Showing posts with label wildlife photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife photography. Show all posts

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female mule deer standing in dune grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

The short road to the North Beach parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore always feels to me like it has a lot of potential. There's nice tall grasses on the backside of the dunes, with splashes of color from the abundant wildflowers. I've seen a fair number of raptors there, occasionally a coyote, but the most likely find are the abundant mule deer in the area. This doe was browsing among the dune grass under the thick morning fog. She gave me a couple of curious glances before sauntering across the road to the other side.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tule elk in wild radish, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk standing in a field or wild radish in Point Reyes National Seashore

While the peak of the tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore is generally in late August and into September, this handsome bull was keeping track of his harem in early July. It made for some nice photographic opportunities as the herd grazed among the late summer wildflowers (predominantly wild radish) on the hillside along the road to Drake's Beach. From this vantage point he was keeping track of the other bulls bugling in the area. In the top frame, he's listening carefully as a rival bull sounds out across the valley, and in the bottom frame he's responding with his own call (through a mouth full of grass!).

Bull tule elk bugling in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warm spring light, Piping plover at Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover running over the sand at sunset in Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

Developing my photographic vision under the cool marine layer in the San Francisco Bay Area has turned me into a sucker for overcast skies, but I still enjoy a lovely golden hour when I have the chance. The last few days in Massachusetts have been gorgeous -- with unseasonably warm temperatures and spectacular evening light! It's been a pleasure to get out for few short walks after work to enjoy this wonderful taste of springtime, and it's great to notice the days getting longer. Even if it is still February, spring is in the air at least for another day or two.

This photograph is from a springtime trip I took last year to Sandy Point State Reservation. There were a handful of piping plovers cruising the beach, and I was able to get a few close encounters with this particularly curious bird as it searched for a meal before losing the daylight.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Willet catches a fish, Bunche Beach Preserve

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Willets &emdash; Willet probing the sand

Willets are a really fun shorebird to watch and photograph. What they lack in interesting plumage patterns and elegance, they more than make up for in character. I've had so many fun encounters with these curious birds on various beaches over the years. On this trip to southwest Florida, I had a chance to photograph so many interesting species, many of which I have no opportunity to see near home on the coasts of New England, but on each of my morning outings to Bunche Beach Preserve a willet caught my attention and left me delightfully entertained.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Willets &emdash; Willet feeds in morning light

This willet was working a shallow tidal pool near the main entrance of the park. It was wading through the water in a much more heron-like pattern, clearly hunting for moving prey. For the frame above, it was working hard to pull something to the surface.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Willets &emdash; Willet washing prey

It continued to manipulate the prey under the water, attempting to find the right grip. Much to my surprise, when it finally pulled its prize free from the water's surface, it was some type of small flat fish. As many times as I've enjoyed photographing willets in the past, never before had I seen one with such an interesting type of prey! Unfortunately, in the excitement of finally freeing its meal from the water, I lost the lovely backdrop of the sand and mangroves in the distance as I tracked its movements sprinting out of the pond with its catch.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Willets &emdash; Willet with a flat fish

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eye on the prize, Little Blue Heron at Bunche Beach

Little blue heron ready to strike at Bunche Beach, Florida

With no recent trips to pull from, here are two frames from a fantastic trip to southwest Florida I had a few years ago. I spent two mornings at Bunch Beach Preserve in Fort Myers, and came back with so many images (many of which are still waiting to be shared). That area is truly a bird photographers haven!

Little blue heron snatching a fish from the tidal pool

I watched this little blue heron hunting in a shallow tidal pool for over a half an hour. It strolled back and forth through the water, constantly searching for prey, and I saw it pull a surprising amount of fish from the small pool. When the image above is viewed at 100%, you can see the small fish caught in its bill behind the splashing water, which it shows off quickly below before swallowing it down.

Little blue heron with a fish in the bill

Monday, February 12, 2018

Harsh realities of being small, Piping plover at Sandy Point

This piping plover wraps up my belated posts of the stories behind my five favorite photographs from 2017. In a typical year, the goal would be to blog about the photos long before the annual summary -- but I've ended up trying things in reverse this year. Anyway, it was a beautiful day on this late spring trip to Sandy Point State Reservation with moisture-rich clouds adding color to the sky and providing nice diffuse light and a handful of piping plovers scurrying around the beach. Really, it's hard to ask for much better conditions, at least between the intense gusts of wind blowing across the water.

Piping plover walking slowly across the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation

I was laying in the sand with this friendly plover, enjoying the chance to watch it rest and preen. But when the wind started to blow, the sand fiercely ripped around. While walking around the park that day, the sand steadily pelted my face whenever the wind blew. But while laying prone in the sand, I could really feel the intensity of the higher density of sand near the ground. While my sand blasting was optional, it was a hard lesson to realize that these tiny shorebirds have to deal with this every time a stiff wind blows!

Piping plover in lightly blowing sand in Massachusetts

In this series of photographs, you can see how when the intensity of the wind picks up, the bird is heavily obscured by the sand, even from my relatively close observation point. It was apparently intense even for the bird, who closed it's eyes against the wind. I found the plovers to be fairly resilient though, as well as opportunistic in seeking shelter. I observed them scurrying behind any small windbreak they could find, including this tiny "dune" formed by a small collection of leaves and wrack.

Piping plover obscured by blowing sand in Massachusetts

Eventually, this bird realized that it's wind break just wasn't cutting it, so it stepped out and leaned into the wind as it sought better shelter. I really love how this last frame came together -- with the stoic look of the bird boldly walking into the sandstorm against the streaks of individual sand grains -- leaving me with one of my favorite photos of the year.

Piping plover facing a stiff wind and walking into blowing sand

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Favorite Photographs

It's been about a year since I last posted on my blog, and I never intended to let it go that long. Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project is a great inspiration to get back on into the swing of it, and an opportunity to review my photography from 2016. This last revolution around the sun was a busy one for me, and it included just a few opportunities for photography. Thankfully, a move out of the city center has helped to keep me feeling connected with nature, with my morning dog walk taking place along wetland trails. The main chances to exercise my photographic creativity came during a week-long trip back out to California with a few days reserved for photography in Point Reyes National Seashore, as well as our annual weekend in Acadia National Park. This certainly wasn't a banner year for my photography in terms of volume, but I returned from these trips with a handful of interesting images to share. In no particular order, here are six of my favorites from 2016.

First light over the fog from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
The fog was pretty regular throughout our August trip to Maine, but we still decided to attempt to catch one sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. I'm amazed each year at how many other tourists are up early filling up the parking lot as well!
First light over fog on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Tule elk cruising through the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore
Spending a few days back in Point Reyes with nothing to do other than focus on hiking and photography was food for my soul. Even though I was there in mid-July, the tule elk rut appeared to already be starting in the Drake's Beach herd.
Tule elk in the fog at Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a branch at sunrise, Point Reyes National Seashore
California quail are always a favorite subject of mine, and I caught this handsome male watching over his covey along the trail to Abbott's Lagoon. It was a surprisingly clear morning in the park, offering some delightful pastel colors instead of the more traditional overcast gray of the fog.
California quail on a branch at sunrise in Point Reyes National Seashore

Curious American avocet, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge
The chance to see these stunning shorebirds is definitely something I miss on the east coast, so I spent a morning at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge on San Francisco Bay. I took way more images than I've had time to look through of avocets elegantly moving through the salt ponds, but these old pillars added some additional interest in the morning light.
Curious American avocet at sunrise in Don Edwards NWR

Last light and "alpenglow" in Point Reyes National Seashore
I've written many times about how I fell in love with Point Reyes while living in California, and I made an effort on this trip to try to step back and study the landscape in addition to just the wildlife. The hills, valleys, and pastures along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard have always caught my eye, but I never really found a perspective that captured some of that magic. This is perhaps as close as I can come, with the hint of "alpenglow" on the crest of the hills just as the sun was dropping below the horizon.
Last light across the valleys of Point Reyes National Seashore

Fog rolling over the hillsides, Mount Tamalpais State Park
I scheduled one sunset of my summer trip to be on the western slopes of Mount Tamalpais to watch the fog roll in. I got there in the late afternoon while the fog was still offshore. I enjoyed some relaxing meditation until the fog crept over Stinson Beach and began its evening march up the hillside. It was a wonderful experience that would leave me completely shrouded in windy gray for my descent to the car, but offered some delightful abstractions along the way.
Fog rolling over the hillsides of Mt Tam at sunset

If you're interested, here are my favorite photographs from 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Thanks for reading -- and all the best for a happy and healthy 2017! Cheers!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Little blue staredown, Bunche Beach Preserve

A straight-on photograph of a little blue heron at Bunche Beach Preserve

Little blue herons have such a great "personality" and this one put on a show for me last spring at Bunche Beach Preserve. I saw it catch a surprising number of fish in this small tidal pool, all the while casting a series of expressive poses. Though, I can't quite decide if this straight-on looks is more comical or stoic.

View more photographs of herons and egrets

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In the shadow of my hat, Plover chick at Parker River NWR

Photograph of a plover chick stepping into the shadow of my hat

When I was putting together my Favorite Photographs of 2015 post, I had a hard time winnowing down the number of piping plover chicks to include. In the end, I still selected plovers for 3 of the 9 photos, which felt a bit heavy-handed, but it was so special to share space with these curious young birds multiple times throughout the summer. This photo helps to illustrate just how inquisitive they were. There I was, lying in the sand photographing the chicks as they scurried around the beach, and this one took a real interest in trying to figure out what I was. It came close enough to step into the shadow that was cast by the low hanging sunrise and the hat I was wearing. From my experience visiting the beach a few times over the summer, the chicks were very curious about the photographers in the sand -- often coming well within the minimum focusing distance of my lens.

View more photographs of piping plovers

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Elephant seal for the new year, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Photograph of a bull elephant seal under an overcast sunset at Año Nuevo State Reserve

For my first post of the new year, I thought I'd dig into the archives to celebrate one of my favorite January traditions while living in California -- the northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. There's nothing quite like seeing these beasts hauled out on the beach, and I definitely miss being an easy car ride away from the spectacle. These two frames are of the beachmaster of loser's beach in January 2011. After successfully charging a rival seal back into the water he reared back and roared before settling back into the sand.

Photograph of an elephant seal resting on the beach at Año Nuevo State Reserve

View more photographs of elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Favorite Photographs of 2015

As we prepare to turn the page on another year, I always enjoy looking back on my work to create a post for Jim Goldstein's Annual Favorite Photographs Blog Project. I'm disappointed to report that I failed miserably at my new year's resolution to spend more time reconnecting with nature, especially through local parks, this year. However, I did have a handful of special opportunities with my camera, including wading birds in southwestern Florida in the spring, baby piping plovers on Plum Island over the summer, and a very foggy trip to Acadia National Park in August.

If you're interested, here are my favorite photographs from 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Without further ado, my favorites from this year are below in no particular order.

Reacquainted with the sunrise
It was great to be out for the sunrise again a few times over the summer, and especially to share those golden moments with the breeding piping plovers at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. The chicks were adorable enough on their own, but it was fun to try to capture the moments of interaction with their parents.
Photograph of a piping plover chick approaching its parent in early morning light

Least tern delivers a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation
The beaches on Plum Island are a breeding ground for other coastal birds as well, including least terns. This pair nested fairly close to the perimeter of the protected area, providing a great view into their tender moments. Here, one partner brought a fish back to the other as it incubated the eggs. I'm disappointed that I clipped the wing tip in this frame, but I still love that both beaks are on the fish during the exchange.
Photograph of a least tern delivering a fish to its partner

Little blue reflection, Bunche Beach Preserve
I had a lot of fun over two mornings in southwestern Florida watching the wading birds during low tide at Bunche Beach Preserve. There was a great diversity of species, but the little blue herons were particularly photogenic. Here, one appeared to walk across the still water of a tidal pool.
Little blue heron looks like it's walking on water in southwest Florida

Curious piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
These tiny chicks really were a highlight of my summer. I saw them unexpectedly on an outing in June, and then I just had to keep coming back. They were quite curious about all of the photographers lying in the sand to see them, often coming well within my 8' minimum focusing distance. I came home with a lot of images to consider for this list, but this on with the exaggeratedly shallow depth of field was my favorite.
Shallow depth-of-field photograph of a young piping plover

Sun slipping behind the fog, Acadia National Park
Our annual trip to Acadia National Park was wonderful, but we fought the fog the whole time. I had hoped for multiple sunrises or sunsets above the fog, but as it turned out, the first evening was the only chance we had. This image was taken from the trails below the summit of Mount Cadillac as the fog swirled around us.
Photograph of the sun slipping behind the fog in Acadia National Park

Hungry least tern chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
Late in the summer, it was fun to see the young birds growing up. It was interesting to note the difference between the piping plovers that had to feed themselves from their first day and the young terns that relied on their parents to bring back each meal. Here, this least tern was kicking up sand as it impatiently watched its parent circling overhead with a fish.
Photograph of a hungry least tern chick calling out to its parents

Little blue heron in morning light, Bunche Beach Preserve
It was a really long winter in Boston this year with record snowfall, so it felt great to fly south to Florida for a few warm days in March. For me, nothing beats a sunrise photographing birds in the sand and it was almost too easy there. I would just set up next to a tidal pool, and it wouldn't take long for a flock of birds to arrive.
Little blue heron at sunrise on Bunche Beach, Fort Myers, Florida

Piping plover parents, Sandy Point State Reservation
The brooding behavior of the piping plover parents was wonderful to witness, like in this case when all four chicks scooted underneath. However, these moments of calm were short-lived -- the chicks would be off running in four separate directions soon!
Piping plover chicks snuggled under their parent's feathers in Massachusetts

Roseate spoonbill feeding at Bunche Beach Preserve
A highlight of our Florida trip was the chance to photograph this juvenile roseate spoonbill feeding in a tidal pool. It offered a lot of stately poses, but I like the more comical expression captured in this frame the most.
Feeding roseate spoonbill splashes water at Bunche Beach

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bighorn sheep surveying the valley, Yellowstone National Park

Photograph of a bighorn sheep ewe watching over a valley in Yellowstone National Park

From the archives of our trip to Yellowstone National Park four years ago. We saw a ton of wildlife each day, but this is one species that for some reason I haven't yet posted to my blog. We saw the sheep almost daily on the cliffs above the road to the Gardiner entrance to the park, and on our last full day there, we decided to hike a trail up to their elevation to try for a better view. We met this very friendly ewe along the way, and she led us to the larger flock. It was a bit disappointing that there were no adult males in the group, but we did get a great encounter with a few dozen females and lambs.

View more photographs of bighorn sheep.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Focused snowy egret, Bunche Beach Preserve

Photograph of a snowy egret hunting in a tidal pool at Bunche Beach

I had only a handful of chances to get outside with my camera this year, but thankfully they were pretty productive. This snowy egret is from a March morning spent at Bunche Beach Preserve in Fort Myers, Florida. It really was almost too easy to get close to the birds there. I would just lie down on the mudflats next to a tidal pool and it wouldn't take long for the birds to start filling it in. The reflections in the slowly rising tide were really fun to play with too.

View more photographs of egrets.

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Song sparrow in blooming lupine, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a song sparrow perched in blooming yellow bush lupine

I've written about this plenty of times before, but strolling the trail to Kehoe Beach while the wildflowers are blooming in Point Reyes National Seashore is sight to behold. The air is thick with their sweet aromas, and the birds are abundant among the blooms. On my summer trip last year, I walked this trail almost daily looking for opportunities to photograph song birds as they bounced about the branches. The dominant color along the trail was yellow, and this song sparrow perched on a yellow bush lupine with wild mustard behind.

View more of my photographs of sparrows and other song birds.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

California quail in song, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Photograph of a quail singing in a bush in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

After spending some quality time photographing this California quail singing from the top of a branch of coyote brush last summer, I took another lap around the Tennessee Valley Trail. I didn’t see much on my traverse, but when I returned, this friendly quail had moved to a different perch even closer to the trail. His new location certainly didn’t tamp down his vigor, so I took advantage of the opportunity to make a few more photographs of him throwing his head back and calling out his lovely song.

View more of my quail photography.

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to check out this week's posts.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bobcat near Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a bobcat in Point Reyes National Seashore

I knew it was going to be a productive trip to Point Reyes National Seashore for me last year, when I encountered this bobcat on my first evening in the park. After landing in California I grabbed some supplies for the week in my old stomping grounds (including a burrito from my favorite taqueria!) before heading out to Marin. For my first foray into the park I decided to look for quail in the coastal scrub near Abbotts Lagoon. I had some luck with birds near the trailhead before starting to hike toward the coast. I didn't get too far down the trail though before spotting this bobcat searching for rodents in the adjacent field. Much to my delight, the cat started working its way toward my location near the small drainage pond along the trail. It definitely noticed that I was watching, and it gave me a wary eye as it approached before disappearing into the reeds at the edge of the pond. I stayed in my spot on the trail for a while longer to see if it would emerge, and surprisingly it stepped out even closer to me. It seemed to want to get a better look at its observer, spending a few minutes looking my way before slipping back into the vegetation. I would see this cat working the fields near the pond multiple times during my trip (though never at this close range again), and I suspect that it may have had a den there.

Photograph of a bobcat in California looking to the side

View more photographs of bobcats.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a mule deer behind the dunes in Point Reyes National Seashore

Continuing with my run of fog-shrouded images from last summer, here is a mule deer doe (above) and her juvenile (below) enjoying the summer wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore. I began my day in the park with a morning drive out to Chimney Rock and encountered this pair along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The backside of the large dunes of the outer peninsula are in the background, and if it wasn't for the fog, the Pacific would be visible beyond them.

Photograph of a young mule deer in the tall grass

View more of my photographs of mule deer.

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.