Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

Watch My Cormorant Videos!

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July 13, 2018
Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, CA

Here is something really exciting! (Well, maybe.) Videos! Chris has been hounding me to take videos as well as stills of the cormorants. I have been resisting this suggestion because filming videos represents a whole new creative CAN OF WORMS in terms of the skill, equipment and technique. I have enough on my hands with still photography.

But I finally gave in and spent the good part of two hours taking short videos of the cormorant activity using my same DSLR camera (Canon 70D) and telephoto lens (Tamron 150-600). It is a steep learning curve but, for better or worse, I may be hooked! Admittedly, a few years ago I entertained the idea of documentary film-making and have an idea of what I would like to produce. That would truly be a daunting task.

If you can’t play the videos, let me know, since this is my first time publishing my videos on my blog.

The videos are pretty jerky because the slightest movement is amplified in telephoto. Some of what I shot was on the tripod and some just handheld. The wind caused small movements in the camera even when it sat on the tripod. In photography, there is always new equipment to be had and if I do more videos, I will need a smoother moving head for the tripod. I already have my eye on a Manfrotto fluid head!

I also have to deal with sound which is a whole new world. What you mostly will hear is the ocean, wind, traffic, California gulls and voices of people nearby. The cormorants don’t make a lot of sound themselves. Maybe someday I will be able to multitask by narrating while video taping. I can also eventually learn to overlay sound.

Included here are videos of the cormorant colony on the cliff ledge as well as the juvenile gathering (creche) below on the beach. You will get a better sense of their active and interactive nature in these videos.

The cliff ledge colony. There are still a number of adults and chicks but the population has thinned a lot. There are even a few fuzzy, specked young. Several adults sit on nests but I don’t believe there are any eggs; maybe its just a good resting spot. The birds running, hopping, skipping, waddling and flapping wings are mostly juveniles. Some juveniles are taking very short excursions up into the cascade of ice plants. I guess they get to try their new wings and be safely caught by the tangled mat of plants. You will also see a favorite cormorant activity: stealing nesting material from others. You may also see them “projectile pooping.” Male and female cormorants are identical.

The creche. The main spectacle here was the adults feeding the juveniles. There are several scenes of parents feeding young and even more examples of juveniles hassling and chasing parents to feed them or feed them more. The young will beg by pecking at the parents beak to stimulate regurgitation. The parents give the impression this whole process is unpleasant, they are worn out and vaguely annoyed by their children (a familiar feeling?) Once they feed an offspring they usually indifferently waddle right back into the waves. This must be a lot of work for them, catching enough fish for both themselves and these adult-sized offspring. You can tell which are the adults because they are black all over and have a small white throat patch with occasional flashes of blue. The immature cormorants have a rich chocolate brown front. There was also a lot of coming and going of juveniles in and out of the water and some were flying successfully.

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Last of the Wildflowers 2018

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Because of health issues, I missed much of the June wildflower season. Still I was able to capture a few over the past six weeks on several short walks and have included some of those flowers here. To see many more flowers, at this point, I would have to go to higher elevations in the Sierras but I don’t think I will make it there this summer.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission.

This gallery contains 65 photos

More Wildflowers; Spring 2018

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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!

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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.

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This gallery contains 12 photos


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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.

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THE FLORA – The Gualala (Mendocino County) Trip

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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

Deep Sea Diving on Land: The Monterey Bay Aquarium

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For one week a year the (pricey) Monterey Bay Aquarium is open for free for locals. Chris and I went last Saturday and braved the long serpentine line to get our glimpse of creatures seldom seen.

The photography conditions in the aquarium go from bad to worse but I persevered and ended up with a few memorable shots included here. It is dark in most exhibits since below the ocean’s surface light diminishes rapidly. I had to crank up my ISO to its max. And there is, of course, glass between you and the salt water. Lots of it. It results in blurring, glaring, reflections and distortion. And one must also wade through the crowds to first get close to the glass. The ratio of usable photographs to far-too-crappy photographs was at a new low. Yet a few images, with help from Photoshop, convey the startling beauty and mystery of the aquarium inhabitants. I am still sorting through the images.

Enjoy.

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

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

This gallery contains 34 photos