Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Curious willet at low tide, Pillar Point Harbor

Intertidal zones are fascinating places to observe nature as they are constantly in flux. The intertidal reef at Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay is a terrific place to explore during neap tide cycles, especially during a negative tide. You never know quite what to expect, but the birds are great at this locale, and its a fun place to see them in a different setting.

Curious Willet at Low Tide at Pillar Point - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Last November we took a trip there for a sunset that coincided with a large negative tide, and were greatly rewarded with some interesting wildlife. We even saw a very small octopus that was stranded in a tidal pool near shore, which was a real treat! The top two shots in this post are two of the many willets that were cruising the reef looking for easy prey to pick off. The top shot is of a curious bird that came over a rise and seemed surprised to see me. They look so crazy from straight on, don't they?

Willet in the intertidal zone at Pillar Point - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The reef was completely different this time compared to when I was last there a little over a year before that. On that trip, in August of 2009, the intertidal zone was not covered by seagrasses like it was this time. Instead, as is shown in the shots below, there was a really fascinating covering of these bulbous pods all across the reef. It was really a surreal landscape, and it was fun to photograph birds, like this black turnstone, in such a weird setting!

Black turnstone in the intertidal zone at Pillar Point - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It also happened to be quite foggy that morning, which added another layer to this mysterious landscape. Although the birds seemed to be quite at home in this alien-like world.

Snowy egret in sea of pods - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted as part of the World Bird Wednesday -- Follow this link to see the submissions for this week!


  1. Great backgrounds Pat. I especially like the first two.

  2. What beautiful compositions of these wondrous birds. The top photo with the seagrass draped in the foreground: lovely.
    What are those yellow sticky-up bits? Did you find out?

  3. Great photos. I agree that low tide is always an interesting time to look for shorebirds. I would really like to see both a Willet and a Black Turnstone.

  4. That head on shot is remarkable and comical too! Beautiful low perspective shot of the turnstone and that soft background on the egret is amazing with the strange plants too...

  5. Wonderful set of photos! What are those yellow pods?

  6. Pat,
    First off the new look of the blog is exquisite. Beautifully done. Your photography just blows me away. It seems there is not a light that you haven't mastered. These photos have a mystical atmosphere that sets them apart.

  7. Beautiful series of photos Pat. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  8. Superb set Pat. I love that Black Turnstone.

  9. All photos are beautifully captured but the second shot is particularly nice with the flowing sea grass mimicking the tonal flow of the bird's plumage.

  10. Nice series of images capturing the visit. The Turnstone is a lovely image showing a snap shot of a call

  11. Nice post and images! Wished I could see a Black Turnstone some day, but would have to travel to the other side of the States. Not in the cards right now. Beautiful images of the Willet, particularly the first one, and the Snowy Egret.

  12. Thanks, Jim. The eelgrass (or what I believe to be eelgrass, but it could be something else) was a really cool setting to explore. It kind of looked like a big combed stretches of green hair.

    Thanks, duck-or-grouse. The pods were a form of interitidal vegetation. I'm not sure specifically what type they were, but kelp often have similar air-filled sacs that help to keep the plant floating near the surface -- and that's what these looked like.

    Thanks, Mick. Both the turnstones and willets are fairly common along coastal California, so if you ever have a chance to visit, you can probably find them.

  13. Thanks, Frank!

    Thanks, Dixxie. Shorebirds do look especially comical from straight on -- something about the placement of the eyes I think.

    Thanks, theconstantwalker!

    Thanks, pattyler1. As I mentioned in a comment just above, the pods were air-filled sacs for some of the intertidal vegetation.

  14. Thanks, Springman! Glad you noticed the updated look. I've had that same header since I started the blog in 2009, so I figured it was time for an update.

    Thanks, Gary!

    Thanks, Sally!

    Thanks, Holdingmoments. I always enjoy the chance to get close to black turnstones, they are lovely birds.

  15. Thanks, Arija! The flowing seagrass really was a fun environment to photograph in.

    Thanks, Dave. Getting a frame of a bird calling is always exciting, since it can add so much character to the individual.

    Thanks, Hilke!