If you're interested in using any of these photographs in any way, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

What fish?

We were exploring a rocky intertidal zone site near Carmel this morning when I looked down to see (or not see?) this sculpin with amazing camouflage colors.  It looked just like the surrounding pink crustose coralline algae and the green Aggregating Sea Anemones (Anthopleura elegantissima).

I tried to get a view from the side.  What beautiful fins!

Here's one even closer:


And you know me, I can't resist sculpin eyes:

Friday, August 30, 2019

Quiet times

We've had to do some field work down near Carmel, CA, so here are a few quick shots from the Point Lobos area on 30 August 2019.

Below, these sea otters were a bit distant, but it's always nice to see them.  (The otter in foreground with a paler face is an adult, while the otter in the background with the darker facial fur is a juvenile.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Not too far

We were lucky to encounter several Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) offshore near Bodega Canyon/Cordell Bank on 25 August 2019.  

You can tell individual Blue Whales apart by the details of the patterning on their skin and the shape of their dorsal fins.  Here's a different individual than the one shown above:

Below, this is the same individual as shown in the first photo, but the view is further forward and the "splashguards" surrounding the blowhole are visible (right side).

It's always nice to see Blue Whales and fun to think about them feeding offshore, not too far away.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Just visiting

A few Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) images from a boat trip to Bodega Canyon/Cordell Bank on 25 August 2019.  [You can click on the images for larger versions.]

P.S.  For an introduction to Laysan Albatross, see the post called "Incoming" on 2 September 2012.  (And note that they also breed on Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Baja California, Mexico, which I neglected to mention in that earlier post.)  And for some fun audio recordings of Laysan Albatross, check out "Largely silent at sea" on 9 September 2015.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Offshore light

Even though we were 20+ miles offshore yesterday, the ocean was incredibly calm.  Because there was fog, sometimes it was hard to tell the ocean from the sky.  When the sun started to break through in places, the light and patterns were mesmerizing.

It also made for interesting backgrounds and reflections.  Here are two examples with Buller's Shearwaters (Ardenna bulleri):

More to come, so stay tuned!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Shadows of the sea

Ready for pelagic week?  I joined a trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank today (25 August 2019).  So I'll be sharing some photos from offshore during the next week.  Above, a Northern Right Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) leaps from the water next to the boat.  They look unusual because they lack a dorsal fin.

Northern Right Whale Dolphins are fast and unpredictable, making them difficult to photograph.  When they break the surface, they produce an impressive splash:

These dolphins are very dark above, so they almost look like shadows when swimming under water.  But check out the paler frosting on the flukes:

Here's another example of their shadowy silhouette:

Because they lack a dorsal fin, when viewed from a distance Northern Right Whale Dolphins can look a little odd. Below, here's one surfacing note the very streamlined shape:

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Conked out

You might remember when I came across some napping River Otters (Lontra canadensis) last year.  I hadn't seen young ones yet this year, but today (24 August 2019) I got lucky.

A family of four otters conked out on the rocks.  There's an adult, two juveniles, and either another adult or an immature otter (e.g., a one-year old?).

Here's another image when they repositioned before continuing their nap:

So great to see another family!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Phalaropes and friends

There are still quite a few Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) in Bodega Harbor.  When leaving work tonight, we noticed this group in a salt marsh pool.  Much of the water had drained out, so the phalaropes were very concentrated.  (There are over 65 phalaropes in the photo above.)

Some other shorebirds joined the phalaropes, and since it's always helpful to have views of species next to each other, here are a few examples.  See if you can spot the birds that look different than the phalaropes.  [You can click on the images for larger versions.]

A Least Sandpiper (browner) and two Western Sandpipers (pale gray) on the mud behind the phalaropes.

A Least Sandpiper (browner, far left) and two juvenile Western Sandpipers (upper right) behind the phalaropes.

Two Semipalmated Plovers (foreground left, and center) and two Least Sandpipers (far right, and third from left in upper group). 

P.S. The entry ponds at the start of Doran Beach are also a great spot to check for phalaropes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I'm guessing many of you also saw the beautiful sunset tonight.  It started with some amazing blues and grays, and then transitioned into intense pinks:

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summer fog and a breeze

Thought it would be fun to share a few shots from a recent sail in Tomales Bay.  Above, approaching White Gulch on Tomales Point.

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadow in the foreground:

Tomales Point shoreline through the fog:

The final run before we headed back to Nick's Cove:

Sunday, August 18, 2019

On sand or rock

Meet Ligia occidentalis, a high intertidal isopod that can be found on sandy beaches and rocky cliffs along the Sonoma Coast. 

Recently we were appreciating how well they blend in with sand (above) as well as rock (below).  Can you spot the isopod in the next photo?  [It's the same individual in both photos.]

Above, the isopod is just right of center at the sand/rock interface. 

Here's a zoomed in view so you can see it a little better:

Watch for these intriguing isopods scurrying along the upper beach, and especially near cracks and crevices in high intertidal rocks.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

In the marsh pools

Well, I had to do some chores today, but earlier this morning I spent a few minutes with some beautiful Red-necked Phalaropes, so here are some photo highlights.

Feeding in a marsh pool:

Surrounded by ripples from a morning breeze:


Feather detailsnote the beautiful golden fringes!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Among the seagrass and kelp

Yesterday (16 August 2019) I noticed a few Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) feeding among the rafts of seagrass and kelp near shore, so here are a couple more photos.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

First of the season

With the heat, come the dragons.  It was warm today (15 August 2019).  At the coast, air temperatures reached ~71°F (~22°C).  With these late summer conditions, we often see more insects at the coast.  I noticed a few Common Green Darners (Anax junius) on Bodega Head this afternoon, the first of the season for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

August elegance

What a nice surprise!  When I returned to my office this afternoon, there was a small note on my desk letting me know that a local orchid was in bloom nearby.  So I made a quick stop on my way to the post office, and there it was!  Coast Piperia (Piperia elegans) in Bodega Bay on 14 August 2019.

Mike also alerted me to this beautiful flower back in 2013.  So here are a few more photos from that time:  "Thanks" on 29 July 2013.

Thanks again, Mike!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Tiny, incoming wave approaching the beach during the late afternoon on 11 August 2019.  [You can click on the image for a larger version.]

Monday, August 12, 2019


Whew, swifts are hard to photograph!  I haven't seen swifts that often on Bodega Head, so here's a Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi) photo for the record.  Observed this morning on 12 August 2019. 

P.S.  Here are a few more photos from several years ago "Small but swift" on 14 September 2015.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Follow the gold

Close-up of California Orobanche (Aphyllon californicum, formerly Orobanche californica), photographed on 6 August 2019.

For a little more information about California Orobanche, see the posts called "Why so glandular?" from 16 August 2013 and "Worth the wait" on 19 August 2013.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Summer nap

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), 9 August 2019.  At first it was swimming and feeding, and then it found a nice resting spot: