Showing posts with label western sandpiper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label western sandpiper. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Western sandpiper in summer colors, Point Reyes National Seashore

Western sandpiper in Point Reyes - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

From an overcast morning in July 2010, a western sandpiper rests on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. This is an exciting time of the year when the shorebirds return from their breeding grounds still wearing their bright summer colors. I was out on this beach last weekend and didn't see many birds, but hopefully I'll have a chance to get down in the sand with them soon.

Western sandpipers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more images of peeps in my Sandpipers Gallery.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Resting shorebirds, Point Reyes National Seashore

Resting shorebirds, Point Reyes National Seashore - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A small formation of dunlin and a solo western sandpiper relax on the beach at Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore. This is another frame from my encounter with this large flock of peeps that I saw there back in November. You can see a line of sanderlings out of focus in the backdrop as well. I also think its interesting in shots like these when you can so clearly see the width of the focal plane. If you look in the sand you can see the focus fade in and out, and its width must only be an inch or two (this is f/11 at 400mm).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Resting peeps

Group shots of shorebirds can be challenging, as you need to find an interesting subject to frame, and also a pleasing formation of birds to make up the rest of the image. Here are two shots that I haven't decided yet where I stand with them -- they both had potential, but also have some flaws.

Resting peeps -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife and Nature Photography

In the first shot, I like how the birds are arranged and overall I like the composition. However, the front-most western sandpiper is just outside of the focus, which can be a bit distracting compared to the sharp sanderling that is the focal point for my eyes.

Resting sandpipers -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife and Nature Photography

For the second shot I changed the apeture to increase the depth of field (f/8 to f/11) so that the front western sandpiper is now in focus enough to be less of a distraction. However, I don't quite like the arrangement of the birds as much from this vantage point. I do like the depth provided by the crowd in the background of this shot, though.

What do you think?


Submitted as part of the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- Follow the link to check out the entries for this week!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thank you!

Thank you!

A sincere and heartfelt thanks to my "flock" of supporters who took the time to vote for my image in the 2010 National Geographic Viewer's Choice contest. The vote was supposed to close on December 15 (although the voting page appears to still be live, so I'm not sure when exactly its officially done). In the three days from when I first found out about the vote until now, over 550 new votes were tallied for my image. That is so awesome, and I can't thank you all enough!

It's such an honor just to have been selected as one of the weekly choices from the contest submission period, and I still can't quite believe that I have an image on the NG site! I'm humbled and giddily excited! I'll be sure to post a link to the results once they announce the winners -- and if I happen to be among them, that would be incredible. But even in the likely event that I'm not, the quality of images in this contest is amazing and looking through the winners will surely be fun!

So again, thank you all so very, very much!


This shot is of the large flock of western sandpipers, sanderlings, and dunlin I saw cruising the shoreline at Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. They seemed to really want to find a place to rest, but you know how shorebirds are -- when one bird gets antsy and takes off, they all go!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Western sandpiper on the beach

Western sandpiper

A western sandpiper (Calidris mauri) in breeding plumage strutting along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reaching for a snack

Stretch feeding

A western sandpiper stretching out to grab a bite to eat while on the run. Taken along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sandpiper inspection

Least sandpiper closeup

After following a small flock of these guys around the beach for at least half an hour, this curious one decided to check out what exactly the slow crawling monster with the giant lens coming out of his nose was. He tentatively ran over pretty close to me, gave me a few up and down glances, and then scurried back to the group. Apparently I was deemed no threat (probably because they saw the glacial speed at which I was moving while belly crawling after them through the sand), or perhaps they found me to an acceptable proxy of a new kind of sandpiper species (well, I'm not so sure about that!). Either way, it was a real pleasure to have a chance to photograph them with some summer color.