Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .


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Catch of the Day – 6/30/21

Catch of the Day – 6/30/21
UCSC Arboretum and Neary Lagoon
Santa Cruz, CA

“Catch of the Day” is my new name for posts where I share photo highlights from walks without much commentary.

In this you see Anna’s hummingbirds, California quail, spotted phoebe, wood ducks, mallards, matilija poppies. The male wood ducks have transitioned (or are transitioning) from their delightfully ornate breeding plumage into something more sedate. When they are in the middle of transitioning they look like they tried to dress up for a fancy party but were so drunk that they made a mess of their make-up and clothes. You can easily tell the male and female wood ducks apart by their eye color. Bright red for males, black for females.

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at: brennan.carla@gmail.com.


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The Bald Eagle Appears at the Last Minute

The Bald Eagle Appears at the Last Minute
Gualala, CA
June 22, 2021

The view is spectacular. The house is covered in windows on a bluff, facing the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. We are dog sitting for Chris’s sister for a week. It is our last full day and I have seen the local bald eagle only twice, quickly flying by, gone before I can even lift my camera. During a call from Oregon, Chris’s sister chides me for not having photographed the eagle yet. She says I might have to stay until I capture an image; I agree.

About an hour later while packing my bags in the second story bedroom, there is a commotion and loud chirping in the pine tree right outside the large picture window. Two bald eagles have landed in the upper branches while two quarrelsome ravens hassle them. My camera is downstairs and I know I only have seconds; I run there frantically yelling, “Bald eagles! Bald eagles in the tree!” Chris grabs his phone and I take aim with my telephoto. One eagle has already flown off, pursued by a raven. The other eagle clings to the branch, ruffling feathers and gruffly arguing with the ravens.

I don’t have time to adjust the camera settings and I shoot through the window. Soon this eagle also glides away seeking relief from harassment, although the ravens continue to trail in hot pursuit.

Fortunately, I leave Gualala with a photograph of the bald eagle. An image that shows our close encounter with the great raptor.

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at: brennan.carla@gmail.com.

Ephemeral Waterfalls

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Ephemeral Waterfalls
Scotts Creek Beach, Davenport, CA
April 7, 2018

The miraculous appears when unexpected. I’d been to this beach many times. I’ve walk below many beautiful cliffs along the California Coast at all times of year. But this was the first time I’d seen high waterfalls running from the coastal prairie, cascading down the cliffs to the sea. I didn’t even know they occurred here after heavy rains, although it makes sense and now I am more surprised I have never seen them before.

I had my nose down, meandering at a snail’s pace, looking for treasures left on the sand after the recent storm. Eventually I looked up and was stunned to see a waterfall up ahead where one had never been. About 80 feet high. Three more could be seen in the distance.

By tomorrow they will be only a trickle or completely gone.

Go into nature, quietly, slowly, patiently, with senses open and she will show you unimagined splendor.

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Photo of the Day: It’s Turkey Time!

Photo of the Day: It’s Turkey Time!
February 27, 2018
Ben Lomond, CA

And I don’t mean Thanksgiving dinner. It’s that time of year when male turkeys strut their stuff. There is nothing as strange or spectacular as being close to turkey toms displaying and courting females. It’s equal to the show that Birds of Paradise put on, only these birds are really big and in my yard (instead of Papua New Guinea). We take this marvel of avian behavior for granted because we see pictures of it everywhere every fall.

A flock of about 15-20 birds (it’s hard to keep track) gathered in our yard in the morning for some ritualized interactions. At least six males walked proudly, all in fluffed up in bold iridescent feathers, with tail fans waving and, most odd of all, showing off the flesh on their heads. The wattle engorges and turns alternating red-white-blue as their mood changes – a head like a mood ring. The flesh that hangs over their beak is called the snood and all those bumpy head growths are called caruncles.

The males like our cement driveway because their noisy wing feather dragging is louder there than on dirt and it attracts more attention. Numerous hens seemed quite interested in all this activity. I have, in the past, seen males displaying ardently with the females completely ignoring them.

Wild turkeys were only introduced to California in the 1960’s and 70’s. In the Bay Area they have become quite common.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission. Prints are available for purchase for some photographs. If you are interested, contact Carla at: brennan.carla@gmail.com. You can also find Carla’s photographs, paintings and jewelry on her Etsy site (Stones and Bones): https://www.etsy.com/shop/stonesandbones

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Photo of the Day: Three Egrets at Dusk

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Feb. 25, 2018.
West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA.

Looking down into a cove at sunset,
seven snowy egrets played at water’s edge.
The last daylight reflecting off the cliffs
turned the water pink.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission. Prints are available for purchase for some photographs. If you are interested, contact Carla at: brennan.carla@gmail.com. You can also find Carla’s photographs, paintings and jewelry on her Etsy site (Stones and Bones): https://www.etsy.com/shop/stonesandbones


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Katydid and Buddha

PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DAY! November 2, 2017

I discovered this insect – what I believe to be a Mexican Bush Katydid (Scudderia mexicana) – walking on one of my outdoor buddhas today. I don’t see katydids very often (they are usually effectively camouflaged as leaves) so it was a pleasure to have it patiently allow me to take its portrait along with the Buddha. (The Buddha is always patient.) The “phallus-like” appendage is actually an ovipositor which means this is a female. They lay their eggs in the fall for a spring hatching.

The day after I posted this, National Geographic had a breaking news story about unique newly identified katydids. How often do you see news flashes on katydids? Like never? Synchronicity? These NG katydids are big, they are mean, they are brightly colored and they are monogamous. To see some strange Madagascar relatives of our local katydid: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/animals-insects-madagascar-new-species/

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Golden Gate Bridge From the Air

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This was taken on May 9th as I flew to San Francisco from Boston. Although I’ve made this journey many times, this was first time our route took us north of San Francisco and down the coast. From my window seat I got a good view of the Golden Gate Bride below. Although always stunning, this was my first time seeing the bridge from above.

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