Mission San Juan Capistrano

At least 55 years ago my family and I visited the Mission San Juan Capistrano. I remember nothing else around the mission at that time, yet now the town is jam-packed with homes and businesses. The old train depot has been converted to a restaurant and the nearby street has old houses with shops, but all else is new construction. Beautiful flowers are everywhere!

The story of the swallows and San Juan Capistrano is well-known, but if you do not know it, here it is in a nutshell. In the 1930’s the swallows were a nuisance for a shop-owner in town. As the person was destroying their mud nests, Father O’Sullivan asked the shop owner why they destroy the homes made by and needed for the swallows? In discovering the person’s annoyance, Father said the swallows were welcomed at the mission. The swallows did begin building nests at the church.

In the 1990’s the nests were removed from the ruins of the Great Stone Church and with the loss of habitat the swallows did not return. With the help of cliff swallow experts, they have been able to lure the swallows back to the mission. Nowadays the number of swallows fluctuates. Their migration along the Pacific Flyway is really amazing when you realize these birds are flying 6,000 miles one way from Argentina to California!

Here are some photos taken at the mission:

After a delicious lunch in San Juan Capistrano, I drove to the San Joaquin Wildlife Marsh, Irvine, CA, and parked near Tree Hill. Of course, now I realize how huge the water treatment district is with 5 ponds. I discover this first-hand walking from one end to another. I saw a number of birds; 2 new ones for me: black skimmer and Clark’s grebe. 

I had a fascinating moment watching bird behavior between a male and female house finch. The male house finch was singing loud, non-stop and looking at the female as he continued to sing. The female house finch was not impressed or playing hard to get. She flew off!

To find my car, I walked the road/pedestrian access walkway along the San Diego River. There was the killdeer on the berm again (saw it 2 days ago), yet it stayed on its nest as I walked toward it. I walked near the wall since due to “no trespassing” signs posted on the berm I could not go below it to give the killdeer more space. The bird remained on the nest, looked at me, and seemed unstressed by my walking by. Maybe the bird remembered me from a couple of days ago when I had seen the egg the bird was sitting on.

Here are a few other photos from the visit to the San Joaquin Wildlife Marsh:

Common yellowthroat

The mission was a busy place but people wore masks and kept their distance. Parts of the mission were closed and other indoor places they did limit the number of people inside at a time, so all was good. I ate my lunch at an outdoor table and waiters wore masks. Tables were close, but the outdoor air helped alleviate any concerns I had. At the two birding places today, people wore masks if within 6 feet of another and for the most part it was just me outdoors with the birds. Californians seem to follow directions well when masks are required and some people shared the fact they had been fully vaccinated. It seems travelers have a natural sense of doing all that needs to happen to be healthy and out traveling again. Heck, whatever it takes to motivate people to get vaccinated, I am for it! Stay healthy all!

Learn With Barn Swallows

One of my many photography goals is to photograph birds in flight. Finding the correct location to take such a photograph requires knowing the bird’s flight plan, where the sun is in the sky relative to that info, what the water’s edge looks like, reedy or open so a photo can be taken from lift-off or only in the sky, handhold the camera or use a gimbal on a tripod, and what camera settings to use.

The other night I spent more than an hour at a local place watching ducks fly in and fly out a couple of times. Plenty of photos were taken as I figured out my camera settings, lighting, and guessing whether that bird was about to fly. Out of all, I was lucky to capture one good photo of a mallard duck.

Mallard duck.

Then I heard about auto ISO and how it is useful with bird photography. I decided to try my newly discovered camera setting on some ducks, hopefully in flight, the next day. I re-read various photography papers about auto ISO and consulted my camera’s on-line manual. So with the auto ISO sensitivity this brings my birds in flight challenge to a different level and somewhat easier, I hope!

I was at a different local place the next morning and the ducks were more interested in eating their meal than flying. I watched barn swallows quickly fly over the water, snatch insects at the water’s surface and then fly off…so fast!

Was I up to the challenge to use what I learned about auto ISO with these fast-flying barn swallows? Why not? I thought if I can capture some good photos of these fliers, then auto ISO will become another tool I can use with my photography! So with camera on the gimbal on the tripod, shutter speed and aperture settings ready and auto ISO on, the shooting began! Barn swallows fly fast in the sky and near the water’s surface. Trying to keep up with them was almost impossible! I took some photos, changed the shutter speed for some photos, and here were the results.

Wow, I actually had some okay photos within my numerous attempts; I am talking at least 100! A good first lesson. I look forward to using auto ISO when the need arises, and hopefully with something that moves a bit slower! Or maybe not; this was fun!