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Earlier in the week, we braved some 'end-of-winter' weather (☁ +☂+☃) - including 'campfire hail') while spending a couple nights with camping compadres, Terri and Vance. Our destination was the San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area-Basalt Campground near the city of Los Banos, CA — 2.5 hours southeast from Sonoma County. Birding topped the agenda and no one was dissappointed by what the pristine San Luis National Wildlife Complex served up.

So, right out of the gate I'll cop to the slightly misleading 'Birdland' title for this travelogue collection. Not much wildlife photography here but to make some amends, Terri and Carol put together a comprehensive bird list that I've included below the photos. The bird sightings indeed'eth runn'eth over!

Now it's not like I was dragged along since I've slowly but surely come to love the locales where birdees and birders alike enjoy hanging out. What's not to like? For me, me, me the places are full of uncompromised landscapes highlighted by the marsh wonderlands. Waterscapes and winter deciduous trees with their skeletal, symmetrical architectural appearance are absolutely hyper-photogenic. The abundance and variety of water flora (grasses, marsh reeds, algaes, etc) are a design-draw too and are increasingly taking on a zen aesthetic the more and harder I look.

In fact maybe, just maybe I'm becoming more like the birds- whom perhaps unfairly, I've always placed behind 'the landscape' on the pecking order (pun intended) of visual opps. For instance, I've become increasingly educated by the bird's choice of year-round or vacation locales. I'm guessing the quality of hunting grounds, playgrounds, mating spots and of course weather must all figure into the mix. And heck, we both love to eat too. And like birds we're both no strangers to take-out either! These wildlife preserves seem to this birding neophyte as being pretty decent eateries - albeit the culinary demands might be somewhat low considering no cooking is required! These watery smorgasbords have a varied menu as well offering up insects, rodents, amphibians and in some cases, even each other to feed on. So perhaps I'm growing beyond viewing wildlife as merely ornamental accessories to the 'all mighty landscape'. Bottom line, birding wise, I'm all in. A willing participant. The Accidental Birder.

Of course it's worth mentioning these wildlife preserves (for obvious reasons) are generally located in rural areas and farming country. The small towns and enclaves are constant goldmines (for me) serving up an eclectic range of subjects and decay abstractions from yesteryear.

Note: If further proof is needed that I'm coming around — I've officially 'adopted' a favorite bird. The cute little bugger (pictured below), better known as the 'Loggerhead Shrike'. Gotta luv that name. Terri informed us this unassuming bad-ass hunter feeds on small vertebrates and invertebrates from low perches in trees, shrubs and power lines, often catching prey on the ground. It maintains a private food stash by impaling its prey on plant thorns or even barbed wire. Wow, a bonafide epicurean hunter. I can just see those gourmet, lizard shish kabobs baking in the sunlight.


Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Loggerhead Shrike

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Medusa

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Marsh Reed Haiku #1

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Marsh Reed Haiku #2

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Marsh Reed Haiku #3

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
American White Pelicans

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Greyscale Fence

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Abstraction Fence

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Marsh Grove

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Lone Tree

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Red Marsh

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Yarys Bar

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Street Vendor

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Marsh Reeds #1

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Marsh Reeds #2

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Vineyard Planting

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Abandoned Gas Station Window

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Abandoned Building

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Plywood Window Covering

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Mixed Media: Corrugated Metal and Wire

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Tule Elk

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
American White Pelicans

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Marsh Algae

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Marsh Reflections

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Grass Braille

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Burned Tree

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Campground - 'the hill'

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Tundra Mud

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Pasture (ICM)

Mark Wegner, Photographer - www.markwegner.com
Carol, Terri and the Rigs

Bird List: San Luis National Wildlife Complex

San Joaquin River NWR walked Pelican Trail to Lagoon. Jack Rabbits in meadow.

Merced NWR Drove Auto Tour San Luis NWR (Closed Visitor Center) 3 auto tours-Tule Elk Auto Tour, Waterfowl Auto Tour and Nature Trail San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area-Basalt Campground