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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Ballona Wetland Bird Walk

Mr. Rogue got his birthday present yesterday, a new 5D Mark III camera and the 14mm Canon wide angle lens he has been coveting forever. I was super excited to play with it a bit, past the hundred test shots we already did in the house. Since Mr. Rogue had to work today I decided to see if I could go on a hike or a birdwalk and take the new lens with me to see what it could do.

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THE NEW WIDE ANGLE IS SO WIDE IT HAS A CURVED LENS

I found a bird walk at Ballona Wetlands, which is a new birding location for me. I woke up early, packed up the car and drove to Manhattan Beach. I met the group in the designated parking lot, which took me a while to find, because there were two parking lots and the directions were a bit vague. Finally after driving around for 15 minutes I found a small group of people with birding scopes, yup these are my nerdy people!

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ALL MY NERDY FELLOW BIRD FRIENDS

Unlike the last group I went on a walk with, which was over 25 people, this group was a good size of 5. I always learn more when there is a smaller more intimate group. I really liked this park, although I was told it is much better for birding in the winter months. There was some swamp mudflat area, the beach and the ocean, the canals of ocean water and more wetlands. All in all a great place to see a very diverse set of birds.

We started in the wetlands but other than a few far egrets and one ratty looking Black Bellied Plover we didn’t see much of intrest.

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SWAMP MUDFLAT AREA

Although I didn’t find any new birds to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List on this hike I did manage to get some pretty cool shots. Although going out alone I have more time to sit and get the birds comfortable with me so I can get closer there is something to be said for going with an experienced group of birders. I always learn so much.

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OUR GROUP LOOKING AT THE BIRDS ON THE BEACH

Our first stop was the beach. Thank goodness it was early because it was already quite warm. We paused a few times looking at various groups of birds before we decided on a specific group to approach. We headed toward a large group of terns.

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THE BEACH

I and one other woman were both newer birders and the others launched into a good 20 minute conversation about how to quickly identify the three types of terns (I got good photos of two of the tern types) we were seeing on the beach. We learned about behavior, stance and their calls. Birding is so much FUN!

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CASPIAN TERN

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CASPIAN TERN

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ELEGANT TERN

Mixed in with the gulls and the terns we found three Black Skimmers. The few times I got to see this bird perched they were far looks. I was able to get pretty close to these guys resting on the beach. I loved how all three were facing/doing different things. Great view of all angles!

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BLACK SKIMMER

And then just as we were about to leave the beach I spotted an American Avocet hunting for fish in the waves. Although they are a common bird in some areas of Southern California apparently this is a pretty rare bird for this location. I got a photo low just as the waves were coming in. He also was in his breeding plumage, what a pretty bird!

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AMERICAN AVOCET

After the beach we headed over to the rock strewn canals. Diving birds like ducks and cormorants were hunting fish in the deeper middle and the wading birds were hanging out on the rocks near the edge.

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THE CANALS

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THE BRIDGE OVER THE CANALS

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THE CANALS

We got some super close looks at a few Great Blue Herons. Although a common bird here I love taking photos of them anyways. This one was had gorgeous feathers and the photo came out really nice.

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GREAT BLUE HERON

I think the most exciting bird I saw today would be the Brandt’s Cormorant. This bird is super shy and I have only seen the Brandt’s from a very far distance. When I saw one in the Canal I got super excited. The canal isn’t that wide so although he did swim away from the shore when we approached he was still close enough for me to get a pretty fantastic shot.

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BRANDT’S CORMORANT

There are groups of fishermen on the canals and just as I was passing I noticed two men exclaiming in dismay. Apparently they caught a small sting ray with one of their fishing lines. They scooped him up with the next, and of course I ran right over to get a few photos.

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A STING RAY WASNT EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE HOPING FOR

I had to laugh, they were trying to figure out how to safely remove the fishing hook and they both seemed pretty nervous about getting stung. Eventually they succeeded and let the sting ray go back in the canal. I was thankful I was in the right place at the right time to get a few photos.

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TRYING TO GET OUT THE FISHING LINE WITHOUT GETTING STUNG

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A LAST PHOTO BEFORE THEY RELEASED HIM BACK INTO THE CANAL

After a while the canal reached an area where we passed through a fence. On the left continued the canal and on the right was a vast fenced in protected wetland area. In the winter the more experienced birders were telling us that this area would be teaming with wintering water birds. Now however we really had to look to find a few birds. It did give me more time to spend playing around with the wide angle lens. I cannot get over how much landscape it can get into the frame and I love how the landscape photos came out for this post (all taken with the new wide angle lens and the new camera body).

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THE CANALS ON THE LEFT AND THE PROTECTED WETLANDS ON THE RIGHT

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THE WETLANDS

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THE WETLANDS

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THE WETLANDS

Although we spent quite a bit of time searching the wetlands on the opposite side of the canal everything we found was either too far away or hidden behind so much brush that I didn’t get any photos. I did enjoy watching and learning but I would have really liked to get one more good photo. Then just as we were getting off the path to head back to the cars we found a tree swallow perched perfectly right next to the path. He stayed long enough for me to get three photos, one came out sharp and even showed off his beautiful iridescent feathers. Thanks for being such a great model; a perfect end to a really good birding day.

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TREE SWALLOW

2 comments:

Jennifer Arens said...

Another successful birdiful day with an amazing looking lens! Good thing Mr Rogue wanted it so much lol

paul peggy zeus said...

Mr Rogues new lens takes amazing photos. Great job!

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