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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

I hadn't been to San Joaquin in a while. Yesterday since I had already driven down to the Newport Bay, and since San Joaquin was right around the corner I decided to visit. I know that they have several pair of breeding Yellow Breasted Chat's at this park. Although I haven't seen any here close I have heard them so I went on the hunt. I decided to bypass the ponds near the front and head directly to the back of the preserve where the large trees generally house a variety of passerines and where I was hoping to see the Yellow Breasted Chat.

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ACROSS THE BOARDWALK

One of the only problems about hiking in the back during midday is that there isn't very much shade and the sun was beating down on me. Hot hot hotter than hot and I almost at one point turned around to go home. I was tired, I ran out of water, and I had already been birding for 6 hours. However I continued on. I was determined to at least find the Chat.

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HIKING IN THE BURNING SUN

I did get to the back and I started combing the trees slowly with my eyes while keeping my ears open for the distinct tones of the Chat. The first bird I found was a Yellow Warbler. I caught her hunting in the underbrush for bugs and just happened to catch her hopping onto a branch with a big bug in her mouth. I love how some birds seem to have expressions on their face. This little girl seemed to be trying to figure out what I was, or what that huge piece of lens pointed at her was. I love this photo.

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YELLOW WARBLER

This park has a bunch of water. Ponds and canals attract all kinds of wildlife. A bird lovers paradise this is!

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Of course it is the perfect habitat for the herons and although I already had a BILLION photos of the Great Blue Heron I cannot help but keep taking photos of this beautiful bird. I keep finding the Great Blue Heron in perfect light and so close that no matter how much I do not NEED another photo of this bird I just cant seem to help myself. No matter how many pictures I get I still LOVE this bird.

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GREAT BLUE HERON

I then heard the drumming of a woodpecker and was able to locate the Nuttall's Woodpecker searching for lunch in the cracks of the bark. I followed him for a few minutes snapping photos but then he flew out of sight. I quickly grabbed my camera and followed him to the tree I thought he flew into. It took me a few mintues until I finally spotted him. But then I did a double-take. Seems like I lost the Nuttall's and had found a Downy Woodpecker. Woodpeckers at this particular park are rare so I was happy to find both species… even if it was an accident.

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NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER

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DOWNY WOODPECKER

On and off I heard the Chat's calling from deep in the brush. Frustrating because I couldn't even begin to find them that far off. I kept going hoping to find the bird. I ran into a trio of older gentlemen all with loads of camera gear obviously photographing birds. Whenever I run into birders in the field we usually stop and catch up on anything interesting we had seen in the day. As we were talking I heard the Chat and it was CLOSE. It was funny, I had just finished telling them that I was looking for this particular bird and then THERE it was sitting right in the tree on the path. He was calling, looking directly at us.

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YELLOW BREASTED CHAT

I only managed to quickly get two photos before he darted off into the thicker brush. Chat's I knew however were territorial. Just because he went into the brush didn't mean I had to give up. I decided to camp out and see if he would come back to the tree I had spotted him in. The guys got board after 10 minutes and took off but I remained. A good half hour later the Chat came back into view. He was pretty far away still but I got excited to get such a clear unobstructed view of him.

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YELLOW BREASTED CHAT

After another hour of him darting back into the deep woods and then to his favorite tree I was finally able to get some pretty good photos. I was exhausted, I had gotten great photos of the Chat and I was ready to GO HOME. I was a little disappointed when I got home that the photos were not as crystal clear as I thought they would be when looking at the viewfinder in the field but its so close to a good photo that Im happy.

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YELLOW BREASTED CHAT

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YELLOW BREASTED CHAT

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YELLOW BREASTED CHAT

On the way out of the park I passed the ponds and since I was walking right by I couldn't help but bird. I was already tired and I wasn't going to go out of my way to look for anything BUT if they happened to show up right in front of me I was going to stop.

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I found several Common Yellowthroat's and stopped to get a few photos. I am getting better photographing the smaller than small little bouncy birds. Practice makes perfect and after being frustrated so many times with my inability to follow a bird through the brush now I can say that with my skill level improving I am able to get more usuable photos than throw-aways. It is still hard, it is still frustrating but the progress I am making keeps me trying.

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COMMON YELLOWTHROAT

Even though this bird is called the 'Common' Yellowthroat I think that he is a pretty little guy. His little Zorro black mast and white eyeband along with his bright yellow body also makes him super easy to identify. You can't confuse this bird with any other. A little smaller than a sparrow but 17 times as fast (imagine a 3 year old who just drank a mountain dew).

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COMMON YELLOWTHROAT

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COMMON YELLOWTHROAT

The Tree Swallows were out in masses collecting bugs for both themselves and their growing chicks. They don't land often but I just happened to notice one roosting along the path. Sneaking up very very slowly I caught photos from where i was and then took a few steps forward. Ever few feet I would pause, take photos, let the bird get used to me and then creep forward again.

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TREE SWALLOW

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TREE SWALLOW

Sure with taking this many photos I end up with WAY more than I need however that is the beauty of digital photography. I can take tons of pictures and then I can just delete everything except the best when I get home. Tree Swallows are such beautiful birds.

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TREE SWALLOW

My last bird of the day was a song sparrow. I wasn't going to stop but he was singing and the sun was making him glow and there was something so beautiful about this little bird, on this glorious day, spreading joy. This last photo makes me HAPPY.

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SONG SPARROW

2 comments:

Jennifer Arens said...

I think I saw a bird in this one.....

paul peggy zeus said...

Great that you found the Chat, and the time to chat with fellow birders as well.

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