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Hanging Around

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Bald eagle, Richvale (1/3/19) Robert Kermen

Bald eagles and pintail ducks will be hanging around the marshes, rice fields and wetlands of the Northern Sacramento Valley for a while longer this winter.

Robert Kermen spotted about ten eagles near farmland at Richvale. Nearby, pintail ducks were watchful.

To photograph them, Bob recommends staying inside your vehicle and using it as a blind. Exiting the vehicle will cause the birds to take flight.

Shooting from inside a vehicle is always awkward, but is made easier by setting up before you get to the wetland. One pleasant way to do this is to schedule a stop to fill a Thermos with coffee. While in the coffee shop parking lot, set up your equipment before drive to nearby wetlands.

If you’re with someone else, have one in the front and the other in the back seat (if you’ve got an SUV, van or other somewhat spacious vehicle).

Long lenses can be stabilized by resting them on the upper edge of an open car door window or by using a monopod or tripod inside the car. Occasionally, I’ve opened the sunroof and shot standing in it. Surprisingly, birds aren’t as easily spooked by poking a head out a sunroof or car door window, but as soon as they see boots on the ground, off they go.

Farm roads travel along the edges of the rice fields. Check first for “No Trespassing” signs, but usually these roads are public and open to traffic. A word of advice: levee roads have soft shoulders, so stay in the middle of the road unless there’s a stable turnout.

As reported previously, numerous wildlife refuges are located in the Sacramento Valley. At these, photo platforms get you close to birds that have gotten used to seeing photographers hanging around on them.

Lenticular cloud over Mt Shasta, Lake Shastina (1/3/19) Robert Kermen
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