Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feeding avocet in winter plumage

Feeding American avocet - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

American avocets have to be among the most beautiful shorebirds anywhere in the world. They have a really elegant form, and their summer color is just awesome. But even in winter, they still stand out. I took these shots on a heavily overcast day, which made for really drab lighting, but the conditions were pretty nice for reflections in the shallow pool of water covering the marsh at low-tide.

Avocet with head underwater - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I'm on the fence about this third image from the series. I like the pose, the water drop on the bill, the impressionistic reflection, and the head came out pretty sharp even under these less than ideal conditions. However, I'm not crazy about where the line between the water and mud is in the frame, since it bisects the body, and I find the motion-blurred leg to be a distraction. So for those reasons it's here at the bottom of the post.

American avocet - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to check out this week's submissions!


  1. Love Avocets, truly one of the most wonderful birds out there. Found you and the Avocets on World Bird Wednesday at the Pine River Review.

  2. Love this birds :) What a wonderful series Pat !

  3. My you're fussy :-)
    To me they all look enviable captures.I suppose you would never consider picking out a bit of the green water to replace the white shoreline?
    I have a lot to learn about standards in taking bird pictures.

  4. I know the feeling Pat. The pileated woodpecker I posted are not good shots but I needed them for the series.Still your shots are excellent. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  5. Never seen that bird before, nice collection!

  6. A beautiful bird and very well captured.

  7. Great photos of the Avocets. They are such beautiful birds.

  8. Nice series of photos! The Avocet is a beautiful bird.

  9. Im still awaiting adding the A. Avocet to my life list--I think the entire series is awesome.

  10. A most beautiful bird. Lovely images!

  11. Wonderful series Pat. You raise a high bar for yourself but I see what you mean. I'll bet you had a fairly slow speed on that big lens. It's interesting the trade offs between ISO, shutter, and aperture. How do you decide how to gather the light in difficult conditions? Regardless of its perceived shortcomings the third shot is the one I like. My eye goes from the reflection, up the leg, through the body and finally rivets on that beautiful water droplet. It works.

  12. Very nice indeed with that elegant beak and spindly legs.

  13. These are all awesome pics, even #3. When I hear avocet, it reminds me of a chartered sailboat named "Avocet". Now I know what it really is.

  14. As noted above, I think you may be being a bit harsh on yourself about the 3rd image.

    Looks fine to me!

    Cheers Stewart M

  15. Wow, you're right, a beautiful bird!

  16. as others have said, you set a high standard. Its very satisfying when you produce shots such as these.... the third image is just beautiful.

    It helps to have such a stunning bird though :)


  17. Lovely images! I like the third one best too, not bothered at all by the water's edge.

  18. All great shots of the beautiful Avocet Pat. It's actually nice to see this bird in winter plumage for a change. I find them very graceful.

    For me it seems easier to get the best shots of white birds when it is overcast. I seem to get more detail without washing out the white parts of the bird's plumage. The first shot of your avocet is my favorite.

  19. Thanks for stopping by, Marianne! I agree that they are one of the most beautiful birds to see.

    Thanks, Holdingmoments!

    Thanks, Pescalune!

    Thanks, duck-or-grouse. Backgrounds are really important for wildlife photography, but sometimes you're stuck in one place without wanting to move too much for fear of scaring off your subjects after they've moved in close. I had a lot of images from this series, and thought I would share some of my thinking as I was choosing which ones to post. I thought the avocet was ok enough to put online (unlike many others that are unprocessed on my harddrive), but I thought it could be constructive to give some of my thoughts on it.

    Thanks, Gary!

    Thanks, Øyvind! They are lovely birds, and even more remarkable in summer when their heads turn a wonderful shade of red!

    Thanks, constantwalker!

    Thanks, Mick & pattyler1 -- I agree about the avocets, they're one of my favorites to see!

    Thanks, Dixxe! If you ever get to the San Francisco Bay area in California, they're very easy to find!

    Thanks, Julie!

    Thanks, Springman! It was pretty heavy clouds when I took these shots, so there wasn't alot of light to go around. When deciding how to expose an image, I'm typically in aperture priority mode to set the depth of field (and keep my lens around its sharpness sweet-spot), and then I'll bump up the ISO if I need a faster shutter speed. These were taken at ISO 640, so that I could have a fast enough shutter to stop the action of the moving birds.

    Thanks, Arija! Their beaks really are lovely, especially for the females, which curve upward even more!

    Thanks, Sally!

    Thanks, Stewart! As I mentioned above, I was happy enough with the image to include it in this post, I just thought I'd share my thought process about it while I was selecting images to put up.

    Thanks, EmptyNester!

    Thanks, Dave! I agree -- it's nice to have a beautiful subject, since they can compensate for technical details ;-)

    Thanks, Hilke!

    Thanks, Larry! As you mentioned, they are very graceful birds. Even their feeding style of sweeping their bill back and forth is lovely. And I'm with you for shooting in overcast conditions! My friends think I'm crazy when I get excited that the upcoming weekend will be cloudy and not beautiful blue skies -- but that means that there is decent light all day, instead of just the first or last 2 hours, and since the contrast is reduced, you can really bring out the details in your subjects.