Showing posts with label San Francisco Bay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Francisco Bay. Show all posts

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iridescent northern shoveler, Radio Road Ponds

Iridescent shoveler drake - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Northern shovelers are beautiful in any light, but especially when you catch the right reflection off of their iridescent feathers. The right mix of overcast light and head angle really helped to show off the colors of this drake.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The owl that wasn't, Berkeley Marina

Burrowed burrowing owl - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This is a shot about a shot that I had in my head but was never able to get. After finding this owl in a burrow that was an ideal location for a nice ground level image right near the fence to keep the dogs out, I had high hopes to come home with an image of this bird standing tall by its burrow. I returned to the park many times this spring, but each time the owl stayed tucked away inside. On my last trip in March, I finally saw it half-out of the hole -- but by then the grass was too tall for the shot I wanted anyway. Such is the joy of wildlife photography though. Not that there's joy in not getting a shot you want, but there is much joy when the stars align and the animals actually do what you were envisioning in perfect light. You never know when it will happen -- so the more potential images you have stored in your head, the better ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

California ground squirrel, Berkeley Marina

California ground squirrel in cute pose - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

By this time of year the burrowing owls should have left Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to spend the summer months in their breeding grounds. While the owls are the main wildlife draw of the park, there are plenty of other subjects around including lots of song birds and raptors, and of course a lot of California ground squirrels.

Squatty ground squirrel - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It's always interesting to see the interaction (or lack thereof) between the burrowing owls and these squirrels. The fact that they are basically the same size probably has something to do with that, since I think they are too large for the owls to consider prey. So instead they seem to tolerate each other at close range, and since they share the shame aerial predators, I would guess the owls appreciate having the extra eyes around.

Ground Squirrel Snack - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I was sitting on the ground photographing an owl in its burrow last month, this cute subject came strolling into my line of sight. Initially I was frustrated by the brown blob in the frame, but I quickly decided to refocus and snap off a few frames of this photogenic critter instead.

Caught in the Act - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American avocet, Radio Road Ponds

Avocet portrait - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A few more shots from the nice encounter I had last month with a large flock of American avocets at Radio Road Ponds. Mid-march is right at their transition time from the basic plumage, which is in grayscale, and their breeding plumage, with the beautiful cinnamon coloration.

Summer vs. Winter Plumage - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Regardless of their plumage of the day, I find these birds to be so elegant. They stand tall, with a long smooth shape to their body and bills, and they just seem to float as they walk.

American avocet standing tall - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Northern Shoveler at Radio Road Ponds

Northern shoveler looking handsome - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

There's just something about northern shovelers that fascinates me, and it's always a pleasure when I get a chance to photograph one from up close. In most locations I've found them fairly skittish to approach, but after positioning myself along the edge of the water at Radio Road Ponds this one came quite close (in addition to others). In the shot below, he is motioning and vocalizing towards another duck that was in the area -- although I can't remember if it was a greeting towards a female or a less friendly call to a male rival.

Northern shoveler motioning - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see the posts for this week!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Dance Continues, Avocet Courtship at Radio Road Ponds -- Part 2

This is the second half of the courtship and mating ritual of a pair of American avocets that I witnessed at Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City. Here's a link to Part 1.

As illustrated in Part 1, the male danced around the female and stopped to preen for a few minutes, each time seemingly gaining in intensity and getting closer and closer to the female. Soon enough he came right up to her side and began rapidly thrashing his bill through the water and splashing both of them.
Avocet pre-copulation courtship and love bubbles - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

As quickly and unexpectedly as he started splashing, he stopped and immediately hopped on top of the female. He seemed to have a little trouble finding his balance at first, but then was able to steady himself.
Avocet finding balance - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A brief moment of copulation followed...
American avocet copulation - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

...and the next generation of avocets was created.
American avocets mating - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It took him a little while to find his balance, and the actual mating was pretty quick, but all the while I was firing off frames and marveling at the incredible ritual I was watching. Even with the excitement of photographing this special moment, I was carefully watching my buffer counter, since I wanted to be ready to try to capture a few frames of what I knew was coming next. After mating, he hopped back down in the water, and the pair crossed bills and ran forward together for a few strides, the final step of their elaborate ritual. Unfortunately, I didn't get a really great shot of them running together, but it's such a wonderful moment to have witnessed through the viewfinder.
Avocet post-copulation run - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dance Begins, Avocet Courtship at Radio Road Ponds -- Part 1

The dance begins - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

After dropping my wife off at SFO a few weeks ago, I decided to make a quick stop at Radio Road Ponds to see what birds were around before it started to rain again. I've already posted a few shots from this trip of handsome northern shoveler drakes and of the large group of American avocets that landed right in front of where I was sitting. The birds were starting to turn to their gorgeous summer colorations, and it was apparent that a few pairs had already selected a mate.

American avocet courtship - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

These two "love birds" spent time together on the outskirts of the flock. I was initially watching this pair just because they had moved closer to my position, but I was surprised and excited to see the female take her courtship pose. I had read about this interesting ritual and seen images of it before, but I had only previously seen it in person on one occasion, which was from quite a distance away. I was very lucky on this day to have a chance to witness this wonderful dance of nature from such a close distance.

Avocet courtship dance - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

After she presented her courtship pose, he spent a few minutes walking back and forth around her, seemingly getting closer to her with each pass.

Avocet peening to impress - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

He stopped to preen by her side on many occasions, perhaps doing his best to woo her with his looks, and demonstrate what a great choice she had made. The preening is apparently a very important part of the courtship ritual, and he seemed to go at it in quite a frenzied way at times.

American avocets in love - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The mating display lasted only a few minutes in total, and I've included images of the second half of the dance in my next post.

This post is part of World Bird Wednesday -- click the link to view all of this week's submissions!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Preening shoveler drake, Radio Road Ponds

Preening northern shoveler - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Three poses of this handsome northern shoveler drake preening. There was plenty of posturing between males when a female would swim by, so I'm sure he wanted to look his best.

Tail feathers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Preening shots can be really interesting since they show off the bird in a different light than just when it's posing, and for shovelers, it can really highlight the pretty colors they have on their wings. I liked how he had the tail feathers splayed out in the above shot, and his eye is just barely visible in the bottom one has he combs through his wing.

Preening shoveler drake - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flock of avocets, Radio Road Ponds

Flock of American avocets - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

As I was sitting along the edge of the pond, a large flock of avocets flew a lap over the water and then headed straight for me. What a pleasure it was to have 50+ birds land right in front of me. They are such lovely shorebirds, especially once they transition to their full summer colors.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shoveler stretch, Radio Road Ponds

Stretching northern shoveler - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Northern shovelers are one of my favorite duck species, with their pretty coloration and that oversized bill. Radio Road Ponds in Redwood Shores is a great place to watch them in the winter. They tend to be skittish towards a human approaching the pond, but if you pick a spot and camp out there for a while, they'll eventually warm up to your presence and you can watch them at fairly close range. This particular male preened for quite a while and gave me a handful of chances to get some wing-flap shots.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Singing red-winged blackbird, Berkeley Marina

Singing blackbird at Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The blackbirds are starting to make a real ruckus, which must mean that spring is just around the corner! These are two shots from an evening walk at Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. At least two burrowing owls are still there, although we couldn't find the third that we had seen earlier in the season. Perhaps it was just below ground, or maybe it has left for the summer.

Red-winged blackbird calling from the branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feeding avocet in winter plumage

Feeding American avocet - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

American avocets have to be among the most beautiful shorebirds anywhere in the world. They have a really elegant form, and their summer color is just awesome. But even in winter, they still stand out. I took these shots on a heavily overcast day, which made for really drab lighting, but the conditions were pretty nice for reflections in the shallow pool of water covering the marsh at low-tide.

Avocet with head underwater - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I'm on the fence about this third image from the series. I like the pose, the water drop on the bill, the impressionistic reflection, and the head came out pretty sharp even under these less than ideal conditions. However, I'm not crazy about where the line between the water and mud is in the frame, since it bisects the body, and I find the motion-blurred leg to be a distraction. So for those reasons it's here at the bottom of the post.

American avocet - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to check out this week's submissions!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Burrowing Owl at the Berkeley Marina

Western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Another shot of a wintering burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina. One of the great things about these guys is that when they find a burrow they like, they'll keep it for a while -- which means that they are reliably easy to find once you know where they are. I'm still waiting for a nice shot of one of the birds that is in the grassy area for this season. I have plenty of shots of it more than halfway in its burrow, but I'd like one with a bit more owl showing. However, this owl hangs out on top of a rock quite frequently, which means you can see the whole bird.

Owl glance

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Look into my eyes... Western Burrowing Owl at the Berkeley Marina

A western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina. A small colony of these cute little guys spend the winter in Cesar Chavez Park. This one decided to settle outside of the fenced in area designated for the owls, and instead picked a burrow in the rocks along the shoreline.

Western burrowing owl at the Berkeley Marina - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Owls have such amazing eyes, and I find it nearly impossible to look away from them in images. The striking yellow color really stands out from their camouflaged plumage, and it's a hypnotic stare. Thankfully, this guy was much more worried about what was going on up along the trail (ie, dogs) than in me, but it definitely makes for more interesting images when he glanced my way and stared into my soul ;-)

Western burrowing owl watching the trail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Monday, January 24, 2011

Great blue heron at sunset

Great blue heron at Sunset -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

We were looking to stretch our legs a bit last evening, but it was too late to go anywhere interesting in Marin, so we decided to check in on the burrowing owls at the Berkeley Marina. We saw two owls, and some other people that we talked to there said that there are as many as four reported in the park. However, right when we got to the park, this great blue heron was hunting rodents in the middle of the playing fields, and I ended up spending most of the good light left in the day on it.

Focused hunter -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The bird was pretty easy to approach since it was focused on the many gopher holes that cover the fields. We found a nice position and sat down in the grass with it. A handful of times it became very focused on a certain spot and appeared to get ready to strike, but the rodents were lucky this time, since we didn't get to see it catch anything. Eventually, it was spooked by the firing of a bottle rocket and it flew away.

Sunset heron -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I was excited about the potential of the setting, since the grass is starting to get some height to it. That meant that if I lowered the tripod so that the camera was maybe 6-8 inches off the ground, I could capture a bit of the sea of green around the heron. In the bottom two shots, I really like how the out of focus grass took on a painted quality, with the bunches looking a bit like brush strokes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Feeding avocet, reflected

Avocet, reflected -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife and Nature Photography

Under very heavy fog on a December morning, I had the pleasure of watching a group of avocets feed on the newly exposed mudflats in Bothin Marsh in Marin County. I enjoy shooting in overcast light, but on this day it was almost too dreary, even for me. But when I have a chance to spend time with elegant birds like these, I just can't help myself and I continued to watch and fire off frames. While I wish this one came out just a bit sharper (challenging to do in bad light since they feed by swinging their bills side to side through the mud), I really liked the reflection. The distoration from the disturbed water almost makes it look like a second bird is angrily looking back at the first.

As an aside, this trail can be a fun place to shoot, since its a really heavily used section of the Bay Trail. That means that the birds are used to people passing by so they're fairly willing to stay close, but also, its fun to see how people react to seeing someone lying in the dirt along the trail photographing birds. During my time with the avocets and pintails on this day, I had a handful of people looking on at various points when I glanced back over my shoulder. Some of them would quickly glance away and start walking, likely pretending that they weren't that interested in what I was doing. Many, though, gave me a smile or an occasional wave -- the kind that you know they are chuckling in their heads at the crazy guy sitting in the mud!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shovelers at sunset

Sunset shovelers

Northern shovelers are one of my favorite ducks -- right up there with northern pintails. I think the males have really pretty coloration, and I just love that oversized bill. Here's a male and female in very late light at Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Surprise! The burrowing owls are back!

Surprise!  The owls are back!

Well, its not really a surprise that the western burrowing owls have returned to Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley marina, since they are annual winter visitors, but this one sure does look surprised. Actually though, it has such huge eyes since a dog was walking by. They appear to be fairly used to people stopping for a look, but if a dog wanders too close to the fence, they get visibly agitated.

I'm quite impressed with the new permanent fencing that was erected in the off-season to protect the owls from people and dogs getting too close. Instead of that hideous orange plastic netting, there is now a nice permanent fixture with a few cables running between anchors. Its much easier on the eyes, and also would allow for ground level shooting now, assuming that an owl was perched in a place that you could see it from along the trail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quick Post -- Western Burrowing Owl

From a February walk in Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina.

Western Burrowing Owl

This bird seemed particularly nervous about overhead predators, glancing skyward every few minutes.

Watching for predators

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Western burrowing owl in late light

These shots were taken a few weeks back when we went to Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to check out the wintering burrowing owls. A mix of overcast skies and breakthrough setting sunlight really gave a nice feel to the scene -- and of course the fresh winter grass is so bright and green this time of year!

Western Burrowing Owl

Checking out the guy crouching behind the fence:
Burrowing Owl Staredown

It was a windy evening, and occasionally the owl looked a little displeased to be so wind-blown.
Burrowing owl in the wind