Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Female California Quail, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female quail in Point Reyes - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

In wildlife photography, it's so easy to get caught up looking for just the biggest, flashiest male to photograph. Unfortunately, this often means that the females don't get the attention they deserve, unless they have babies in tow. That's a shame though, since females of many species are just as lovely as their male counterparts. While male California quail are definitely showier, the females are quite beautiful, and share many of the same plumage patterns. Unfortunately, the females tend to be much more secretive, and I have rarely seen them out in the open for extended periods of time. This female, however, hopped up on a fence post and stood there for a minute or two in late afternoon light before returning to her more secretive ways in the tall grass at Pierce Point Ranch in Point Reyes National Seashore. I was quite happy to have this fleeting chance to take some photographs of a female quail out in the open.

Female California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

You can view more images of quail in my Quail Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see this weeks bird-related posts!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Song sparrow in the wildflowers, Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility

A song sparrow singing in the yellow wildflowers that line the ponds of the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in the spring.

Song sparrow in yellow wildflowers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Here it is singing in the other direction, I suppose just to ensure that everyone heard the song.

Singing in the other direction - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

See more singing sparrows in my Song Birds Gallery.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quail and rattlesnake grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

When I was out in Point Reyes National Seashore last weekend, I wasn't seeing very much as I drove through the park. I started out by heading towards the outer peninsula, and I stopped by Drake's Beach, South Beach, and the Estero Trailhead while seeing very little. So I decided to take a drive up to Tomales Point, since I wanted to end up along the Abbott's Lagoon trail for sunset. After reaching Pierce Point Ranch without seeing a single quail or elk, I stopped at the McClure's Beach to eat my PB&J for dinner. As I sat there, I enjoyed my sandwich and was listening to the Giants pregame on KNBR. After I finished my meal and was going to stop at the restroom before leaving, I noticed this handsome quail sitting right in front of the car on a fence railing. Perhaps he was drawn to the melodic cadence of Jon Miller's voice on the radio?

Quail and rattlesnake grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Such a pleasant surprise to show up after I had resigned to a non-photographic outing for the evening. I spent the next 15 minutes shooting this quail first out of my open window, then with the door open (to get slightly closer), then from my tripod set up next to my car door.

Quail against the grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I moved slowly between positions, and while I think he knew I was there, he was fairly indifferent. He was however, quite interested in his lady-friend, who spent most of the time in the tall grass behind the fence. Every now and then though he would get noticeably excited (quick, agitated movements, fluffed feathers) and then she would appear out in the open. Eventually, she had enough of the area and wandered off up the hill -- and he was quick to follow!

Quail along the fence at sunset - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I was excited to be surprised by this handsome quail set against those lovely grasses backlit by the setting sun in the background. For those of you that are curious, the pods are rattlesnake grass (easy to see where it gets its name, no?), which is an invasive species in California.

Quail in the rattlesnake grass - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

More images from this area of the park in my Tomales Point Gallery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Acorn woodpecker, Point Reyes National Seashore

The Bear Valley Visitor's Center in Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to look for birds. Quail are almost always hanging around, there's a great blue heron that likes to hunt for gophers in the area, and in addition to many other birds in the trees, there is a family unit of acorn woodpeckers that maintain some granary trees right in the middle of the picnic area. Whenever the light is still reasonable on my way out of the park I'll stop by and check out these colorful birds.

Acorn Woodpecker in Bear Valley - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Much to my delight on this trip, instead of having to crane my neck to watch the birds up high in the trees, this woodpecker was pecking away at eye level on the tree. It was so focused on chipping apart the bark, and apparently digging out insects from inside, that I was able to get quite close without disturbing it.

Acorn Woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography>

The vertical frames are cropped from horizontal images, which isn't something I like to do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I made the worst mistake a nature photographer can do before approaching the woodpecker -- I decided to leave my bag in the car, which held all of my extra memory cards. I almost always have an extra card in my jacket pocket, to make sure that this never happens. But on this day I made the mistake. So I fired away horizontally to get some establishing shots, and then just as I was getting ready to go vertical, I realized that I was out of "film". Very frustrated with myself for that one, since my long lens caught the attention of other visitors to the park, and after I walked away from the woodpecker to get another memory card, they proceeded to photograph it with their point and shoot -- which required getting way too close, and the bird flew off. Oh well, just another lesson of why you should always have an extra memory card in an accessible pocket and not in your bag (or in the car!).

Very interested woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This last shot was a bit of an experiment, as I tried to capture the motion of the bird as it pounded away at the bark. I'm not always a big fan of blurred images, but this characteristic motion almost works for me.

Woodpecker in motion - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Visit my Bear Valley Visitor's Center Gallery.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quail on gnarled branches, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on gnarled branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While driving on Pierce Point Road through the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, I can't drive by the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot without taking a swing through to look for quail. There always seem to be some around, and even though I was planning to start my day looking for elk near the Pierce Point Ranch on my most recent trip, I swung through the lot to have a peek as I passed.

Much to my delight, there was a large male sitting on a fence right in the parking lot. Unfortunately, by the time I got my camera and tripod out of the car, he had wandered into the bushes with his female, but it didn't take long to locate others. In fact, this was the highest density of quail I've ever seen in the park. They seemed to be everywhere along the trail to Abbott's Lagoon, with couples wandering through the pastures and males occupying high vantage points all throughout the coastal scrub. Some chose nice clean fenceposts, and others selected luxurious green bushes, but this particular quail selected the old gnarled branches of an coyote bush long past its prime.

Quail amidst the branches - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more in my Quail 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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Monday, June 6, 2011

Shorebirds on the beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

Resting Dunlin - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It's been a while since I posted some shorebirds to the blog, and I was getting that itch. Since most of them are up north on the tundra to breed right now, I've dug into the archive from last November to find a few to put up. These are from a terrific morning that I spent with a very large flock of western sandpipers, sanderlings, and dunlin on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. I liked how the dunlin stood taller than the other birds in this flock, and I took many different compositions with dulin having a head above the crowd.

Dunlin and sandpipers

View more in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Quail on a diagonal fencepost, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a diagonal post - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A male California quail posing on a fencepost along Sir Francis Drake Blvd in Point Reyes National Seashore. This was the only quail we saw on our drive along the length of the road that day. Around this time of year there are usually a bunch hanging out along the fences, but at least this one stayed on the post for a while to let me get a few different compositions.

Quail on a post

Visit my Quail Gallery.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quail on a quiet morning, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quiet morning quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While flipping through my archives in the past few days, I saw this shot that I had originally overlooked as I edited images from this trip last January. I was much more excited about these closer poses at the time. But something about this shot pulled me in today, and while there isn't too much eye-candy in it, it still gives me the quiet feeling of that morning as I watched this quail on a fencepost.

See more images of these lovely birds in my Quail Gallery.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feeding short-billed dowitchers, Pillar Point Harbor

Feeding short-billed dowitcher - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A short-billed dowitcher in breeding plumage feeding in the sands of Pillar Point Harbor. While these shots are pretty similar, the slight tilt to the head gives it a different feeling to me. In the top shot, the bird makes good eye contact with the viewer, and that can pull me in a bit. But in the second shot, I like that the dowitcher seems much more focused on the task at hand. And if you've ever watched dowitchers feed, they are quite intense as they rapid probe the sand in sewing-machine fashion.

Short-billed dowitcher in breeding plumage - Pat Ulrich Photography

As I was photographing the feeding dowitchers a group of western sandpipers came running through the frame, so I refocused and snapped of a few shots with the dowitchers in the background.

Sandpiper and dowitchers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

More of these lovely shorebirds with extra long bills in my Dowitchers Gallery.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Evening quail, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail glance - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Here is a series of images of our state bird, the California quail, taken at the Tomales Point Trailhead in Point Reyes National Seashore. As I mentioned in a previous post, the sun was just dropping below the horizon as I walked back to the parking lot and found this group of quail. Since the light was mostly gone, I upped the ISO to 1600, locked in the ballhead, and hoped for the best.

Ruffled California quail - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I was quite pleased to have a few images come out pretty sharp under these conditions, especially with that nice warm evening light. It was great to hear him call as well, a sound I haven't heard since last summer. Unfortunately, the conditions just weren't great for a sharp shot of a bird in motion as it vocalized, so I was left with left with a bunch of disappointing images that lacked enough sharpness for my taste. Maybe next time!

Quail song - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

More images of these beautifully marked birds are available in my Quail Gallery.

This post submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to check out the great posts for this week!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ruddy turnstone, Pillar Point Harbor

Ruddy turnstone on wet sand - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A ruddy turnstone in breeding colors at Pillar Point Harbor. Here the bird is running across an exposed area of sand between the rocky formations that it seemed more comfortable near. These shorebirds have such a stocky shape to them, right down to their thick legs. Their feet are pretty interested too, seemingly larger than other birds their size. Between these two shots, I like that the feet came out sharp in the bottom frame, but the head angle in the top frame makes it a stronger image, in my opinion, even though I clipped off the edge of the tail feathers.

Running ruddy turnstone - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more in my Turnstones Gallery

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Strolling western sandpiper, and photographing shorebirds in sand

Strolling western sandpiper - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A western sandpiper in transitional plumage takes a stroll along the water's edge at Pillar Point Harbor. I've had a few comments recently that have asked about my strategy for photographing shorebirds at eye level in sandy environments. In terms of approaching birds, the further away you start belly-crawling from the better. However, since they don't always stay in the same spot for too long, you need to balance where you start with the time it will take you to get to where you want to go. I find it helpful to watch an area for a while so see where there is a lot of activity. Then I'll try to crawl into a position where I expect the birds will be heading next. For example, if they are working their way up the beach while feeding, I'll get ahead of them, pick a spot in the sand and lay down to wait for them to come to me. If they do come all the way to your spot, then you can get great close encounters since they've approached you on their terms, but sometimes I'll guess wrong and they'll head in a different direction before making it to me. But when I pick the right spots, I'll stay on the ground for as long as the birds hang around me (sometimes for as much as an hour in one place).

It's also really important to move slowly, both while getting into the prone position as well as while crawling to the birds. While I feel a little strange dropping into a kneeling position in super-slow motion, if you move normally from standing to kneeling, the birds will often take flight. So it's a slow-motion drop to my knees, then putting the tripod flat on the ground, and then a slow-motion drop to laying in the sand. At that point, the birds are much less wary, so I'll take a minute or two to assess the scene again before starting to crawl to my next location. I find it particularly helpful to crawl forward only a few yards at a time, then stop for a few minutes before proceeding. Once you've spent a good 10-15 minutes in the sand with birds, they'll often stop paying much attention to you, and then the fun really begins!

In terms of protecting my gear, I always have my camera on the tripod, with the legs spread out flat on the ground. This keeps the camera itself a few inches off of the sand. My tripod has taken a real beating this way, with plenty of sand ground into the joints, but it still works! Then I try to make a conscious effort to not touch the sand with my hands while crawling or getting up. This is especially important since my entire body will more or less be covered with sand by the time I stand up again, so there aren't too many places to wipe off my fingers. On windy days, I'll pull out my Vortex Storm Jacket camera cover, which works great for keeping the blowing sand off of the camera, as well as rain. It's inevitable that I'll get sand somewhere that I don't want it, but for the most part I can wipe it off when I'm done with no real damage incurred.

Shooting shorebirds from eye-level at the beach is one of my favorite activities, adn there are plenty more images of peeps in my Shorebirds Galleries.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Plover watching for worms, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied plover watching for worms - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A black-bellied plover in breeding plumage studies the surface of the sand for signs of a meal below. Image taken at Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay.

See more in my Plover's Gallery.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ruddy turnstone in summer colors, Pillar Point Harbor

Ruddy turnstone in summer colors - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A ruddy turnstone strolls through the sand in Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay, California. These birds are so stunning in their summer colors, and it was a treat to have a few unexpectedly stroll in front of my lens while I was laying in the sand photographing other shorebirds.

View more in my Turnstones Gallery.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quail after sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail after sunset

I just love to watch and photograph California quail. Other than shorebirds, they are quite possibly my favorite subjects. The arrival of spring means that they become a bit less secretive, as the males like to perch on tall objects and call out to let the ladies know they are there. It's wonderful to be serenaded by their song as you walk through the coastal scrub. After taking a late afternoon hike out the Tomales Point Trail to find some elk with velvet antlers, I arrived back at the trailhead right as the sun was dropping below the horizon. Much to my delight, I was greeted by a group of around a dozen quail strolling along the far side of the parking lot. It was getting fairly dark already, so I upped the ISO to 1600 and hoped that the birds would stand fairly still. Thankfully, this male obliged as he stood on a lichen-covered fence post.

See more of the state bird of California in my Quail Gallery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Got Him! A plover catches a worm at Pillar Point Harbor

A five-frame series of this black-bellied plover pulling a segmented worm from the exposed sand of Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay. I've watched black-bellied plovers pull many of these worms from the sand, but this is the first time my photographs left me reasonably (although not fully) satisfied. The birds will stalk around looking for a tip of the worm in the sand, then freeze, stare at it for a moment or two, and then strike.

Early plover catches the worm - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

As it starts to pull the worm from the ground, I often marvel at how long these critters are, and how many there must be just underfoot.

Plover pulling up a worm - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Most of the time the worm seems to pop out of the hole by the time the plover is back to full-height, but this particular meal was longer than expected.

Got him!

The plover pulled, and pulled, and seemed to be preparing for the worm to come popping out of the sand. It's eye was half closed, and I can't help but wonder if it expected the worm to come flying at it like a rubber-band that snaps under tension.

Worm pulled taut by plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

For the last frame the plover pulled even further out of my plane of focus, but yet the worm still hung onto its burrow. Moments later the plover took its prize, and it was fun to watch it attempt to eat it like a long string of spaghetti.

Long stretched worm - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more images of these charismatic shorebirds in my Plovers Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to see this week's posts!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Western sandpiper in summer colors, Pillar Point Harbor

Western sandpiper in breeding plumage - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A western sandpiper feeding in Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay. It's a wonderful time of year to be out looking for shorebirds, since they are all transitioning into their breeding colors. This means that normally drab brown and grey birds show splashes of bright colors as they prepare to migrate north to breed on the tundra.

View more shorebirds in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feeding peeps, Point Reyes National Seashore

Feeding sanderlings - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Sanderlings dig deep into the sand looking for a meal after a wave pulls back along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

View more images of shorebirds along in the beach in my Limantour Spit, Point Reyes National Seashore Gallery.