March Madness

April 07, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Oh, but what a month is was! Truly madness was in the air at our house during March.  Lots of little annoying things going haywire and costing money, like traffic school for me and a root canal for Jane.  Glad March is history and now Jane and I have (hopefully) only good times to look forward to.  Of course, that is not to imply that March was a total loss.  I did manage to do some photography.  Early in the month I headed to Imperial County, around Brawley and Calipatria, to photograph burrowing owls.  I knew that the agricultural area of Imperial County was a hot spot for these cute little owls.  Having photographed a captive burrowing owl at the Chula Vista Living Coast just last month, I was anxious to photograph these owls in their natural habitat.

To maximize the probability of finding the owls, I had contacted Bob Miller, a local Imperial birding guide at Southwest Birders (www.southwestbirders.com), for advice.  He was very helpful and provided several potential locations for me to check.  I talked my friend Bruce into joining me for this exploration.  The Imperial Valley is a big place and our expectations of finding the small owls amidst this vast agricultural haven were subdued.  Nevertheless, we ventured forth to the areas Bob had suggested.  We were very pleasantly surprised at the results.  We found several pairs of burrowing owls at three of the four locations provided by Bob.  The owls are really rather small, about the size of a slender quail, but when standing tall and looking at you with those big yellow eyes, they are adorable little creatures. 

Burrowing Owl Owl At Burrow Entrance

 

We stumbled upon some more Imperial County surprises as we explored the area around the Salton Sea.  First, we happened upon commercial flower fields similar to the ranunculus fields of Carlsbad.  There were acres and acres of colorful stock flowers ready to be harvested.  Pickers were already in some of the fields cutting the flowers and getting them ready for transport to flower markets.  If you are familiar with stock flowers you can appreciate not only the variety of colors displayed for us but also the very pleasant aromatic scent in the air.  Bruce and I spent quite some time photographing the multi-colored fields.  Composition, which is my photographic nemesis, was the biggest challenge in photographing the flower fields.
Stock Flowers Fields of Stock Flowers

 

Driving along the dike bordering the Salton Sea we also encountered a variety of birds that occupy the fringe areas along the shore of the lake, including double crested cormorants, horned grebes, white pelicans, egrets, numerous great blue herons, and an occasional sandhill crane.  The large flocks of snow geese that migrate through Imperial County had already left for their northern breeding grounds.  We photographed  along the dike as opportunities presented themselves.  As ever, the blue herons were the most skittish and always took to the air as we got our big lenses out.  However, near Obsidian Butte, adjacent to the Salton Sea, we actually came upon a blue heron rookery.  A large number of herons were roosting in dead trees about a hundred feet or so from shore.  Several of the birds were sitting on nests, presumable incubating eggs.  Knowing these canny birds do not like people, we parked some distance away and approached cautiously on foot.  Stopping at a considerable distance from the nests, we used our long telephoto lenses with tele-extenders to photograph the roosting herons.

 

Double Crested Cormorants Heron Nests
In summary, our expedition to Imperial County turned out to be more productive than we had originally anticipated.  Photographs from this trip can be viewed in the Burrowing Owl gallery.
March Madness continued with a trip to the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park for the butterfly exhibit.  There it was truly madness as the small exhibit area became inundated with families and school groups and noise levels exceeded our ability to endure.  Again, Bruce joined me on this photo shoot and we arrived when the exhibit opened.  The first 30 to 45 minutes in the enclosure was enjoyable as there were only a few diehard photographers to share the area with.  Although there were plenty of butterflies, a lot of patience was required to either find, or wait for, a situation where the butterfly was properly positioned to obtain maximum sharpness with an appropriate background.  In any regard, the trip to the butterfly exhibit, although a bit hectic and claustrophobic with the crowds of people, provided a good opportunity to practice our patience and use of our photographic equipment.  Images from the Safari Park butterfly exhibit are in the Butterfly gallery. 
Giant Owl Bllue Morpho Butterfly
Postman Butterfly Paper Kite
To finish the March Madness month, Bruce and I ventured to the Anza Borrego desert for wildflower photography.  Unfortunately, there had not been sufficient rain for any kind of wildflower bloom.  My on-line research had forewarned me of that probability.  However, it was March and I had an itch for some more photography.  You can call that madness if you must.  Poor Bruce, I conned him into coming along on this unproductive shoot.  We headed east out of San Diego on I-8 to Ocotillo.  There we discovered a vast, newly constructed, wind farm.  It was a bit of a shock to come off the Jacumba Mountain grade into Imperial Valley and see so many of the huge, white windmills.  As we drove through the wind farm on County Road S-2 the enormous size of these gigantic structures became obvious.  People, cars, even large cranes appeared miniscule compared to the towers and blades of the windmills.
Ocotillo in Bloom Buckhorn Cholla

 

Photography wise, we found that in limited areas ocotillo and some cacti were in bloom.  For the most part, the desert appeared dry and brown with very little evidence of living plants.  We did the best we could under the circumstances and ended up a bit giddy about the whole experience making fun of ourselves for stooping so low as to photograph a single ocotillo bush multiple times.  There was a full moon the nights we were in Borrego, but the sky was overcast and no photography was possible.  Can you believe that?  It was madness!  We did spend some enjoyable time at the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association gift shop (www.abdnha.com).  The shop carries my photo-greeting cards so be sure to stop there whenever you visit Borrego Springs.

 

Desert Scene


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