Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Song sparrow in blooming lupine, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a song sparrow perched in blooming yellow bush lupine

I've written about this plenty of times before, but strolling the trail to Kehoe Beach while the wildflowers are blooming in Point Reyes National Seashore is sight to behold. The air is thick with their sweet aromas, and the birds are abundant among the blooms. On my summer trip last year, I walked this trail almost daily looking for opportunities to photograph song birds as they bounced about the branches. The dominant color along the trail was yellow, and this song sparrow perched on a yellow bush lupine with wild mustard behind.

View more of my photographs of sparrows and other song birds.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

California quail in song, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Photograph of a quail singing in a bush in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

After spending some quality time photographing this California quail singing from the top of a branch of coyote brush last summer, I took another lap around the Tennessee Valley Trail. I didn’t see much on my traverse, but when I returned, this friendly quail had moved to a different perch even closer to the trail. His new location certainly didn’t tamp down his vigor, so I took advantage of the opportunity to make a few more photographs of him throwing his head back and calling out his lovely song.

View more of my quail photography.

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to check out this week's posts.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Bobcat near Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a bobcat in Point Reyes National Seashore

I knew it was going to be a productive trip to Point Reyes National Seashore for me last year, when I encountered this bobcat on my first evening in the park. After landing in California I grabbed some supplies for the week in my old stomping grounds (including a burrito from my favorite taqueria!) before heading out to Marin. For my first foray into the park I decided to look for quail in the coastal scrub near Abbotts Lagoon. I had some luck with birds near the trailhead before starting to hike toward the coast. I didn't get too far down the trail though before spotting this bobcat searching for rodents in the adjacent field. Much to my delight, the cat started working its way toward my location near the small drainage pond along the trail. It definitely noticed that I was watching, and it gave me a wary eye as it approached before disappearing into the reeds at the edge of the pond. I stayed in my spot on the trail for a while longer to see if it would emerge, and surprisingly it stepped out even closer to me. It seemed to want to get a better look at its observer, spending a few minutes looking my way before slipping back into the vegetation. I would see this cat working the fields near the pond multiple times during my trip (though never at this close range again), and I suspect that it may have had a den there.

Photograph of a bobcat in California looking to the side

View more photographs of bobcats.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a mule deer behind the dunes in Point Reyes National Seashore

Continuing with my run of fog-shrouded images from last summer, here is a mule deer doe (above) and her juvenile (below) enjoying the summer wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore. I began my day in the park with a morning drive out to Chimney Rock and encountered this pair along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The backside of the large dunes of the outer peninsula are in the background, and if it wasn't for the fog, the Pacific would be visible beyond them.

Photograph of a young mule deer in the tall grass

View more of my photographs of mule deer.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trail through the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a trail through wildflowers under heavy fog in Point Reyes National Seashore

Following on my theme in yesterday's post about switching my mind's eye into landscape mode, here is another photograph from last summer along the Tomales Point Trail under a heavy layer of fog. I've always enjoyed the wind-driven shape of these stately cypress trees, and they were even more engaging as they faded in and out of sight through the fog. My early June trip happened to coincide with an explosion of lupine and wild radish along the trail, which added an amazing amount of color, as well as a thick scent of pollen, to the scene.

View more of my photography from the Tomales Point area of Point Reyes National Seashore.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Impressionist's landscape under the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a wildflower filled valley in Point Reyes National Seashore

I'm looking forward to a trip to Acadia National Park later this month, which means I'll need to switch my photographic eye to landscape mode. I really wish that I was a better landscape photographer. With wildlife, it comes fairly naturally to me to create images that have the potential to build an emotional connection with the viewer. In some ways, I think it can be easier when you have a clear focus of attention on a living, breathing creature. The eyes provide that necessary window to pull a viewer directly into the scene, and there's always a dynamic component related to the perceived motion (or lack thereof) of the animal. I have yet to find a consistent way to generate an emotional connection through my landscape photography. I feel it strongly while viewing other photographer's work, but it still remains an elusive challenge in my own.

On my trip to Point Reyes National Seashore last summer, I was primarily focused on wildlife, but I made a conscious effort to try to capture the scenic aspects of the park as well. I have such a strong emotional connection to the Point Reyes landscape, and I would love to be able to express just a sliver of it through my lens. I walked the Tomales Point Trail a couple of times on this trip, and each time that I passed this valley bathed in wildflowers it caught my attention. I tried a number of times to create something that expressed my draw to this scene, and the closest I came was in this image under a dense layer of fog. The wind was barely blowing and the birds were quiet, as if the world was weighed down by the fog. The soft colors under the heavy air and remarkable density of blooms in the valley seemed to be cast by an impressionist's paintbrush. The stillness and serenity of this stop along the trail are still etched in my memory.

Ultimately, my efforts to create an impactful image fell short of my intentions, but with failure comes the opportunity for growth. Artistic expression would likely go stale without the constant pursuit of improvement, so I'm looking forward to the challenge. Acadia is another landscape that I felt an immediate connection with, and I hope I'll be returning from my upcoming trip with an expression of that connection.

View more of my landscapes from Point Reyes National Seashore.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sanderling in the last rays of sunlight, Parker River NWR

Photograph of a sanderling on the beach at sunset

I'm always preferential to the sunrise when I have the chance, but last autumn I had a couple of really successful sunset trips in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I spent about an hour working with a friendly flock of sandpipers at the Lot 7 beach in pleasant evening light, but as the sun prepared to slip behind the dunes this sandpiper really started glowing in the warm final rays.

View more photographs of sanderlings.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Least tern delivers a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a least tern delivering a fish to its partner

While I was watching this least tern incubating its two eggs on the beach, I had the pleasure of observing its partner bring it a fish. In the excitement of this unexpected moment, I unfortunately clipped the tips of the wings of the bird who stopped by only briefly enough to hand off the fish and fly off again. While I'm excited to have a nice record of the moment, I'm a bit bummed that I made such a technical error. I waited around for a while longer to see if I would be lucky to witness another exchange, but unfortunately it never came. A valuable lesson that I've heard before, but failed to execute, is that when photographing birds that are likely to flap their wings (like in this case, or especially with birds that are bathing in shallow water), it's always better to zoom out and leave extra space. You can always crop away the excess later, but you can't regain the tips of those wings in post-processing.

Photograph of a pair of least terns on their nest sharing a fish

View more photographs of terns.


Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Reddish egret chasing a fish, Bunche Beach Preserve

Photograph of a reddish egret flapping its wings while hunting

On my trip to southwest Florida in March, one of the most exciting species to see, other than the roseate spoonbill I've previously posted, was the reddish egret. This bird was a lifer for me, and we first saw one at quite a distance through a docent's scope at Ding Darling NWR. At the time, I had no idea that I would have the privilege to photograph one at relatively close range each of the next two mornings at Bunche Beach Preserve. They are such a beautiful species, and their goofy running, jumping, and flapping behavior while chasing fish was really a sight to behold. Its comical movements reminded me quite a lot of Big Bird from Sesame Street!

View more of my photographs of egrets and herons.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Willet on a quiet morning, Bunche Beach Preserve

Photograph of a willet in a tidal pool at Bunche Beach Preserve

Warm morning light, still water, and the slow gait of this willet through the shallow tidal pool combine to transport me to a serene setting of quiet solitude. While the beach had plenty of action that morning, this image encapsulates the internal silence I often experience while photographing wildlife.

View more photographs of willets.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Portrait of a juvenile white ibis, Bunche Beach Preserve

Photographic portrait of a juvenile white ibis in Florida

I've been posting a series of photographs lately of tiny juvenile piping plovers, so I thought I'd mix it up with a substantially larger youngster. This handsome bird is a less than a year-old white ibis that I photographed in March at Bunche Beach Preserve in Ft Myers, Florida. Seeing this species is a highlight of any trip to Florida, and we saw probably 20 or so juveniles on a kayaking trip through the mangroves in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Though it wasn't until the next morning that I was able to get a close enough view to see those beautiful blue eyes.

View more photographs of white ibises and other wading birds.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Piping plover parent with chick underwing, Sandy Point State Reservation

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Plovers &emdash; Plover parent with one chick under its wing

Another interesting tidbit I came across while reading up on piping plovers recently, in addition to what I posted yesterday about plover chicks being entirely responsible for feeding themselves, is related to the role of the parents. While both the male and female share responsibility for incubating the nest, it is relatively common for the female to abandon the brood within a week of the chicks hatching. That leaves the male in charge of protecting the chicks until they fledge a few weeks later. I'm not sure if this is a male or female parent, but there is a very young chick tucked under its left wing. You can see a tiny leg sticking out and the top of its downy head under the popped-up feathers.

View more photographs of plovers


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tiny voracious predator, Piping plover chick at Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a piping plover chick chasing prey in Massachusetts

When I was looking up information about how to identify a piping plover fledgling, I came across an interesting fact -- piping plover chicks are entirely responsible for feeding themselves! While watching the chicks on the beach at Sandy Point Reservation on multiple occasions this summer, I was interested to observe how much time they seemed to spend catching bugs. They appeared to be on a constant search for food, which now makes a lot of sense to me. It would also seem to explain why all of the chicks in the same clutch would often run in separate directions after warming up under their parent. Pretty incredible to think that a few hours after they hatch, these adorable tiny predators are already leaving the nest and looking for prey.

Browse more of my photographs of plovers.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Early morning blues, Piping plover on Plum Island

Photograph of a piping plover fledgling at Sandy Point State Reservation

Nothing much to be blue about on this morning (or any morning when you're out to do some photography at sunrise!) unless you're the morning light reflecting off the water in the background. I took this photograph on a mid-July trip to Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island, and I suspect that this is a fledgling from one of the piping plover clutches I saw as tiny chicks in early June.

View more of my photographs of piping plovers.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Curious piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation

Shallow DOF photograph of a young piping plover

The uneven sand along the high tide line of Sandy Point State Reservation made for an fun setting to photograph this piping plover chick as it curiously checked out the photographer laying in the sand. At times, some objects in the wrack obstructed the frame, but when it stepped into the right location, it was exciting to capture this dreamy effect of an exaggeratedly shallow depth of field.

Photograph of a curious piping plover chick in Massachusetts

Browse more photographs of plovers in my Plovers Gallery.

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Last rays of sunlight above the fog, Mount Tamalpais State Park

Photograph of the last rays of sunlight above the fog on Mount Tamalpais

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am enamored with landscape photographs that take place above the fog. I've seen so many glorious images of the Golden Gate Bridge draped in fog over the years, and I recall a specific image from this area of Mt Tam that appeared in a CSPF bulletin a few years back. I had always wanted to try to capture such an image myself, but regrettably never made the opportunity for myself while living in California. It took until my trip back to the west coast last summer to finally be present with the right conditions. Though as I wrote about last year, I still ended up pulling into a turnout different than I had intended as time was running out.

View more landscape photography from Marin County, California.