Random Photos and Thoughts. Adventures in life as a Amateur Photographer.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things That Fly

A few weekends ago, Karen and I loaded up ourselves into the car and had our 1st real weekend adventure of this year. A short 45 minute Sunday morning drive to Fremont and East Bay Regional Park District's Coyote Hills for their Birds and Butterfly event. Coyote Hills is set at the opening of Alameda Creek and the Salt Marsh of San Francisco Bay.


They have a "Butterfly Garden" which is a concentration of the different plants and blooms which are butterfly attractants, (either blooms which are nectar rich or plants which the butteries need to lay their eggs upon, or both).

I discovered capturing images of butterflies was hard to do. They are insects which move constantly and are subject to the lightest of breezes. Over the course of several hours I discovered a technique which seemed to work for me. Trying to follow butterflies from plant to plant didn't seem to be very successful and I found nothing but disappointments. When they landed, they seldom stopped long enough after you arrived on sight to snap any sort of picture.

So I stood back and watched and finally found a plant they would land on more often than not. They do not act totally random, but follow certain well defined behavior patterns. I picked a place where the lighting was optimal, set my camera to shoot one stop underexposed, and waited...

Then, finally an opportunity came flying in front of me.


After an adjustment of one of a stop, I had an image in which the colors are bright, the light yellow area is detailed and my image of a Tiger Swallow Tail Butterfly is something I can be happy with, for now.

A larger version is available on My Flickr Site:

I got several more good shots in a row. I started feeling good about the day, after so many failed attempts. My level of respect for other people which have made many magnificent images in the past went up intensely.

I stood Carefully wondering if more chances would be available, where I was standing.

I didn't have long to wait and soon a monarch buttery arrived. The butterfly landed and sat with the light coming through both sets of wings.

I shot several images in a quick series.

It was a matter of hoping for the best with no time to check the images between shots.

Was it a case of Mother Nature was being good to me, or was it just my patience and perseverance being rewarded?

I walked around the small informal butterfly garden a while longer and discovered in a sunny corner a milkweed plant.

Soon I discovered it was a favorite of the monarch butterflies.

In about 20 minutes or so I saw at least 10 more monarch butterflies visiting the milkweed plant.

I shot nearly 100 images some good and some not so good, while standing in one spot.

It is said: "When you are having fun, time flies".

I discovered several hours had passed. Karen and I took our picnic lunch in the shade of a one of dozens of wonderful trees. Nice heavy wooden tables and a cooling breeze, neatly cut crass and view a dozens of families which had came out to the park to enjoy the day.

After our lunch we decided to walk down over the wooden walkways into the Alameda Creek Estuary.

We walked slowly once we left the parking lot area. After a bit, I spotted several Damsel Flies flitting about and noticed they seems to all wanted to land on a small reed poking up out of the water. I wondered would the same technique work with them. After a few long seconds of standing still, the reward came to me.

Onward, we walked. Taking our time to look across the marsh and through the thick reeds whenever we could.

There were lots of different birds and waterfowl: ducks, geese, pelicans, egrets, and sparrows, and swallows.

One of the most interesting was an egret, which we saw across the bit of open slow moving water. I got a few shots, but nothing I really felt was impressive.

The surprise came on the way back when we came to open area where we had seen the female egret. We heard a loud series of squawks, and and flutter of wings.

It was smaller bachelor male had intruded on what I surmised was someone other male and its mate's nesting territory.

The display from the male was impressive and the intruding bachelor swiftly retreated onto the path in front of us, before leaving the area on wing.

The last significant shot came while we were sitting, cooling down from our walk. The air on the estuary was warm, but not unpleasant. There was a slight breeze but amongst the reeds, little air was moving. We finally found a nice small pier out over the water were the breeze was cooling and refreshing. We could see flights of gulls and pelicans coming inbound, on the low glides over the water. Between us and edge of the reeds, swimming and diving was a very interesting duck. It had a bright blue bill. We both sat for 30 minutes and talking in soft mummers, enjoying the show and the company of each other.

Finally the blue billed duck came close enough to get a good image. I was again pleased with one of the images, after many attempts to get a good shot. Later, at home, the birds in question were identified as a pair of Ruddy Ducks.

That ended our day on a perfect note. We made our way to the parking area packed our gear and made our way home in the early evening.

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