
The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip Part 2
April 29 – May 4, 2018

We did not see an abundance of wildlife this trip. There were brief sightings of quail, hawks, pelicans, ravens and other birds. Chris spotted a surfacing whale. I later saw a spout. Deer were relatively plentiful but I did not photograph them.

Included in photo gallery:

Whimbrel. Very few shorebirds were at the many beaches we visited. Below you will see some whimbrels from Wright’s Beach.

Pelagic Cormorants. On a rugged rock off Wright’s Beach were several cormorants nesting on the sheer vertical surface. You can also see the tafoni formations in the rock, web-like holes in the stone.

Osprey. Three osprey danced in the air, whistling and flying acrobatically at Bowling Ball Beach. As soon as I got my telephoto lens they began to disperse. I have only a few long distance shots.

Harbor Seals. These were our fauna highlight. At a beach at Sea Ranch (now closed to human) a variety of adult seals and their pups lay mostly inert on the beach. Many pups were nursing. Harbor seals are easily identified by their spots. Some look like dalmatians, others like leopards or appaloosa. They come in a great variety of colors as well: near white, gray, black, brown, tan. We stood on the bluff above the cove and I would have stayed longer, but the wind was so fierce I could barely operate my camera.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission.

 

THE FLORA – The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip

Leave a comment

THE FLORA
The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip
April 29 – May 4, 2018

Last week we left for a few days to visit Chris’s sister in Gualala, California. On the way up we stayed at Wright’s Beach Campground in Sonoma Coast State Park, one of the few places in California you can camp on the beach. From there we spent two days in Gualala and then headed north for two nights at Russian Gulch State Park. We’d hoped to camp at Navarro Beach, another on-the-beach campground, but it was closed for the season.

I am dividing photographs into three installments: The Flora, The Fauna, The Sea. One photographic goal was, as always, to capture spring wildflowers. There are numerous flowers in this collection for which I have either forgotten their name or I didn’t know it to begin with. Over time I will return and correct this omission. If you know the name of a flower I have not labeled, please let me know. I played with macro shots, so some items were nothing special with the naked eye but appear impressive in an enlarged form. A few flowers were as small as 1/4 inch.

The flower I was most determined to see was the showy pink Pacific Rhododendron. It seemed elusive until leaving Mendocino when I saw a few shrubs near the highway. I insisted Chris pull over so I could run down the road with my camera. Supposedly there are wild rhododendrons in our part of the Santa Cruz Mountains. However, I have yet to see them here.

We endured some typical spring northern coastal California weather. A few days of sunny, bright, very windy and cold weather followed by a few days of cloudy, foggy, not so windy, cold weather.

We have a book to recommend to you: California Coastal Access Guide from the California Coastal Commission. Well organized, useful maps, plentiful photographs, good basic information about the many, many wonderful places you can get to the ocean from the Oregon border to Mexico.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission from Carla.

 

This gallery contains 58 photos


Leave a comment

Colonies of Nesting Cormorants

Colonies of Nesting Cormorants
April 2018

I’ve been periodically visiting two nesting colonies of two different species of cormorants: Brandt’s and Pelagic. There is a third species found in our area – the Double-crested Cormorant – but I haven’t seen many around here and I certainly have not seen their nests. (See photos of them from Morro Bay: https://carlabrennan.com/2015/05/24/april-2015-%e2%80%a2-morro-bay-ca/.) Each species has their own preference for nest location and material.

Brandt’s Cormorant. They nest close together on rocky islands or headlands, often on the flat top of a rock face. On my most recent visit, most of the nests were completed with one parent sitting patiently on top as if incubating. When I was there in February, the cormorants were just standing around small disorganized piles of seagrass waiting to steal some from an absent neighbor.

I did catch a pair in the act of mating. (See below.) Another cormorant was vigorously doing it’s mating display. (Head up, tail up, wings up and curled.) So I guess this means that some birds were not yet impregnated. I had hoped to get a glimpse of eggs but either they haven’t been laid yet or were obscured by the sitting bird. There are about 25 nests.

Despite the wild and remote look of this nesting site, it is actually just below a parking lot and scenic lookout. I took the photos from a heavily used sidewalk next to a road and houses.

Brandt’s Cormorants are most easily identified by their bright blue breeding throat patch. They also have a few spindly white feathers on their back and cheeks. (Here they are in February: https://carlabrennan.com/2018/02/06/vitamin-sea-and-butterflies-in-february/)

Pelagic Cormorant. Despite their name, these cormorants aren’t pelagic. (Pelagic means living on the open sea.) They are instead coastal, staying on shore, beaches, and cliffs. Their preferred nesting sites are on vertical cliffs overlooking the ocean. These cliffs have tiny, tiny ledges to build nests on. A very precarious place to bring up babies I would think. The upside to this arrangement is that no cautious predator can get to them. There are not as many Pelagic Cormorants here as I have seen in past years, but a few pairs appeared to be developing nests. My telephoto lens was at its max to get these photos.

Pelagic Cormorants are most easily identified by their red face and the white patches on their lower back. Their seemingly black bodies have a touch of green iridescence.

Video. You might want to watch this Nat Geo video of a cormorant pulling off remora from a whale shark in Mexico!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36-2AfSwRbE

Please do not reproduce any photographs without Carla’s permission.