Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

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


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

California quail on a fence post, Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a fence post in Point Reyes National Seashore, California

A classic Point Reyes scene – a California quail perched on a fence post set against a backdrop of the coastal scrublands of the peninsula. I’ve spent plenty of hours scouring the park for photographic opportunities like this and have never tired of attempting them. I've collected many of images of quails perched on posts, and while they may look similar, each has its own story to tell.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Golden hour, Point Reyes National Seashore

Landscape photograph of coastal pastures overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean in California

Pastures bathed in golden light and the deep blue of the Pacific drew my attention, and my lens, away from the grazing tule elk across the road on this surprisingly clear summer evening in Point Reyes National Seashore.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Tule elk in summer wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk cow in wildflowers at Point Reyes National Seashore

On this July 2016 evening, a small herd of tule elk were grazing in the wildflowers along the road to Drake’s Beach.

Female tule elk in summer wildflowers in California

The shadows were getting long as the sun dropped toward the horizon, and these females slipped in and out of the warm rays, as a male watched over the harem.

Bull tule elk in wildflowers at Point Reyes National Seashore, California


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Avocets in the salt ponds, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Avocets &emdash; Avocets at Don Edwards NWR

Another treat of my July 2016 trip was taking a morning to catch the sunrise at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. This is a hotspot for large flocks of stilts and avocets, which are the birds that initially pulled me into photography over a decade ago.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Avocets &emdash; Avocet feeding

I find avocets to be so elegant in how they look and move, and they’re a rarity to find back home in Massachusetts. The light wasn’t great by the time I made it around to the salt ponds, but I did appreciate that a few avocets wandered toward my position along the shoreline to offer a reflection in the quiescent water.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Avocets &emdash; Group of avocets


Friday, July 19, 2019

Rocky outcrop on Mt Tam

Rocky outcrop on Mt Tam with rising fog in the distance

Following-up on my previous post, after being swallowed into the sea of gray at my first location, I drove out of the cloud and stopped at a rocky outcrop that was still above the fog. Despite being on opposite coasts, the texture and patterns in the stone reminded me of the glacier-scarred granite of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia (a place where I have unsuccessfully tried to photograph a similar vantage above the fog). The leading lines in stones like this capture my imagination, though I had trouble finding the right vantage to include both the stone and the distant rising fog.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Enveloped by fog, Mount Tamalpais State Park

Rolling fog on Mount Tam

In contrast to my 2014 trip, when I was scrambling to find the right pullout before missing the sunset, I arrived with plenty of time to spare on this trip. I chose my spot and sat on a rocky outcrop with enough time to meditate in the evening sunshine. Unknowingly, I selected a vantage point that was a little too low in elevation for the day’s weather conditions. I enjoyed watching the rising fog creep up the valleys and lap up against the lower outcrops of pines. Suddenly, something changed and the fog rapidly rose and fully enveloped my position. I went from warm sunlight and colors to being submerged in cold windy gray in just a few moments. Despite my best intentions of selecting one place for the sunset, I now had to race down the narrow trail of the hillside in thick pea soup to find my rental car so that I could drive to a higher elevation to take advantage of the remaining light somewhere else.

Coastal fog envelopes the western slopes of Mount Tamalpais in California


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Island in the fog, Mount Tamalpais State Park

A tree-covered hilltop peeks out from the coastal fog in Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

The lure is strong to be above the coastal fog for a sunset when I manage to make it back to California for photography, and I've tried to plan for one evening each trip to be on Ridgecrest Blvd in Mount Tamalpais State Park. I love watching the dynamics of the rising tide of fog filling the valleys, and in this case, forming small hilltop islands set in a sea of roiling moisture.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tule elk grazing in the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk grazing in fog at Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

My nascent photographic vision was developed under the coastal fog of Point Reyes, and now that I’m settled in the Northeast, I don’t have nearly as many opportunities to experience ground-level fog like this. Standing in the middle of a thick cloud is perhaps a bit heavier than would be truly helpful for photography, but it does add a different feel of weight and solitude to the story told by a photo. I don’t know if sounds are actually dampened in fog, but looking back at these images, my mind’s interpretation is a quiet scene with only the sound of elk footfalls softly stepping through the wet grass.

Tule elk under heavy fog in Point Reyes National Seashore


Monday, July 15, 2019

Quail on a fencepost, Point Reyes National Seashore

Male California quail on a fencepost in Point Reyes National Seashore

Three years ago, I was back out in California with a few days to spend on photography. I posted a handful of images from this trip last year, but there are a bunch still waiting their turn in my upload folder. Since I’ve shared a lot of baby plovers recently, this seems like a nice time to break things up a bit by tapping into my July archives. A California quail on a fence post is hard for me to pass up when I’m in Point Reyes National Seashore, so these seem like a logical place to start.

Profile view of a California quail in Point Reyes National Seashore


Friday, April 20, 2018

Harbor seal on kelp covered rock, Point Lobos State Reserve

Harbor seal on kelp covered rock in Point Lobos

A walk along the northern trails of Point Lobos State Reserve is always a nice treat. This park tends to fill up to capacity frequently, but most of the traffic (both car and foot) stays toward the main trails in the southern side of the peninsula. On this summer trip, we enjoyed a nice view of a herd of harbor seals resting on the rocks just offshore in Moss Cove. Their colors ranged from sun-bleached gray to this particularly handsome darker black. The kelp covered rock was an interesting setting for a photograph, but even in the short time we were watching them, the tide was visibly rising and its lush green island was soon to disappear.

Monday, April 2, 2018

California quail fledglings calling (almost), Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail fledglings perched on coyote brush in Point Reyes

California quail are one of my favorite species to photograph, and it was a treat to get to see some fledglings on my last summer trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. On several previous occasions, I had seen younger adorable downy fluff balls scurrying around behind their parents, and this was the first time I had some really nice looks at slightly older fledglings.

The Abbotts Lagoon area is a hotspot for finding quail in Point Reyes. In fact, I often didn't even need to get out of parking lot, or even the car, to find some in front of my lens. Since they can be rather skittish, it actually works quite well to use the car as a mobile blind to get close as they stand on the fence railings and bounce around the coyote brush along the parking lot. That's what I was doing on this rather dreary morning in the park. There was a small covey hanging out along the fenceline, so I drove up slowly, rolled the windows down, and parked the car in a nice position to observe them out the passenger side window.

California quail fledgling calling Chi-Ca-Go

As I was watching the group, I heard the distinct call of "Chi-Ca-Go" from behind my vehicle on the driver's side. Though notably, it was a rather small rendition of a quail song, and when I turned around in my seat, I saw this pair of fledglings on the branches. I had long been chasing a photograph of California quail in song, which I finally managed to capture on a 2014 trip -- but I had never imagined the opportunity to capture young birds doing the same. Unfortunately, to have a chance, I needed to contort my body to point my lens out of the opposite rear window to get the right angle before the moment had passed. I strained my body to get into a reasonable stable position and waited for another chance.

California quail fledgling singing in Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail can put on such a show when they are calling out -- throwing their heads back with abandon -- but that means the beak and eyes are moving quickly. On this morning, it was just too quick for my lens under the deep overcast light, and the frame above is the closest I came with any bit of sharpness to the singing head. I had only a few chances to capture the song before this young pair scuttled back down into the brush, and I'm disappointed to have failed to capture a clean shot. That said, these unexpected moments are what is so fun about wildlife photography, and even without something to add to my portfolio, it's an encounter I won't soon forget.

California quail fledglings in Point Reyes National Seashore




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female mule deer standing in dune grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

The short road to the North Beach parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore always feels to me like it has a lot of potential. There's nice tall grasses on the backside of the dunes, with splashes of color from the abundant wildflowers. I've seen a fair number of raptors there, occasionally a coyote, but the most likely find are the abundant mule deer in the area. This doe was browsing among the dune grass under the thick morning fog. She gave me a couple of curious glances before sauntering across the road to the other side.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tule elk in wild radish, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk standing in a field or wild radish in Point Reyes National Seashore

While the peak of the tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore is generally in late August and into September, this handsome bull was keeping track of his harem in early July. It made for some nice photographic opportunities as the herd grazed among the late summer wildflowers (predominantly wild radish) on the hillside along the road to Drake's Beach. From this vantage point he was keeping track of the other bulls bugling in the area. In the top frame, he's listening carefully as a rival bull sounds out across the valley, and in the bottom frame he's responding with his own call (through a mouth full of grass!).

Bull tule elk bugling in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Curious American avocet, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

Curious American avocet at sunrise in Don Edwards NWR

The travel itinerary of my 2016 trip to California include a few nights in the South Bay, which meant I was in a great position to look for American avocets. In my opinion, these are by far the most elegant shorebird species, and I greatly miss having the chance to find them here in the Northeast. They're especially photogenic in their breeding colors, and it was a treat to encounter salt ponds filled with them at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. This location was one of my early favorites on San Francisco Bay, and I had a handful of spectacular trips there when I was learning the ropes of shorebird photography a decade ago. The park can be a little tough for eye-level photography since the trails are on elevated dikes around the ponds, but on this day the water level was down far enough that I was able to get low in the mud at a few places. This curious avocet waded fairly close to where I was set up, and the old degrading pilings were an interesting setting to contrast the elegance of the bird.

Shared with Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to see this week's posts.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Magic of Point Reyes National Seashore

Last light across the valleys of Point Reyes National Seashore

During the two years that I let the blog go dormant in 2016-2017 I actually had a couple of really nice photographic outings. I was even able to return to California for about a week in the summer of 2016, which included a couple of days spent in Point Reyes National Seashore. It wasn't the most productive trip photographically, but it felt so great to be back in my old footsteps on those well-trodden trails. For those of you that have followed my work, you already know that Point Reyes National Seashore holds a special place in my heart -- and in some ways I can't believe it's taken me this long to share some some images from the trip.

July isn't necessary the best time to be in the park for photography, I personally think that the fall is ideal with the shorebird migrations and tule elk rut, but I was treated to some spectacular fog-less summer sunsets on this trip. While living in California, I most often visited the park for sunrise, which usually involved a heavy cover the marine layer fog, so it was a treat to have the warm colors of sunset on multiple evenings (although I almost didn't know what to do with the light!).

While driving out Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on so many prior trips to the park, my eye had often been drawn to the gorgeous rolling agricultural valleys. On many occasions I pulled the car over, swapped on my landscape lens and attempted to capture some of what had caught my eye. I was never really able to do the scene justice though, especially since so many of my trips were under the coastal fog. I love overcast light for wildlife, but it really left the landscapes feeling flat and far less interesting than then actually were. I was driving around the park on this summer evening while the light was absolutely spectacular, and hoping to find something to photograph before it was gone. I struck out on sighting any wildlife in the golden glow, but as I passed this valley, I was completely drawn in. The last rays were fading fast, and I knew I wouldn't have time to set up my tripod before it was gone. So I rolled the window down, leaned across the passenger seat and fired off a few frames. I love that the low hanging sun left a tiny sliver of "alpenglow" across the top of the coastal hillside. That's part of the magic of Point Reyes National Seashore -- it's given me fleeting moments that are so special and unexpected on so many visits.

While I was taking the photograph above, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I could see myself in the passenger-side mirror. Being a solo trip into the park, I didn't have any other photographs of myself there, so I took advantage of the opportunity to make an unorthodox selfie from this unexpected scene in one of my favorite places.

Selfie of landscape photography from a car in Point Reyes National Seashore

After spending the night in Inverness Park, I set out for a sunrise hike at Abbotts Lagoon. Just like old times, I began the day as the first car in the parking lot as the daylight was just beginning to break. It was wonderful to breathe in the cool coastal air, and to be invigorated by the feeling of the warm rising sun under clear skies. This is a wonderful place to look for quail and not too far from the parking lot I found a handsome male keeping an eye on his covey from an old scrag of coyote brush (which I posted yesterday for my 500th blog post). I slowly worked my way closer, trying to get clean shot of the quail who was glowing in the warm sunrise light. In the meantime a second car arrived at the trailhead and another photographer set off down the trail behind me. As he approached, he politely waited to pass until the quail had decided to hop from its perch and head into the brush. Further down the trail, at the bridge between the freshwater and brackish lagoons, I encountered the photographer again. We chatted briefly, and he shared his new found love for the park. It seemed that this amazing landscape had recently cast a spell on him, the same as it had on me nearly a decade ago. He was now regularly driving up from the East Bay on the weekends to search for wildlife -- which sounded awfully familiar to my ears! We chatted briefly about the gravitational pull of the park, and neither of us could easily express a specific reason for why it captured our creative imagination so strongly over all of the other great places in the Bay Area. But perhaps the vague mystery of that deep-felt love for that beautiful peninsula is part of the magic all the same.

A summer lupine is bathed in the warm glow of sunset at Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Elephant seal for the new year, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Photograph of a bull elephant seal under an overcast sunset at Año Nuevo State Reserve

For my first post of the new year, I thought I'd dig into the archives to celebrate one of my favorite January traditions while living in California -- the northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. There's nothing quite like seeing these beasts hauled out on the beach, and I definitely miss being an easy car ride away from the spectacle. These two frames are of the beachmaster of loser's beach in January 2011. After successfully charging a rival seal back into the water he reared back and roared before settling back into the sand.

Photograph of an elephant seal resting on the beach at Año Nuevo State Reserve

View more photographs of elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Song sparrow in blooming lupine, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photograph of a song sparrow perched in blooming yellow bush lupine

I've written about this plenty of times before, but strolling the trail to Kehoe Beach while the wildflowers are blooming in Point Reyes National Seashore is sight to behold. The air is thick with their sweet aromas, and the birds are abundant among the blooms. On my summer trip last year, I walked this trail almost daily looking for opportunities to photograph song birds as they bounced about the branches. The dominant color along the trail was yellow, and this song sparrow perched on a yellow bush lupine with wild mustard behind.

View more of my photographs of sparrows and other song birds.