My favorite 2022 birding pics & surprises

Early in the pandemic I was looking for something to do outdoors that was fun and new, finally settling on birding.


I have been interested in nature and photography since I was a kid but only occasionally had the chance to actually combine the two.

Inspired in part by my colleague Jonathan Eisen here at UC Davis, I spent more time outdoors with my old camera. This was in early 2020. I was hooked.

Eventually, I realized that my ancient camera and lens weren’t good enough.

I upgraded to a Canon 90D and a 100-400 Canon lens. It was exciting to have a good “kit” as birders call it. For a cell biologist like me, it was kind of akin to getting a powerful new microscope. Incidentally, I also love microscopy and imaging. This adds another layer of enjoyment to teaching Histology here at the UC Davis Medical School.

A big part of birding is getting photos of new birds. Some birders just focus on seeing birds and keeping a list of what they’ve seen. I’m more of a photographer so I focus on the pictures I take. I only count birds as “seen” if I get an identifiable picture of them.

In 2022 I was birding less often than earlier in the pandemic, but I still got some great shots. Here are my favorites of the year including some that aren’t of birds.

Top birding and nature pics of 2022

Horned Grebe eating kelp pipefish, birding, Copyright Paul Knoepfler.
Horned Grebe eating kelp pipefish.

I’ll start with one of my favorite action shots of the year. I was out at Coyote Point, a great birding spot just south of SFO airport. It’s a nice place to go if you are picking someone up from the airport and get to that area early. I got a nice pic of an Eared Grebe that had caught and was eating a kelp pipefish. I didn’t know that kind of fish even existed before this. You can even see the fish’s eye and look at the Grebe’s red eye.

harlequin duck, Copyright Paul Knoepfler, birding
This harlequin duck popped up right in front of me.

On the same walk around Coyote Point, a rare bird popped up nearly right in front of me. You can see my best shot of this Harlequin Duck.

These are sea ducks that rarely come near shore. Most shots I’ve seen from people are distant, somewhat fuzzy images. This duck was maybe only 20-30 yards from me when it surfaced from fishing. This was a “lifer” for me, meaning a bird I had never seen before.

Green heron eating frog, Copyright Paul Knoepfler.
A green heron eating a frog.

Next is another fun action shot. I was down at Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. It seemed very quiet. Still, I was patient and hung out at a favorite spot for a while, kind of in my own natural blind of leaves and branches so birds couldn’t see me. This was a different strategy than I had used early on.

In previous years while out birding I rarely stopped walking around.

However, I realized after a while that sometimes it’s best if you find a spot that feels good and just sit there quietly.

This day at Putah Creek, in a few minutes I saw movement and realized it was a Green Heron out hunting in the shallow water along the bank. I started taking pictures of it and then suddenly it struck into the water. It pulled out a huge frog. I was lucky to get some nice shots.

Red Fox along Putah Creek.
A red fox running along an open area near Putah Creek.
fox face, Copyright Paul Knoepfler.
The fox took cover and kept an eye on me, with its face just visible peaking out.

Next is my favorite picture of 2022 that isn’t of a bird. I was out near Winters along Putah Creek very early on a soon-to-be very hot summer day. It’s great to get out even before seven AM on such days. I turned a corner on a path and there was a red fox out hunting.

I caught a few pics before it disappeared.

In 2023 I’ve been birding even less but even now just partway through the year, I’ve got some exciting pictures including of more foxes and baby foxes! I’ll post more soon.

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