Bird Paradise in the City

August 20, 2022
Canada Goose
Canada Goose
Canada Goose at Sepulveda Basin

Tucked within the urban hellscape of the San Fernando Valley is a tiny oasis of wildlife, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.  Just below the Sepulveda Dam, water from the Los Angeles River collects in a small wetland and pond that is both a home and a stopover to hundreds of local and migratory birds.

Early in the morning, the pond is overflowing with life.  On one visit, I encountered a massive flock of American white pelicans.  On another, between fifty and a hundred Canada geese.  Double-crested cormorants nest in the trees.  Mallards and grebes paddle the water.  Ospreys oversee from tall branches, spotting for fish to eat.

It’s a lovely, peaceful place in a chaotic area.

In the Field
Testing in the Field

It’s also a great place to test out gear.  Today, I had the new Nikon Z9 out for its first field test.  Mirrorless is new territory for me and there’s plenty both familiar and new.  I must say, the camera performs fabulously.  Fast, quiet, and responsive.  It’s quite a powerhouse!  Learning the new autofocus system will take some practice, but I’m very impressed so far.  The electronic viewfinder is less distracting than I anticipated.  Except for a slight bit of stuttering when swinging the lens very quickly, it otherwise feels very natural after a bit of using it.  The speed of this camera is incredible, shooting at 20fps with nearly limitless buffer is fantastic.  And the lack of shutter noise or mirror slap makes it very unobtrusive in a quiet natural area.  This was just a first serious test, but so far I have very few complaints!

Osprey with Breakfast

The autofocus will definitely take some adjusting to, however.  For the most part, it was spot on, particularly when it came to eye-recognition.  However, I did miss focus on a few shots of an osprey on the hunt, where the bird was small against a very pattern-heavy and contrasty background.

Nevertheless, I think practice and getting a feel for how each new mode works will make a difference and go a long way towards nailing the shot.  I’ll definitely be spending more time out at the Basin to dial everything in over the next few weeks.

As for next weekend, it’s back to Owens Valley to take another crack at getting the shot I have in mind at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  I’m looking forward to testing this out with a little astrophotography!

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