Today I spent three hours with my friend Barbara and about 50 other bird enthusiasts at Lynch Canyon, part of the Solano Land Trust, near Vallejo. It was a glorious day for raptors. The sky was clear and the temperature was perfectly comfortable. I have driven by this area off I-80 my entire life and have always noticed the grazing cattle on the mostly barren hills covered with dried grass much of the year and the few clumps of oak trees scattered about, and I wondered who owned it. I had no idea that since the mid 1980’s the Solano Land Trust acquired more than 1000 acres, saved it from development, and preserved it for use by the public to enjoy. Larry Broderick a birding consultant and field guide was a most enthusiastic and knowledgeable docent and led the group with the help of a few assistant docents on a four mile trek through the canyon.
I was in hawk heaven. Before we left the parking lot we saw at least a half dozen red tailed hawks (referred to as “tails” by the docents) circling the hill tops and a pair of white tailed kites perched atop a tree in the distance. As we started our walk past the cattle grazing nearby (it is a working ranch and the cattle are free range) we spotted a golden eagle on a power tower. Be still my heart. I have seen more bald and golden eagles in the past couple of weeks than I ever thought I’d see in my lifetime. Besides the golden eagles (there were three or four individuals), we saw more red tailed hawks, a few Ferruginous hawks, more white tailed kites, several kestrels, some Northern harriers, a prairie falcon, and I’m probably forgetting others. They were riding the thermals and sitting in trees and harassing each other and being harassed by crows and other birds.
Here are two of the golden eagle and two of a juvenile red tailed hawk. Of course I took hundreds and even found a few more hawks when I stopped on the way home to find something to photograph for the “reflections” challenge for my Flickr group. None of these is in perfect focus and I now have serious lens envy as a couple of people on the walk had huge lenses, one requiring its own tripod. I would love to see their photos. I used my 70-300 mm lens set to 300mm and I used the Sunny 16 rule (ISO 100, f/16, 1/100) for most of my photos today, although I shot a few at f/11. I also cropped these four.