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.