A singing Song Sparrow greeted me as I parked the Jeep. He was in the shadows so it presented an opportunity to work up on what I learned about taking photographs in such situations. Although I know the appropriate settings on different lighting conditions, only the 40D with its much more capabilities gave me the challenge to actually put into action such photographic principles.
I was soon hitting the trails and the first thing I noticed were the gnats. Millions of them! They were all gathered flying in perfect unison at the middle of the trail. And there was no way of getting around them! I walked through this cloud of tiny flying insects, flailing my arm like an out-of-control windshield wiper. I had to repeat this maneuver hundreds of times over the next four hours. The gnat clouds were present on all the trails like the plague in Exodus 8:16 (NIV).
Fortunately, birds were quite plentiful too. Tree Swallows have begun staking their claims to the many nest boxes along the various trails. I was photographing these beautiful birds when I noticed that one of the swallows perched on top of a nest box looked different. Slowly and with the stealth of a hungry predator I inched closer and closer to the odd-looking bird. It had a chestnut neck, black cap and a white forehead, unlike the glossy blue-green of the Tree Swallows. Its identification escaped me until I got home when I looked it up and discovered that I got myself a picture of a Cliff Swallow! It may not be rare but it was a lifer for me.
As I walked along Pond C, I saw some Cinnamon Teals. What made me look twice was that one of the birds was darker with a more pointy beak and a yellow streak of feathers behind the eyes. Eared Grebe in breeding plumage! I exclaimed to myself. This is one of the most strikingly colored waterbirds in spring.
Not far from Pond C rises a very tall electric tower and there perched majestically a Red-tailed Hawk. As I aimed my camera at it, it took off and proceeded to glide effortlessly above me. A chance for me to try for BIF (birds in flight) shots and see how the 40D responds. Magnificently, it turned out, as I looked at the pictures that night.
On my way back to the parking lot a Great Blue Heron, oblivious of my presence, was hunting by the side of the pond. Suddenly it grabbed a prawn and consumed it right before my appreciative eyes (and camera).
Noon and I took my lunch at a very crowded In-N-Out close to UCI. After my repast I went back to San Joaquin but the birds were probably all out taking a nap. Sighing, I decided it was time that I do an errand that my wife had so sweetly requested me to do.
Off to Dollar a Book I went where as the name says, all books there are being sold at one dollar apiece regardless of its condition, or whether it was hardbound or softcover, a classic or trashy romance stories. After more than an hour of looking over hundreds of thousands of books, I ended up with fifteen books by Mary Higgins Clark. Fifteen! I didn't even know she was that prolific a writer, considering we already had four of her books at home and that I bypassed buying probably four more.
There was a big grin on my face as I picked up Cynthia from her seminar that afternoon.
"Did you get me some books by Mary Higgins Clark?", she asked with eyes wide open like a child expecting a birthday present.
"As plentiful as a plague of gnats", I replied smiling.