Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feeding peeps, Point Reyes National Seashore

Feeding sanderlings - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Sanderlings dig deep into the sand looking for a meal after a wave pulls back along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore.

View more images of shorebirds along in the beach in my Limantour Spit, Point Reyes National Seashore Gallery.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grazing tule elk in velvet, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk with velvet antlers, Point Reyes National Seashore

I love to see these regal animals with their velvet antlers during the spring. The amount of energy and resources they must invest in growing new antlers is really interesting, especially since only a few will be strong enough to win mating rights to a harem. These shots are from a hike I took out the Tomales Point Trail. A small herd of males were feeding on the grasses and wildflowers just off the trail.

Elk with velvet antlers, Point Reyes National Seashore

More of these handsome elk in my Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore Gallery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Friendly black-bellied plover, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied plover in transition plumage by Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Two shots of a very friendly (or more accurately, tolerant) black-bellied plover. This is either a female in her summer colors or a male in transition plumage. The females don't get quite the striking all-black coloration of the males. After watching this bird go up and down a stretch of beach for a little while, I got into the prone position right in the middle of its foraging area. It didn't take long before it was getting quite close to me, and by the end, it was to the point where I couldn't fit the whole bird in the frame at once. I do so love it when birds give you their trust and you can spend some quality time in the sand with them. I (and my wonderful and understanding wife) didn't love the smell of my jacket so much during our hour-long trip home though ;-)

Black-bellied plover in Pillar Point Harbor by Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

See more images of these shorebirds, including their winter plumage, in my Plovers Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the week to check out this weeks posts!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peaceful peep, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sanderling in Point Reyes National Seashore - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A sanderling rests in the wet sand between the rocks of Drake's Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. I always love to see shorebirds roosting like this, with their bill tucked away. It's such a pleasing shape to my eye.

View more images of these adorable shorebirds in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter 2011!

Happy Easter!

A wild Douglas iris bathed in warm sunrise light from the Chimney Rock area in Point Reyes National Seashore last spring to celebrate Easter! Best wishes to you and yours on this joyous holiday!

More wildflower images in my Flowers & Plants Gallery

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Sunrise in Point Reyes National Seashore

Happy Earth Day! I hope you all get a chance to experience the beauty of our planet today, and remember how important it is to take good care if it. Here's a colorful sunrise from January to commemorate this special day. It's taken from Limantour Road in Point Reyes National Seashore, looking towards the sandstone cliffs of Drake's Beach.

View more coastal landscapes in my Point Reyes National Seashore Landscapes gallery.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tule elk in lupine, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk in lupine - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Continuing the thread of my wishful thoughts of summer, here's another dive into an untouched folder from last May. This was one of one my favorite outings of the summer, and it occurred early in the season. Point Reyes was awash in wildflowers and the elk and birds seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was.

Tule elk - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Browse more images of Point Reyes tule elk in my Tomales Point gallery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dreaming of summer, Mute swan on a pond

Just a week ago we had some perfect summer-like days here in the Bay Area, and they got me so ready for summer to start. I found myself full of energy in the morning -- excited to get out of bed and watch the pastel colors of sunrise fill the neighborhood out of our window as I cut up fresh strawberries to have on my cereal. But alas, it's only April and spring is still in the air. And while there are plenty of wildflowers around, I'm more referring to the drizzle and mist we've been having over the last few days. So while I (im)patiently wait for those quiet mornings followed by warm sunny days to return, here are two shots that I took late last May that remind me of summer.

Mute swan at Ellis Creek - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

There was something so carefree about the way this swan paddled back and forth across the pond, moving at a slow pace. It's the epitome of that summer feeling -- no reason to rush, just enjoying life as it passes you by! (These shots are from the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, CA.)

Impressionistic swan - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see this week's posts!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Never turn your back on the ocean

Never turn your back on the ocean - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A black-bellied plover, in the middle of transitioning to its summer plumage, along the edge of the water at Pillar Point Harbor.

Updated caption: As many of you have guessed, I intentionally left out the story of this picture to see what reactions it would get. The story is that yes, that is a real shark in the background. It was about a 2-3 foot long leopard shark, which is one of the most common sharks in the coastal areas of CA. It's a sleek, long-bodied shark with a beautiful spotted pattern that will often come into intertidal areas during high tides to feed. Unfortunately, this particular shark was not doing well. It was clearly very near the end of its life, and was getting rolled with the waves at the edge of the shoreline. I normally wouldn't photograph an animal in that condition, but when the plover I was following stopped in front of it I couldn't help but fire off a few shots of this unique composition. On our walk out of the harbor, we saw another related intertidal predator, which was in much better shape -- a bat ray was feeding on the newly covered sediments. It was really fun to watch its two fins break the surface as it flapped its "wings" and cruised along in the shallow water.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Transitional black-bellied plover, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A black-bellied plover that is almost to its full breeding plumage. They are such stunning birds in their summer patterns, and it's a pleasure to get to see them transition into that phase along the California coast. It's pretty cool to think too, that earlier this spring, they looked like this. I was hoping for nice high overcast clouds yesterday evening at Pillar Point, but instead we got nearly ground level fog which left my images a little drab. But anytime you get to be close to shorebirds is worth it in my book, and I tried to make the most of the gray-scale scene. Not all of the birds were as dark as this one yet, so I hope to head back in a week or two to try for some nicer light!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iridescent northern shoveler, Radio Road Ponds

Iridescent shoveler drake - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Northern shovelers are beautiful in any light, but especially when you catch the right reflection off of their iridescent feathers. The right mix of overcast light and head angle really helped to show off the colors of this drake.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Semipalmated plover, Point Reyes National Seashore

Plover at rest - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

When I have a cooperative subject, I try to remember to turn the camera vertical to get some variation into my images for the day. While shorebirds like sandpipers and plovers aren't always the best shape for taking advantage of a vertical frame due to their low height and stocky stature, it's still worth taking a look. In this situation, the apparent shallow dof I could get by using the sand in the foreground and the long distance to the dunes in the background helped to make an isolated environment for the plover, and it worked much better in the vertical for this purpose.

Semipalmated plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I enjoy a good photograph of a bird tucked into its feathers, sometimes they can lack a little something when an eye isn't clearly visible. The shot above is from just after it pulled out of its resting position to take a look around, and the frame below is from a bit earlier while I was watching this group of birds. The sun was bouncing behind clouds, giving a good mix of diffuse overcast light with a touch of sunshine every now and then too.

Pair of plovers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

See more of the semiplamated plovers and other species in my Plovers Gallery.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Black-bellied plover & shadow, Pillar Point Harbor

Black-bellied plover - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Two more shots of this very friendly black-bellied plover at Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay. As the sun was dropping lower in the sky, the shadows stretched longer, and really elongated the look of the lengthy legs of this shorebird.

Plover with its shadow - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Click the link to check out this weeks posts!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The owl that wasn't, Berkeley Marina

Burrowed burrowing owl - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This is a shot about a shot that I had in my head but was never able to get. After finding this owl in a burrow that was an ideal location for a nice ground level image right near the fence to keep the dogs out, I had high hopes to come home with an image of this bird standing tall by its burrow. I returned to the park many times this spring, but each time the owl stayed tucked away inside. On my last trip in March, I finally saw it half-out of the hole -- but by then the grass was too tall for the shot I wanted anyway. Such is the joy of wildlife photography though. Not that there's joy in not getting a shot you want, but there is much joy when the stars align and the animals actually do what you were envisioning in perfect light. You never know when it will happen -- so the more potential images you have stored in your head, the better ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

California ground squirrel, Berkeley Marina

California ground squirrel in cute pose - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

By this time of year the burrowing owls should have left Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina to spend the summer months in their breeding grounds. While the owls are the main wildlife draw of the park, there are plenty of other subjects around including lots of song birds and raptors, and of course a lot of California ground squirrels.

Squatty ground squirrel - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

It's always interesting to see the interaction (or lack thereof) between the burrowing owls and these squirrels. The fact that they are basically the same size probably has something to do with that, since I think they are too large for the owls to consider prey. So instead they seem to tolerate each other at close range, and since they share the shame aerial predators, I would guess the owls appreciate having the extra eyes around.

Ground Squirrel Snack - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I was sitting on the ground photographing an owl in its burrow last month, this cute subject came strolling into my line of sight. Initially I was frustrated by the brown blob in the frame, but I quickly decided to refocus and snap off a few frames of this photogenic critter instead.

Caught in the Act - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American avocet, Radio Road Ponds

Avocet portrait - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A few more shots from the nice encounter I had last month with a large flock of American avocets at Radio Road Ponds. Mid-march is right at their transition time from the basic plumage, which is in grayscale, and their breeding plumage, with the beautiful cinnamon coloration.

Summer vs. Winter Plumage - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Regardless of their plumage of the day, I find these birds to be so elegant. They stand tall, with a long smooth shape to their body and bills, and they just seem to float as they walk.

American avocet standing tall - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Northern Shoveler at Radio Road Ponds

Swimming northern shoveler drake

There's just something about northern shovelers that fascinates me, and it's always a pleasure when I get a chance to photograph one from up close. In most locations I've found them fairly skittish to approach, but after positioning myself along the edge of the water at Radio Road Ponds this one came quite close (in addition to others). In the shot below, he is motioning and vocalizing towards another duck that was in the area -- although I can't remember if it was a greeting towards a female or a less friendly call to a male rival.

Calling northern shoveler

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see the posts for this week!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Willet on blue, Moss Landing State Beach

Willet on the beach - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The unseasonably warm temps with plenty of sunshine the past few days calls for a colorful and warm picture. Here's a willet cruising along the shoreline of Moss Landing State Beach, with the gorgeous blue of the Pacific behind.