Wednesday, May 13, 2015

California: Fauna

A whimbrel, a shore bird found on the beaches in Southern California.
I'm kind of funny about wild animals: I get excited about them, so long as they aren't close enough to touch me. I like to think they appreciate that.

Because of that, it's rather exceptional for me to get any decent pictures of wildlife. I have to remember to mount my telephoto lens (I usually use a 35 mm prime lens), the critter has to be well lit and it has to be relatively stationary.

A ground squirrel giving me the side-eye.
It so happens that most small animals freeze when they think they are in danger, so I was able to get some decent shots when we visited the beach at Crystal Cove State Park in California.

A western diamondback rattlesnack (we believe)
Although this snake stayed absolutely still while we observed it, there was NO WAY I was going to step within eight feet of it. (The day before this picture, Steve, Paul, and Nancy had actually seen and photographed its rattle!) The picture above was cropped significantly from the original picture, below.

Can you spot the rattlesnake in this picture? Click the picture to enlarge it.
Well hidden, isn't it? Stephen was the one to spy it.

After seeing it, we warned all the people on the beach with young children not to let the wee ones wander near the bluffs.

We stopped for a cold drink during our first trip to the beach and were delighted to catch sight of this osprey, stopping for its lunch.

You can see his prey, but there's no way to tell whether it was fish, fowl, or rodent.
He was just tucking in to his feast when he was dive-bombed by a greedy crow (evidently a poor hunter, despite its aggressive nature).

An air battle ensued, but the osprey never lost its prize. It did, however, find a different spot to perch.

Meanwhile, in the ocean behind the birds, Paul noticed sudden spurts of spray: whales!

Probably Gray Whales
You would not believe how many pictures I took of those spouts. You'll see that there are actually two spouts: this is likely a mother whale and her child migrating north along the California coast. One article I found said that the migration had peaked around May 3 -- just after we left.

Here's the picture they include in the article (I did not take this picture; it was taken by a NOAA drone).

Amazing picture, eh?
 Image by NOAA hexacopter (drone), by Wayne Perryman
Soon the pair breached, just slightly -- but small motorcraft zoomed in!

The baby whale swims snuggled up right alongside the mother, as you can see.
I was really upset for the whales. This must be loud and scary for them.

I'm sure the people on the boats were thrilled. And if I were one of them, I would probably be cheering on the captains. But it doesn't seem a good thing.

Closer to shore, we examined the tide pools. Most of the living things we saw there were not very photogenic, but I thought this tiny anemone was charming.

Not that I touched it or anything. Not supposed to anyway. There are signs all over the place advising visitors not to touch any plants or wildlife, and not to turn over any rocks. Good advice.

As we wandered back to the path that would take us back up the bluffs and to our resort, we saw a wave of pelicans round the point.

This may, in fact, be Pelican Point.
There is a resort near ours called Pelican Point; this must be where it gets its name. They followed the bluffs and flew right over our heads.

From below, they look like pterodactyls.
On and on they flew, stretching out from rough clusters to graceful single file and occasional lonely pairs. They kept coming and coming. I wish we'd seen one with fish in its throat pouch, but they must have been heading out for their dinner at the time.

So much to see! Not that this was all in one day -- we saw these things over several days and several hours. But if you go there, with your eyes open, you will be entertained indeed.

P.S. This post is titled "fauna," so you know what's next, right?

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