Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tule elk feeding in the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk feeding in the fog - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This herd of tule elk bulls was enjoying a dinner of tall, blooming grasses when I encountered them on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore. Through the shifting fog I watched them graze on the grasses and occasionally push each other out of the way. Every now and then a few would look my way, which made for better pictures since I could get some eye contact with them. The two looking at me in this frame are average sized, but there were some very large bulls in the group as well. Even though they all still had velvet on their antlers, you could already tell that the smaller bulls respected the larger ones, as they often parted ways when the big guys were coming through.

View more in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lupine in Bloom at Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

Lupine in bloom at Kehoe Beach

The yellow bush lupine is in full bloom at Point Reyes National Seashore, and the park's coastal scrub is carpeted in yellow. This photo is a view of the Great Beach of Point Reyes, looking south over the dunes along the trail to Kehoe Beach.

View more landscape images from Point Reyes National Seashore.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Female California Quail, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female quail in Point Reyes - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

In wildlife photography, it's so easy to get caught up looking for just the biggest, flashiest male to photograph. Unfortunately, this often means that the females don't get the attention they deserve, unless they have babies in tow. That's a shame though, since females of many species are just as lovely as their male counterparts. While male California quail are definitely showier, the females are quite beautiful, and share many of the same plumage patterns. Unfortunately, the females tend to be much more secretive, and I have rarely seen them out in the open for extended periods of time. This female, however, hopped up on a fence post and stood there for a minute or two in late afternoon light before returning to her more secretive ways in the tall grass at Pierce Point Ranch in Point Reyes National Seashore. I was quite happy to have this fleeting chance to take some photographs of a female quail out in the open.

Female California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

You can view more images of quail in my Quail Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see this weeks bird-related posts!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tule elk bulls in fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk bulls in fog

I encountered a herd of maybe 20-25 tule elk bulls with velvet antlers on a hike along the Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore earlier this week. The tall grasses are blooming on the grasslands, and I thought it would make for a great setting if I could find some elk. It's always fun to encounter a "bachelor herd" of males, since there's just something cool about seeing so many big bulls with their large antlers all at once. Unfortunately, they were in the foggiest part of the trail when I found them. Just 5 minutes up the trail I was above the rolling fog, and 5 minutes after the encounter I was below it -- but this is where the bulls were, so I made the best of it. At times, like for this shot, it briefly thinned out and the elk came into clear focus, but then moments later it could change back to pea soup. But really, is there anything more classic for Point Reyes than some elk shrouded in fog? I have a lot of images to sort through from my time spent with the tule elk, including a kick-boxing match between two of them. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least a few of them will come out reasonably sharp through the fog.

View more in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

California quail in late light, Point Reyes National Seashore

Male California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This is the same handsome male quail that I posted some shots of last week as he posed in front of some rattlesnake grass lit by the late afternoon light. For those shots, he strolled along the bottom rail of a fence. As I sat there watching and photographing him, I took note of this fence post, which was in the direct light and had a nice background of a grassy hillside behind. I silently urged him to go up there, and after about 10 minutes or so he actually did.

California quail in late light - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

He surveyed the scene from the top of the post for a few minutes before his lady-friend decided that it was time to move on. As soon as she started wandering away, he hopped down and followed her up the hillside.

Male quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more images of one of my favorite birds in my Quail Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to view this week's posts!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Young mule deer buck, Point Reyes National Seashore

Young mule deer buck - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A young mule deer buck that I found browsing the coastal scrub near Abbott's Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore. He was travelling with a female that I assume would be his mother, but she was only slightly larger than him. Both were quite curious and came quite close to the trail as I stood there watching. I particularly liked this little guys velvet covered spikes.

Visit my Mule Deer Gallery.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yellow bush lupine (with bug), Point Reyes National Seashore

Yellow bush lupine (with bug at top)

A branch of blooming yellow bush lupine, complete with a cute bug crawling on the top flower, along the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. The backdunes and coastal scrub at Point Reyes are turning yellow, as these lovely blooms paint the landscape.

View more images from the Kehoe Beach area of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Song sparrow in the wildflowers, Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility

A song sparrow singing in the yellow wildflowers that line the ponds of the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in the spring.

Song sparrow in yellow wildflowers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Here it is singing in the other direction, I suppose just to ensure that everyone heard the song.

Singing in the other direction - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

See more singing sparrows in my Song Birds Gallery.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quail and rattlesnake grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

When I was out in Point Reyes National Seashore last weekend, I wasn't seeing very much as I drove through the park. I started out by heading towards the outer peninsula, and I stopped by Drake's Beach, South Beach, and the Estero Trailhead while seeing very little. So I decided to take a drive up to Tomales Point, since I wanted to end up along the Abbott's Lagoon trail for sunset. After reaching Pierce Point Ranch without seeing a single quail or elk, I stopped at the McClure's Beach to eat my PB&J for dinner. As I sat there, I enjoyed my sandwich and was listening to the Giants pregame on KNBR. After I finished my meal and was going to stop at the restroom before leaving, I noticed this handsome quail sitting right in front of the car on a fence railing. Perhaps he was drawn to the melodic cadence of Jon Miller's voice on the radio?

Quail and rattlesnake grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Such a pleasant surprise to show up after I had resigned to a non-photographic outing for the evening. I spent the next 15 minutes shooting this quail first out of my open window, then with the door open (to get slightly closer), then from my tripod set up next to my car door.

Quail against the grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I moved slowly between positions, and while I think he knew I was there, he was fairly indifferent. He was however, quite interested in his lady-friend, who spent most of the time in the tall grass behind the fence. Every now and then though he would get noticeably excited (quick, agitated movements, fluffed feathers) and then she would appear out in the open. Eventually, she had enough of the area and wandered off up the hill -- and he was quick to follow!

Quail along the fence at sunset - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I was excited to be surprised by this handsome quail set against those lovely grasses backlit by the setting sun in the background. For those of you that are curious, the pods are rattlesnake grass (easy to see where it gets its name, no?), which is an invasive species in California.

Quail in the rattlesnake grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

More images from this area of the park in my Tomales Point Gallery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Acorn woodpecker, Point Reyes National Seashore

The Bear Valley Visitor's Center in Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to look for birds. Quail are almost always hanging around, there's a great blue heron that likes to hunt for gophers in the area, and in addition to many other birds in the trees, there is a family unit of acorn woodpeckers that maintain some granary trees right in the middle of the picnic area. Whenever the light is still reasonable on my way out of the park I'll stop by and check out these colorful birds.

Acorn Woodpecker in Bear Valley - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Much to my delight on this trip, instead of having to crane my neck to watch the birds up high in the trees, this woodpecker was pecking away at eye level on the tree. It was so focused on chipping apart the bark, and apparently digging out insects from inside, that I was able to get quite close without disturbing it.

Acorn Woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography>

The vertical frames are cropped from horizontal images, which isn't something I like to do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I made the worst mistake a nature photographer can do before approaching the woodpecker -- I decided to leave my bag in the car, which held all of my extra memory cards. I almost always have an extra card in my jacket pocket, to make sure that this never happens. But on this day I made the mistake. So I fired away horizontally to get some establishing shots, and then just as I was getting ready to go vertical, I realized that I was out of "film". Very frustrated with myself for that one, since my long lens caught the attention of other visitors to the park, and after I walked away from the woodpecker to get another memory card, they proceeded to photograph it with their point and shoot -- which required getting way too close, and the bird flew off. Oh well, just another lesson of why you should always have an extra memory card in an accessible pocket and not in your bag (or in the car!).

Very interested woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This last shot was a bit of an experiment, as I tried to capture the motion of the bird as it pounded away at the bark. I'm not always a big fan of blurred images, but this characteristic motion almost works for me.

Woodpecker in motion - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Visit my Bear Valley Visitor's Center Gallery.

Submitted to the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- follow the link to check out this week's posts!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dogwood blossoms, Yosemite National Park

Dogwood blossom in Yosemite National Park

During our May trip to Yosemite, the mountain dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii) were blooming all over the valley floor. It's amazing how much a tree full of these gorgeous flowers can brighten up a trail. As if the park isn't beautiful enough on its own, the addition of these flowers all along the river was stunning.

Dogwood blossoms in Yosemite National Park

More wild flower blossoms in my Flowers & Plants Gallery.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bridalveil Fall after late spring snow, Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Fall after spring snow

Returning back to some images from our mid-May trip to Yosemite National Park that included a late season snowfall for our last day there. This is Bridalveil Fall, as seen from across the river. The fall was flowing beautifully during our visit. In fact, we got quite wet on the short hike to its base, and you can see the cloud of mist rising above the trees in this image. For some perspective, Bridalveil Fall has a height of 620 feet.

More images from this trip are in my Yosemite Gallery.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quail on gnarled branches, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on gnarled branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While driving on Pierce Point Road through the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, I can't drive by the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot without taking a swing through to look for quail. There always seem to be some around, and even though I was planning to start my day looking for elk near the Pierce Point Ranch on my most recent trip, I swung through the lot to have a peek as I passed.

Much to my delight, there was a large male sitting on a fence right in the parking lot. Unfortunately, by the time I got my camera and tripod out of the car, he had wandered into the bushes with his female, but it didn't take long to locate others. In fact, this was the highest density of quail I've ever seen in the park. They seemed to be everywhere along the trail to Abbott's Lagoon, with couples wandering through the pastures and males occupying high vantage points all throughout the coastal scrub. Some chose nice clean fenceposts, and others selected luxurious green bushes, but this particular quail selected the old gnarled branches of an coyote bush long past its prime.

Quail amidst the branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more in my Quail Gallery.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Song sparrow singing, Point Reyes National Seashore

Singing song sparrow - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

On my last trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I walked the trail to Kehoe Beach in hopes of finding some song birds in the wildflowers that grow very thick all along the trail. Near the dues, I got distracted by some of the wildflowers and focused on making floral compositions. At one point, my concentration on the blooms was broken by a very loud melody of a song sparrow, and I looked up found this bird perched quite close (closer than any of the other sparrows I saw that day!). So I swung the lens around and fired off a few frames as it sung the next chorus of its song.

Perched sparrow - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View my Song Birds Gallery

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

California quail, Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

California quail are one of my favorite birds to photograph (if you couldn't tell from my blog banner and gallery page icon), and I often take trips this time of year specifically looking for quail opportunities. I was rewarded greatly on my most recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore with a real abundance of quail throughout the park. The once exception was where I most reliably find them, and that's near the Tomales Point Trailhead at Pierce Point Ranch. Surprisingly, I didn't see a single quail in that area -- although I was nearly attacked by a gopher as I walked around looking for them. (True story! I wouldn't have even noticed it except that it was grunting at me in an aggressive fashion and faking charges at my shoe. After my initial shock wore off I tried to get a quick shot of this behavior, but unfortunately, it scampered off into the grass by the time I was able to get my lens on it.)

Perched on a fencepost - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

In addition to a lot of quail on nice perches, I was treated to some great overcast light throughout the day due to the very late season rain we had this past weekend. These three shots are of a bird I found along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, in the area of the Bull Point Trailhead. I came across three males perched together, each with an empty pole between the closest rival, and each bird gave me an opportunity for a slightly different backdrop.

Male California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more images of our delightful state bird in my Quail Gallery

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday Blog Meme -- follow the link to check out this week's posts!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shorebirds on the beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

Resting Dunlin - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It's been a while since I posted some shorebirds to the blog, and I was getting that itch. Since most of them are up north on the tundra to breed right now, I've dug into the archive from last November to find a few to put up. These are from a terrific morning that I spent with a very large flock of western sandpipers, sanderlings, and dunlin on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. I liked how the dunlin stood taller than the other birds in this flock, and I took many different compositions with dulin having a head above the crowd.

Dunlin and sandpipers

View more in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Quail on a diagonal fencepost, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a diagonal post - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A male California quail posing on a fencepost along Sir Francis Drake Blvd in Point Reyes National Seashore. This was the only quail we saw on our drive along the length of the road that day. Around this time of year there are usually a bunch hanging out along the fences, but at least this one stayed on the post for a while to let me get a few different compositions.

Quail on a post

Visit my Quail Gallery.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tule elk bulls in velvet, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk bulls in late light - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Two bull tule elk with velvet covered antlers stand in a field of wildflowers along the Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Browse my Tule Elk Gallery.

Quail on a quiet morning, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quiet morning quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While flipping through my archives in the past few days, I saw this shot that I had originally overlooked as I edited images from this trip last January. I was much more excited about these closer poses at the time. But something about this shot pulled me in today, and while there isn't too much eye-candy in it, it still gives me the quiet feeling of that morning as I watched this quail on a fencepost.

See more images of these lovely birds in my Quail Gallery.