Monday, November 25, 2013

Jim and Shirley White

We were staked out west of Dutch Flat, watching the Union Pacific Railroad tracks for the late afternoon down- mountain freight; hoping for a photograph of a snow encrusted engine with its yellow headlight pushing thru the late evening snowfall. I had four-wheeled thru the frozen crust making a sound like breaking glass to park along the tracks on a seldom used dirt road. There were no dwellings for miles on this road, but somehow two large Newfoundland type dogs ran out of the snow-covered woods across the tracks and barked at us like we were unwelcome intruders into their icy domain. Our cameras are ready and the windows are down so we can hear the approaching train.

I poured two cups of steaming coffee and we munched on our Kashie bars and tried to stare down the barking inferno across the tracks. Earlier I had shot at high speed straight into the setting sun at U.P. # 6933 eastbound near the Dutch Flat diggings. One shot was not bad with a star effect had on the sun behind the engine .Now we are ready with the camera all set when a train comes around the curve up-stream with the setting sun behind our backs. The barking finally stopped and the dogs across the tracks went back into the woods.

Time to put the thermos and energy bars away in the back of the truck; no need to spill hot coffee when the train rushed around the corner and I started shooting like a demon trying for that great train  picture. I stepped out of the truck and walked to the rear to open the camper door when 30 yards away something big and black glided out of the woods on the left side of our access road and stopped in the snow on the road with a solid stare that made me hold my breath and check the holster on my belt. I strained to see, but this beast had a 2 inch tail that stuck straight out and ears that stood straight up, with maybe tassels on the ears. The body was really dark and thicker than it should be. The light was poor and I really needed my binoculars left on the front seat. He paused and then glided into the very thick snow covered manzanita, and then stopped. I could feel the stare coming from just below his ears .A faint beam of sunlight refracted off the snow struck his face and one eye went bright green. I could see the outline of his thick black body thru the brush. As silent as he came, he glided away into the thick snow covered jungle.

The train picture did not seem that important now. We waited 15 minutes more and gave up. We drove over the tracks of the unknown, unable to tell what it was from its tracks in the too hard snow.

It is the next day now and as you can tell, the thoughts of those green eyes are still with me. With more than a half century of wildlife observations in California behind me, I am not sure now what I know about wildlife in California. I do love photography.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


A WALK IN THE PARK no normal stroll. We leave the house in the morning at the first sign of daybreak. Five minutes later this is what we see where we park.
We walk 2 miles in 50 minutes. That is if we don't run into some wildlife activity on the lake which requires us to stop and watch.
This is our pond in our park. On any given day we may see, River Otters, an Egyptian goose native to Africa, Kingfishers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, all kinds of ducks and geese, Cormorants, various other Shore Birds, Mud Turtles, Hawks, Beaver, Wild Turkeys, Grey Squirrels, all kinds of native birds....and in the Fall, color enough to knock your eyes out!

Along with all this wildlife and natural color we meet friends. They are as crazy about being out here early in the morning as we are. Of course we stop and talk and compare notes as to who has seen what. It seems like there is always something new to share. Some of our friends will have their dogs. I usually have a treat for each of the dogs. We can see the tails start wagging when they are at the other end of the pond. Nice to have a friend who lets you know a mile away that they like you. What a way to start a day. It just makes you feel good all over.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The weather forecast for the upper Sacramento Valley is for high winds 30 to 45 MPH with some clouds! Just what we have been waiting for to photograph the first of the northern birds in large numbers this year. We are having breakfast at Tommy's Market Street grill in Colusa this early Sunday morning in November and I can't wait to see the conditions at the refuge. Wind, dust,few people and millions of waterfowl, restless and moving around. Just what wildlife photographers need.
First the Snow Geese. Noisy and restless. There is only 3 or 4 large groups we can find. Lots more to come later. A scattering of Ross Geese mixed into the Snows. You can tell the Ross because they do not have the "Grinning Patch" the Snow's have. We shoot a few shots of the geese and then move on to young Red Tailed hawk sitting on the ground. He looks at us like he has never seen a person before. Maybe?
The best part of this day is the ponds on the last part of the auto tour. Lots of trees around these ponds and for some reason the birds feel safer here. We park 50 feet away from a packed house.
I single out a few Mallards. Pictures of a few Mallards taking off or landing are very commercial and hard to get. We keep trying.
It's been a good day. Time to get home and watch some football. When we get some rain we will get some more birds and we will be back. I wonder what time Tommy's opens?