This was my last shoot at DelValle in 2019. Even when it's all browned over, overcast, and the beginning of winter, DelValle never disappoints. Kitty and Shea were none too thrilled to be stuck in the car while I was shooting. They had been running about before then. We were on our way out of the park when I had to catch Diablo one last time.
NOTE: I made a couple of shoots at DelValle in 2020 before Covid-19 shut us down, then one more shoot in July trying to catch NeoWise. I fear they might have been the last of what we know of our park. I pray I am wrong.
This was my second to the last shoot at DelValle in 2019. There was a great surprise in store for me. Pelicans! I had no idea they migrated here. This was so awesome. It was another bright sunny day with the water fast leaving the lake and I thought it would be just a so-so shoot. It was so much more than that though. Herons, Egrets, Gulls, Cormorants, Bufflehead and Mallard ducks, and of course the pelicans. I even got a Sandpiper. Remember those cute little Merganser chicks from a few months before? Guess who'd all grown up by the time this shoot happened? Towards the end of this set, there's an image that reminds me of the old joke about a Gull, a Pelican, and a Cormorant who walk into a (sand)bar...yuk, yuk, yuk. 😋 The hills, deadwood, and stone art are decent fallback images. Someone mentioned how ungraceful Pelicans were when they splashed down. So true. What intrigued me was how the Pelicans hung out with the Cormorants. When the Cormorants dove, they chased some of the fish to the surface where the Pelicans were waiting with those huge basket-beaks to scoop them up. Symbiosis at its best, or worst from the fish's viewpoint.
This is a combination of three shoots in October. Not much to shoot really. The lake is being drained by now. The hills are still gorgeous and the deer are growing up. A squirrel foraging for winter and a butterfly.
I had taken a sunrise shoot. I decided to do a sunset too. Not quite as dramatic, but still quite breathtaking.
After my trip here on September 5, I decided there would always be something to shoot here. The girls tend to dictate where we go anyway, and if they need a good run, DelValle it is. They are well behaved and a whistle is all it takes to bring them back.
After my visit in late August, I felt that DelValle was pretty much done with me for the year. Then I recalled that I'd never caught a sunrise there. So on September 5, I made it to the lake when it opened at 6 am, I rented a boat, and headed down to the dam in time to catch the sun coming over the hills to the east. WOW! I forgot how wondrous this place could be even after everything turned brown. Between 6:17 and 9:20 am, I made 250 images and I could have posted almost everyone. The fog was still sorting itself out back to the west. There was some light cloud cover to the east and a band of blue sky in between. This was to be one of those blistering Indian Summer days. The orange glow cast by the sun was incredible, and the way it tangled with the fog to control the view had me mesmerized. There were a few critters about too. The dance that the squirrel and the Magpie engaged in was quite entertaining. I think the Magpie wanted what the squirrel was eating.
Anyone who has been to DelValle in July will feel the heat just looking at this set. The girls (Shea and Kitty) romp for about ten minutes until the energy starts to ebb, then they spend the rest of the hike running from shade to shade. I spend all my time wishing I could keep up.😰🥵 There isn't a lot to shoot here at this time of year as far as wildlife is concerned. I was trying to get a good shot of that big white Goose when the family caught my eye. I got a bunch of good shots of them swimming around. The White goose moved off towards the other bank, so I got in the car and scooted over there. That goose had turned around and headed back the other way again, but who showed up? The same family of geese, so I got a few more close-ups of them, and a video...at the end of this set of them coming out of the water on the other side. Cute little goslings.
This hike was on the dam side of DelValle, so it shows a different perspective of the lake and the surrounding hills. Are we ever blessed to live here? I never seem to tire of capturing the same views, even if from just a slightly different perspective. The handsome lad showing off his calves in some of these images is yours truly, laying claim to what's rightfully his by virtue of climbing that beast of a hill. PHEW!😓
At this point in time, things are back to the normal routine, and the regular players pretty much. Geese are still rearing their young and the Jays are plentiful. Wildflowers and hills, and of course, deadwood. This piece of deadwood I called a "Velociraptor starter kit". 😋
The Eagles are gone by now, even the juvenile. More feathers and a little fur are still to be captured though.
It had been two weeks since I'd last seen the eagles and I figured they'd gone north for the rest of the year. I was grateful for the times I did see them. Imagine my surprise when I found the juvenile still here. I'm not that well versed in the family dynamic of birds in general but I felt some angst for this young lady all by herself. I couldn't help but wonder how it all worked and how well she'd do by herself. She looked healthy enough for sure. Ducks, a Heron, some deer, and a couple of young ladies out for a paddle in the mist.
And here was 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 at 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 off 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 a 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 puttered 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 the eagles 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 the male from the 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. It's 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. It 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 at my luck when 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 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 that 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.