Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home sweet home, and my first visit to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Shorebird welcoming committee - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography
(My Massachusetts shorebird welcoming committee.)

After a month of living in the great state of Massachusetts, I finally had a chance to get outside with my camera. Between the move, getting settled in a new city, my job search, and the death of my step-father, there had been little time to get out and experience my new home. Finally though, I had my first photography trips on Thursday and Friday mornings of last week -- to a fantastic coastal property in Northern MA, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

The forecast said clouds for Thursday, and since I have seen some amazing clouds out of my apartment window almost every day since moving to the Boston area, I had high hopes for beach photography under a pretty sky. Unfortunately, my first morning in the park was much more reminiscent of a day back in the Bay Area! There was ground level fog and drizzle all morning, which finally burned off to clear blue skies around noon. So while I still filled a memory card with heavily overcast shorebirds, it was not quite what I had envisioned while planning my inaugural trip to photograph the wildlife along the Atlantic coast. Thus, I decided to return for sunrise on Friday morning, since there was a forecast of clear skies -- and I was not disappointed.

Birders on a dreary morning
(Some birders enjoy the large shorebird flock on a wet Thursday morning.)

During my early morning drive along the highways to get there, I had wondered if I made the right decision to get up so early -- but once I made it to the Refuge and hopped out of my car into the cool, pre-dawn air, there was no doubt in my mind this was the right thing to do. I stopped at parking lot #1, and watched the sunrise break the horizon. There is just something so magical about this part of the day, and it's so energizing to feel the glow of those first rays of the sun. Although I must say, after 6 years of watching the sun set over the ocean, it was a bit odd to see it rise above the blue waters!

First sunrise in Massachusetts - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography
(My first sunrise viewed in my new home state.)

I then drove down to the southern end of the refuge, and headed for the beach at parking lot #7, which is where I saw the large flock of peeps the day before. Much to my delight, the flock was still there, and it was comprised of some very friendly shorebirds -- the best Massachusetts welcoming party I could have imagined. I then spent the next two hours or so laying in the sand with these birds. They went about their morning business of resting and preening, and after easily winning their trust I found myself as an honorary member of the flock. In fact, on more than one occassion, after they all took flight and circled around, they landed just a few feet away on all three sides of me. It was a perfect morning, and a great way to start my new adventures with wildlife photography in New England!

Shorebird flock at sunrise - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography
(The shorebird flock at sunrise.)

In other news, the list of highly honored images for the prestigious 2011 Windland Smith Rice International Awards was released this week, and I am happy to announce that one of my photographs was selected for this honor. Look for it in print in the next issue of Nature's Best Photography magazine!

View more photos of peeps in my Sandpipers Gallery.


  1. Congratulations on your photograph making the list of highly honored images for the prestigious 2011 Windland Smith Rice International Awards. That is fabulous! I'm looking forward to all of your wonderful new photos from around Massachusetts. Enjoy your new home.

  2. Do you by chance know Larry Ulrich, a great landscape photographer who lives in N. CA? He is a longtime friend of mine.

  3. I bet that is odd to watch the sun rise from the ocean after a lifetime of seeing it set into the same. Glad you have this wonderful refuge to take the place of your lost Point Reyes. I'll be looking forward to more shoreline photos. I really like that last one.

  4. Great shots Pat. Our recent visit to Florida produced hundreds of terns cuddling on the beach each evening. Amazing!

  5. Pat, congratulations on your Honorable Mention in the Windland Smith Rice contest. That's a tough contest.

    It looks like you've already found a great spot for shorebirds. I hear Cape Cod NS is good too.

  6. Excellent Pat (2011 Windland Smith Rice International Awards).

    Glad your beginning to get out and about in Ma.

    I look forard to see some horseshoe crabs in due course - I've always liked them, Iain

  7. Pat,

    Congratulations on the the Windland Smith Rice Honorable Mention Award. Your work is well deserving of such prestigious recognition.

  8. Glad to hear that your settling in over there! I couldn't agree more about the feeling one experiences while watching sunrise. There really is something special about that time of morning.
    You captured the sunrise nicely and I especially like the texture and movement in the foreground grasses. Sunrise at the beach must be a nice treat.
    I look forward to following you as you explore new territory!

  9. Pat, how poignant that you had this welcoming committee, a visual reminder of home, too. Shorebirds are what I miss most about being up in Seattle now. The return of those massive flocks always marked the seasonal change for me in the Bay Area. The grand but sometimes over-developed estuary known as Puget Sound has its own bounty, to be sure. But my beloved "Shorebird Nation," foraging on city beaches, isn't one of them. :) I look forward to your new explorations on the other coast!