Tag Archives: bird

One Goose From The Flock

One Goose From The Flock
A goose takes flight along with the rest of the flock

One Goose From The Flock. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 11, 2018. © Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A goose takes flight along with the rest of the flock

Some birds are most often photographed as individuals, usually because that is how they live. Examples include egrets, eagles, hawks, and many other hunting birds. To simplify a bit, a major challenge is to get close enough (physically and/or with a big lens) so that an individual is large enough in the frame to produce a photograph and so that distinguishing characteristics of the bird (along with some aspect of its environment) are visible. I rarely do that with geese snow geese, Ross’s geese, and other wild geese. These are, by their nature, birds that live in communities. I most often see and photograph them in groups which may range in size from a few individuals up to many thousands.

Some of the other members of the flock are partially visible in this photograph, so the image isn’t entirely of a lone bird. However, because the others are shown only in part and out of focus, my attention here is drawn to the largest, central bird with wings outstretched as it ascends. I made the photograph on a day when I found myself unusually close to a large flock for a good amount of time — they were spread across a dirt access road I was using. Eventually, as always happens with geese, some of the birds began to get ideas about going elsewhere, and this time I was very close to their lift-off.


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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Black-Necked Stilt, Sunset Reflection

Black-Necked Stilt, Sunset Reflection
A black-necked stilt wades in shallow water reflecting sunset sky.

Black-Necked Stilt, Sunset Reflection. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2018. © Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A black-necked stilt wades in shallow water reflecting sunset sky.

In this place where we gathered to photograph migratory birds on New Year’s Day, our attention often turns to the most impressive sights — giant flocks of thousands of Ross’s and snow geese, collected on ponds and fields, or suddenly rising into the sky all at once. Or perhaps to the dawn passage of cranes, or to their return at dusk. Sometimes the landscape and sky can produce spectacular scenes.

The end of this day wasn’t like that. We did find a very large flock of geese, but they were hunkered down on a close-cropped field, feeding in low and flat light as much of the sunset was cut off by clouds to the west and haze was everywhere. However, sometimes it is possible to find smaller subjects at times like these, and we spotted a few of these black-necked stilts wading in shallow water with a bit of colorful sky as a backdrop.


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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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

White-Faced Ibis

White-Faced Ibis
White-faced ibis wading in shallow water

White-Faced Ibis. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 1, 2017. © Copyright 2017 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

White-faced ibis wading in shallow water

Late each fall I begin heading out into California’s Great Central Valley to photograph migratory birds and the winter (plus a bit of autumn) landscape of this place. That landscape is largely agricultural, but Americans had enough foresight in the past — and one hopes we’ll return to those roots again soon — to put aside many areas in this midst of these areas for the use of birds, largely migratory birds who spend their summers thousand of miles to the north and then magically appear in my neighborhood during the colder months. Here, under the Central Valley’s open sky (often obscured by tule fog at this time of year!) I find cranes, herons, ibises, geese, egrets, hawks, eagles, and more.

Yesterday I made my first real bird photography foray of the new season. As usual, I was up and on the road many hours before dawn, arriving at my destination a half hour before sunrise to find the place socked in by tule fog so thick that bird photography wasn’t really possible at first. I took my time, slowing down to synchronize with the less-hectic flow of time here, and a bit later in the day came upon a group of ibises feeding near the edge of a pond. The coloration of ibises used to confuse me. Guides show everything from nearly black to quite colorful, but the first time I saw these birds they looked dark and, to be honest, somewhat drab. However, as this photograph shows, in the right light their feathers can produce a wild array of color including red, blue, green, yellow and more.


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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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Great Egret Takes Flight

Great Egret Takes Flight
A great egret takes flight above San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Great Egret Takes Flight. Great Central Valley, California. December 16, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A great egret takes flight above San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Egrets are among the easiest birds to find — as long as you go where they are — and also among the most impressive. They are mostly individuals, rarely seen in groups, though occasionally they may collect in numbers of a few dozen in the winter. I typically find them around water, ranging from creeks and drainage canals through ponds and even the ocean shoreline. (There is one small pond not too far from where I live where I can almost always find a single egret in the area, and this has been the case for at least the last fifteen years.)

They don’t initially seem too distressed by human presence, especially if they are hunting and have found a target. However, they have clear boundaries and if you get too close they will suddenly take off, with little warning. They can be quite beautiful in flight, usually moving their wings slowly and even gliding, and they flare their wings impressively as they land. Unfortunately, most often they are flying away from my camera position — so it was special to be able to track this one as it flew past me from right to left.


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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.