Showing posts with label Pacific Ocean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pacific Ocean. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Elephant seal silhouette, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Elephant seal silhouette -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

The backlit shape of a male northern elephant seal at sunset. This is certainly not my traditional style of photography, but they have a wonderful form when they are reared up like this, and I couldn't help but to snap off a few frames when the opportunity arose.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sanderling brunch

A sanderling checking out an arthropod shell along Limantour Beach in Point Reyes. Unfortunately for the bird, there didn't appear to be much edible material left. After picking at it briefly for a short time, it gave up and moved on. These shells are pretty common along the beach, although I'm not sure which species it belongs to (it's a bit more visible in the second shot below).

Sampling brunch

When I saw this shell in a nice place right above the water line with a flock of sanderlings working their way towards me, I decided to set up by it to see if the birds would be interested. A few came close to it but decided not to stop, but then this one curious sanderling spent maybe 30 seconds or so investigating it. I was pretty happy with the potential of the shots like the one below, but when I was reviewing the images the top shot really stood out for me with the out of focus sanderling taking off in the background.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Harbor seal pup at Salt Point State Park

A tender moment

We had a great weekend trip camping in Salt Point State Park, which is a gem of a park on the Sonoma Coast. On our first morning there we headed down to an overlook that is frequented by harbor seals. The mid-morning light was really harsh and these pictures are cropped more than I prefer to do, but the interactions between a mother harbor seal and her pup were fantastic to witness!

Nursing harbor seal pup

In addition to watching the little one pester its mom to nurse, we also got to see them swimming around in the somewhat sheltered pools between the rocks. Just like a human kid, the pup seemed to just want to keep in constant motion, when it really looked like the mom wanted to take a break out of the water for a while.

A scratch on the head

More than once, they were hauled out on the rocks and the pup would wiggle away and into the water. The mother would watch it for a while, and you could almost see the exasperation on her face as the pup would get too far away and she'd have to head back into the water and corral the pup back to the rocks.

Hungry pup

This is a different seal who was also hanging out there as well, occasionally stretching and trying to find that perfectly comfortable position.

Stretching seal

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reason to celebrate -- Thanks for the votes!

Reason to celebrate -- Thanks for the votes!

The voting results for the 2010 Defenders of Wildlife photo contest have been released, and thanks to your votes, my image of Tomales Bay State Park won 2nd place in the Wild Lands category! (Full results can be viewed here, if you're curious.) It was such a cool honor to be named as a finalist among all of those other awesome images, and even cooler to be voted into second place!

If you're a member of the organization, keep your eye out for all of the winning images in the Summer issue of Defenders Magazine. And thanks again if you took the time to vote!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marbled godwit at Pillar Point

Marbled godwit at Pillar Point (2of2)

In one of the shorebird ID books I have, they describe the marbled godwit as being the subject of many close encounters for beachcombers on western beaches, and I've found that to hold fairly true. In general, these guys seem less bothered than many other species to have people around, and this one was no exception. Every now and then it would give me a glance to ensure I wasn't doing anything fishy -- but it was mostly focused on finding breakfast.

Probing for breakfast (1of2)

In these shots, I liked that you could see the 'tongues' of all of the clams buried in the sand. Although, I had to wonder if that helped to give their position away to the many birds searching for them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Organized chaos -- sanderling takeoff and landing

Watching these birds attempt to stay a step ahead of the waves is always a fun thing to do. Especially when there is a large flock involved, as its great to see them move in unison. But every now and then, they seem to misjudge the incoming water and have to result to a mass takeoff. My challenge on this trip was to attempt to capture the chaos, as well as the beauty, of such a scene. Below is a sequence from the action that followed a single incoming wave.

Chaotic Takeoff

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (2of3)

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (1of3)

Takeoff and Landing, Chaotic (3of3)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick Post - Sanderlings ahead of the wave

This weekend we took a late afternoon trip out to Point Reyes, and while we were more or less fogged out of the sunset I was hoping for, I did get to spend some time chasing sanderlings on Drake's Beach. I made some attempts to capture the chaos that occurs when a wave finally catches up to these little guys, and I did catch a few interesting frames of takeoffs. This first one is a bit more toned down, when the whole flock was running along the sand in front of the wave-line.

Always one step ahead of the wave

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Elephant seal flippers

Flipper abstraction

While on the beach with these guys, I spent a fair amount of time at the longest range of my zoom trying to work for some intimate portraits. Mostly I was focused on the faces of the old males and their wonderful big nose and textured chest shields. However, their flippers have always intrigued me as well.


They have five fingers within their flipper and each ends in a tiny little "flipper-nail" (for lack of a better term). While at first glance it seems to beg the question of why they would still evolutionarily need nails at the end, it does appear that they are good for scratching an itch upon occasion (although, one would think there might be a better reason as well).

Scratch that itch

It's really interesting to watch them use their flipper, as you can see that their bone structure really must be similar to ours, where there are multiple knuckles in their "fingers".

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Protecting the Harem

An elephant seal beachmaster defends his harem at Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

Chasing down the challenger

This was probably the largest alpha male that we saw on this trip, and he was a real brute. You can see how the chest shield of scar tissue that forms during their brutal battles extends nearly around the back of his neck, which means that he has done some serious fighting throughout his life. His reward for this is to be the chief protector and only mate of a harem of ladies.

In the above shot, he is moving at full tilt to fend off another male intruder. One of the females in the harem was calling loudly for a few minutes to alert the alpha male that she was uncomfortable with this newcomer, and once he decided to respond he moved quite quickly through the harem. The challenger was behind the dune from where we were standing, but apparently backed down since we didn't get to see a fight, and the alpha male then settled down for a nap where he stopped. Watching him move his huge mass so quickly was really awesome, he is surely a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, he was moving too fast for my shutter speed in the overcast light, and this was the only sharp frame I got of his burst.

King among his harem

This is a more traditional shot of the beachmaster, and why they call them elephant seals. It really shows off his long proboscis which is covered in scars from his battles and his serious chest shield. It is truly an awesome experience to be in their presence, and especially on the beach with them. A trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve is a must for any wildlife lover in the area!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elephant seal after dusk

Elephant seal at dusk

I'll begin my series of elephant seals from our weekend trip to Ano Nuevo State Reserve with a few shots that were taken right at the end of our terrific trip. After our late afternoon tour we went back down to "Losers Beach" to spend the final minutes of light with some big brutes that usually camp out there. We had a chance to watch a younger guy displaying his toughness for a while, and as the last bit of light slipped out from behind the clouds and below the horizon I took a few final shots of this beast who was right near the stairs from the beach.

Elephant seal after sunset

My wife had a lens with a wider zoom range, and she took some wonderful shots of the seals as part of their environment. Here's one of my favorites, with the last sliver of sunset included.

Last sliver of light

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve

We had a really nice short trip to the San Diego area at the end of last week to finally check out the world-famous Zoos down that way. It rained a fair amount, but we did have a fantastic sunset the first night we were there, as we explored the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve. I took an awful lot of pictures at the San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park and at SeaWorld, and I'm hoping to find the time to make a few picture-filled posts here this week.

The sky was really quite dramatic throughout the sunset:

And we were treated to some of the local wildlife as well. It was great to see this young California sea lion come ashore at this really well used beach. We saw him hopping through the breakers for a few minutes before he came out to check things out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Along the coast in Big Sur

We had a really nice drive through Big Sur over Thanksgiving weekend -- it was the first time that I have done the whole distance, and I didn't realize how much of the area is forested. As it turns out, Los Padres National Forest covers nearly 2 million acres of the Big Sur area, and 220 miles of coastline!

Big Sur Coastline

We stopped for lunch in a large pull-out area on a bluff-top overlooking the water near a sign that mentioned something about sea otter habitat (we didn't catch it all as we drove by). While we didn't see any otters (or at least any that looked different from all of the bobbing kelp!), we did get nearly blown away by the strong winds. All day we had been at the trailing edge of a storm that was heading south down the coast as well, which made for some pretty skies of sunshine and storm clouds for most of the trip, but also kept things really windy.

One interesting thing of note at the pullout is that there were two "chairs" made from some giant tree stumps that had been placed to look out over the water. In the short time that we were parked there (by the stumps since it was at the end of the lot) no fewer than three cars also pulled into the area then got out and took their pictures on the stumps, then left. I'm not sure if they realized they had an audience or not, but we got to watch each group brace themselves into the wind, pose with hair flying everywhere, then move on. Not to be outdone, we took a few shots on the stumps before we left as well.

From the beach

These pictures were taken at a small picnic area just a few hundred feet further down the road from where we picniced in the car -- go figure, right? It had access to the beach, were we were able to watch the gulls take flight and hover since they weren't able to fly into the wind. (Also, in the frame above, the stump chairs were up on the cliff top with the tree.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overcast exposure

Preening oystercatcher

Fall in the Bay Area means the start of some wonderful overcast days with high clouds all day and little chance of surprise rain. These are great days photographically, as you are not limited to the nice light that ends 2 hours after sunrise. This shot was taken on an overcast day in September. We had family in town and took them to the always spectacular Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey. Everyone was disappointed that there were heavy clouds around all day, meaning no beautiful blue ocean. But the photographer in me was secretly pleased, as it meant that an encounter like this would be possible -- with no harsh light to be found.