Showing posts with label Point Reyes National Seashore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Point Reyes National Seashore. Show all posts

Monday, April 2, 2018

California quail fledglings calling (almost), Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail fledglings perched on coyote brush in Point Reyes

California quail are one of my favorite species to photograph, and it was a treat to get to see some fledglings on my last summer trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. On several previous occasions, I had seen younger adorable downy fluff balls scurrying around behind their parents, and this was the first time I had some really nice looks at slightly older fledglings.

The Abbotts Lagoon area is a hotspot for finding quail in Point Reyes. In fact, I often didn't even need to get out of parking lot, or even the car, to find some in front of my lens. Since they can be rather skittish, it actually works quite well to use the car as a mobile blind to get close as they stand on the fence railings and bounce around the coyote brush along the parking lot. That's what I was doing on this rather dreary morning in the park. There was a small covey hanging out along the fenceline, so I drove up slowly, rolled the windows down, and parked the car in a nice position to observe them out the passenger side window.

California quail fledgling calling Chi-Ca-Go

As I was watching the group, I heard the distinct call of "Chi-Ca-Go" from behind my vehicle on the driver's side. Though notably, it was a rather small rendition of a quail song, and when I turned around in my seat, I saw this pair of fledglings on the branches. I had long been chasing a photograph of California quail in song, which I finally managed to capture on a 2014 trip -- but I had never imagined the opportunity to capture young birds doing the same. Unfortunately, to have a chance, I needed to contort my body to point my lens out of the opposite rear window to get the right angle before the moment had passed. I strained my body to get into a reasonable stable position and waited for another chance.

California quail fledgling singing in Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail can put on such a show when they are calling out -- throwing their heads back with abandon -- but that means the beak and eyes are moving quickly. On this morning, it was just too quick for my lens under the deep overcast light, and the frame above is the closest I came with any bit of sharpness to the singing head. I had only a few chances to capture the song before this young pair scuttled back down into the brush, and I'm disappointed to have failed to capture a clean shot. That said, these unexpected moments are what is so fun about wildlife photography, and even without something to add to my portfolio, it's an encounter I won't soon forget.

California quail fledglings in Point Reyes National Seashore




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female mule deer standing in dune grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

The short road to the North Beach parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore always feels to me like it has a lot of potential. There's nice tall grasses on the backside of the dunes, with splashes of color from the abundant wildflowers. I've seen a fair number of raptors there, occasionally a coyote, but the most likely find are the abundant mule deer in the area. This doe was browsing among the dune grass under the thick morning fog. She gave me a couple of curious glances before sauntering across the road to the other side.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tule elk in wild radish, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk standing in a field or wild radish in Point Reyes National Seashore

While the peak of the tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore is generally in late August and into September, this handsome bull was keeping track of his harem in early July. It made for some nice photographic opportunities as the herd grazed among the late summer wildflowers (predominantly wild radish) on the hillside along the road to Drake's Beach. From this vantage point he was keeping track of the other bulls bugling in the area. In the top frame, he's listening carefully as a rival bull sounds out across the valley, and in the bottom frame he's responding with his own call (through a mouth full of grass!).

Bull tule elk bugling in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Magic of Point Reyes National Seashore

Last light across the valleys of Point Reyes National Seashore

During the two years that I let the blog go dormant in 2016-2017 I actually had a couple of really nice photographic outings. I was even able to return to California for about a week in the summer of 2016, which included a couple of days spent in Point Reyes National Seashore. It wasn't the most productive trip photographically, but it felt so great to be back in my old footsteps on those well-trodden trails. For those of you that have followed my work, you already know that Point Reyes National Seashore holds a special place in my heart -- and in some ways I can't believe it's taken me this long to share some some images from the trip.

July isn't necessary the best time to be in the park for photography, I personally think that the fall is ideal with the shorebird migrations and tule elk rut, but I was treated to some spectacular fog-less summer sunsets on this trip. While living in California, I most often visited the park for sunrise, which usually involved a heavy cover the marine layer fog, so it was a treat to have the warm colors of sunset on multiple evenings (although I almost didn't know what to do with the light!).

While driving out Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on so many prior trips to the park, my eye had often been drawn to the gorgeous rolling agricultural valleys. On many occasions I pulled the car over, swapped on my landscape lens and attempted to capture some of what had caught my eye. I was never really able to do the scene justice though, especially since so many of my trips were under the coastal fog. I love overcast light for wildlife, but it really left the landscapes feeling flat and far less interesting than then actually were. I was driving around the park on this summer evening while the light was absolutely spectacular, and hoping to find something to photograph before it was gone. I struck out on sighting any wildlife in the golden glow, but as I passed this valley, I was completely drawn in. The last rays were fading fast, and I knew I wouldn't have time to set up my tripod before it was gone. So I rolled the window down, leaned across the passenger seat and fired off a few frames. I love that the low hanging sun left a tiny sliver of "alpenglow" across the top of the coastal hillside. That's part of the magic of Point Reyes National Seashore -- it's given me fleeting moments that are so special and unexpected on so many visits.

While I was taking the photograph above, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I could see myself in the passenger-side mirror. Being a solo trip into the park, I didn't have any other photographs of myself there, so I took advantage of the opportunity to make an unorthodox selfie from this unexpected scene in one of my favorite places.

Selfie of landscape photography from a car in Point Reyes National Seashore

After spending the night in Inverness Park, I set out for a sunrise hike at Abbotts Lagoon. Just like old times, I began the day as the first car in the parking lot as the daylight was just beginning to break. It was wonderful to breathe in the cool coastal air, and to be invigorated by the feeling of the warm rising sun under clear skies. This is a wonderful place to look for quail and not too far from the parking lot I found a handsome male keeping an eye on his covey from an old scrag of coyote brush (which I posted yesterday for my 500th blog post). I slowly worked my way closer, trying to get clean shot of the quail who was glowing in the warm sunrise light. In the meantime a second car arrived at the trailhead and another photographer set off down the trail behind me. As he approached, he politely waited to pass until the quail had decided to hop from its perch and head into the brush. Further down the trail, at the bridge between the freshwater and brackish lagoons, I encountered the photographer again. We chatted briefly, and he shared his new found love for the park. It seemed that this amazing landscape had recently cast a spell on him, the same as it had on me nearly a decade ago. He was now regularly driving up from the East Bay on the weekends to search for wildlife -- which sounded awfully familiar to my ears! We chatted briefly about the gravitational pull of the park, and neither of us could easily express a specific reason for why it captured our creative imagination so strongly over all of the other great places in the Bay Area. But perhaps the vague mystery of that deep-felt love for that beautiful peninsula is part of the magic all the same.

A summer lupine is bathed in the warm glow of sunset at Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore

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.


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.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quail stare down from fence post in Point Reyes National Seashore
A California quail staring into the camera from his perch in Point Reyes National Seashore

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my followers! I hope you are able to relax and enjoy some time with family and friends!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Quail portrait on a fencepost, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail portrait on a fencepost in Point Reyes National Seashore
A California quail posing on a fencepost near Abbott's Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore

I've been posting a lot of shorebirds lately since I've had some great recent outings in the area, but I still have a backlog of images from my five day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore over the summer. As I always do while in the park, I was constantly scanning for opportunities to photograph California quail. This particular male perched himself on a relatively plain fencepost, but in front of a nicely colored hillside for a backdrop.

View more of my photographs of California quail.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Tule elk with a vine on its antlers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk with vine wrapped around antlers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A bull tule elk is lucky to have only vegetation wrapped around its antlers in Point Reyes National Seashore

This photo of a bull tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore is back from a foggy morning in 2011. If you look carefully, you can see a long vine wrapped around the base of his antlers. This is rather common during the rutting season as bulls aggressively brush their antlers on the ground to pick up grasses to carry on their antlers. For some elk though, this can be quite dangerous if they get tangled in broken lines of barbed wire fencing lying on the ground.

This is a long introduction to refer you to a great write-up done by fellow Point Reyes photographer Jim Coda about the potentially (un)wildlife-friendly fencing practices in Point Reyes National Seashore.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sparrow singing in the marsh, Point Reyes National Seashore

Song sparrow singing while perched on reeds in a freshwater marsh
A song sparrow belts out its tune from the freshwater marsh along the Kehoe Beach Trail

I have written previously about spending a fair amount of time looking for song birds to photograph in the wildflowers along the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore, but one of my favorite images from the trip came from turning to the opposite side of the trail. It may not have the flashy colors of wildflowers, but I'm a sucker for marsh vegetation!

Browse more of my photographs of song birds.

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


Sunday, July 13, 2014

White-crowned sparrow in a sea of wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow in a sea of wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A white-crowned sparrow perched in the summer wildflowers along the Kehoe Beach Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, the Kehoe Beach Trail is one of my favorite places to look for wildlife hiding in the sea of wildflowers that line the trail. I generally don't target song birds when I'm out looking for wildlife to photograph, mostly because I find it can be rather challenging to get close enough to obtain a bird that is relatively large in the frame and unobstructed by branches and such. However, a setting like this is, in my opinion, a great place to leave a lot of space around the birds. I particularly liked the layering to the wildflowers in this frame, with the white flowers extending on tall stalks above the yellow blooms.

View more photos from the Kehoe Beach area in Point Reyes National Seashore.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sparrow singing on a curved branch, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow singing from a curved branch in Point Reyes
A white-crowned sparrow sings along the Abbott's Lagoon Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

While looking for songbirds to photograph on my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, my primary objective was to capture them perched in front of wildflowers. Of course, it wasn't always possible to get a bright, colorful backdrop in each frame. I was drawn into this scene by the old, weathered branch of coyote brush that this white-crowned sparrow was perched on. Even better, a distant hillside provided a clean background of neutral colors for the shot as it started to sing. This otherwise drab bird provided its own splash of color though, flashing its green and orange leg bands.

Browse more of my photos of song birds.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mule deer in the wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Mule deer in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A mule deer hiding in the wildflowers along the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore is one of my favorite places to photograph wildlife set against a backdrop of wildflowers. The hillside along the trail seems to explode in a wall of color, and the flowers conveniently grow all the way to eye level. In the past, I've photographed some song birds like this white-crowned sparrow set against the colorful backdrop, and I walked this trail a number of times on my recent trip looking for similar opportunities. As I was scanning for birds perched on the blooms, it was a delightful surprise to see these big ears and eyes staring back at me from behind the flowers. There was a slight breeze on this morning, so in many of my frames this lovely doe was distractingly obscured by the yellow blooms, but in this one, the flower stopped in the middle and gave a clean connection with her eyes.

View more photos from the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs
A white-crowned sparrow brings a beak full of bugs back to its young in Point Reyes National Seashore.


During my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I dedicated a fair amount of time to photographing song birds among the early summer wildflowers. The first stretch of the Tomales Point Trail was absolutely covered in colorful wild radish and the trail to Kehoe Beach was also lined with dense wildflowers. These shots were taken on the trail to Abbott's Lagoon, which doesn't have as high of a density of wildflowers, but the yellow bush lupine was in full bloom (and provides the splash of yellow in the background here).


White-crowned sparrow with grasshoppers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A white-crowned sparrow looks around before returning to feed its young.

While I didn't see any nests, there were definite signs of young birds around with the parents bringing back beaks full of bugs. In the high-res version of these photos, you can clearly see that this sparrow returned with at least two grass hoppers crammed into its tiny beak. While on a much different scale, this behavior reminded me of seeing photographs of puffins returning to the cliffs with a mouthful of fish (definitely something on my lifetime photographic wishlist!).

View more photos of songbirds perched on wildflowers in my Song Birds Gallery.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Curious quail in focus, Point Reyes National Seashore

Curious quail in Point Reyes National Seashore
A California quail casts a curious glance at the photographer in Point Reyes National Seashore.

If you couldn't already guess from the banner on my blog, California quail are one of my favorite subjects to photograph, and Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to get them in front of your lens. I photographed a bunch of quail on my recent trip there, and this was one of my favorite shots. Quail seem to have such personality, and the way that they turn their head in a curious glance cracks me up. For these shots, I was parked in the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot watching a few quail bouncing around the tops of coyote brush a bit further away, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy pop up between the bushes to get a look at me. After slowing turning my lens toward it, it was exciting to see that it positioned itself behind another bush in a perfect way to provide a smooth out of focus foreground and background. 


Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Quail &emdash; Quail stare-down
An alternative view of the same quail after it moved higher on the coyote brush.

As he made his way to the top of the bush, the delightful bokeh effect started to disappear, but he posed there for a while providing some clean portrait opportunities too.

View more of my photographs of California quail.