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Elephant Seals are weird.  There’s really no getting around it.  I could go on about their impressive sexual dimorphism or their stunning migration patterns but regardless of the actual biology of the Elephant Seal they are some tubby weirdos.  The sounds they make!  If you ever get a chance to be close enough to a group of elephant seals just sit there for a while.  Soak in all the blood curdling screams, the deep resonating grumbles and of course the shameless cartoon-like fart sounds.  They are as gross as they are funny.

 

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Bah!

Bah! - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500 mm

1/125 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 100

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So maybe I should mention some neat animal facts about these guys.  Fact one: You can take over 3,000 pictures of elephant seals and get only a handful where they don’t have a torrent of boogers coming out their nose.  Fact two: Males can be between 3 to 10 times the size of females which are typically around 10 feet long.

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Best Buds

Best Friends - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm

1/250 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 100

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For the most part all these photos are of either females or juveniles.  The full grown males have a very distinct nose.  It’s kind of like an elephant trunk, but not as long.  Hence the name, Elephant Seal.

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Burp!

Burb! - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm

1/320 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 100

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Busy Beach

Busy Beach 2 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm

1/100 sec @ f/13, ISO 100

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Did You Guys Hear That?

Did you Guys Hear That? - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm

1/400 sec @ f/11, ISO 200

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Lazy Elephant Seals

 

 

 

Busy Beach
Busy Beach - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm

1/30 sec @ f/29, ISO 100

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When the Acid Hits

When the Acid Hits 2 - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500 mm

1/200 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 200

 

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Hello Down There!

Hello Down There! - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/500 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 250

Whimbrel

I don’t really have too much info on these Whimbrels.  They are a neat shorebird, one of the most wide-ranging in the world.  Fun fact I found on AllAboutBirds.org: their funky bill works quite well for catching fiddler crabs, a primary winter food source for Whimbrels in many regions.

 

Whimbrel - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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A neat fact I found on AllAboutBirds.org notes that their funky bill works quite well for catching fiddler crabs, a primary winter food source for Whimbrels in many regions.  Their bills match the shape of the burrow of fiddler crabs.

Whimbrel 2 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 363

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Whimbrel 6 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Whimbrel 8 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 417

1/250 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Black-necked Stilt

 

Found these Black-necked Stilts hanging around Goleta Beach and Sands Beach near the UCSB campus in Santa Barbara, CA.

 

Black-necked Stilt Profile - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Black-necked Stilt 5 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 363mm

1/125 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200

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Black-necked Stilt 2 - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/200 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400

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Lower Antelope Canyon

This was a pretty cool formation in Lower Antelope Canyon.  Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are some mind-blowing slot canyons in North Eastern Arizona just outside of Page, AZ.  It’s not exactly an unknown slot canyon, sometimes it can be pretty crowded.  But they control how many people go in at a time and you only get so much time so it’s not hard to get the chance for a great photo.  I can’t wait to go back again

 

Cool Structure - watermark

 

Canon 60D, Canon 18-135mm @ 18mm

1/3.2 sec @ f/23, ISO 100

 

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Canyon-4 - large - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm @ 10mm

1/2.0 sec @ f/23, ISO 100

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Look at All ‘Dem Birds

“Enough talk! We demand various photos of birds!” screamed the people.

“I think I have a few but they don’t really follow a theme or anything…” I nervously said.

“We don’t care! Give us the birds that flew by for a few seconds that aren’t terribly impressive but that are still birds, damn it!”

“Please don’t hurt me!” I begged.

“Share the birds and we shall see.”

 

And that’s how this post came to be.   It’s romantic really.

 

Ash Throated Flycatcher

Ash Throated Flycatcher_Main Ranch - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/250 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 400

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Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow_Main Ranch - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/250 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 400

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Black Pheobe

Black Pheobe_SCI - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/160 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler stretching - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 400

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Pink-footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 191mm

1/640 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater take-off - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/500 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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How to Catch an Oyster

Be an Oystercatcher, of course!  This conspicuous looking fellow is the Black Oystercatcher.

BLOY peeping - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 100

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I was greeted by this noisy friend one day while doing some breeding surveys of Pelagic and Brant’s Cormorants on Santa Cruz Island.  As I was looking through my spotting scope writing down how many chicks each nest had I heard the characteristic loud peep of the Black Oystercatcher.  By no means a rarity on the island I normally wouldn’t have given it a second thought but this particular peep was way louder than the average.  I looked up and this Oystercatcher decided to stop by and have a chat.  I couldn’t help but pull out the camera and snap a few shots.  After successfully yelling at me for about 5 minutes he thought it was time to move on.  Good luck you orange-billed weirdo.

BLOY sitting nicely - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 417mm

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 100

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And just for fun here is a picture of a Black Oystercatcher with an American Oystercatcher which was also seen on Santa Cruz Island.  The American Oystercatcher is significantly more of an unusual visitor to this area of the country.  You will often get hybrid American x Black but rarely do you see the pure American like this one.

Black & American Hangin Out

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/160 sec @ f/11, ISO 200

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Much respect goes out to the phenomenal birder Seagull Steve over at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds who was the one who originally found this pure American and was able to so eloquently describe the difference between a pure and a hybrid.  He has a good article about it here.

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The Cutest Apex Predator I Know

The answer to the riddle of the last post is, of course, the Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis).  Specifically the Santa Cruz Island Fox.

An Aging Warrior - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Let’s talk about the Island Fox.  It’s fascinating.  It’s also frustratingly cute.  At 2/3rds the size of its mainland ancestor, the gray fox it is one of the smallest canids in the world, but the largest land predator on the island.  They are fluffy, playful, curious, compact, and fearless.  I love them.

Fear My Mighty Roar - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/320 sec @f/8.0, ISO 200

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Once upon a time the Island Fox ruled over it’s kingdom.  Each island had it’s own population size generally related to the size of the actual island.  Santa Cruz was home to one of the largest populations.  Historically at a stable 1500 individuals the Island Fox was thriving.  People began showing up on the islands and it put a bit of pressure on the foxes, but nothing they couldn’t handle.  They are intelligent and adaptable and found ways around people and the newly created large swaths of grazing land.  Yet alas, despite their fortitude they were not invincible and that which defines them as cute and unique became their downfall.

Kit Licking Water Off Head - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 363mm

1/400 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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Having no natural predators the Island Fox had no fear.  It was the apex predator around and it knew it.  Unlike it’s mainland counterpart it didn’t need to hunt in the safety of night.  It is diurnal with its highest activity in the mornings and evenings.  In the 1990’s due to DDT and some other factors the non-fox threatening Bald Eagle (which mostly scavenges with eating the occasional fish) was replaced by the Golden Eagle.  An avian tour de force which sees a small fox as a light snack.  No-fear-fox was faced with a take-no-prisoners-predator.

Sleepy or Sneaky? - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/100 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 200

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The foxes once stable numbers of around 1500 individuals plummeted below a mere 80.  That’s a drop of 95%.  The Island Fox was all but extinct.  But The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service refused to give up on these poor balls of adorableness.  Through what has been considered one of the most coordinated, organized, intelligent, and tireless recovery programs to date they were able to remove all the resident Golden Eagles, re-establish Bald Eagles, remove the non-native wild sheep and boar and began reintroducing captive bred foxes.  Today the island is free of resident Golden Eagles, all ungulates, and the fox population on Santa Cruz is once again thriving at a strong estimated 1300 individuals.  Amazing work, and proof that with proper, swift and relentless action we can in fact bring a species back from the edge of extinction.

A Foggy Eye - watermark

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500mm @ 500mm

1/320 sec @ f/8.0, ISO200

Back From Obscurity

 

It looks like it’s time to dust off the old blog and toss out some new pictures.  Let’s see… last I left off I was in Alaska a bit under a year ago. Wow, shameful blogger here.  Well the long and short of my life since then is I moved out of Alaska with my lovely girlfriend, embarked on a whirlwind adventure driving from Anchorage down through most of the Western United States finally ending up in Santa Barbara, CA where we then started the task of finding housing and jobs.  Turns out being unemployed and technically homeless is stressful.  As biology jobs surfaced I found work out on Santa Cruz Island of the Channel Islands National Park.  But you don’t care about all that! You just want to look at pleasing pictures for about 10 seconds and move on with your life!

 

The next few posts will be shots of the Santa Cruz Island wildlife that sat still long enough for me to fumble with my camera taking hundreds of terrible photos only to come out with a handful of ones that don’t embarrass me as a self proclaimed “enthusiastic amateur photographer”. (And a terrible writer to boot, that sentence way too long.)

 

Just a Taste:

Island Fox Completely Hidden - watermark

Who’s that?  Who’s the sneaky little guy spying on me in, what it must assume is, complete stealth? Hint: It is only found on 6 of the 8 Channel Islands, with each island harboring it’s own unique subspecies.  Lots more pictures of this not-so-elusive creature in the next post.

Fishing Bears

These are the last of the Brown Bear photos I will have for a while.  After this they started hibernating and then I moved out of Alaska.  Actually these are some of the last photos of Alaska I have all together.  I had a great time in this part of the country, but it’s on to greener pastures.  Well, maybe not greener, but definitely pastures filled with different wildlife and landscapes… Yea, that’ll do.

Mmmm Salmon - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500 mm

1/250 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 500

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Three Little Bears - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/200 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400

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Waiting for Some Salmon - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/160 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400

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Bear Portrait - watermark - small

Canon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/125 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400

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Freshly Eaten Fish - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/125 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 400

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What's Over There? - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/125 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 500

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Fishing Bear - watermark - smallCanon 60D, Sigma 50-500

1/125 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 500

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