A series of farewell posts to my Bay Area home and haunts. We’re heading to Seattle for a year-plus . . . on to new photographic adventures.

Lake Merritt was the first place I touched soil — or rather, marine sediment –after returning to the Bay Area from Los Angeles. We were perched above Oakland in a hotel room with just a sliver of a view, looking at the lake through what amounted to a castle loophole.

My first morning, I strolled around the lake, shaking off six years of L.A. cement and urban grit. And there, I took my first-ever photo of a Great Egret with a point-and-shoot — before I knew enough about birds, before I knew about photographing birds. I incorrectly identified this lovely as a “stork” — and then photographed from above, framing her dead center with ducks, geese and partial-ducks for background. This “before” photo should give hope to anyone who thinks they can’t learn photography.

My \”Just Learning Bird Photography\” Shot of a Great Egret

Below is my visual toast to Lake Merritt, the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge, and a suitable starting line (and even a fallback position) for anyone learning to photograph birds. The refuge is protected, with the exception of the morons who’ve hobbled birds by careening through the park at 50mph.

Sign Posted at Lake Merritt – ©ingridtaylar

So, wicked drivers notwithstanding, the birds here aren’t impossibly skittish as they are in a hunted refuge. This is great for the photographer and observer — not to mention for the ducks, who huddle in rafts with their bills tucked into their backs, looking like Zisha teapots made of feathers.

Scaup and Canvasback in Slumber – ©ingridtaylar

Raft of Ducks at Lake Merritt in Oakland

Raft of Mixed Ducks & Grebes – ©ingridtaylar

I captured these heron images, still bleary from my night before — at an hour when the lake population is heavily skewed toward herons over humans. This Black-crowned Night Heron found my car a suitable perch, a perfect example of Lake Merritt’s wildlife-and-the-city juxtaposition.

Black-crowned Night Heron on Car

Heron on Car – ©ingridtaylar

A single beam of light (the photographer’s friend) lit this heron — framed by a tree trunk.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron in Tree – ©ingridtaylar

I didn’t see the anomaly in this photo until I looked at the image on my Mac screen. This Canada Goose was adeptly swimming, taking off and landing with just one leg.

Canada Goose with One Leg

One-Legged Goose – ©ingridtaylar

Morning sheen on a still lake produces the pudding-smooth curves that frame this gull.

Gull on Lake Merritt

Gull and Morning Reflections – ©ingridtaylar

Scaup are, by far, the most numerous ducks at Lake Merritt in the winter. I learned quickly that a dawn arrival meant waiting a few hours for the ducks to arise and eat breakfast. Ducks at Lake Merritt sleep in.

Scaup Swimming

Scaup Duo – ©ingridtaylar

Scaup and Shellfish

Ambitious Catch – ©ingridtaylar

What can I say about my pigeon people? They are dear to my heart, the domestic pij and the wild among us.

Lake Merritt Pigeons

Lake Pigeon Folk – ©ingridtaylar

This was another photo that revealed a surprise when magnified on my computer screen — good fortune for the fish.

Brown Pelican and Fish

The One That Got Away – ©ingridtaylar

I met a woman once at Lake Merritt who, like me, volunteered at a wildlife rehab center. She kept tabs on the disabled squirrels around the lake who managed to thrive in the wilds of Oakland. They do get a bit of human help.

Lake Merritt Fox Squirrel

Fox Squirrel with Good Samaritan Food Stash – ©ingridtaylar

For a long time after the Cosco Busan oil spill, my heart would stop when I’d see a grebe break the water’s surface with its back slick from the dive. It took a minute for my mind to register that the grebe wasn’t oiled.

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe – ©ingridtaylar

The floats on the lake are a popular drying and preening spot for Double-crested Cormorants.

Double-Crested Cormorants Sunning

Double-Crested Cormorants – ©ingridtaylar

Thank god for DSLRs and capturing the split-second symmetry in these fast dives.

Bufflehead Diving

Bufflehead Symmetry – ©ingridtaylar

As often as I see herons and egrets perched in trees, I’m still enamored with the dramatic color and shape contrasts.

Black-crowned Night Heron in Tree

Night Heron in Branches – ©ingridtaylar

Canvasbacks, along with Scaup and Ruddy Ducks, are part of the huge raft that makes Lake Merritt home for the winter.

Canvasback Swimming

Canvasback – ©ingridtaylar

Mottled blue and grey was the texture of the water the day I shot this Western Grebe, with sky reflected in the smooth divots. I brought the contrast up a bit on this image.

Western Grebe

Western Grebe & Water Textures – ©ingridtaylar

Ending up where my photographic endeavors began . . . with a Great Egret . . . framed and focused a bit better for the experience and the gear.

Great Egret with Fish

Great Egret – ©ingridtaylar