Showing posts with label sanderling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sanderling. Show all posts

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sanderlings in Maine

Sanderling walks along the waters edge at Ogunquit Beach in Maine

Maine is not synonymous with shorebirds for me -- as most of our experiences in coastal Maine, since moving to Massachusetts, have been in Acadia. While there are probably shorebirds around that area at certain times of year, I haven't had the pleasure of seeing any on our summer trips. This fall we took a short weekend trip to southern Maine, and a priority goal was to hit the beach at sunrise to search for some peeps. I checked the eBird recent sightings, and judged that Ogunquit Beach would likely be my best chance. It just so happened that we traveled there during "OgunquitFest" weekend, and I was surprised at how many other folks were out strolling the beach for the sunrise. I can't blame anyone for ever wanting to enjoy the sun rising over the water, but the density of people out early on the beach meant that my chance to encounter a friendly flock of sandpipers had greatly decreased. It was a still a delight to take a long morning stroll through the exposed sands of a low tide, but not a single shorebird was out along the way.

My luck turned though as I made my final approach back to the parking lot. Down at the far end of the beach (in the opposite direction of how I walked) was a small flock of maybe 50 sanderlings. Even though the good light had faded, I wasn't about to pass up my first chance in months to share space with some shorebirds. The direction of the beach made getting a good angle tough, and the light was only reasonable when I cloud passed over the sun, but it was fantastic to hear their exuberant peeping as they probed the sand being covered by the rising tide.

Sanderling feeds with reflection at Ogunquit Beach in Maine

With less than ideal conditions, including having to put the rising tide at my back, I didn't fully commit to a true eye-level view of the birds -- which has been my preferred technique over the last few years. Keeping my camera on the ballhead a few inches above the ground worked out reasonably well though when they approached the saturated sand, giving me the chance to capture some reflections. Even if I didn't come away with any portfolio level images, it was still fun to add a new state to my shorebird catalog.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Favorite Photographs of 2017

2017 was an exciting year for me, though not as much for photography. We welcomed our first child to the family, and it has been so much fun being a new father. This, of course, has left my free time pretty limited -- though I did make a few pre-baby trips to Plum Island to look for piping plovers, and I had a chance to spend time with a small flock of sandpipers on our first trip with the baby to Southern Maine.

I enjoy reflecting on the images I've taken each year, and even with only a handful of photographic opportunities this year, I was still able to come home with a few noteworthy photos. I'm far too late to submit to Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project -- but it remains an inspiration for this yearly endeavor. Here are my five favorite photographs from 2017.

Plover parent and chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
This is perhaps my favorite of the year based on the context of my own 2017. While waiting for the arrival of my son this summer, I was able to get away for a short outing to look for baby piping plovers at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. Two years ago, I had a handful of very productive trips there and there seemed to be plover chicks all over the beach with some parents watching over as many as four at a time. Unfortunately, this was one of only three chicks I saw on the beach this year, and it was the single chick in the clutch for this parent. While it was disappointing to see so few nesting plovers, it was special to observe this parent watching over it's chick -- especially when I knew that my own son would be arriving soon. While humans have our own set of challenges as new parents, at least our babies aren't born mobile and running around on the beach evading predators from day one!
Photo of piping plover parent and chick in Massachusetts


Running piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation
On a spring trip to catch the sunset on Plum Island, there was a dearth of sandpipers around, but I did have a nice encounter with a handful of piping plovers cruising the tidal flats. It's always special to be able to observe a threatened species, and this particular adult gave me a lot of nice looks as it probed the sand looking for a late meal. They have such an interesting rhythm as they run in short bursts of speed before stopping on a dime, then running again. Here, this friendly plover was sprinting straight toward my lens (eventually getting within my minimum focusing distance before scurrying off in a different direction.)
Photo of a running piping plover on the beach in Massachusetts


Snowy egret in a salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
On my drive out of the refuge as the last of the sun's rays were slipping past the horizon, I saw this lone egret working the salt pannes of the Great Marsh. Wetlands are by far my favorite ecosystem, and yet I've struggled to create many meaningful images of them. This one came together nicely for me -- with the low golden light, a beautiful white bird causing waves of ripples, and the lush greens of springtime salt grass. Taking in a scene like this with a deep cleansing breath is food for my soul.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Herons & Egrets &emdash; Snowy egret in salt marsh at sunset


Harsh realities of being small, Sandy Point State Reservation
The wind was really whipping on this trip. My face was scoured by sand while walking along the beach, but when going down to ground-level, I could get an even stronger feel for how tough it must be to live in this harsh coastal environment. I was able to create a series of interesting images with the sand blurring out the scene, and the plovers finding any small shelter they could on the beach. But in this one, the steadfast strength of the small bird pushing forward into the driving sand speaks to me.
Photo of a piping plover walking through blowing sand in Massachusetts


Backlit sanderlings, Ogunquit Beach, Maine
We took a weekend trip to Southern Maine in the fall to introduce my son to the coast. He had a blast on our afternoon visit to the beach, and I sincerely hope we're able to pass to him our love of the coastal environment. The next day, my wife graciously made me get up before the sunrise to seek out some shorebirds. I took a long walk along Ogunquit Beach with the rising sun and found none. Then, as seems to happen far too often, as I was nearly back to my car the birds were hanging out in sight of the parking lot! The contours of the beach and rising tide limited my ability to get a good position with the sun over my shoulder without getting soaked. But the birds were extremely friendly, so I tried to make the most of the situation. I attempted some more stark backlit silhouettes with reflections in the wet sand, but this composition worked best in a fleeting moment when a cloud passed over the sun.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Backlit sanderlings in Maine

Thanks for taking a look through my favorites from the past year, and all the best to you for 2018!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sanderling and reflection, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a sanderling walking with its reflection in Massachusetts

This trip to Parker River NWR in October 2014 was one of the most productive sandpiper encounters I've ever had. I came across a very friendly flock of sanderlings a little before sunset, and I stayed with them until it was too dark to shoot anymore. As they went through their evening rituals of feeding, preening, and bathing, the sun went from subtle warmth behind high clouds, to brilliantly golden as it slipped to the top of the dunes, to deep pastels as day faded into night. It was one of those encounters that left me feeling so connected to nature, one that in the moment you hope can last forever, but ultimately I had to force myself to slowly back away and head to the car as darkness spread over the beach.

View more photographs of sanderlings


Friday, November 27, 2015

Sanderling feeding at low tide, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a sanderling pushing its beak through the sand at Parker River NWR

A belated Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you enjoyed your meal and socializing socializing with family and friends as much as this sanderling did the day before. A busy semester has kept me inside since September, so it felt great to finally get out to the beach for a sunset on Wednesday. While the temptation is always there to search for snowy owls on a winter trip to Plum Island, I was focused on finding a flock of shorebirds to photograph. I started my trip at the Lot 6 beach, and from the crest of the dunes I saw a small flock (about 30 birds) of sanderlings and dunlin. It didn't take too long to win their trust, and it felt awesome to lay out in the cold sand as the flock surrounded me. The extreme low tide this week seemed to provide an extra feast for the birds, as there were many places where the whole flock dug their bills into the sand while making quite an excited and loud ruckus of "peeps." The party scene ended abruptly though when something spooked the flock and they took off up the beach. While I didn't get to photograph them in the best light of the day, it was still invigorating to spend time with shorebirds again.

View more photographs of sanderlings.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sanderling in the last rays of sunlight, Parker River NWR

Photograph of a sanderling on the beach at sunset

I'm always preferential to the sunrise when I have the chance, but last autumn I had a couple of really successful sunset trips in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I spent about an hour working with a friendly flock of sandpipers at the Lot 7 beach in pleasant evening light, but as the sun prepared to slip behind the dunes this sandpiper really started glowing in the warm final rays.

View more photographs of sanderlings.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sanderling preening at sunset, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling preening at sunset in Parker River NWR
A sanderling pauses a moment to preen its feathers in the fading light of sunset on Plum Island

I really enjoy watching sandpipers preen. It's just an ordinary part of their existence, but it's a special moment to share with them. It's sometimes challenging to capture an effective photograph of those moments though, as their mid-preen poses often don't look that elegant in a still frame. If I lay on the shutter release long-enough, occasionally I come away with a rewarding pose -- one that has enough of the eye visible and the bird with reasonable posture. Even better when you get to see it all come together in nice light too!

Browse more of my photographs of sanderlings.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sanderling in the shallows at dusk, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling wading through the shallows at dusk in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
A sanderling splashes water droplets as it feeds in the pastel colors of dusk in Parker River NWR

From my evening last weekend with a friendly flock of sanderlings in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I spent over 45 minutes with this flock as they went through their evening routine of feeding, preening, and splashing through the calm waters of an ebbing tide at sunset.

Browse more photographs of sanderlings (Calidris alba).


Friday, October 10, 2014

Sanderling searching for prey at sunset, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling looking for a meal at sunset in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
A sanderling looks for a meal as the late light drops to the horizon in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

On the last weekend in September I finally made it out to the coast for a fall trip to look for shorebirds. The Sandy Point State Reservation and Lot 7 area of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge did not disappoint, as there were plenty of sandpipers around. I spent the early evening with a group of resting peeps in the dunes, then got thoroughly soaked while working with a flock of sandpipers in the exposed flats of the ebbing tide. Pleasantly, the temperatures were unseasonably warm, so it was actually quite refreshing to be soaked to the bone in the wet sand. Regardless, it's always worth a wet drive home when you have a chance to share space with some friendly shorebirds!

View more of my sanderling photography.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Curious sanderling along Plymouth Beach

Curious sanderling walking over round stones at Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts
A sanderling cruising over rounded stones along Plymouth Beach, Massachusetts

Another image from my late spring shorebirding trips to Plymouth Beach. I really need to get back there soon!

View more of my sanderling photographs.


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.

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