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

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Barred owl, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Barred owl at sunset in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A few years ago I took a winter trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island to celebrate my birthday. I mostly struck out with the shorebirds, but this handsome owl drew quite a crowd of photographers as it perched along the road in the last rays of sunlight. It was just far enough back in the woods that it made for a photographic challenge to get a clear view through the branches. The trees in this area are small so the owl was probably only five or six feet off the ground, and I recall having to contort my body in all kinds of uncomfortable ways to get my tripod lined up just right to get a clear framing above the grass along the road and through a branching V of a tree. Totally worth it though when you get to bring home a memory like this!

Barred owl in fading light

It didn't seem too bothered by the dozen or so birders and photographers that gathered to enjoy the sight. It continued to scan the ground and listen for prey, and even showed off that famous owl neck flexibility for us.

Barred owl looks toward the sunset

Friday, January 10, 2020

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Monday, January 6, 2020

Juvenile red knot, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Juvenile red knot foraging at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

I only found a couple of images worth processing from my encounter with red knots back in 2011. The scaled wing feathers of this individual are still visible, marking it as a juvenile on it's first migration from the Arctic. The distances these birds travel each year are amazing, and I hope that this young one made it!

Juvenile red knot preening in Massachusetts


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hudsonian godwit, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Hudsonian godwit in nonbreeding plumage in Massachusetts

Inspired by my post yesterday of red knots from one of my initial trips to Parker River NWR, I thought I'd share another bird that I found right away in Massachusetts -- the Hudsonian godwit. While roaming the beaches of northern California I regularly encountered marbeled godwits, and they were a delight to photograph with that oversized bill. On my first trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, I found a huge flock of shorebirds under a foggy sky. In that gathering was a lone godwit, which I believe to be a Hudsonian godwit, though I'm not 100% sure. It was a great first impression of what the Atlantic beaches would offer me in terms of shorebird encounters, though the deep fog made the photography less than satisfying. After this initial experience, I thought it would be easy to find another godwit in better light -- but I haven't been fortunate enough to see one again!

Hudsonian godwit under heavy fog in Massachusetts

The evolution of their elongated bills really amaze me. I'm curious for what prey exists when they probe that whole length into the sand, but it's clear they have access to food sources that are out of reach to the other shorebirds around (like the small sandpipers dancing around this frame).

Godwit with bill deep in the sand

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Red knots, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Juvenile red knot feeding at Parker River NWR

I recently finished reading "The Narrow Edge" by Deborah Cramer which chronicles the migration of red knots across the globe. It was a fantastic view into their life cycle and a pleasure to read, though at times it was a bit depressing to be reminded of the challenges these threatened shorebirds face. When I moved to Massachusetts back in 2011, the red knot was a bird high on my wish list to find. In fact, I initially read about Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, which has become my default photography location now, because it was listed as a good chance for migrating knots. The author of the book is from Massachusetts, and her epilogue takes place in the Refuge, so after finishing it I wanted to dig into my archives to see if I had any images worth sharing from the lone time I found knots to photograph there.

Nonbreeding red knot swallowing a clam

These photos are from October 2011 on what was only my third trip to Parker River NWR. I went for a sunrise and initially found a large flock of semipalmated sandpipers and sanderlings feeding on the tidal flats. It was quite a remarkable experience with a negative low tide and an abundance of tiny clams that the sandpipers were pulling from the exposed flats. The red knot above is swallowing one down whole. In the chaos of this feeding frenzy, there was a small group of about 12 red knots moving through the crowd. I felt fortunate to find them at the time, and now 8 years later I haven't been lucky enough to have another chance for them in front of my lens.

Juvenile red knot on Plum Island

The adults in breeding plumage are known for their gorgeous cinnamon color, but the nonbreeding plumage has many interesting details as well, like the scaled wing feathers on the juvenile above. The photo below would have been a nice portrait to show off some details, if only the sanderling hadn't walked into the frame!

Nonbreeding red knot in Massachusetts


Monday, December 30, 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

Sanderling in shallow water, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling looking for a meal in shallow water in Massachusetts

While I was compiling my list of 2019 favorites, this one kept catching my eye. I ultimately did not include it, but I liked how it was a classic shorebird pose but in a shallow layer of water instead of only sand.


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.