The Virgin D200 and the Sepulveda Basin

Posted by ardeidae on January 18, 2006

Last week, I was lucky enough to score a new D200 SLR camera from Nikon. They were released in mid-December, but the high demand has made it difficult for Nikon to keep up with all the orders. I was following all the rumors, and after the camera was officially announced on November 1, 2005, I knew right away I had to have one. I wanted to upgrade my 6-megapixel D70, and for the price, the 10-megapixel D200 was a great deal. There were a few places taking pre-orders, but due to holiday plans possibly conflicting with a shipping destination, I decided to hold off and get one when they were in stock somewhere. I never thought getting this camera would be such a challenge. The Nikon fan site, Nikonians, helped keep me up to date with the availability of the D200. People there are like a family. There’s the occasional argument with siblings, but they generally stick up for their family. Posters were diligent on letting the community know when and where a D200 went on sale. After a couple of misses, Tuesday I got lucky and Wednesday I had my camera. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m keeping the D70. smile

There are some enhancements to the D200 that made me especially eager to get it for my trip to the Salton Sea next weekend. My trip last August turned out some spectacular birds and some great photos, and the upgrades in the D200 should help get some even better shots. If you’re looking for a review or specs on the camera, DP Review has a comprehensive report. Maybe some day I’ll get my equipment list posted here.

With the camera upgrade, I figured I could use a lens upgrade too. Through the last year of shooting, I’ve discovered the 70-300mm that was included with the D70 kit isn’t quite enough for what I need to do. On Saturday, I drove to Samy’s Camera and added the 80-400mm VR lens to my repertoire. It had rained most of the morning, but after I got home from running around, it was afternoon and the clouds appeared to be clearing so I headed out to break in my new setup.

Just a few minutes from home is the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. It’s a 48-acre riparian habitat with a small lake located in the middle of the San Fernando Valley (California), right off the 405 Freeway. I’ve been there several times and it’s always teeming with birds. This time was no exception. As I entered the refuge around 3pm, I was immediately greeted by an Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) zipping back and forth from an exposed tree branch right by the main path. It would sit there for a few minutes looking around and preening, then it would buzz away to a nearby tree, returning 30 seconds later. I never pinpointed where it was going, and after watching for about 15 minutes, it finally flashed past my head and disappeared.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican
As I approached the first viewing area, two Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) surfaced for a quick breath before taking another dive. Across the way was a Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) resting in the reeds, and an American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) cruising around for food. After watching for a few minutes, the pelican decided it needed to get a little excercise. When a pelican flaps, it’s hard to miss, and the new camera and lens did an excellent job capturing it.
Great Egret
Great Egret

After 20 minutes of observation, I headed over to the next observation point. The second area extends more into the lake and allows for an excellent view of the island, and all the Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) that like to nest there. Great Egrets (Ardea alba) and American White Pelicans were also seen there napping along the western shore. At the end of the point, I noticed a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) land in a tree. Just then, I caught a glimpse of something white approaching from the left. A Great Egret flew past, providing a perfect exhibition of grace in flight. I have found egrets in general to be really photogenic. In the past, I’ve got some really good photos of the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula); today it was almost elusive and was able to get away unphotographed, but not unseen.

Black Phoebe
Black Phoebe

Some other feathered friends noted at Sepulveda Basin were Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American Coot (Fulica americana), California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis), Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), and Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis).

Allen's Hummingbird

I had Monday off due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I took the opportunity to return to Sepulveda Basin. I got there around 1pm. It was 60 degrees, sunny, and windy, although the wind let up shortly after I arrived. As I approached the entrance to the reserve, a Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) made itself apparent as it hopped around the lower branches of a tree. It was in complete shade, so exposures were difficult. But it must have wanted its photo taken as it hopped down to a sunny spot near the path and sat there long enough for me to get a few good shots.

Anna's Hummingbird

After reviewing the photos I had taken on Saturday, the Anna’s Hummingbird turned out a bit dark. I was more prepared this time, though. But no luck, it wasn’t in the place I had seen it two days before. The birds I saw were much the same I had seen on Saturday, though the American White Pelicans were more abundant and actively cruising around in the water near the first viewing area. At one point a Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) dashed past and was evasive enough to avoid the lens. One specimen however, posed for quite some time. The Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) made a few poses on a tall branch before buzzing over to a bushy tree where it hung out on an outer branch and preened itself, sometimes flashing some of that brilliant orange iridescence. It must have hung around for at least 20-30 minutes.

It was almost 4pm when I started to head out. As I passed the spot I’d seen the Anna’s Hummingbird on Saturday, it flew in, right on cue. This time I was ready, and so was the bird. And the display it provided this time was incredible. It knew right where to stand for me to catch that amazing iridescent red gorget. Wow, thank you!

I really like the usability of the D200, and after looking at the photos I took at the Sepulveda Basin, I’m impressed with the results as well. I look forward to using it more this coming weekend at the Salton Sea.

I love the Sepulveda Basin. Enjoy the Salton Sea. Looking forward to a trip report with superior photos!

Posted by Mike  on  01/20  at  07:53 AM

That’s a great camera and the Salton Sea is a wonderful place.

Posted by Richard  on  01/23  at  05:51 AM

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