Showing posts with label Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Show all posts

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 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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper probing the sand, Parker River NWR

Semipalmated sandpiper with its bill in the sand in Massachusetts

With their rapid sewing machine motion as they probe the wet sand, it can be challenging to get a tack-sharp shot of a sandpiper with its beak deep in the sand -- but this frame kept all the details. I didn't see what it pulled up, but hopefully it was tasty.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Semipalmated sandpiper stalking the tidal flats in Massachusetts

I went out for a sunrise session on Plum Island yesterday in the hope of finding some friendly sandpipers. I started at Sandy Point State Reservation, and when the light was beautiful, the peeps were skittish. It was a bit disappointing to see only a few small flocks of sandpipers despite the large swaths of exposed tidal flats. After losing the early light with nothing to show for it, I decided to head up the island and try one of the newly opened stretches of beach (Lots 6 & 7 both had beach access again, now that the piping plovers have fledged). I could see larger flocks of shorebirds to the north in the area that was still closed for nesting, and just a small flock of 4 semipalmated sandpipers was cruising the beach to the south. The light wasn't great and I didn't come back with too many keepers in the bunch, but it was a treat to quickly earn their trust as we leap-frogged each other down the beach. They were looking for food at the high edge of the tidal flats, and I could reliably drop myself 15 yards in front of them and wait for them to approach and pass at close range in front of my lens. We did this over an over again as we made our way down the beach together.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Sanderling in water, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling tracing a line of water at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

I've thoroughly enjoyed my summer opportunities to photograph piping plover chicks, but I'm ready to do some sandpiper photography! It's exciting to see the bird reports that they're starting to arrive on Plum Island, and I'm hoping to get out to find a flock soon.

Sanderling with water droplets in Massachusetts


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Willets in a tree, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Two willets perched in a tree in Massachusetts

While driving the road down the island in Parker River NWR, I'm always scanning for birds, hoping to find something interesting. The flight of two shorebirds caught my eye and I pulled over onto the shoulder to watch them pass. I was amazed to see them both land in a pine tree! I absolutely love shorebirds, and I've spent countless hours watching them -- but this was a totally new behavior to me. What a fun experience to see them perched on a tree branch, as if they were song birds. I'm not sure if a predator spooked them or what exactly was happening, and after maybe 10 minutes or so, they flew off again. A delightfully unexpected encounter for sure!


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Serenity in a salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Snowy egret standing in shallow water with salt grass in Parker River NWR

"What good is a salt marsh?" asks the sign at the long pull-off area next to the salt pannes in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I love this sign with its catchy title, and it shares important natural features of these awesome ecosystems. For me, the essence of a salt marsh goes even further. There's something about this ecosystem that just pulls me in -- far enough that I studied them for my Ph.D.! The sights, the smells, just the feel of a breeze flowing over them, it's all unmatched for me. Photographically, I haven't made that many images that attempt to capture some of that magic. I'm usually distracted looking for wildlife, like this snowy egret, rather than focusing on all of the interesting details that abound.

Snowy egret stretches its wings at sunset

On my drive out of the refuge as the sun was dropping fast toward the horizon, I pulled off the road to watch this delightful snowy egret hunting in the shallow water. Its feathers were drenched in the warm glow of the falling light, and it emphatically leapt from panne to panne as it searched for a meal. I followed it with my lens, having to roll the car forward a few times to keep up with its exuberance. Egrets are a marvel to watch as they hunt, darting this way and that, shading the water, and seemingly dancing their way through the process. I was happy to observe its show near the road, and after a few minutes, it flew further back into the marsh. The golden light was caressing the salt grass and casting low shadows, and everything fell into place when the egret landed and set off a wave of small ripples, leaving me with one of my favorite photos from 2017.

Peaceful scene of a snowy egret in salt marsh at sunset

So what good is a salt marsh? The list of benefits is long, but at the top for me is the warm feeling that overcomes my consciousness when I'm able to soak in a scene like this.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sanderling and reflection, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a sanderling walking with its reflection in Massachusetts

This trip to Parker River NWR in October 2014 was one of the most productive sandpiper encounters I've ever had. I came across a very friendly flock of sanderlings a little before sunset, and I stayed with them until it was too dark to shoot anymore. As they went through their evening rituals of feeding, preening, and bathing, the sun went from subtle warmth behind high clouds, to brilliantly golden as it slipped to the top of the dunes, to deep pastels as day faded into night. It was one of those encounters that left me feeling so connected to nature, one that in the moment you hope can last forever, but ultimately I had to force myself to slowly back away and head to the car as darkness spread over the beach.

View more photographs of sanderlings


Friday, November 27, 2015

Sanderling feeding at low tide, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a sanderling pushing its beak through the sand at Parker River NWR

A belated Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you enjoyed your meal and socializing socializing with family and friends as much as this sanderling did the day before. A busy semester has kept me inside since September, so it felt great to finally get out to the beach for a sunset on Wednesday. While the temptation is always there to search for snowy owls on a winter trip to Plum Island, I was focused on finding a flock of shorebirds to photograph. I started my trip at the Lot 6 beach, and from the crest of the dunes I saw a small flock (about 30 birds) of sanderlings and dunlin. It didn't take too long to win their trust, and it felt awesome to lay out in the cold sand as the flock surrounded me. The extreme low tide this week seemed to provide an extra feast for the birds, as there were many places where the whole flock dug their bills into the sand while making quite an excited and loud ruckus of "peeps." The party scene ended abruptly though when something spooked the flock and they took off up the beach. While I didn't get to photograph them in the best light of the day, it was still invigorating to spend time with shorebirds again.

View more photographs of sanderlings.