Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pied-billed grebes in the marsh, Coyote Hills Regional Park

Pair of pied-billed grebes in the open water of a marsh

I believe this 2011 trip to Coyote Hills Regional Park is the only opportunity I've had to photograph pied-billed grebes. As I recall, I encountered them while crossing a boardwalk over the open water in the marsh. Thankfully the water management had the marsh at its high water mark, so it was possible to get reasonably close to eye-level when I went prone on the platform. I enjoyed the chance to spend a few brief moments with this adorable pair before they slipped back into the vegetation.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Black phoebe on cattails, Coyote Hills Regional Park

Black phoebe on cattails in Coyote Hills Regional Park on San Francisco Bay

From the same lost trip in the archives as my previous post, here's a black phoebe perched on cattails in Coyote Hills Regional Park in California. It's hard to beat a morning spent in a wetland, but I had an impression that there was nothing to show from this particular trip to the South Bay and had often overlooked this folder. This past summer I was digging around a little bit in my archives and came across a few keepers buried in the wrack. A heavy evening fog had settled over the bay, casting a nice even light over the marsh.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Female red-winged blackbird on cattails, Coyote Hills Regional Park

Female red-winged blackbird on cattails in California

I'm fortunate to have a handful of lovely cattail marshes along my daily commute, and its been wonderful to see them surrounded by beautiful autumn foliage recently. I haven't had an opportunity to attempt to capture their beauty, but it's made me think of the many times I went out looking for birds in the wetlands around San Francisco Bay when I lived in California. This particular trip to Coyote Hills Regional park was largely ignored on my hard drive, so it's nice to pull a few images out. Here's a lovely female red-winged black bird perched on some early spring cattails in the freshwater marsh.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Sanderling dance moves, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Sanderling dance moves

A cool thing about photography is how it can capture a single moment and give it meaning beyond what you may have noticed in real time. Here, a simple change in the direction this sanderling was running added a lot of life ot the frame -- giving the illusion of a sanderling dancing across the beach.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper with prey, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A semipalmated sandpiper pulls prey from the sand in Massachusetts

It was fun to watch this small flock of semipalmated sandpipers rapidly work over the wet sand left behind by the receding tide along the Lot 6 beach in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The pace they were moving up the beach suggested that there wasn't much left to feed on, but this sandpiper found what appears to be a small worm, which was quickly swallowed.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Seeking shelter on the tidal flats, Piping plovers at Sandy Point

A piping plover looks to brood under his father's wing in Massachusetts

I had a lot of fun watching this family of piping plovers on my first trip to Sandy Point State Reservation for the summer breeding season. I initially encountered them along the dunes, but eventually some of the chicks decided to explore the expansive tidal flats of a very low tide. The patterns in the sand left behind by the receding water made for a unique setting to photograph them as they sought refuge under their father's wing.

Piping plover shelters two chicks under his wing on the tidal flats


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Least tern chick receives a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick sees parent returning with a fish

On my mid-summer trips to see the breeding birds at Sandy Point State Reservation, I was almost always focused on the piping plovers running around the beach. There is a colony of least terns there as well, and when a family chose to stay near the ropes, a large crowd of photographers tended to form near them each time I visited. I spent the first light of one trip focused on terns, and it was easy to see why there is a such a draw to them. Unlike the piping plovers, which are in constant motion and responsible for feeding themselves, the terns are much more stationary and you have a chance to witness the tender moments of a parent bringing prey back to the little ones.

Least tern chick being fed a fish by its parent

For a while, the chick was snuggled with its other parent on the sand. At some point it must have heard the call of this parent returning, because it leapt to its feet and started running around excitedly. Then its parent flew into the frame and handed off a rather large fish. Unfortunately, I was zoomed in a bit too tight and clipped the tips of the wings, but it was a great moment to witness!

Least tern chick takes a fish from its parent


Shared with this week's Wild Bird Wednesday


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Piping plover chick in the spotlight, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick illuminated by sunrise light at Sandy Point State Reservation

Warm sunrise light with just enough high clouds in the sky came together to illuminate this young piping plover chick while it was exploring the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Piping plover family in the rain, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover parent with three chicks on a rainy day

The dreary last few days in the Boston area reminds me of my first trip this summer to see the piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation. There were dull-gray skies with off and on drizzle, but it was great to spend some time watching this piping plover family. In this frame, two chicks are already under their parent, and it's pretty clear the third wants to get out of the rain as well.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Sanderling at the edge of the flock, Parker River NWR

A pair of sanderlings feeding at the front edge of their flock in Parker River NWR

Getting an isolated image of a single sandpiper at the edge of the flock is always a rewarding experience and makes for a nice clean shot. But it's also a fun challenge to try to aim into the center of the frenetic sandpiper activity and come away with a pleasing composition. I certainly had to dump a fair number of images due to birds cruising in and out of the frame, but occasionally the pieces come together and it's possible to get a strong foreground subject with interesting depth provided by the flock.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Northern harrier on the prowl, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Female northern harrier in flight over a salt marsh in Massachusetts

This lovely northern harrier caught my eye as it danced above the salt marsh near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. After a successful morning with sandpipers, I wasn't necessarily looking for serious photographic opportunities, but its near-range acrobatics were worth pulling the car over for. I didn't have my binoculars along, so I used my telephoto to watch her flight. I fired off a few shots when she turned to face my direction, and this one came out surprisingly sharp. She steadily worked her way past my location, and when she was quite a way behind me, I saw her take a dive into the marsh. She didn't pop back up immediately, so I hope she came away with a meal.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Preening sandpipers, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of two semipalmated sandpipers, with one sleeping and one preening

One of the pleasures of watching wildlife is when they are totally indifferent to your presence. After slowly approaching a large flock of sandpipers resting on the beach, the shorebirds simply went about their morning business. This pair of semipalmated sandpipers was near the front of the group, with one napping while the other preened its feathers.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Sanderling and reflection, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A sanderling is reflected in wet sand while feeding in Massachusetts

I took a long walk on the beach before finally reaching a mid-sized flock of sanderlings feeding in front of the rising tide. The group was fast-moving and active, so it was a bit of a challenge to get clean shots. I spent some time pointing my lens right into the heart of the action, but I also attempted to isolate a few birds when they stepped to the edges of the main group.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Sanderlings feeding ahead of the waves, Parker River NWR

Two sanderlings feeding ahead of a small wave in Massachusetts

A classic sandpiper pose -- break probing the sand with a shallow wave chasing them from behind. I love the rhythm of these birds and the waves as they feed, melodically cruising back and forth. It was particularly helpful on this morning along the Lot 6 beach in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge as well. With the autumn sun rising due east, I had to turn sideways to the gently breaking waves to have any shot at reasonable light on the birds. This meant that I occasionally got splashed, but when the birds really started running, it was a helpful sign that I needed to elevate my camera off the sand a few moments later. Fun times!


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Roosting semipalmated sandpiper, Sandy Point State Reservation

Resting semipalmated sandpiper on the beach

High tide was right around sunrise on this September morning, and after following a small flock of sanderlings feeding along the beach at first light, I decided to walk to the tip of Sandy Point State Reservation. With so much of the tidal flats submerged below the tide, I figured there was a reasonable chance the shorebirds would be roosting somewhere on the beach. Sure enough, I didn't get too far down the beach before spotting the first group of semipalmated plovers at the edge of a larger flock of mixed shorebirds. I slowly belly-crawled my way into their presence and enjoyed watching the flock rest and preen, including this semipalmated sandpiper.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sanderling at sunrise, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling pausing at sunrise in Parker River NWR

There was a chill in the air for this September sunrise on Plum Island, an early sign that fall is on the way. The flock of sanderlings I was watching along the Lot 7 beach was busy looking for breakfast before the rising tide covered the beach. In the brief moments when a bird would stop amidst the action, the feathers would puff out just a bit against the cool morning air -- giving this one a nice plump shape.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sanderling silhouette at sunrise, Parker River NWR

Sanderling silhouette against the waves in Parker River NWR

On my most recent trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge I was predominantly focused on capturing some dramatic side-lighting on some sanderlings when they ventured away from the waves and up the beach to where I was positioned. But still, I couldn't help but try at least a few times to turn my lens toward the water and the rising sun. Most of the frames I came home with didn't catch my eye, but these two stood out with the interesting circular patterns in the bokeh.

Silhouette of a sanderling feeding at sunrise in Parker River NWR


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Dramatic sunrise light, Sanderling at Parker River NWR

Sanderling with dramatic side-lighting at sunrise

An early morning trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge paid off immediately as I encountered a moderately-sized flock of sanderlings as soon as I crossed the trail through the dunes from the Lot 7 parking lot. Sunrise is my favorite time of day, especially for photography, but it does provide some challenges when trying to capture sandpipers chasing the waves on the main beach of the refuge. Sunrise is great during the summer breeding season at Sandy Point State Reservation as I'm generally aiming toward the beach with the rising sun at my back. But working with this flock of sanderlings that was focused on finding food in the moments between breaking waves offered a much different take on early morning light. Knowing that I couldn't get full portraits in warm light with the birds keeping close the water, I tried to work a more dramatic look of warm side-lighting contrasting against cool morning shadows.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Leaning in, Semipalmated sandpiper at Parker River NWR

Striding semipalmated sandpiper at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts

I read an article recently about photographing wildlife at local parks. It included a thought that resonated with me about looking for a dynamic behavioral moment that can make even a common animal seem more interesting. I tend to find sandpipers fascinating regardless of what they are doing, but as this semipalmated sandpiper slightly changed directions and shifted its weight to the right, its lean added a bit of extra interest to this frame.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

First light on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

First light on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Even with the large crowds, it is a pleasure to watch the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. In processing this image, I applied a digital graduated filter and also used the dust spot removal tool to clone out two people who stepped into view.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Consolation prize, Sunrise sliding down Sargent Mountain

Sunrise on the peak of Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park

Every year I've gone to Acadia National Park I've been surprised by the sunrise crowd on the summmit of Cadillac Mountain. This year, I thought I was prepared for it and arrived at the summit 25 minutes before sunrise. Well, by this time the parking lot was already a zoo with no spots, and people were scrambling to cram their cars along the road. I passed through the lot and went down to the Blue Hills Overlook (which was already getting crowded). I had time to take the short walk to the summit, but instead decided to skip the crowd and wandered down the western slope overlooking Eagle Lake. Not a single other person made the same decision and I had the entire area to myself. Sure, I didn't see the first light of the day arrive on the horizon, but instead I was treated to the sunrise slipping down the eastern face of Sargent Mountain. It started as just a hint of warmth as the sun rose above Cadillac's summit, ending with the shadow of the mountain crossing the width of Eagle Lake. Not at all what I had envisioned when I left in the morning, but a delightful way to start my day. I returned to Cadillac's summit later in my trip -- a full 50 minutes early this time -- and was able to get a spot for the more traditional sunrise.

Sunrise on the slope of Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Striding dunlin, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Dunlin pauses mid-stride while walking on the beach in Massachusetts

This dunlin stood out in a group of mostly sanderlings on a fall visit to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge a few years ago. This was one of the first trips where I was experimenting with taking my camera off of a ground-level tripod to get an even lower perspective. The difference of only a few inches of vertical (from the top of a ballhead to the lens footplate resting on the ground) made a noticeable difference in my images, and I've never gone back.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Low-angle view of a smipalmated sandpiper on Plum Island, Massachusetts

The small flock of semipalmated sandpipers I was spending time with on this August morning were in constant motion. Both rapidly probing the sand and steadily cruising down the beach. This bird thankfully paused for just long enough to give me a nice pose with two tiny droplets of water falling from its bill.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Two extra legs and a long shadow, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover with chick underneath on Plum Island, Massachusetts

It was nice to watch this parent piping plover watch over its young chick on the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation, though it was also a little bittersweet. Piping plovers generally hatch four chicks with each brood, and this pair of parents had only this one left. I can only imagine how tough it must be to keep such a tiny family of chicks safe in that environment. But it was inspiring to see a bunch of piping plover fledglings roaming the beach when I returned in early August.

Piping plover vocalizes while brooding a chick


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Piping plover chick in morning light, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick standing tall in morning light on Plum Island, Massachusetts

This curious piping plover chick quickly came close to check me out when I arrived on the beach on this July morning. The sun had just risen above the Atlantic, but we were still in the shadow of the small hill at Sandy Point State Reservation, lending both a warmth and coolness to the morning light. After giving me a once over from its tall pose, the chick quickly returned to its business of scouring the beach for tiny prey.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sanderling feeding in evening light, Parker River NWR

Sanderling feeding in shallow water after sunset

The sun had dropped below the dunes but was still high enough to cast its beautiful pastel colors over the scene as a flock of sanderlings went through their evening routines in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds were preening and napping, but this lone sanderling was slowly moving through a shallow tidal pool looking for a snack.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rutting tule elk on Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

Rutting tule elk smelling the scent on the wind

This bull tule elk was protecting a small harem of females on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore. Hiking out the Tomales Point trail during the August rut is great fun, but during this particular summer this herd was regularly hanging out near the end of the road as you descend toward the Pierce Ranch parking lot.

Male tule elk bugling through the fog

There was a lot of elk activity in the area and this bull seemed to be in constant motion -- smelling the air like in the top frame, or bugling loudly down the valley in the one above.

Rutting bull tule elk throwing grass

The high levels of hormones also had him aggressively showing off, including roughing up the lupine and grasses of the coastal scrub before loudly bugling again.

Loud tule elk bugle in Point Reyes


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dominant bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Rutting bull tule elk in wildflowers

The sound of a bugling tule elk in the rut is truly spectacular. This large dominant bull, the same individual I included in my post yesterday, was keeping close tabs on his harem and bugling regularly and loudly on this August morning in 2011.

Tule elk starting to bugle in Point Reyes

It was awesome to observe and hear this behavior from close range along the road down to Drake's Beach. Especially as he let out one of his long, loud calls and you could hear it echo down the valleys -- often eliciting a response from a rival.

Dominant bull tule elk bugling in Point Reyes


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore

Dominant bull tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

August was always a fun time to be in Point Reyes National Seashore, as the tule elk rut was kicking into high gear. This large bull was king of his harem along the road to Drake's Beach in 2011. On multiple occasions that summer I had a chance to watch him protect his herd and respond to the bugles of rival bulls from across the valleys. His large palmated antlers were a distinguishing feature, but the identification was even easier since he walked with an obvious limp. I'd be curious to know if he was able to hold his throne again in future years and when his reign came to an end.

Tule elk bull walking through his harem in Point Reyes National Seashore


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

A young piping plover chick pauses for a moment and gives me a nice profile view while exploring the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Pine trees and granite on Schoodic Head, Acadia National Park

Pine trees and granite near the summit of Schoodic Head in Acadia

On a trip to Acadia a few years ago we drove over to the much quieter side of the park on the Schoodic Peninsula. We did the nice little trail up Schoodic Head, which offered some great views back across Frenchman Bay of Mount Desert Island. For as centered as we normally are around Cadillac Mountain while we're in the park, it was fun to see it from across the water.

Islands in Frenchman Bay from Schoodic Head in Acadia National Park


Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Bubbles over Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Acadia National Park &emdash; Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

This lovely pair of mountains are an iconic view in Acadia National Park as they rise over Jordan Pond. This particular hike around the lake was under heavily overcast skies, giving an even more serene feel to the still water. Looking back at these images is making me hungry for popovers and strawberry jam!

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Acadia National Park &emdash; Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Sandpipers bracing against wind blown sand, Plymouth Beach

Dunlin in blowing sand on the beach in Massachusetts

I've written about this a few times before, but a windy day along the beach really shows how tough these sandpipers are to withstand the harsh conditions of their life on the coast. On this blustery day, the wind repeatedly blasted the shorebirds with sand as they attempted to rest.

Dunlin being pelted with blowing sand on the beach

In the photo above, the wind was just starting to rise and a few individual grains of sand are visible bouncing off of the face of the dunlin in the foreground. A few moments later, the gust picked up speed and the scene started to dissolve in a cloud of blowing sand. I found it interesting to observe how the birds would instinctively turn directly into the wind as they brace against it, which makes sense given that they are aerodynamic in flight.

Shorebirds in a small sand storm on Plmouth Beach

Submitted to this week's Wild Bird Wednesday.



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Take your rest, Sanderlings on Plymouth Beach

Two sanderlings resting with their feet in the sand on Plymouth Beach

For as perfectly adapted to the coastal life as shorebirds are, it's interesting to see that even their feet can sink into the wet sand if they're stationary for long enough. This pair of sanderlings was part of a larger group that was resting on Plymouth Beach as the water receded.