I thought I would share an older image that I haven’t had a chance to adjust until this morning – it will be hard to ever beat this New Year’s Eve!
Last Saturday we visited the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, California located in Eastern San Diego County. This wonderful non profit research and educational organization offers a Hawk Watch on Saturday mornings. This entertaining and informative watch is completely free, and brings a large crowd, so be there a bit before 10 a.m. for parking. Every Saturday is different, but involves a number of captive birds brought in by handlers, not to mention the numerous wild hawks flying around the large open property – I would highly recommend it if you are in the area – I know I learned a lot!
Above is a photo of a handler with a Gyrfalcon, below is another handler training a Peregrine Falcon as it tries to grab a piece of food swung in the air on a cord. These birds are amazing to watch in flight, and in the wild have been clocked at an incredible 240 miles an hour! During another point during the watch a handler had a Harris Hawk flying just feet above our heads as it came in for food.
Thanks to one of the largest El Nino’s maybe ever, I don’t think the anticipation for a big desert wildflower bloom has been bigger. I have been getting numerous emails asking about conditions so I thought I would share my observations and thoughts.
I have been visiting desert areas like Anza-Borrego since I was a child, and for the last 10 years have spent at least a month every winter in the Anza-Borrego desert. We have already arrived and spent a number of days camping in Borrego after traveling across the Southern half of Arizona. I might add, this is at least two weeks earlier then most years, so my point of reference is a bit off.
But, in general, things are looking good, especially as you move North. Many of the storms this winter have stayed north of Southern California, and have hit the Sierras very hard. Because of this, Death Valley is looking very good. In fact, there are already wildflowers showing in good numbers in Death Valley.
It was a bit early to see much when we passed through Arizona, but in areas there was green beginning to show. In other areas, there really wasn’t much showing at all. This isn’t unusual, even in a good year, some areas end up being much better than others. There were areas along Highway 8 about 100 miles from California that were incredibly lush, showing lots of potential. It is still early, but looks encouraging. It is certainly worth watching.
Unfortunately most of the storms missed this Southern Californian desert known for its wildflower blooms, that is until early January. In early January, this area received a staggering 2.5 inches of rain. The rain came over a number of days allowing for a good soaking. It was enough for the writer of the nature column in the local paper to write “We should have a marvelous – perhaps miraculous – spring bloom”. Hal the Hawk Guy, who leads a Wednesday bird walk I try to join whenever in town thought the area needed one more rain for a good year – just such a rain, he pointed out, is forecast for this weekend.
My observations? I must admit at being disappointed in the lack of plant life as we we rolled into town last weekend. However, I think that is largely because I am here a couple of weeks earlier than normal. Over the last couple of days as I have gone on a few trail runs, I have noticed a profusion of small sprouts emerging, particularly closer to the mountains. I know it is early, but I would say at this point things are looking pretty good, and another rain or two could do wonders. I might add, the TV weather people have been mentioning that Arizona and Southern California should still see plenty of rain over the next couple of months, a time frame in which these areas typically receive precipitation during an El Nino.
So stay tuned for further updates here as the season progresses.
On my past trips to South Georgia, Prion Island has been closed to visitors due to the fur seal activity. But, during our October visit, the island is open to visitors and I was finally able to see these huge, magnificent birds up close! This one will be fledgling soon.
I have to post a penguin photo today – it is penguin awareness day! This was from my fall trip to South Georgia.
Here is one from last summer.
I haven’t posted as much as usual this week or so – really busy working on some exciting projects! Hope to get back to sharing more images soon!
I have some camera gear for sale. Thought I would put them here before putting them on EBay on Monday.
Canon 5D III $1,595
I don’t need three cameras, so selling this one that was largely a backup. I just had the LCD screen replaced because of a scratch. While at Canon, I had them go over the camera and clean the sensor – they say everything is up to spec. I have only taken a couple shots in the house with it since returned just to make sure it works. There are a few scuffs on the bottom corners, but otherwise in good shape. I would be more than happy to email photos. It has just under 25,000 clicks on the shutter. I will include an extra battery for a total of two, battery charger, cap, strap, original box, manual and warranty card. This body is “trending” on Ebay for $1,850.
Canon 70-200 F/2.8 II $1,495
This is the latest version of this super sharp, fast lens! There are a couple of nicks on the leading edge of the barrel, but otherwise it looks nearly new. I also have the case, hood, cap, original box, manual and warranty card. Again I would be happy to answer questions or provide images.
Looking back at 2015 I realize it has been one busy and exciting year! I traveled nearly 70,000 miles by jet, and almost 5,000 more by ship – not counting small planes and boats. Had two trips to the Southern Ocean (Antarctica / South Georgia), and three to the Northern Arctic of Alaska! Throw in a couple bear tours, two trips to Southeast Alaska, backpacking in Zion, Grand Canyon and the Chugach, not to mention a month in Anaz-Borrego, no wonder I’m savoring my current time at home! It is ironic that despite all that travel, that a few of my favorites would come from near my home, and one from the front porch.
So here are a few of my favorite images from the past year thanks to a tradition started by Jim Goldstein many years ago.
For those interested, here are more: Favorites of 2014 Favorite photo of 2013 Favorite photos of 2012 – favorite photos of 2011 – favorite photos of 2010 – favorite photos of 2009 and finally, favorite photos of 2008.
I guided a couple of polar bear photo tours this year with / for my friend Hugh Rose. It is hard to pick one favorite of these magnificent animals, but I like this one of a sow and cub.
Autumn in the Arctic is colorful beyond comprehension.
We had a great show in August this year! Photographing aurora in shorts no less.
The extreme wildlife and scenery make Antarctica a place like no other.
A beautiful evening during a couple night backpacking trip not far from home with Janine last summer.
Brown bears are always featured heavily among my favorites – not surprisingly given my love of these animals.
Given the drought situation in California, it was a big surprise to have a such a wonderful wildflower bloom in the desert.
It was a treat to see the Brooks Range in all of its seasons this year with trips in March, June, August and September – it is fascinating how the same place can appear so different given the season.
My good friend Hugh and I worked together on many trips this year – Antarctica, South Georgia, shorebirds in Cordova, and a couple polar bear trips. That said, possibly the most amazing trip of all was the Northern Light Tour I co-guided with him in March, we had absolutely amazing conditions every night of the trip!
King penguins on snow!
We had so many bears and whales in Southeast Alaska this year – It was hard to pick, but I had to include one. Seeing multiple brown bears and black bears sharing the same fishing hole was unique.
The Arctic in Spring is sure incredible!
This one is too fun not to make the cut!
Penguins rock, especially on ice!
Finally I had to pick at least one image from two wonderful backpacking trips into Zion and the Grand Canyon that Janine and I enjoyed with another good friend from Fairbanks, Patrick Endres.