As always, Huntington Beach has been so much fun. So much fun that the 4 nights I spent here went by before I had realized. I had one last morning to get some photography in before the last few hours of driving home. I had a plan in mind. The last couple of days I watched the Horned Grebes enough to learn their behaviors. I also felt like I had a good chance at getting some good photographs of this species. But the approach required the morning, and today was the day to try. This meant walking the long walk down to the jetty with my gear. As the light started to come, the sand dunes began to awake with all sorts of pastel shades. Although I usually use my long lens for birds, this time it seemed appropriate to turn it on the landscape.
When I made it down to the jetty, I crawled out onto the rocks. Temperatures were somehow below freezing this morning. I saw flurries a couple of times in all my days up north, but now I’m in South Carolina and there was ice on the ground – amazing. If you think the air temperature is cold, lie on wet rocks a couple of inches off the ocean surface with strong winds blowing in your face. To say today felt cold was an understatement and I was dressed for a cold day. After about 20 minutes of frigid nothingness, a big group of horned grebes moved close to where I was on the rocks. I quickly forgot the discomfort as I focused on these bizarre birds.
The grebes were non-stop diving. They would come up for about 10 seconds of breath and then dive again. They were catching fish, shrimp, crustaceans – not sure exactly what. But whatever it was the Bonaparte’s Gulls also decided to join in. Unfortunately the jetty runs east-west so I couldn’t really get a perfect angle on the grebes, but I did the best I could with the light. The Horned Grebes never ceased to amaze me with the way their heads could change shape so dramatically. This one looked faintly devilish to me.
You may have noticed that in all my photos the grebes are facing the exact same way. With the strong wind and the grebes fishing from the deeper water to the shallower water, they all were facing that way virtually all the time. On top of that only a few of the birds came close enough to the rocks for photographs. I was happy even to get a bird with a body angle turned slightly towards me like this one. I definitely need to make it back out to these birds for some more variety in the images not to mention that their breeding plumage and behavior is fantastic.
And just like that the morning was gone. My fingers were gone too – or at least I couldn’t feel them. It was time to head home after a wonderful trip with lots of fabulous landscapes, birds, and even foxes. As I was walking the mile or so back down the beach, a few pelicans were diving far off into the water. It was a backlit situation, and I usually like back light when the sun is on the horizon, but something told me to stop and shoot. I decided on a silhouette, something I usually only do with the colors of a sunset. But there were some great clouds and the wind was creating chop on the water. I didn’t quite get what I was going for with the shiny chop, but silhouettes against the cloud worked nicely. After all these days on the road, I’ve forgotten what home feels like!