Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

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.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission!

 

 

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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.

Please do not reproduce any photographs without permission.

 

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

Sea Star, Plover and Anemones

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November 5, 2017

Out for my weekly dose of Vitamin Sea, I wandered the beaches of Scott’s Creek along Highway 1 just north of Davenport, CA. This has become one of my favorite stops because it offers a variety of beach habitats and is easy to get to from my car. (To access many of the beaches along 1 you must climb down steep eroded cliff paths to reach the water. This becomes even more dicey when you are carrying heavy photographic equipment.)

There is fresh water (Scotts Creek), a broad beach, high cliffs, lots of tidal pools and decent beachcombing.

When I arrived there yesterday about noon, the water was as high as I have seen it; a full moon tide. The usual tide pools were under waves. So I meandered the water line taking in the chilly sunny day, looking for whatever presented itself.

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
One lone shore bird (the rest of the birds I saw were gulls) danced at the water’s edge hunting small tasty crustaceans. I wasn’t sure what it was as many of the shore birds look similar (to me anyway.) But later I identified it as an American Golden-Plover in its non-breeding plumage (the longer wingtips distinguish it from the Pacific Golden-Plover). This lonely bird was on its 12,000 mile migration to South America from summering in the Arctic, stopping along the California coast for food. These Plovers have one of the longest migratory routes in the world.

NORTHERN HARRIER
A female Northern Harrier caught the sea winds at the top of the cliffs perfectly, allowing it to hover, without flapping, in one place as it looked for a meal. Later I saw it carrying a rodent in its talons. (It was a bit too far to get a really good photo.)

CALIFORNIA GULL AND OCHRE SEA STAR (STARFISH)
This gull found a prize and eventually consumed it. I was glad to see the sea star since the Pacific coast population of Ochre Sea Stars has been decimated in recent years from “starfish wasting disease” thought to be made worse by higher water temperatures. I used to frequently see large orange, purple and brown sea stars in the tide pools but I haven’t spotted one in years. This gull lowered the current sea star population by one but at least this sea star looked healthy.

ANEMONES
After a few hours of looking mainly toward my feet, seeking sea treasures, I realized the tide had quickly receded and rocks and tide pools were emerging everywhere. Anemones were waving their many arms in the shallow moving water, ranging in size from tiny to five inches across. I photographed them from above and also tried, for the first time, underwater shots using my new Olympus Tough waterproof camera. Some cool images!

(Treasures I collected: sea glass, pieces of abalone and other shells, smooth stones with piddock clam holes, jade.)

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 12 photos


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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/

KATYDID-BUDDHA-1

2017 Wildflower Photo Bouquet #1

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Here are some highlights from this year’s spring bounty of wildflowers. The most spectacular display has already been posted from the Carrizo Plain superbloom in March 2017. Go to: https://carlabrennan.com/2017/04/02/carrizo-plain-national-monument-march-2017/.

The photos in this post are from much closer to home in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. By now, I know where and approximately when to find specific flowers, although there is some variation year to year. I may not see the same individual, but I am likely to discover an offspring.

BTW, I’ve given up trying to identify which wild iris is which. This area is home to a variety of native and endemic showy irises. Some iris species can vary widely in color, from pale yellow to to deep purple, making identification confusing. And, honestly, I haven’t buckled down to learn the distinguishing characteristics. In the past, I tended to call everything a “Douglas iris” but they could also be a native Fernald’s iris, Central Coast iris, bowltube iris, or one of the invasive non-native species. So now an iris will just be called “iris.”

Many of the flowers and other plants in California are non-natives brought here by the early Spanish explorers, ranchers, farmers and gardeners. Some native species, especially grasses, have been pushes aside, becoming rarer to find. I have indicated which of the plants I’ve photographed are non-native.

I stumbled upon a few flowers new to me this year (or at least I don’t remember them): Elegant Cat’s Ear (mariposa), California Milkwort, Prettyface, White Brodiaea and Yellow Glandweed. And I love that crazy reed with the strange reproductive organs as well as those berries with thorns.

More flower photographs are likely to come. June and the summer months bring a host of additional blooms. However, sadly, the biggest display is probably behind us for this year (except at high elevations!).

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 59 photos