Showing posts with label animal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animal. Show all 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.

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.

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!
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grazing tule elk in velvet, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk with velvet antlers, Point Reyes National Seashore

I love to see these regal animals with their velvet antlers during the spring. The amount of energy and resources they must invest in growing new antlers is really interesting, especially since only a few will be strong enough to win mating rights to a harem. These shots are from a hike I took out the Tomales Point Trail. A small herd of males were feeding on the grasses and wildflowers just off the trail.

Elk with velvet antlers, Point Reyes National Seashore

More of these handsome elk in my Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore Gallery.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peaceful peep, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sanderling in Point Reyes National Seashore - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A sanderling rests in the wet sand between the rocks of Drake's Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. I always love to see shorebirds roosting like this, with their bill tucked away. It's such a pleasing shape to my eye.

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View more images of these adorable shorebirds in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tule elk in lupine, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk in lupine - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Continuing the thread of my wishful thoughts of summer, here's another dive into an untouched folder from last May. This was one of one my favorite outings of the summer, and it occurred early in the season. Point Reyes was awash in wildflowers and the elk and birds seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was.

Tule elk - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

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Browse more images of Point Reyes tule elk in my Tomales Point gallery.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Never turn your back on the ocean

Never turn your back on the ocean - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A black-bellied plover, in the middle of transitioning to its summer plumage, along the edge of the water at Pillar Point Harbor.

Updated caption: As many of you have guessed, I intentionally left out the story of this picture to see what reactions it would get. The story is that yes, that is a real shark in the background. It was about a 2-3 foot long leopard shark, which is one of the most common sharks in the coastal areas of CA. It's a sleek, long-bodied shark with a beautiful spotted pattern that will often come into intertidal areas during high tides to feed. Unfortunately, this particular shark was not doing well. It was clearly very near the end of its life, and was getting rolled with the waves at the edge of the shoreline. I normally wouldn't photograph an animal in that condition, but when the plover I was following stopped in front of it I couldn't help but fire off a few shots of this unique composition. On our walk out of the harbor, we saw another related intertidal predator, which was in much better shape -- a bat ray was feeding on the newly covered sediments. It was really fun to watch its two fins break the surface as it flapped its "wings" and cruised along in the shallow water.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Transitional black-bellied plover, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A black-bellied plover that is almost to its full breeding plumage. They are such stunning birds in their summer patterns, and it's a pleasure to get to see them transition into that phase along the California coast. It's pretty cool to think too, that earlier this spring, they looked like this. I was hoping for nice high overcast clouds yesterday evening at Pillar Point, but instead we got nearly ground level fog which left my images a little drab. But anytime you get to be close to shorebirds is worth it in my book, and I tried to make the most of the gray-scale scene. Not all of the birds were as dark as this one yet, so I hope to head back in a week or two to try for some nicer light!

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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Semipalmated plover, Point Reyes National Seashore

Plover at rest - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

When I have a cooperative subject, I try to remember to turn the camera vertical to get some variation into my images for the day. While shorebirds like sandpipers and plovers aren't always the best shape for taking advantage of a vertical frame due to their low height and stocky stature, it's still worth taking a look. In this situation, the apparent shallow dof I could get by using the sand in the foreground and the long distance to the dunes in the background helped to make an isolated environment for the plover, and it worked much better in the vertical for this purpose.

Semipalmated plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I enjoy a good photograph of a bird tucked into its feathers, sometimes they can lack a little something when an eye isn't clearly visible. The shot above is from just after it pulled out of its resting position to take a look around, and the frame below is from a bit earlier while I was watching this group of birds. The sun was bouncing behind clouds, giving a good mix of diffuse overcast light with a touch of sunshine every now and then too.

Pair of plovers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

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See more of the semiplamated plovers and other species in my Plovers Gallery.

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!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Willet on blue, Moss Landing State Beach

Willet on the beach - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The unseasonably warm temps with plenty of sunshine the past few days calls for a colorful and warm picture. Here's a willet cruising along the shoreline of Moss Landing State Beach, with the gorgeous blue of the Pacific behind.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Black-bellied plover after sundown, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied Plover on the sand - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I took so many shots of this individual plover as we spent over an hour together on the beach at Pillar Point Harbor last month, and I have a lot more to edit and prepare for uploading. Before this experience I had always found black-bellied plovers to be rather skittish. However, this one was really successful at pulling up worms from the sand, and it seemed to be so focused on the task at hand that it could care less about the photographer tagging along behind.

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!