Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Monster Waves in the Pacific.....

Wave Action Pacifica Pier
....hammer the California Coast! On December 11th and 12th a High Surf Advisory was issued for the California coast with waves recorded as high as 42 feet in the Pacific. Record rains pummeled Oregon and Washington causing mud slides and flooding. On Friday December 11th I traveled to Surfers Beach near Half Moon Bay to record the action at a 5.9 foot high tide. Construction work has been on-going at Surfers Beach to address the major erosion issue near highway 1.  

Surfer Beach 12/11/15
Although the action at Surfers Beach was exciting I heard reports that the surf was off the charts in Pacifica California. I was disappointed I had chosen Surfers Beach for my photo shoot when I heard the news of Pacifica. Since the best action is at high tide I had missed the window for Pacifica.  As luck would have it the High Surf Advisory continued into the next day 12/12/15 and I headed for Pacifica at high tide!

As soon as I arrived near the Pacifica Pier I knew I was in for a treat as many of the side streets leading to the pier were closed due to flooding. I had in tow 4 cameras, a Canon 7D2 with a 10-22 wide angle lens, an Olympus E-3 with a 50-200 zoom lens, a Canon 7D with a 400 prime lens and a Panasonic video camera, not to mention my IPhone 5 smart phone. Some of my past King Tide photos have been taken during King Tides in Pacifica and I have been drenched before in the excitement of shooting and being blindsided by a wave. I've sort of come to expect a drenching in these endeavors, kind of like taking a bullet for the team!

A Single Frame from the Animated GIF
I started filming with the video camera and got a 6 minute clip of the wave action pummeling the pier and surrounding streets. The video gets more exciting at the 3 minute mark and beyond! I then started shooting with the still cameras and thought I was in a fairly safe spot after observing the wave action for awhile. The animated GIF above tells what happened next, I was totally blindsided by the biggest wave of all. I was so absorbed in the action I did not perceive the enormity of the wave about to crash on to me. I guess being oblivious to my surrounding enabled me to continue shooting and catch the entire wave frame by frame until it blanketed me......wahoo!
There was much excitement in the area, everybody was enjoying the display and you could hear owes and awes as another spectacular wave crashed ashore! I shot enough frames of a young girl having a grand time dancing and Moon Walking to the surf undulations to create the animated GIF.

Young Girl Moon Walking to the Surf
High Surf Excitement 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Snowy Plovers of Gazos Creek Beach

Snowy Plovers enjoying a temporary Gazos Creek Lake!

Gazos Creek Beach is located in San Mateo County about 60 miles south of San Francisco. To the south about 5 miles is Ano Nuevo State Reserve and two miles north is Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
I volunteer for an organization called Beach Watch (BW) which is an arm of FMSA (Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association) located at Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco. BW consist of many teams of volunteers that survey beaches from Point Arena in Mendocino County to Ano Nuevo in San Mateo County twice per month. BW teams document live bird species and marine mammals as well as all dead birds, marine mammals and other creatures that perish on the beach. In addition beaches are surveyed for any signs of oil, be it from natural seep, ships and boats at sea and sunken vessels spewing oil or other hazardous materials.

For the last few years I've been documenting the Snowy Plover populations at Gazos Creek by counting the numbers and photographing all birds with leg bands that identify where the bird was born and banded.  Each month I send a short report to Point Blue (formally PRBO) in Petaluma California and to the Half Moon Bay Ranger Station. They in return send me what information they have on the banding locations of each individual.  

Official Status: Threatened, the Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as threatened. The western snowy plover is a Bird Species of Special Concern in California. Snowy plovers were listed as endangered under Washington Department of Game Policy No. 402 in 1981, and as threatened by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in 1975. The threatened status in Oregon was reaffirmed in 1989 under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.

Below are a few Snowys I've photographed on Gazos Creek Beach:

YY:AR Born and Banded at Salinas State Beach 2007
Spotted January 29th 2014 at Gazos

AO:BO Fledged Sunset State Beach 2015
Spotted at Gazos December 4th 2015

BY:GO & WO:GA Gazos 11/5/15
GO:BY banded Del Monte Beach 2015
WO:GA fledged Zmudowski State Beach 2014

AP:OA Monterey Bay Aquarium release 2014
Spotted 4 times at Gazos, latest 12/4/15

VO:BW Gazos 11/5/14
No additional sightings or information.

PV:YY Fledged Oceana Dunes 2015
Last Observation Gazos, 12/4/15

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Buoys and El Niño Continued.........

Romeo Pier Peering into the Future
This blog post is a continuation of my previous post titled El Niño and Buoy 46012 Half Moon Bay Buoy 46012
I've done some further analysis of the local buoys in an attempt to see if any relationship can be established from the buoy data with respect to the current El Niño predictions. I'm not a climatologist nor do I have a background in earth climate systems. I'm just a scientifically minded citizen very concerned about the last 4 drought years and in particular the last 2 historically warm years 2014 and 2015.

I've been tracking the SF buoy in real time along with Bodega Bay, Half Moon Bay and FTPC1 Station at Crissy Field which is a ground reporting station. This is predicted as a significant rain/El Nino event as I will track and compare it to 1997-98 and 1982-83 to see how 2015 compares?

Summary of Buoy Data
Buoys transmit data hourly throughout the year which consist of wave height and periods, water and air temperatures and barometric pressures plus additional parameters. The last two El Niño events were 1982-83 and 1997-98. I’m concentrating primarily on 1997-98 because it’s most recent and I have a good recollection of that year because of the unusual and impressive rain totals. There are gaps in the buoy data and the most significant gap I encountered was the Half Moon Bay (HMB) Buoy 46012 which likely due to technical issues as no water temperature data for the entire year of 1997. However the San Francisco Buoy (SF) 46026 has more complete water temperature data up until 11/24/1997. However the water temperature data is absent for the remainder of 1997 and is absent for 1998 until 2/28/98. So there are 3 months of contiguous missing water temperature data occurring during the peak El Niño which is a little discouraging! I may in the future explore the Bodega Bay (Bodega) Buoy to see if it has more complete data.
In the general bay area waters I rely on 3 buoys, HMB, SF and Bodega and they generally follow the same temperature progression. January thru about June water temps average about 13°C and start to warm up reaching a peak in September of 15°C, then October thru December the temperatures decrease with the coming of winter back to about 13°C.

What Did 1997 Look Like? 

The 1997-1998 rainfall season was one of nearly epic proportions for San Francisco.  Numerous San Francisco records were set as the influences of an extremely strong El Niño were felt throughout the State.
SF Buoy 1997
Most notably it was the second wettest rainfall season (47.22 inches) in the 149 seasons since records began in San Francisco in 1849.  The previous second wettest season was 45.85 inches in 1889-1890.  The seasonal record remains 49.27 inches from 1861-1862; however over 24 inches of that season's total fell in the month of January 1862.  [The average seasonal rainfall (1961-1990) is 20.52 inches.]

Possibly more remarkable were the record 119 days when measurable rainfall was recorded, shattering the previous mark of 107 from the 1889-1890 season.
Fig.4. Water Temperatures
Figure 4 is a comparison of 3 previous years, 1982 and 1997 last El Niño years and 2008 a typical year to the present year 2015. Note the 1997 data ends on November 24, 1997. All curves basically follow the same pattern peaking in the early fall and dropping as the year ends. The 1997 data deviates from that pattern showing a higher temperature of about 5 degrees F and not fading as other years do. As mentioned before the data is limited and has missing information for 1997. It's interesting to note that in November of 1997 San Francisco had almost 7 inches of rain, while there was 1,43 inches of rain this past November. It's intriguing to wonder if the 5 degree warmer water in 1997 accounts for the higher November rain totals? To pursue this further I will next look at the 1997 Bodega Bay data to see if there is more complete water temperature data!  Update 12/3/15 checking Bodega buoy data finds no useable data for all of 1997 and no data in 1998 until 3/28/98. So no earth shaking revelations here, just an exercise by a concerned citizen to help shake out the speculations from the actual data. Although our local waters are just a small part of the whole system, I wonder if water temperatures locally can be predictors of the El Niño effect.....not sure of that but the elevated temperatures over 2014 and 2015 is surly indications of a planet in distress!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The 2015 San Francisco Giants may be the best Giants Team Ever!

Matt Duffy
I've been a baseball fan for probably about 60 years I started out in 1955 rooting for the Baltimore Orioles! Back in those days the Orioles were pretty bad and I listen to every game on the radio as they were not televised in Washington DC where I lived. Everybody where I lived were Washington Senator fans except my father who was a New York Yankee fan! It was highly frustrating living in the household with a Yankee fan because the Yankees we're the best team in baseball and won everything. Even worse they rarely lost to the Orioles and on two occasions when my father took me to a Yankee Oriole game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore Maryland  the Yankees beat the Orioles 16 to 0 on one occasion and 16 - 9 on another occasion! Eventually  the Orioles got pretty good and finally won their first World Series in 1966 beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games!
Joe Panix

The Orioles  continued to have respectable teams until about 1997 when the team was owned by Peter Angelos and thus a terrible downturn in Orioles baseball history lasted for 17 years and in that time the Orioles did not have a winning season! You know in sports if you have some bad players or even a bad manager you can trade for new players and find a new manager but if you have a bad owner there ain't nothing you can do! After 17 years of losing baseball I finally got wise and became a Yankee fan and that was not a bad move. Both my sister and I  are Yankee fans it's kind of a tribute to our deceased father. Having lived in San Francisco for many years I never was much of a Giants fan,  one reason being they were a National League team and I sort of had an American League mentality. I also thought the Giants we're fairly boring because in the few games I did attend usually against the Dodgers,  the scores where generally of  the 1 to 0 variety! However as time went on I grew more attached to the Giants and of course I always root against the Dodgers! With the addition of Buster Posey and Timmy Lincecum I became a real fan and was treated to their first World Championship in 2010.

Nori Aoki 
We all know the magic of the 2010 the 2012 and the 2014 season. However I would like to dwell on the 2015 team which I think is maybe the best Giant baseball team ever assembled! I'm going to go over the players on this team and explain why I am so excited about these players and there's hardly  one that I would want to give up at this point ! As I previously mentioned  I've been a Yankees Orioles American League fan for many years and a three run homer was like a the holy grail!  In addition in recent baseball history free agency has been a big factor and building contending teams. The Yankees of course are the most notorious with their large salary they routinely pick up superstars such as Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemons, Reggie Jackson and Mark Teixeira to name a few.  This strategy has worked well for the Yankees, the Red Sox and currently the Dodgers! With that background I was firmly in the Earl Weaver George Stinebrenner camp of buy players that can deliver that 3 run homer and shut out the opponents. 

In 2010 the Giants earned the phrase Torture because every game was a nail bitter consisting of excellent pitching and defense but not much offense. Much of the power was supplied by Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and to a lesser extent Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell,  Edgar Rentaria and  Nate Schierholtz. The Giants won the World Series against the Texas Rangers in 5 games with stellar pitching from Lincecum, Bumgardner and Cain!  

During the 2014 season the Giants got off to a very good start but went into an incredible funk that made me make a mid-season prediction that the Giants would end in the cellar! During this terrible streak I would see the Giants with crucial runners in scoring position send up 3 players in a row batting .200 or under. Somehow some way the Giants prevailed and barely made the playoffs finishing 6 games behind the dodgers. However late in 2014 some new faces started to show up in the Giants Dugout, young wet behind the ears rookies! 

Marco Scutaro was the pick for 2nd base but injuries sidelined him and a replacement was sought. My Earl Weaver thought was to buy an established proven hitter and fill the need. The Giants did just that and acquired Dan Uggla. For some reason Uggla was given a brief try then released. At the same time I noticed some new players hanging around, Joe Panix, Matt Duffy, Andrew Susac and Chris Heston, the rookies. Honestly I was disappointed to see such inexperienced players put in rolls more fitting to veterans. I was about to learn a lesson from Bruce Botchy and the Giants organization that erased my Earl Weaver mentality.  

It did not take long for Joe Panix to win over the doubters and show that he was not only a good ballplayer but an exceptional ball player that had star written all over him. I think Joe Panix gave the Giants such a boost that it rubbed off on the entire team. The Giants peaked at playoff time and all gears were churning flawlessly. In the 2014 World Series of course the magical story was Madison Bumgarner, but so many more rose to the occasion, including Travis Ishikawa, Juan Perez, Gregor Blanco and Yusmeiro Petit in the playoffs as well as World Series.  

Kelby Tomlinson 
So now the 2015 regular season has expired and the Giants are not in the playoffs, why am I so excited about this team going into 2016? 2015 started with Pablo Sandoval bailing on the Giants and leaving a big hole at 3rd. I was not pleased when Pablo was offered exactly what Boston had offered him, however Pablo claims he was disrespected by the Giants, this I did not see! So the Giants signed a veteran player Casey McGehee. Poor Casey struggled badly and it was obvious he was trying very hard. It turns out that at the same time Pablo left,  the A's traded 3rd basemen Josh Donaldson to Toronto. I thought what a missed opportunity, how did the Giants miss this deal. BTW Donaldson is in the running for MVP this year with 41 home runs and 123 RBI's. 

So at the same time young Matt Duffy is improving daily and he is given the 3rd base job. You could see Matt Duffy improving in all aspects of the game from hitting to fielding to base running every day. He had such an impressive season he's pretty much runner up for Rookie of the Year (ROY) batting .295 with 12 HRs and 77 RBI's. I'm thinking he's our 3rd basemen into the future, he may even be a Franchise Player. I don't use Franchise Player lightly as Buster Posey is certainly the Giants Franchise Player. But then again there is Joe Panix that is in the same category, possibly a long term fixture with the Giants organization. How lucky is that to add two such players to your organization in one season, it's astounding for sure. 

Couple this with Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan and you have a rock solid team. Wait a minute did I mention Nori Aoki?   

Nori Aoki: I’m super impressed with this addition a natural born lead-off hitter. Nori knows how to get on base, he has incredible bat control can hit the ball anywhere he pleases and has great speed that produces many infield hits. He’s fast, and has a great baseball mind. Also, he can hit with power when he sets his mind to it. I see Aoki has the Giants lead-off man into the distant future. The one troubling aspect of Mr Aoki is how durable is he? He spent a lot of time on the DL this year and is such an unorthodox player he may be more prone to injury as demonstrated by being hit in the helmet by a pitched ball which put him on the concussion watch and kind of finished his season. Anyway I'm not going to dwell on these issues, I expect Nori to have a healthy productive 2016 season if he remains a Giant. 

Brandon Crawford: This was an offensive outbreak season for Crawford with 21 HRs and 84 RBI's. He certainly is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball and in my opinion he and Panix are the best double play combo around. 

Brandon Belt: Everyone that is familiar with Brandon see the potential of a super star. So far nagging injuries have slowed Belt down, but this year he was pretty healthy hitting 280 with 18 HRs. Although a good year everybody expects a break-out year soon and it will come.  Earlier he smashed a 475 foot homer at Coors Field, not too shabby!

Angel Pagan:  A true spark plug, he does everything well, hitting, fielding, throwing and base-running. When he’s hot and healthy the Giants click. The only drawback for Angel and you could say this for Pence too, they are aggressive fielders and are not afraid of walls and collisions, however this kind of fielding is a fast track to the DL, let’s hope these guys stay healthy!

Hunter Pence: There is so much to say about this guy, truly an inspiration to the entire team and the fan base. Here is hoping for a healthy 2016, boy we miss this guy in the lineup!

Buster Posey: Just like Hunter Pence he does it all, the face of the franchise for sure. Looks like he may be playing more 1st base in the future as catching is a demanding position! When Buster went down in early 2011 it was an omen the season would not go well and it did not. I sort of felt that way when Pence had his arm broken early in the season, then had another injury later in the season. 

World Champs 
Pitching: Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Hudson have retired and they were fantastic for the Giants, will be sorely missed. The Giants do need a top notch second starter and since they are pretty rich in position players they have an opportunity to pick up a good solid pitcher. Peavy came on strong lately and Cain has shown flashes of the greatness he's capable of.  Tim Lincecum is questionable but would love to see him back in his great form. Madison Bumgarner can of course match the best of pitchers in baseball. The relief staff is still looking good but we need a couple more arms to bolster the pen!

The way I see it, the Giants are solid in position players I would keep everyone and hope we lose no one to free agency including Marlon Byrd. I really enjoyed Marlon Byrd this year, great addition to fill in for injuries. He seems a little apprehensive at first despite his first fantastic Giants game. I could see him gaining confidence throughout the season and by the end he had that fire, that Giant's fire and he was having a great time. 

That's not the end of the story, more great opportunities are flooding the dugout with new fresh enthusiastic young players popping up.  Kelby Tomlison was called up to fill in for the injured Joe Panix and my god have we found another super rookie possible franchise player; 3 in one year? 
But wait that's not all, a kid named Jarrett Parker showed up and proceeded to hit 3 homers in one game and 5 in 9 at bats, I must be dreaming! Did you hear about our rookie pitcher Chris Heston pitching a no hitter and winning 12 games? 

I believe this is the first team I can say I'm totally satisfied that we have a complete team at this point and if we can shake those god awful injuries we should be back in the World Series in 2016 right on schedule! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coastal Doings September 2015

Humpback Whale Surfaces at Surfer's Beach 
The warm Pacific Ocean around San Francisco/Half Moon Bay has attracted a variety of activities for the last few weeks including an invasion of Humpback Whales. This was evident today at Surfer's Beach at highway 1 where many Humpbacks were feeding to the delight of the unusually large crowds of people who gathered to enjoy the spectacle. Also in attendance where Heermann's Gulls, Western Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Elegant Terns, Common Murre's and California Sea lions.

The waters around Half Moon Bay have been 60 F or higher since early July, a phenomenon that has not likely occurred in the resent past. This higher temperature correlates with past El Niño years.

There is a major Common Murre die-off that FMSA (Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association) sponsor of Beach Watch of which I'm a volunteer has been investigating. On my last survey of Gazos Creek Beach 9/9/15 we documented approximately 75 dead murres. This die-off is 4X the normal year and is consistent with past El Niño years.

About 7-9 Brown Boobies have been observed on the Farallones and some have been spotted at Alcatraz and even one Boobie has been hanging out on the buoy off Miramar in the Half Moon Bay area. At least two Blue-footed Boobies have been observed on the Farallones and some have been seen from Santa Cruz to Point Reyes! Also of note but not a southern species is the Northern Gannet that has been hanging out on the Farallones for several years.

Some other activity of note are at least two incidents of Vellela Vellela (by-the-wind sailor) strandings in very large numbers. There has been an unusual number of Mola Mola (sunfish) juveniles washing up on beaches, plus the troubling rise in California Sea Lion mortality and Guadalupe Fur Seal strandings.

Heermann's Gulls enjoying
Whale Breath

Speaking of rare, today it actually sprinkled here, finally an opportunity for the weather gurus to use their much touted and little utilized "Storm Tracker" radar!    

Saturday, September 19, 2015

El Niño and Buoy 46012 Half Moon Bay

Buoy 46012 HMB
Right now in the Pacific specifically the waters from Monterey to Point Reyes and out to the Farallones have temperatures historically high and persistent with temperatures around or above 60° F. The Half Moon Bay buoy 46012 has recorded as high as 65°F water temperatures numerous times. From the past records of buoy 46012 (1980-present) the highest temperature I have found is 67°F. So not only are we flirting with record high temperatures they have been in record territory consistently since early July! There is a lot of talk about the possible historic El Niño  event brewing in the Pacific plus the Pacific Blob that has parked itself right in our local coastal waters. In addition the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR)   has been batting storms away from the Bay Area and most of California now for about 4 years!

The purpose of this exercise is to monitor buoy data as we approach the winter season and compare data from previous years, especially El Niño  and in particular 1997-98 our last El Niño  year. Unfortunately buoy 46012 (HMB) did not record water temperatures for the entire 1997 year probably because of a technical glitch. However buoy 46026 (SF) had useful water temperatures for this period. 

Some Technical Data on Buoy 46012

Owned and maintained by National Data   Buoy Center
3-meter discus buoy
ARES payload
37.363 N 122.881 W (37°21'45" N 122°52'52" W)

Site elevation: sea level
Air temp height: 4 m above site elevation
Anemometer height: 5 m above site elevation
Barometer elevation: sea level
Sea temp depth: 0.6 m below site elevation
Water depth: 208.8 m
Watch circle radius: 170 yards

NOAA has been collecting Historical Data from this buoy since 1980. Some parameters of interest are sea and air temperatures wind velocity and direction, wave heights and periods dew points and pressure readings. I will be exploring data from this buoy as well as Buoy 46013 Bodega Bay located 48 NM NW of San Francisco, buoy 46026 San Francisco located 18NM West of San Francisco, buoy 46237 San Francisco Bar located about 7 miles West of San Francisco and Weather Station FTPC1 located at Crissy Field Presidio! In the future I may also include data from the Point Reyes, Monterey and Point Arena stations.     

I'm going to focus initially here from July 1st 2015 thru the present date which as I write is September 7th 2015. I'm using this period because a historical spike in the ocean temperature appeared about July 7th 2015 and was 18.0 C (64.4 F) after a long period of temperatures well under 60 F.  The water temperature spike of July 7th is significant to me because it's the first time I could feel a change in my local climate and relate it to the ocean temperature. This seems obvious if after thought but was a surprise to me and at the same time gives me a metric to relate my climate to the local ocean behavior. Having lived on or near the California Coast for near 50 years, I was convinced the coastal cool Mediterranean climate was rock solid in its persistence and seemed impervious to change!

Looking at the historical records of buoy 46012 from  11/1980 thru 7/2007 below we see the Mean and Standard Deviation Plot. The water starts to warm from July reaching a peak in September. From this chart we see a range of temperatures of almost 20 F with a low of 47.6 F to a high of close to 68F.
Buoy 46012 Mean and Standard Deviation
HMB 11/1980-7/2007

The last major El Nino event occurred in the winter 1997-1998. Having been a coastal resident in those years I can remember similarities in climate, temperature/humidity as well as the very high rain totals about twice normal. There is ocean temperature data from buoy's 46012 (HMB) and 46026 (SF) readily available over the last 17 years. However water temperature data for buoy 46012 (HMB) was not operational (for some unknown reason) in 1997. Fortunately buoy 46026 (SF) does have some data for 1997.

I'm curious as to water temperatures in 1997 and today to see what can be wrung out from the data. To simplify this process I used 60 F as a temperature to search for knowing the water temperature for those years rarely topped 60F.   It should be noted that these buoy records record data hourly throughout the year so data can be daunting. Basically over 8000 observations are made yearly on about 13 parameters including air and water temperatures, wave height and period and more.    

I used data from both the HMB and SF buoys to compare how often the water temperature rose above 60F over comparison years. First looking at the data for buoy 46012 (HMB) for years 1991-2013 which is full records are available. For this 23 year period the average number of records for temperatures over 60F is 184 per year. Four of those years had zero records over 60F! In that period 1992 had the most 60F records which were 1077. In 2014 the total records over 60F was 3553 which is magnitudes greater than the 23 year average and is almost 4 times greater than the previous high of 1077. So far in 2015 records are up to date thru July and 714 records have exceeded 60F. This does not include August and September typically the hottest water temperature months. So it appears 2015 will probably have 60F plus records similar to 2014 which is historically high!

Examination of the data for buoy 46026(SF) shows a yearly average from 1998-2013 of 116.5 records. As previously mentioned the HMB buoy was nonfunctional in 1997 for water temperature. However the SF buoy was operational and there were 1765 records for 60F in that El-nino  year. In 2014 there were 1431 records of 60F. Although the HMB buoy had over twice the number of records in 2014 , 3553 as the SF buoy which was 1765! 

Buoy Comparisons 1980-Present
Buoys Ave Yearly Records
>60 F
High Record Year 2014 2015
Buoy 46012 (HMB) 184 1077 (1992) 3553 1320
Buoy 46026(SF) 116 1765 (1997 El Nino Yr) 1431 714

In summary we can see that 2014 and 2015 have significantly higher water temperatures and historical persistence!Buoy 46012 had 3553 records above 60F, the previous record being 1077 records in 1992. With 1320 records above 60F to date looks like 2015 will match 2014 for longevity of the record ocean temperatures.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Welcome To The Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy  Candidates are the Darlings
of Corporate Media
Kakistocracy is a form of government where the least qualified individuals are in power. It comes from the Greek κακιστος (kakistos) meaning “worst”), the superlative of κακος (kakos) meaning “bad”.

Pretty much every cable news network as well as most corporate news outlets run non-stop stories on about 20 Republican Candidates that desire to be President of the United States!

Most notably is Donald Trump who made a fuss (poorly veiled racism) about Obama's birth certificate and claimed Mexican immigrants where rapist and criminals. In addition he questioned John McCain's status as a war hero because he got caught??? The reason Trump did not get caught is you can't catch someone hiding behind deferments tucked away safely in the US out of harms way!

Yet one theme common among these candidates is an unbridled desire to send your love ones into harms way. I look at the Donald Trump phenomenon as well as the other war hawk candidates and wonder why kind of society would even consider such under qualified people to make critical decisions for them. It boils down to such a society is called a kakistokracy!  

Here are some common traits and characteristics of these candidates:

Highly religious and outspoken about their religion to such a point where their religious zeal blinds their objectivity and drives them to force a society to adhere to their religious and moral values. Abortion is an obsession to these folks to such an extent they would force a woman to die of medical complications rather than granting an abortion.  Rick Santorium stated that the child of a woman raped should be considered a gift from God. 

Funny I thought our constitution was serious about separation of Church and a Kakistokracy this is not so!

Most of these candidates are middle-aged or older white males with a love of guns and wars and a loathing for black and brown people and so called "illegals"! They spout their Christian love and at the same time love guns, war and the death penalty.  Their fundamental shortcoming is their lack of empathy for any human beings that deviate from their ideal! 

Their religion and lack of empathy or human understanding generates attitudes destructive to our very planet and it's inhabitants including all forms of life. Earth has been disrespected because of religious beliefs that the universe was created for man's pleasure and plunder. The evidence is in our fragile space ship is constant attack by greed driven corporations under the warm approval of the politicians that have been bought by these companies. The Republican party and it's right wing or Tea Party arm relishes corporate power and is tirelessly working on dismantling environmental protections that fly in the face of corporate profits. Their mantra is privatization and it does not take much digging to see how wonderful this concept is. Universities, prisons, Social Security, Medicare are all under threat by privatization. For profit schools rake the government student loan programs valiantly assisting students to get student loans for obscene tuition's and an education that is worthless leaving the student in unsupportable debt. This corporate manipulation is prevalent in all for profit endeavors, health care, prisons, and private armies to name some.  

 Mike Huckabee:  In August of 1998, Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full page USA Today Ad which declared: "I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention." What was in the family statement from the SBC?  "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

Recently  he would consider involving the FBI and federal troops in his mad crusade to prevent abortions.

“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced — forced at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.” — YouTube, Rediscover God in America conference.

Lastly for Mike, he has a friend called Ted Nugent, enough said!

Chris Christie, this man is good at making enemies and rattling peoples cages. Politically I don't agree with him but more important is his attitude towards animals.  The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated, a saying attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Christie vetoed a bi-partisan bill that would give sows more pen room to make their lives a little easier. You would think a man of his girth would have more empathy for animals in such confined spaces. Did I mention these guys don't seem to have a lot of empathy for people or animals. 

Sen. Marco Rubio  was among the Florida state legislators who voted for the so-called "Scarlet Letter" law in 2001 that required single mothers to publish their sexual histories in the newspaper in order to place their babies up for adoption.
Scott Walker: Speaking to reporters [in Iowa] Saturday after an appearance at the Family Leader Summit, Walker said the next president will need to be prepared to take aggressive action against Iran, "very possibly" including military strikes, on the day he or she is inaugurated, and said he would not be comfortable with a commander in chief who is unwilling to act aggressively on day one of a new presidency.

Ted Cruz:  The Texas senator and Tea Party favorite was the first to throw his hat into the ring on March 23. A committed Southern Baptist, Cruz has been outspoken about religious freedom, both at home and abroad, and has taken a strong stance against same-sex marriage. He is currently seeking to introduce legislation to protect each state's right to make its own decision on the issue.

Jeb Bush: When asked by a citizen about ISIS Jeb blamed Obama. The citizen correctly informed Mr Bush that ISIS was created by his war criminal brother and his despicable administration.  

I shudder to think if one of these candidates had been elected President instead of Obama what a mess we as Americans would be in right now. When a person lacks empathy they lack all rational understanding which results in being ignorant of who they are! If they knew who they were they would not be so eager to bomb and maim other people.  


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hullucinating Lone Wolf

Seal Rocks San Francisco
I've been struggling to get a handle on the data available such as historic temperature and humidity records to try an grapple with the changes occurring on the San Mateo Coast climate wise. I've been feeling the changes for about 3-4 years now but I seem to be a lone wolf in this "feeling" as most people I bring this up to look at me like I'm hallucinating! I thought surely it's warmer and there is less fog, this should be demonstrable thru historic weather data. I did find that in January 2014 the average temperature was approximately 7 degrees higher than historical records for San Francisco Airport. However other months I checked around that time had much less variation in temperature! Later I turned to humidity data as my sense is increased humidity is an integral part of the climate puzzle. However I'm not a meteorologist and examining humidity data shed no light for me as the fog plays a big roll in skewing the humidity data. Looking at the data on foggy days coastside humidity is 100% and humidity varies widely throughout the day varying with the ebb and flow of the fog.

On about April 3rd 2015 I felt that distinctive AC coolness return after a long absence! By accident I found out that the local ocean temperature holding at about 57 degrees F for several months dropped to about 52 F. This held thru May and early June and during this period I found my self overjoyed every time that wonderful cool air enveloped my body.

On about July 5th the most bizarre aspect of this 4 year drought occurred and continues today July 8th in a somewhat reduced fashion. The ocean temperature at buoy 46012 off Half Moon Bay shot up to 65 F rapidly in a few hours a good 10+ degrees above normal. Although a heavy fog was attached to the coast line the humidity was so high at my residence I was sweating heavily and uncomfortable at 7 pm, something I've never experience in my 16 year stay on the coast. Again on July 6th the ocean temperature soared to 65 F once again. Just writing this I can sense most people will think big deal, but this is a really big deal for the coastside and the state of California and for the world! Now buoy 46012 is more an accurate predictor than other data I've been following.

Computer models are now predicting a significant  El Niño event perhaps even an historical event. I'm getting further and further away from the thought that our climate will return to normal, thats a concern for me as I thrive in a Mediterranean type climate typical of the central California coast. On a positive note, we may see more southern species wildlife such as boobies, frigates and other southern climate birds and marine mammals! 

Since July 6th 2015 up to July 12 2015 the water temperature at the buoy has reached 65 degree F everyday. I'm currently researching the records for such a warm period but believe this clip is unprecedented. Notice the CDAS chart, the Pacific is basically on fire right now!
Buoy 46012 Standard Deviation

Deviation from Historical Data
Compiled 7/13/15

August 4, 2015 Update

Conditions are currently warming up in the Pacific, and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center expects a greater than 90% chance that El Nino will continue through the winter and most likely into the spring. This image shows the July 13-19, 2015 sea surface temperature departure from the 1981-2010 average. In addition to the warmer than normal waters generated by the El Nino conditions, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is also creating persistently higher than normal sea surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Vast Wasteland

Cable New beats a page two story to death!
"Television and the Public Interest" was a speech given by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Newton N. Minow to the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961. The speech was Minow's first major speech after he was appointed chairman of the FCC by President John F Kennedy. In the speech, Minow referred to American commercial television programming as a "vast wasteland" and advocated for programming in the public interest.

"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it."

54 years later the only thing to have change in the TV wasteland is the vastness, now there are hundreds of mindless TV channels to choose from! I’m in the mood for a little rant about Television especially after spending a good amount of time in the hospital with no books, computer or smart phone, only a TV screen about 3 feet from my head. So yes out of boredom I verified Mr. Minow's experiment many times. Yes true to scientific experiments it is repeatable and verifiable! I’m astounded why books are not more popular as a brief exposure to TV should surely send book sales skyrocketing!

Let’s take a look at the corporate approach to TV and advertisers. From the beginning TV was not possible without revenue from corporate sponsors. So the dilemma for TV people was how we can hold the interest of our viewer’s in-between commercials. So this is where modern TV programming sprung from, and the TV show was born. Soon a variety of TV shows was created and continues to be created today in an effort to hold viewers’ attention between commercials.

Guess what the powers to be found out? The quality and content of the fillers didn’t matter any junk they could come up with worked just as well. Thus we have the TV of today and yesterday a vast pile of moronic content emanating from every channel. Don’t believe me, turn your TV on and flip thru the channels, firstly you’re going to get advertisements (mostly dishonest) , infomercials, and misleading (actually immoral) pharmaceutical ads. Turning on your TV is like inviting hundreds of lying salesmen into your living room to pitch bull-shit and deception right in your face! Oh the real content, yes, bathroom humor sitcoms generated by sophomoric minded teenage boys masquerading as writers. Formula generated dramas that wallow in stereotype characters. Nonsensical game shows, reality shows, soap operas and phony doctor shows such as Dr. Oz and others. 

Oh, let’s not forget the news, starting with our local news channels here in the Bay Area. I believe local news starts at about 5am. Every local channel ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX has morning news programs running until about 9am. Every channel has the same news and content at the same time as if they were programmed by one person. Here is one astounding characteristics of these channels, they are obsessed about the weather, all start their program with the weather report, usually presented by a well-dressed “meteorologist” standing in front of a weather map reading about 20 temperatures that don’t vary more than 2 degrees. You get the feeling these weather reporters have never been outside, because their hair is perfect! Here is an exercise, next time the weather segment (about 3 times every ½ hour) comes on switch to the other 3 stations, guaranteed you will see the exact same thing, just a different “meteorologist” calling out temps from the map! It’s perplexing because anyone familiar with Bay Area weather realizes there is no weather in the Bay Area; it’s the most anemic climate just about anywhere. I could see this weather emphasis say for the Buffalo area, but here? 

It’s a shame that with such a block of time there is no creativity in the realm of TV news. What an opportunity for one of these channels to come up with an innovative idea to be unique and creative, given the bland competitors this could be a slam dunk for progressive action. 

Let’s not forget our great cable and corporate news outlets and the bought and paid for company men such as Brian Williams spouting nonsense and spreading propaganda as dictated by the corporation. Am I the only one that sees these cable and corporate networks as being complicit in the run up to the Iraq assault and the many other conflicts now raging? Did you notice how gung-ho the anchors were selling the invasion and bringing on consultants usually ex generals on the payrolls of defense companies? This goes on today with little objection, but of course who is going to report it?

 So now the only thing left for me to enjoy on TV is watching the wonderful Giants playing baseball! The only issue here is I have to watch baseball alone; my wife refuses to watch because baseball players spit! Dang I wish she would not have pointed that out to me!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Climate Deniers Are Not Aware Beings!

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
I live in a California Coastal community called Moss Beach. I don’t live here by accident I actually chose this location because of the climate. It’s a cool Mediterranean climate with summer temperatures about 65 degrees and winter about 55 degrees.  Fog occurs all year round but mostly in summer July and August. This climate is important to me and I’m in tune with it both physically and intellectually. 

We are now in the 4th year of extreme drought (I've seen lesser ones in the past). About 3 years ago I started to notice subtle local climate changes, such as less fog, less rain, higher temperatures and more humidity. This has progressively worsened. These conditions have continued and worsened right up to the present moment.  Last week there were multiple days with some Bay Area locations hitting 90+ degrees, and hitting the 80’s Coastside. This is after-all winter time! With that being said, the climate changes have been obvious and frightening to me. However I’m in a small minority Coastside because most local residents I talk to are not aware of what’s bothering me? Rather they wake up in the morning to a warm cloudless fog-less day and exclaim “Oh what a beautiful day!” What is a beautiful day around here now? Well how about dirty air, and numerous spare the air days, a fire season now lasting all year and perpetual gridlock traffic filled with fools who love “beautiful days”! It may be a beautiful day for them, not for me!

OK I accept that I’m more sensitive to climate than some others and that’s OK. What bothers me is the group of people living here or elsewhere totally oblivious to the changes around them but highly vocal among the denier crowd. I've come to the conclusion Climate Deniers are asleep, not awake and not aware. Apparently they spend a lot of time on the internet looking for denial material but absolutely have no idea what's happening in their own habitat! It's irritating to see the more vocal ones spreading misinformation and they have no clue as to what's happening right out their own front door! I've talked in the past of how climate change is a subset of Global Destruction and if you concentrate on the destruction going on due to mankind’s greed you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the destruction first hand. You’re on a fragile spaceship with groups of moron’s hell bent on inflicting as much damage as possible to get the last of what resources are left. Mistreat your own space vehicle and you damn right the climate will change and all life will disappear! Who is polluting our oceans with plastic, who is chopping entire mountain peaks off, who is dumping petroleum products in every river stream  ocean and lake, is it that hard, come on spit it out MANKIND, who else, why is this such a mystery to climate deniers.

Even if all the climate deniers worldwide were to suddenly awaken, it’s likely too late, the damage we have done cannot be reversed, and we have probably already passed a tipping point on the exponential curve. I would like to have a more positive attitude but to this day I see no real effort to slowdown the greed driven destruction.  So we have a problem, but as of yet, we are just talking about it, we have not even established a starting point!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Simple Mathematical Phenomenon is about to Blind-Side Planet Earth!

One Kind of Blind-side
 "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Prof. Al Bartlett  

It’s very frustrating to see so many people constantly trying to spin scientific data in a deceitful way in order to add weight to their ill-informed arguments about the calamity now suffocating our planet! The big problem with this argument is that it is peeing away the precious little time we have to recognize and fix our space ship before it blows up! The question is how do you convince a population that has been dumbed down by corporate manipulation of the media, television, newspapers, magazines, religion and the internet to such an extent that it is widely believed by many the earth is a mere 6000 years old! It’s insane to think a religious idea or position such as Intelligent Design is being bandied about as a legitimate alternative to evolution? Why are so many people duped into such an illogical stream of thought? Yes brain washing is part of the problem but I think a major contributor to this form of delusion is the inability or lack of desire to understand the simplest of mathematical and geological time concepts.

Despite what I just said about people being dumbed down, there is one thing that will get people’s attention and initiate action, and that is direct experience or observation with negative changes occurring on planet Earth. Yes this will be painfully obvious as the situation worsens, sea level rise, loss of coastal lands, major flooding and displacement of populations. The bad news is once it gets to this extreme point, it’s over, the tipping point has been reached and the human race is about to be blindsided by one of the most scariest physical phenomenon’s simply and perfectly described by a little equation called exponential growth.

Figure 1.
Exponential Curve for Bacteria
Exponential growth is a predictive equation and describes many natural, economical, and physical behaviors such as population growth, compound interest, nuclear reactions and just about any system feed by an expansion and growth. One of the most common and simplest examples of exponential growth is related to growth rate or doubling time in simple interest problems. In a nut shell $100.00 invested for 10 years will see that money double in 7 years for a 7% growth rate.

“When things get bad, they get bad in a hurry!”

I’m not going to go into details on the mathematics here as it is well explained on the internet and I will link to some very simple and powerful examples. Basically I'm using the late Doctor  Albert Bartlett's presentation on exponential growth using bacteria as an example. The interactive presentation "Understanding Exponential Growth" is found here and I have condensed it somewhat in my presentation. I want to concentrate on the stunning example of bacteria growth and how this example shockingly paints the scenario the human race is about to face.

The truly shocking thing about this example is that once it is recognized it is far too late to act. The bacteria example I’m about to summarize paints the bleak picture in the most simplistic mathematical relationship. Understanding this concept one will realize the cornerstone of Capitalism can never work and will only destroy the financial basis our society is built upon. This is called unlimited expansion or growth and shows that resources and populations need a zero growth rate to be viable.

The link above connects to an interactive web page using bacteria growth as the example. I’m going to attempt to condense this down a little and show how it’s related to Climate Change and the ramifications of continuing on this growth path. If I do a poor job just click the link above and follow the tutorial and you will understand I’m certain.

Bacteria Example:

Figure 2.
Bacterium Added to Jar 11:00
Figure 3. 
Bacterium Split at 11;01
Bacteria is a well know organism that when healthy multiply in an exponential way. The experiment will follow the behavior of bacteria when a single bacterium is placed in an empty jar at 11am (a random time) and allowed to multiply until the jar is full which will happen after 1 hour or 12 noon.  A bacterium is placed in an empty jar at 11:00. At 11:01 the bacterium grows and splits in two, now there are 2 bacteria.  This process continues and the bacteria in the jar keeps dividing and adding more bacteria to the jar and doubling every 1 minute. Notice at 11:05 there are now 32 bacteria and yet so small a microscope is needed to see them. The bacteria continue doubling every minute for 1 hour until 12 noon when the bottle is full. I'm going to examine the bacteria jar's 1 hour experiment and see the growth state and ramifications of each state. Lets examine the question at what time will the jar be 1/2 full? The jar will be 1/2 full at 11:59, the jar is 1/4 full at 11:58. So when the jar is 1/4 full, only 2 minutes remain until the jar is full. In other words the jar took 58 minutes to reach the 1/4 level and only 2 minutes to be totally full!.

Figure 4.
At 11;05 the bacteria has increased
 from 1 to 32 in 5 minutes
Figure 6 shows the jar's content from 11:54 through 12:00. At 11:45 the bacteria is hardly visible and at 11:30 the bacteria could only be seen with a microscope! Examining figure 1 the actual exponential growth curve we can see the growth of the bacteria tracks what appears to be pretty much straight line behavior until near the very end when it's exponential behavior sky rockets in the very waning seconds of the bacteria's life. The straight line part of this equation and it's not really a straight line tends to fool researchers into thinking it's a straight line problem with predictable values at any given time!  Looking again at figure 6 we can see very little signs of growth say up to 11:54, doubling is shown for the last few minutes in this example. When things get bad, they get bad in a hurry! doubt!

What Time is It?
Figure 5.
Bacteria Jar Full at 12;00
The more we know about a growth system the more we can predict it's behavior. Looking at planet earth in relationship to climate change numerous undefined systems are working together in an interconnected way. Down at the Waddell Sea in the southern ocean the frozen ocean expels salt into a brine. This brine formed at 1 trillium gallons per hour is the backbone of earth's ocean currents. The currents in turn make the weather all over the globe. Consider this an interconnected living organism all working together as a single unit. It has to be understood in it's entirety and cannot be accurately divided into the individual components. This is a common mistake when people try to isolate weather phenomenon such as snow fall in Buffalo and wonder how can the earth be warming when it's so damn cold in Buffalo?   Perhaps if they examined further they may see the connection between the snow in Buffalo and the extreme drought in much of California.  It's all the signature of a distressed system.
Figure 7
time 12:01

Figure 6
Doubling Time Stages
Let's take a look at possible solutions and their likely outcomes. Being an engineer myself I've come to understand that given enough money, resources and time just about any concept, no matter how outrageous can probably be completed. Some amazing projects come to mind like the Millau Viaduct in France, the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva which is 27 Km in circumference, and the Kansai international airport in Japan and the salvaging of the luxury line the Costa Concordia. So I guess it's no wonder that some so called Geo Engineers think they can solve the problem by outrageous schemes such as Russ George an American businessman illegally dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean off of British Columbia in 2012. The result was the formation of a 10000 square kilometer artificial plankton bloom visible from satellite as high concentrations of chlorophyll in an attempt to lower CO2 content in the atmosphere! Here is a novel idea, let's fix what we broke and return the planet back to as close as we can to it's natural state.

Let's continue with the bacteria example and take a look of possible actions to mitigate or change the outcome. In a situation like the bacteria or population growth the obvious solution seems easily obtained by adding more space or more empty jars in the bacteria case.  So let's add 3 more totally empty jars to the mix now we have 4 times the space we originally had. Well here we go, let's do the math. At 12;01 our original jar doubles and whoa we had to fill another jar! So we still have 2 empty jars to play with but once again doubling gives us 1 more minute of time until all 4 jars are full!
Figure 8
Time 12:02
What's this look like for world population, our population had doubled twice in the last 100 years. If population growth is 1.3 % we can calculate there would be 1 person per square meter in 780 years and in 2400 years the mass of people on earth will equal the mass of earth! Fortunately the worlds population growth has been shrinking and currently the growth rate is about 1.19%. It should be noted that any growth rate greater than zero will produce the same results eventually.


I presented this exercise because I think it's a very simple and dramatic demonstration of the exponential or doubling concept. I present this as an alternative way at looking at Climate Change from the perspective and nonlinear equations as opposed to linear equations. Considering all the complex systems working within our planet such as greenhouse gases, ocean currents, weather patterns, temperature changes, ocean and atmospheric compositional health, species distribution and over-all species health is there an unchecked growth pattern baring down on us right now. Consider the measured CO2 in the atmosphere currently at 400 ppm (parts per million). In 1958 it was 315 ppm. During the ice age CO2 concentrations ranged between 180-280 ppm. So with respect to CO2 or ocean acidification or any other complex system what does this mean? I have no clue and I think a lot of people are in the same boat. We don't understand the systems we are tinkering with and more importantly we don't know what time it is????

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bizarre Bird Tale

On a recent Beach Watch Survey at Tomasini Creek on Tomales Bay a freshly dead adult Brown Pelican was found with a dead Double Crested Cormorant stuck in it's pouch! Apparently the pelican mistook the diving cormorant as a fish, a fatal mistake for both!
Dead Pelican With Dead
Double-crested Cormorant in Pouch
Brown Pelican and Double-crested Cormorant

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The New Canon 7D Mark II and Bird Photography

I recently added the new Canon 7D Mark II (7D2) camera to my photography equipment. This is not a technical review of the 7D2 but rather just first impressions based on what I have learned about the camera so far. I’m not including comparison photos at this time, just general comments on the new camera and its relationship with bird photography. I’ve been using the Canon 7D for about 4 years now and decided to add the 7D2 basically to have a second Canon body and enjoy the new features of the 7D2 especially with respect to bird photography.

I started out in bird photography about 7 years ago with an Olympus E-1 body, one of the first digital DSLRs. I added the 50-200 Zuiko lens which is excellent and the 70-300 Olympus lens which suffers greatly in IQ (image quality) at longer reaches. Because the 50-200 was on the low end for reach in bird photography, I splurged and added the Zuiko 300 f2.8 lens to my collection. I consider this one of the finest lenses available and would match it up favorably to the longer Canon lenses, the 500 f4 and 600 f4 lens family. Since my specialty and goals are birds in flight (BIF) the big weighty lenses just mentioned are a challenge to quickly move for BIF, and I found frequent use and arm exercises greatly enhance one’s ability to swing such weight quickly? The Olympus DSLR family includes the E3 which I have and the latest E5 which I did not buy. In the DSLR world Olympus is a notch below Canon and Nikon. Olympus appears to have lost interest in the DSLR world and has jumped whole heartily into the mirrorless realm. If I had known this when I first bought the Olympus, I would have probably opted for the Canon line. However at that time I was not into bird photography that grew shortly after.

Hand Held Extreme

I've been posting my photos on Flickr since about 2008 and in that time I've gotten to know and be familiar with many bird photographers. There is a friendly competition among bird photographers and I’ve been inspired and challenged by other photographers work to constantly improve my own! . When checking photos on Flickr, the EXIF information is generally available and is a good tool to see what other parameters people use such as ASA, shutter speed and exposure compensation to name a few. I started to notice some of the really good BIF photos were being shot on the Canon 7D with the 400 f5.6 and the 100-400 L IS lenses. I started to look carefully at the 400 f5.6 photos and was impressed by the IQ. So when Olympus introduced the E5 a light bulb came on. I could invest about $1500 in the E5 to basically replace the E3 or I could spend about the same for the 7D and add the 400 f5.6 lens for about $1400 more. So to me the choice was simple, I could spend just $1400 more and have a brand new rig to play with or just update to the E5 with only a new questionably better body. I bought the 7D and the 400 f5.6 lens and have no regrets. With the new light 400 lens and the excellent tracking and focusing of the 7D I saw a large improvement in keepers due to the better focusing and the ability to get on a bird faster.

I have recently added the new Canon 7D Mark II to my equipment and have had only a short time to play with it. Although similar to the 7D it’s more sophisticated and complicated and has incorporated the focusing and tracking systems of the Canon 1DX. I’ve only touched the surface on understanding the new camera but it’s almost flawless out of the box in that without understanding the features or operation of the camera, its focus and exposure is spot on most of the time! I’d like to spend some time talking about why I think the 7D2 is an excellent choice for BIF and why some criticisms of the camera for noise and not being a full frame camera are not that important in BIF photography.

Let’s talk about BIF photography and how to get enjoyable results. I want to make a distinction between two types of bird photography, birds in flight photography and stationary or perched bird photography. Most bird photographers engage in both types but some may emphasize one more than the other. The techniques for the types are different and often times the equipment as well. In a nut shell BIF photography requires quick action with little or no time for adjustments. Birds only give you a split second to get your shot; you won’t have time for any kind of quick adjustments, so you need to be as ready as possible when the opportunity presents itself. Your camera should be pre-adjusted for shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation. If possible try to pre-focus and position yourself in favorable light. Some BIF photographers will use a tripod or monopod, but I've found those devices restrict your maneuverability and tend to just get in the way and hinder you. One exception is finding perched birds with the intent of getting flight take off photos. In this case a monopod or tripod would be an aid as it’s very hard to hand hold a heavy camera in anticipation of a perched bird taking off. In contrast shooting stationary or perched birds changes the game significantly. A tripod or monopod is very beneficial in your set up since the bird is stationary. You have time to optimize parameters such as shutter speed, exposure compensation and composition. You can even take photos check them and make adjustments. In this respect it’s more like portrait or landscape photography. Most of my discussion on this subject will be from the BIF photographers view point.

 Obviously equipment is important so let’s discuss that now. Birds in flight are fast and therefore to stop the motion of a flying bird to get maximum detail a fast shutter speed is critical. Generally I aim to get all motion stopped including the wings. This is fairly easy with a large slow flying bird such as gulls or pelicans. In some cases wing movement adds some drama to a photo but detail is lost in the moving wings. A humming bird for example has a wing speed of about 1/9000 to 1/20000 of a second. Consider the fastest shutter speed on most cameras is about 1/8000 of a second. So to stop the hummer’s wings most serious people incorporate a flash system for stop motion. This technique is beyond this discussion but shows an extreme range of speeds. Most other birds are within the range of our cameras shutter speed to stop all motion. I recommend a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second or more. I have actually not done a study to see how low a shutter speed can be to stop a particular bird, for example a comparison between a cormorant and a swallow. This would be an interesting study as shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all interconnected and the more you know about them the more you can optimize these parameters. Low shutter speed causes blurring in moving objects, large apertures reduce Depth of Field (DOF) and high ISO generates digital noise.
Using Monopod for Stationary Subject 

 The major criticism I’ve heard about the 7D2 is noise as compared to the 1DX, 5DIII, or the Sony Alfa 7S. The DPreview web site has a feature where you can compare all new cameras on the same subject but at different ISO settings. At high ISO, the 1DX was superior to the 5DIII and the 7D2, and the Sony Alfa 7S was best of all! The 7D2 was improved over the 7D. On my 7D I can safely shoot (little noise) at 800 ISO. On the 7D2 I can raise that to 1600 ISO. I did some test shoots at 3200 ISO and found the noise unacceptable! The ability to shoot at high ISO no doubt allows one to tweak shutter speed and aperture in a positive way. High ISO is critical in low light situations, indoors, landscapes, weddings, concerts, dark areas and more. BIF is not a low light situation, and it’s foolish to try and photograph birds in flight in low light and most birds don’t fly at night! So in general high ISO performance is not a major concern for BIF and I see no drawbacks with the 7D2 in that respect.

Full Frame Vs APS-C crop sensors: Another bone of contention is sensor size, full frame verses crop sensors. Full frame people will tell you a crop sensor APS-C has reduced IQ and is not necessary at all. The full frame sensor captures all the information of a crop sensor and more. Cropping the full frame down to the crop frame size gives the same image only higher IQ! So they argue any perceived advantage of a crop sensor is just an illusion and the photographer is fooling himself by thinking so. An important and tangible advantage for the bird photographer using a crop sensor system is a reduction of cost and weight of long lenses. In other words a 400 lens becomes the equivalent of 640 lens when used with a Canon 1.6 crop camera body. Here is a comparison between weight and cost using a Canon 400 f5.6 L lens (weight 2.76 pounds, @ $1400) versus the Canon 600 f4.0 L IS II (weight 8.65 pounds @ $12000). Right off the bat, there will be an argument that these two lenses cannot be compared because there is a vast difference in quality and IQ. Although these sounds like a compelling arguments on the surface how true is it? Based on price, you have an 8.5 times different in costs; is the 600 lens really 8.5 times better in IQ and sharpness? I’ve compared bird photos from the 600 lens as well as the 400 and it’s a real stretch to say there is an 8.5 times difference. There is a difference of course and the more distant the subject to the lens, the more IQ you can see in the 600. However, when the subject gets closer to the lens, that IQ difference dissipates in a hurry.

Check the MTF curves of both lenses and there is certainly not an 8.5 times difference. For BIF try wielding an 8 pound lens quickly to get on a bird, not an easy task. However the 2.6 pound 400 f5.6 L can easily and quickly be whipped around and locked on a BIF. My Zuiko 300 f2.8 lens weights about 7.5 pounds slightly less in weight than the new Canon 500 and 600 lenses. Using it everyday hand held I still did arm exercises to increase my on bird speed. Still there were frustrating times that I missed a bird just because I could not get on it quickly. Another criticism of the 400 f5.6 L lens is that it does not have IS (image stabilization) For BIF, this is not critical at all, generally shooting is at high shutter speeds where IS is not required or useful! One last point I’d like to make for anybody in the market for the 400 f5.6 L or the 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS lenses. This comparison does not include the new Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L IS II which I’m not familiar with. There is no doubt a zoom lens gives the photographer more flexibility in the field. However, one complaint I hear by owners of the old 100-400 f4.5-5.6 is IQ at longer reaches say 300-400 is not all that good. Check the MTF charts for the 2 lenses and you will readily see the difference.

 Summary of Some EOS 7D Mark II Features 

 •20.2 Megapixel CMOS APS-C Sensor supporting next generation Dual Pixel CMOS sensor-based AF
•10.0 fps continuous shooting for up to 130 JPG/31 RAW frames
•Dual DIGIC 6 Processors
•Highly customizable AF system featuring 65 All Cross Type AF Points with f/8 center point sensitive to -3 EV extreme low-light conditions
•ISO 100-16000 with expansion to 51200
•Magnesium alloy body, shutter durability rated up to 200,000 cycles and enhanced dust and weather resistance
•EOS Scene Detection System features a new 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor for improved precision


I consider the 7D an excellent choice for bird photography. I was hoping Canon would up-grade the 7D with improvements in the sensor and resulting improvements in focusing and continuous shooting speeds. Canon has not disappointed the 7D2 is an improvement over the 7D in which improvements seem particularly aimed at action photographers such as sports and wildlife. So with little hands on experience with the 7D2 thus far, I'm confident that I have more tools now at my disposal to continue my bird photography passion.  In closing I would like to make a comment about photographic equipment and it's relationship to artistic expression. Although high tech sophisticated expensive equipment is nice to have, it's not critical to artistic creation. A really creative photographer can get astounding results with the simplest camera, even a pin hole camera. So if you think purchasing the latest and greatest camera equipment will make one a good photographer, think again! As Maria Mulder once exclaimed in a song long ago, "it aint the meat it's the motion" very true indeed!