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Old 4th October 2018, 23:07   #1
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Default My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

I sold my photography gear and motor cycle before moving to Bay area, California thinking I am going to take a break from passion for wildlife photography. After reaching the US, first few months went as per that plan as I was getting accustomed to new place, getting a driving license, buying a car were the priorities. After the initial busy days, I got ample time during weekends since my family didn’t join me for a year, some of my friends also moved to the US around same time and during weekends we started exploring nearby tourist spots like Bigsur, 17-Mile Drive, San Francisco etc. Other than that, I started exploring trails in the nearby regional Parks like Rancho San Antonio and Mission Peak which kept me occupied during the weekends.

Back in India, my favorite photographic subjects were wild life, especially elephants and butterflies. Compared to India, the variety of wild life in California is not that great and thought this as an excuse for not spending on camera gears again. It backfired soon. As I started exploring these trails, I came across wonderful birds who were not scared easily by my presence. This triggered the idea of buying a DSLR again.

That November when the Thanks giving day offers started pouring in, I started my homework reading reviews, comparing costs etc. I have used Nikon and Canon DSLRs in the past and still there were some confusion regarding brands like Nikon, Canon or any other also full frame vs APS-C, and so on. Cost was another limiting factor, since photography is my hobby which I do at my own pace and I don’t earn from it. Since my primary subject was birds, it is good to go with APS-C so that I can get additional reach due to crop factor. While considering lenses, for birding I need a super telephoto lens that is at least 400mm or above. One lens that did strike me was the newly launched Canon 100-400mm IS ii which was moderately priced among 400mm range lenses. Another plus point of this lens was that it supports Canon extender and still can do autofocus with right canon body like canon 7d Mkii. Autofocus is one of the most needed features for capturing a bird at flight. After a week of research, I narrowed down to Canon 7d Mkii to be paired with a Canon 100-400mm. Purchase was done online. Later I realized that 400mm with APS-C crop factor is also not enough for birding and after a few months I brought a Canon 1.4x iii extender.

These are my first few shots which I clicked just outside the apartment after getting my camera. First is an Anna-Humming bird. I had noticed it for few weeks and it used to sit at the same spot most of the time, and then there was woodpecker, Scrub Jays and so on. At bay area, varieties of raptors and small colorful birds like Sparrows are abundant even within the city. Few other shots are from Martin Murphy Park and from Elizabeth Lake at Fremont. I am not an expert in identifying the birds; experts please correct me if I am wrong or missed naming any of them.

Humming Bird - Anna's
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail07thfeb2016annahumming-bird.jpg

Scrub Jay
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-birdingsvtc17thapr2016-scrub-jay.jpg

American Robin
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-birdingsvtc25thdec2105american-robin.jpg

Cedar Waxwing
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-birdingsvtc25thdec2105cedar-waxwing.jpg

California Towhee
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail14thfeb2016california-towhee.jpg

Starling
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-californiaacademyofsciencesfo18thdec2016starling.jpg

Yellow Billed Magpie
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-calaverasdrive05thmarch2016yellowbilled-magpies.jpg

Townsend's Warbler
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail14thfeb2016townsends-warbler.jpg

American Coot
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-elizabethlakeparkfremont20thfeb2016americancoot.jpg

Turkey Vulture, Too far for my Lens.
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-elizabethlakefremont03dec2016-55turkeyvulture.jpg

Rancho San Antonio Open Preserve is a very vast area with some beautiful trails. This park has lots of deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, rabbits, Snakes, different birds and rarely heard of Mountain lion sightings. One occasion, unaware of the size of the park, I got lost inside this park and I ran out of water and my phone also died. Since I deviated from common trails which most people take, I was not seeing anyone around to ask for directions. How it happened was I saw a pointer towards “Hidden Villa” and I was searching for that. Later I realized I had to go down a valley to reach there and was running out of time and water since it was already evening. So, I started walking back towards my parking and I saw a board towards a parking area and that happened to be a parking on the other side of the park and unknowingly I went towards the opposite direction. I continued walking and luckily after some time I met an old couple on the trail, they pointed me to the right direction. That day I covered fifteen miles on my hike. Some trails like PG&E trail are moderately tough and some other trails are comparatively easy ones. At Rancho San Antonio, somewhere near the beginning of PG&E trail, you can see some abandoned old cars. Over the time it’s almost submerged in soil up to the window level and the roof is covered in over grown bushes. From the rounded shape of the roof, one can speculate that it might be a model from 1940 or 1950s.

Eastern Blue Bird Male
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail07thfeb2016easternbluebirdmale.jpg

Eastern Blue Bird Female
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniobirding30thjun2018easternbluebirdfemale.jpg

Northern Flicker Woodpecker
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail07thfeb2016northern-flicker-woodpecker.jpg

Dark Eyed Junco
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail29thoct2016darkeyed-junco.jpg

Bob Walker
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniobirding30thjun2018bob-walker.jpg

Acorn Woodpecker and its food Store
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniocoyote22ndoct2017acorn-woodpecker.jpg

A Coyote
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniocoyote22ndoct2017coyote.jpg

Acorn Woodpecker
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniobirding30thjun2018-20.jpg

Grey Squirrel
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail14thfeb2016-36grey-squirrel.jpg

Eastern Blue Bird Female
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-ranchosanantoniotrail07thfeb2016easternbluebirdfemale.jpg

I have tried to click humming birds at flight and was never successful at freezing the wings even by playing with the shutter timer. Its wings will reach a max of 80 flaps per second at times. After googling, I got to know that a flash can do the magic to freeze the wings. Since I don’t do much indoor photography, I was not ready to spend for flash just for shooting humming birds. Instead I tried shooting with on camera flash which is not great to do the task, still works to some extent. I added a humming bird feeder at my patio and immediately humming birds started coming and feeding. Initially it started with a male bird, visiting once in 20 minutes. Later its mates also followed, and I have seen four birds at a time and the visit interval came down to 3-4 minutes and I now must refill it more frequently.

Anna Humming Bird From my Patio. I removed humming bird feeder and kept a flower pot with flower.
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-parkwoodpatiohummingbirdandflower29thapr-4.jpg

Some more shots..
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-hummingbird26thjuly2017-1_filtered.jpg

My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-parkwoodpatio29thmarch2018-11.jpg

My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-onamsunnyvale04thsep2017-3.jpg

House Finch
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-parkwoodredbird10thfeb2018housefinch.jpg

On my trips to Yosemite, I usually take highway-140 which has a scenic drive as well as less traffic. In this route there are many farms with cows, sheep and horses. One might also see coyotes or foxes if driving during early morning hours or late evenings. There are some cherry and grape farms too. Another reason for taking this route is that The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge is near to that route which is a good spot for birding. I have never hiked deep in this trail, whatever I clicked is from around the visitor center. There itself you can see lots of variety of herons, Rabbits, California Quails etc. I heard Yosemite is a good birding spot and there are some paid birding camps offered by some private groups. I haven’t tried that yet.

California Quail
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-3california-quail.jpg

Cottontail Rabbit
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-18desert-cottontail-rabbit.jpg

Blue Heron near Mirror Lake
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-47blueheron.jpg

Nuttall's Woodpecker
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-118nuttalls-woodpecker.jpg

California Black Bear
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-158californiablackbear.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 8th October 2018 at 07:26. Reason: Spacing edited
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Old 7th October 2018, 11:33   #2
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Among the parks I visited, Coyote Hills Regional Park is a place where we can see a wide variety of birds. This park has aquatic birds as well as Raptors and small birds. In this park, there is an ancient American-Indian settlement and that area is preserved. If you reach there by early morning, you get to see lots of Bird enthusiasts with their long lenses and Tripods getting ready to get a proper shot. Some trails go through swamp area and some portion of the trail is build by elevated wood construction and on both sides, you can see tall grasses emerge from the shallow waters. On occasional clearings, you can see different variety of aquatic birds, herons etc. Near the preserved Indian settlement, sometimes you can see turkey vultures sitting very close to the trail. Compared to the vultures found in India and the huge Himalayan vultures, these birds are too small, only about the size of a full grown native hen. In this area you can see lot of varieties of birds of prey, occasionally barn Owls, foxes etc. It was here that I sighted the owl for the first time after reaching bay area.

Barn Owl
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-15barn-owl.jpg

Barn Owl
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-30barn-owl.jpg

White Tailed Kite
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehill06thoct2018-42white-tailed-kite.jpg

White Tailed Kite
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-26white-tailed-kite.jpg

White Tailed Kite Spotted some prey
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-11white-tailed-kite.jpg

American Kestrel
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehill06thoct2018-40americankestrel.jpg

Sharp Skinned Hawk
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-49sharp-skinned-hawk.jpg

Northern Flicker
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehill06thoct2018-20northernflicker.jpg

Grey Fox
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-44grey-fox.jpg

Scrub Jay
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-53scrub-jay.jpg

American White Pelican
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-67american-white-pelican.jpg

Some Sparrow ? Don't know exactly
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-22sparrow.jpg

Stilt
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-34stilt.jpg

Blue Eyed Darner
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-36blueeyed-darner.jpg

Yellow Wabler
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-38yellow-wabler.jpg

House Sparrow
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-52house-sparrow.jpg

Vireo
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark22ndsep2018-60vireo.jpg

Mourning Dove
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-43mourning-dove.jpg

Anna Humming Bird
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-63anna-humming-bird.jpg

Turkey Vulture
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-81turkey-vulture.jpg

Turkey Vulture
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-coyotehillsregionalpark30thsep2018-90turkey-vulture.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 8th October 2018 at 07:28. Reason: Spacing
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Old 7th October 2018, 12:00   #3
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Baylands Nature Preserve is a very good spot to click aquatic and related birds. It is close to where I am staying and can expect good shots within less time since the area is not very big and concentration of birds are high. This is a good place for any beginner who is practicing Bird-at-Flight photography since you can see lots of ducks, geese, Pelicans and some aquatic birds frequently flying and landing. Seasons also might also be an important factor, since I went there just before fall.

American White Pelican
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline01stsept2018-29american-white-pelican.jpg

Sandpiper
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline01stsept2018-45sandpiper.jpg

Lesser Yellowlegs
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline01stsept2018-5lesser-yellowlegs.jpg

Cliff Swallow
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-1cliff-swallow.jpg

Mallard
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-9mallard.jpg

Blue Winged Teal
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-21bluewinged-teal.jpg

My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-23.jpg

Song Sparrow
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-9song-sparrow.jpg

Song Sparrow
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-42song-sparrow.jpg

Snowy Egret
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-27snowy-egret.jpg

Fox Sparrow ?.This is a tiny bird eating Fennel Seeds
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-shoreline08thsept2018-60fox-sparrow.jpg

Some more ..

Sandhill Crane near The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite25thdec2016-7sandhillcrane.jpg

An accidental Shot - Northern Flicker from Yosemite
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-yosemite23rdjune2018-116northernflickerwoodpecker.jpg

Stellers Jay from Tahoe
My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California-tahoe30thjan2016-115stellers-jay.jpg

A lot of these bird sightings depend on the time of the day, early morning near sun rise and late evenings are good. I believe just before fall and start of spring through halfway are the best times to spot birds. Variety of birds in same area also changes as season changes.

Last edited by Aditya : 8th October 2018 at 07:29. Reason: Spacing
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Old 8th October 2018, 07:30   #4
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 8th October 2018, 10:18   #5
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Quote:
Originally Posted by arunrajk81 View Post

These are my first few shots which I clicked just outside the apartment after getting my camera.
Honestly arun, if this is just your start, I'd strongly suggest you don't stop!!

I have been around the Bay area, and have shot some common birds, but this is some serious skill you got.

Just a small suggestion...I believe your post processing look very similar. Probably you may want to avoid this across all your clicks.

All the best for your future birdings
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Old 8th October 2018, 13:55   #6
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Very nice images, arun. I'm not an avid birder myself, but I appreciate the photos as much as anyone else. Good choice on the gear too, but as you say 400 mm is too less for birding. Most birders I know are always crying about the lack of reach, even those who are lugging around 600 mm monsters!

I agree with what Vik0728 says above, all your photos look like they have very similar post processing applied to them, like you have one PS or LR action which you are aplying to every image. I'd suggest you avoid that and do them one at a time. That way your images will stand out much more.
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Old 8th October 2018, 17:01   #7
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Amazing shots and an awesome write-up. I have been doing bird photography purely as a hobby for a couple of years now and can say with some conviction that it is one of the most satisfying things I have gotten hooked too. I, infact, use the same lens as yours but on a 80d body. While more mm is considered better in the pro world, what you have is a perfect setup to walk around with. As for reach, if you simply look for a good vantage point or use a personal hide this lens will not disappoint. At this price point and weight the sharpness even when wide open at 400mm is unmatched. If you like you can go through my Instagram page @birdingindoon to see what this lens has done for me.

Happy Birding

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Old 8th October 2018, 22:17   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post
I agree with what Vik0728 says above, all your photos look like they have very similar post processing applied to them, like you have one PS or LR action which you are aplying to every image. I'd suggest you avoid that and do them one at a time. That way your images will stand out much more.
Thanks Stryker, Vik0728 and nav2111
Since Lightroom is in subscription model now, I was looking for an alternate and I found PhotoscapeX. While playing with that, I saw this vignette effect option and somehow I liked it that time. You are right, I should have avoided it for few of my pictures. It is not a batch processing of pictures. Later I found this same effect on Picasa software too – Picasa is obsolete now.
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Old 9th October 2018, 19:21   #9
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I have a particular fascination for birds in flight - reminds me very strongly of the great variety and beauty both in the nature and man-made instruments/engineering.

How did you miss out on the american idols - the bald eagle!?

I think one of the best measures for self-analysis of photography skills is when we have to make almost no post-processing!
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Old 13th October 2018, 11:42   #10
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Impressive shots Arun! Townsend's Warbler is my favorite shot. Do you have a flickr account?
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Old 13th October 2018, 18:45   #11
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Default Re: My Birding Experiments in the Bay Area, California

Quote:
Originally Posted by arunrajk81 View Post

I have tried to click humming birds at flight and was never successful at freezing the wings even by playing with the shutter timer. Its wings will reach a max of 80 flaps per second at times.
Every Individual has some inbuilt capabilities and you do have this amazing capability on Photography (word to the best of my knowledge, may be a better word suits you). Keep going.

Your photo on the Humming Bird was Superb. I felt the photo of the Blue Eyed Darner photo was the best. It needs big patience and immense concentration as it moves very quickly and it is not easy to get a close photograph.

All the best and wish you great Success on photography.
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Old 13th October 2018, 21:45   #12
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Super start. I loved all the pics. I too was there for a month and saw about 50+ species. Please do update in ebird or inaturalist your sightings.
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Old 15th October 2018, 23:28   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by navin_bhp View Post
Impressive shots Arun! Townsend's Warbler is my favorite shot. Do you have a flickr account?
Thanks,
As of now, I not active in flicker. I have an instagram account - mysteriouswild81, has only few pics.
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