Tundra Swans. Klamath Basin, California. February 12, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A trio of tundra swans in flight in the Klamath Basin
I don’t usually do this, but I’m posting this photograph while I’m still in the field. It is a photograph I made earlier this evening, in the Klamath Basin in far Northern California — so far north in the state that I could look across the road and see Oregon. I’ve been photographing migratory birds in my “home range” of the California Central Valley for so long that I decided it was time to push out those boundaries a bit this season. I’ll share more about what this experience has taught me in a later post.
It is a challenge to photograph in a new place, especially when the subject is wildlife and double-especially when I arrived well after dark the previous night and had to head out again in pre-dawn darkness to find locations I’ve never been to before! Fortunately, I ended up in an area with quite a few birds — though not the dense flocks that I’m used to from some places I more frequently photograph. Here the main show involved a few golden eagles and a large number of tundra swans. I’ve only photographed tundra swans a few times in the past, since they are not all that plentiful in the places I usually visit. But here there were thousands of them, and I ended up photographing them in the morning and then again at the end of the day. From a distance grounded tundra swans look a lot like geese, though larger and with longer necks. Up close you notice that their bills are black, and they make rather different sounds that geese. Their flight patterns are not like geese either. The lumber into the air like jumbo jets loaded for intercontinental flights, gaining elevation very slowly and then flying in a smooth and level path.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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