Showing posts with label american avocet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label american avocet. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

American avocets at Radio Road Ponds

Flock of Avocets

On my way back from Pillar Point Harbor last month, I decided to take a slight detour to Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City. I was delighted to see a large flock of American avocets resting in the shallows near a convenient place to set up a tripod. While they were far enough away that making a compelling image of a single bird was difficult, it was a fun challenge to find some pleasing compositions within the flock.

Avocets tucked in

Many of the birds were busy preening, but occasionally they would all tuck their bills into their feathers to rest. I really love the shape of a shorebird in this pose, and it's always nice to photograph such a relaxed subject. The rippled reflections were a nice bonus too.

American avocets

More photographs of these elegant shorebirds in my Stilts & Avocets gallery.

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

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

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!

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.

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!

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!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Late evening avocet

Late evening avocet

It's been far too long since I've posted a shot of a shorebird, and I'm glad to fix that with this American avocet at the Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City. It's getting to that exciting time of year when the shorebirds are passing through the Bay Area from their summer on the tundra, and its always fun when you get to see some of the birds we normally get here in their basic plumage all decked out in their breeding colors. Of course, avocets are resident birds around the Bay, so we can take advantage of their beautiful colors all summer long.

As an aside, the Radio Road Ponds are a great place to kill time while waiting to pick someone up from the airport. It's pretty easy acess to the 101, and only about 15 minutes from SFO. I took this shot just after the sun had set while waiting for my wife's flight to land.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Standing out in the crowd

Standing out in the crowd

A sequence of images from a few trips to the Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City last year. There's an area where the dowitchers like to congregate on an underwater ridge, and occasionally a larger bird will hang out there too. I enjoy seeing different species mixed together, and this provides a nice opportunity.

Dowitchers relaxing with an American Avocet:
Shorebird reflections

With a Northern Shoveler, and their reflections:
Shoveler and dowitchers

And with a Marbled Godwit:
Dowitchers and a Godwit

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An elegant pair

Lovely avocets

American avocets are one of my favorite birds to watch and photograph. Their interesting feeding behavior of slicing their bill through the top layers of the sediment is quite entertaining! But what draws me in the most about them is their elegant form and beautiful plumage. While their summer colors are certainly much more striking, I think their winter look retains a subdued elegance.

Here's an extra shot I posted to Flickr over the summer of their wonderful breeding colors:
Preening portrait