Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

    Browsing Posts tagged Sierra Valley

    An American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) does its best to ignore the falling snowflakes while prowling for rodents.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM at 500 mm, 1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

    During a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains last month, Alison and I were blessed with a late spring snowstorm. I say blessed because unusual or severe weather often leads to dramatic photographs. Case in point is the American Bittern pictured above. This normally secretive bird species usually spends its time hunting deep within dense, reedy wetlands where one is fortunate to even get a glimpse of it. Perhaps it was because of the inclement weather that we were lucky enough to observe and photograph this bird for over an hour at close range. It was busily hunting for unwary rodents and mostly kept in full view in an area with only sparse reeds.

    You can see this photo and more from the trip by clicking on this link and then by clicking on the “Sierra Birds” thumbnail. The gallery includes photographs of Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and Marsh Wrens which were all busy with spring courtship behavior. One particular Marsh Wren tugged at our heartstrings, as we watched him sing virtually without stopping for four days, even while constructing a nest many times his own body weight, but sadly without attracting a willing female. Perhaps he found Mrs. Right after we left the Valley.

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    A Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) searches for prey during a faint midday snow shower in California's Sierra Valley.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700 mm, 1/2000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 800

    Let me give a “shout out” to the Lahontan Audubon Society (LAS) and their Sierra Valley and Yuba Pass online bird guide entry. Alison and I were on the third day of an early-season trip to the Sierra Valley and Yuba Pass. This visit was several weeks earlier in the season than in prior years, and in hindsight, we might have been too early to see much of the abundant birdlife that nests and raises its young in these locations. So, having had my fill of photographing Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens, I consulted the LAS bird guide which referenced a certain nearby road, stating that “the seasonally flooded sagebrush habitat along this road may produce Short-eared Owl[s].” I wondered to myself when the LAS had created this writeup, and whether it was even relevant in 2012. Since I am so enamored with photographing owls, I figured that it would certainly be worth trying; I just wouldn’t get my hopes up too high.

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