Another beautiful sunset from the top of DelValle Road. I don't think I'll ever tire of this place. 😎😍
As soon as I entered the park some deer ran off the road in front of me and into the low brush. Not sure what kind of shooting day it would be, I didn't want to waste the opportunity, so I pulled over. Most of the group were long gone but I caught this female staring back at me between the blades of tall grass. Normally they would shy away from the "big eye" staring back a them, but not this lady. I was about to get back in the car and leave her alone when I caught some movement to her right. The little one was why momma wasn't running away from me. They let me take a bunch of shots before they sauntered of after the rest of their crew. I didn't see the Eagles across from the boat launch and it was late morning, so I didn't rent a boat this time. Instead I hiked the east bay trail to a high perch beyond Venados Group Camp. I found mom and pop across the lake from me. For once I was above them and caught some shots of them from a different perspective. Most of my other Eagle shots were of Mom and sometimes both together. This time Pop took off. I got excited that I would see him fish this time but he just wanted to get away from his nagging wife, I guess. He flew around for a while then settled into a tree about a half mile from her. I got about 50 shots of his flight, none in great focus, he was still a ways off. I finished the day out with a Vulture.
So, how about some Eagle images? 😊 I did rent a boat that morning and slowly floated over to the female perched on their favorite observation post. She let me snap off a hundred shots before she moved on down the lake. I found her two more times before I was done. No sign of the male or the juvenile. There was also a Great blue Heron posing for me (it was "Walking like an Egyptian" there for a while 😃), A Western Grebe with a mullet, a flight of Geese going the other way, a gorgeous Cooper's Hawk, a Coot in fine light, A very Large white Goose with a huge harem (I don't really know that), and up in the rocks was Vulture Gulch. I made 554 images in a little less than
This shoot was, of course, dominated by the fishing Eagle, but I did make a few more good images that day. I found a Cormorant sunbathing, a momma Coot and her baby, a Heron perched in a tree, a great shot of a Western Grebe, and a Goose train.
I had just purchased a spotting scope. Lifting the camera every time I want to search for birds is a burden. A spotting scope is much lighter. I was intent on finding the Eagles as I putted across the lake in a rental boat. So intent was I, that I nearly missed the Osprey perched right in front of me. Again, I was panning along the tree line and a flash of white caught my eye. This time it was an Osprey I'd seen. I quickly switched to my camera and started snapping. It let me catch about 50 images before it'd had enough of me and flew off. I got the first image of it taking off. The rest were a blur of motion. I found out that having a shade canopy over my head when I needed to swing around to shoot was not ideal. 😏 I didn't find the eagles that day. I did find that the Merganser who looked like it was roosting actually was. These babies are just a week or so old. Bobbing around made it hard to get good crisp images, but still...what cuties. Cormorants and Terns are fast flyers. I've rarely been able to capture tack sharp images of them in flight. Herons, Deer, Turkeys and deadwood are easy. 😉
This was at first a frustrating day. I intended to rent a boat and go across the lake to get closer to the Eagles. I got there early but had to wait for a boat anyway. The Eagles were gone by the time I got out there. I cruised the entire length of the lake but couldn't find them anywhere. I later learned that between ten and eleven am, if they hadn't had any luck at DelValle, they flew over to Shadow Cliffs and fished there. I caught them at Shadow Cliffs a couple of times but without a camera, just walking the dogs. I was plenty frazzled but kept looking and instead of mom and pop, I caught their daughter perched down by the dam, looking for breakfast. Her size surprised me and I figured the mating pair had to be there since early March at least and determined to begin looking for them next year as soon as late February. (NOTE: I did that but they weren't there yet and then Covid-19 hit and that was that for 2020). I found out that the way to tell male from female was the beak and the rear talon. Both are longer on the female. She hadn't much experience with humans yet as she let me float right up to her perch within about 50 feet. I made over one hundred images of this young lady and surprisingly, most were of printable quality. It was a bear to choose which to publish. These five are the best in my opinion. Grebes, Geese (adult and goslings), Turkey Vultures, Hawks dancing in the sky, and the duck with the orange mohawk is a Common Merganser. Of course we can't forget the lake and hills. The moodiness of DelValle never ceases to bring wonder to this photographer. One day to the next her colors can change subtly and give an entirely new flavor to Livermore's wonderful gem over the hill. Shooting from a boat is also a challenge. Bobbing around out there, one has to time his shots. A sequence of shots of a static bird on the shore will have the subject at the top, middle and bottom of the frame. ;~)
Just a couple of days after my last shoot, I was back at Del Valle Regional Park. All the boats were rented by the time I got there. On a previous shoot I noticed quite a few birds on the water but on the other side of the lake, some 300 to 500 yards away depending on where I was standing. Trying to shoot them from the observation deck at the boat dock was not ideal, especially with the sun glaring off the water. So, I packed up the gear and headed out along the East Shore Trail. There is a fairly high perch just a hundred yards or so up the trail. I set up there and started looking around. I had just received a new piece of gear. Its called a Tele-Converter. It adds length to your lens at the expense of light and noise. For this shoot I used a 1.4x TC, so at this lens' longest zoom it was extended from 600mm to 840mm, but my best aperture jumped from f:5.6 to f:7.0. at full zoom I was looking at an f:9 - not very good really but as long as there was lots of light, it was usable. Those birds that were just specs with the lens alone were now a few percentage points larger. I could see some detail. Still, they were pretty far off. As I was searching around I caught the Grebe first. The light looked great. This bird was just about a hundred yards from the opposite shore. This image is cropped to bring it in even closer. I continued searching around and as I panned past some trees on the opposite shoreline, a flash of white caught my eye. I panned back and there they were. Not just one, but two Bald Eagles, a mating pair. The second image in this set is of my rig with the Nikon D850, the Tamron150 to 600mm glass w/1.4xTC, mounted on a tripod w/Gimbal head. This image is at a different locale. The third image is of my setup that day at DelValle. If you look across to where the lens is pointing, that highlighted area in the trees just above the shoreline, is where the Eagles were perched. I measured it roughly at about 500yards. The next image is exactly what I saw through the viewfinder. Still pretty far off, eh? The next image is the best of the set. It is cropped and cleaned up quite a bit. The original is dark and noisy, so I added light and removed as much noise as I could without making the image too fake looking. The next is the second best of the set. The next shows what a cropped image without any other enhancements looks like - poor light, noisy as heck. The last is an example of extensive noise reduction. Kind of looks like a painting, right? I got a couple more images of the eagles flying off but that was it for the day. The Scrub Jay was perched right next to my rig, ten feet at the most. A good lesson in depth of field - fully zoomed out and focused on the eye, just an inch further away and the beak is already out of focus. A Cormorant just after surfacing, a train of Geese, a lone sailor, a Heron in flight, another Cormorant, the Eagles in flight and a couple of Deer round out the shoot. Needless to say I was thrilled leaving the park that day.
I came back in a few days and as I was gearing up in the lot above the boat dock a fisherman said he'd seen some Red Tail Hawks hunting and and Osprey fishing, but they were way down the other end of the lake, a good five mile trek from where I was in the parking lot. No way I could hike that far with my achy old body. I decided to rent a boat. I didn't find the Osprey and the Hawks were so high up the images I made of them were out of focus and severely backlit. I was only able to save one. What I did find was a plethora of other feathery friends and I captured them all. Herons, Egrets, Grebes, Coots, Geese (adults and goslings), Scrub Jays, Crows and Cormorants. This was when I realized that Grebes and Coots had red eyes, and Cormorants have blue eyes. I also found a few Deer and some stray Cows. Of course the hills were still there too. And yet, no Eagles.
Again no eagles, but the valley is so darn gorgeous. Some birds, some cows a couple of Woodpeckers, dead wood and the hills. I love that old barn too.
This is five weeks after the last shoot here. I was convinced I'd missed the eagles and was shooting elsewhere in the meantime. There were still no eagles but I did make some great shots. The beginning Sequence is of a mother Cormorant feeding her youngster. I asked the man if I could post the image of him and his bestie, he said "Sure". A pair of Redtail Hawks showing off in their summer plumage. A couple of things are apparent after just 5 weeks. The hills are already turning brown, and so is the smaze over Tri-Valley, and...I love dead wood.
I returned to DelValle on April Fools Day. My intention was to shoot that Eagle but with the right ISO settings. As it turned out, the Eagle was no where to be seen that day. I thought I had missed my only chance to capture it when I used the wrong ISO settings a few days before. That wasn't the case though as I captured the Eagles many times over the next two months before they moved back north for the rest of the summer. I did think I saw it way across the lake this day and made about thirty shots before I realized what I was shooting was a Turkey Vulture. None of those shots came out for me. Too far away and backlit. 🙄 It was a kind of overcast, stark day so I still had to beware of my ISO in order to get proper exposure. I set the ISO to Automatic with a limit of 1800 for the high end. I got better results than the last shoot but still, I could have dropped that upper limit down to about 800 for capturing better detail. I was still learning at this point. I was still learning about focusing with moving subjects too, so some of these images will look soft (not clearly focused). This was my first time shooting a Heron, a Cormorant, a Coot (first time seeing a Coot, period), a Stellar Jay, and a couple of Ducks in flight. I also got some decent static shots of a Grebe, a Red Tailed Hawk (backlit), and a couple of Mule Deer. The rest of the shots are of our green springtime hills. Ahhhhhhhh...I do love it here in Livermore.
This is a short shoot. I made a ton of images, but once again I forgot to check all my settings. I left the ISO setting for night shooting...again. What really made this a frustrating shoot is that it was the first time I saw an eagle in person in the wild. I was so pumped. I nearly died when it flew away. Still I shot a bunch of shots and couldn't wait to get home to see the results. GRRRRR! High ISO made every shot so noisy (grainy effect) I almost couldn't save any of them. I did what I could though and these are the only shots out of about 300 that are usable...not printable at all, but evidence that I did see the eagle. I didn't know for sure if I would see it again at the time. This also provided my first look at a Grebe, a Goldeneye (not viewable) and a closeup of a Magpie. I did finally learn my lesson though...and I went back to DelValle time and time again to recapture that bird, only to find there were two adults (a breeding pair) and a juvenile (their offspring).
This set is more of the same...The hills surrounding DelValle Regional Park in winter colors.
This set shows the conflict between spring and winter with snow capped green hills. Bravo, Gaia...well played indeed.