Showing posts with label Sandy Point State Reservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sandy Point State Reservation. Show all posts

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.


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.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Piping plover finished brooding, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick stepping out from under its parent's feathers

This piping plover chick was all warmed up and ready to slip out from under its parent's feathers. After watching these adorable little chicks earlier in the summer, it was great to see so many fledged piping plovers on the beach this past weekend. Hopefully it was a good year for their breeding numbers on Plum Island.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper in evening light, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper on the beach in evening light in Massachusetts

Digging deep into the archives for this one. It was taken on a terrific fall evening in 2012 that I spent with a flock of mixed shorebirds resting and preening on the beach. It was heavy overcast for most of my time there, but as the sun got closer to the horizon, it slipped below the cloud layer and cast beautiful warm light over everything -- including this semipalmated sandpiper resting near an old log on the beach.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Constant motion, Piping plover chick on Plum Island

Piping plover chick in motion at Sandy Point State Reservation

When they're not brooding under a parent, tiny piping plover chicks seem to be in constant motion. Just like the adults, they have a sprint and stop motion as they cross the sand and watch for potential prey. I have found it hard for my lens to keep the face of the bird in focus when they move suddenly, but the bright light of the late morning sun helped the autofocus track this little one as it sprinted across the sand in front of me, momentarily paused to check something out, then shot off again.

Piping plover chick running on the beach

Piping plover chick stops to check something out on the beach

Piping plover chick in motion

Piping plover chick starting to run again on the beach at Plum Island, Massachusetts

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


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Least tern courtship, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display on the beach in Massachusetts

Here's a series of images from a foggy morning photographing the courtship rituals of least terns on the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation.

Least tern courtship display

He arrived ready to woo her with his fish, but their mating attempt appeared to be unsuccessful this time. They fought a little bit over the fish, but the female came away with it in the end.

Male least tern offering a fish to a female

Least terns attempting to mate

Least tern passes a fish to another in a mating display


Monday, July 29, 2019

Brooding piping plover chicks, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick attempting to brood on Plum Island, Massachusetts

While it’s fun to capture portraits or action shots of piping plover chicks running about on their own, I’m partial to photographs of the interactions with their parents. It was four years ago that I had my first opportunities to photograph these special moments on Plum Island. On only my second trip to see the chicks, I had the encounter that I only dreamed would actually come together – a clean shot in sunrise light with all four chicks crammed under a parent and a mess of 10 legs sticking out the bottom. It’s a simultaneously comical and incredible sight. I’m always hopeful I’ll have a similar encounter again, but it hasn’t yet materialized in the same way. I love any type of brooding shot where you can see the young ones tucked underneath, and in these, three little fluff balls are trying to squeeze in together.

Photo of three piping plover chicks brooding under a parent


Friday, July 26, 2019

Small piping plover chick on a big beach, Plum Island

Piping plover chick on the beach on Plum Island, Massachusetts

There were multiple broods of piping plover chicks exploring the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation on this June morning. By the time I made it around the main beach and over toward in the inlet, the sun was already getting pretty high in the sky. For most other subjects, it would easily have been time to pack up the gear and head home. But when you're photographing something that's just an inch or two above the ground, the light sand almost works like a giant reflector -- helping to reduce the contrasting shadows from underneath and extending the time for photography.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sense of scale, Piping plover at Sandy Point State Reservation

Photo of a tiny piping plover chick next to a small beach plant in Massachusetts

Sometimes, while watching these birds on the beach through a large telephoto lens, you forget the sense of scale. Especially when their curiosity brings them close and they fill your viewfinder. But then one passes by a tiny plant in the sand, just three leaves on a side, and you remember how small these chicks are -- and how amazing it is that they're responsible for feeding themselves!


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Under the watchful eye of a parent, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a piping plover chick near its parent in Massachusetts

A young piping plover chick exploring the beach as its parent watches in the background. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but the out of focus parent seems a bit frazzled to me as it's calling out and running down the beach. I suppose that's to be expected when you're trying to keep watch over four small chicks, each heading in a different direction!


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Least tern chick with parent, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick walking on a Massachusetts beach

It’s been so much fun to observe the least tern and piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation. Having the chance to see both in such close proximity makes the difference between the life histories of the species so striking. The plover chicks appear curious and brave, moving quickly across the beach looking for food on their own, occasionally returning to brood under a watchful parent. In contrast, the young terns are clearly more dependent as they wait for their next meal to be brought back and they appear rather awkward as they run across the sand. Regardless of how they are raised, both are certainly adorable in their down feathers!


Friday, July 12, 2019

Curious piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation

Curious plover chick on the beach in Massachusetts

Photographing piping plover chicks can be so rewarding since they're so curious. On many occasions during my recent trips to Sandy Point State Reservation, I’d get myself positioned in the sand a good distance away from the plovers, only to have them approach really close. For better or worse, they seem to be inquisitive about what the photographer is doing lying in the sand. It can be challenging to keep them in frame with a long telephoto at close range, so sometimes it’s worth just pulling up from my viewfinder to enjoy their remarkable cuteness with unaided eyes.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Least tern chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick snuggled with parent in Massachusetts

A young least tern chick enjoys the comfort of its parent’s embrace at sunrise. Its sibling was tucked under the far wing, but perhaps this one enjoyed feeling the warmth of the first early rays rising above the Atlantic. At one point, it ran out onto the sand, apparently thinking that its other parent was coming back with a fish, but once that moment passed it came back to snuggle in again.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Piping plover chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick at sunrise on Plum Island, Massachusetts

The early morning alarms to get to the refuge entrance by sunrise can be rough in the weeks around the solstice, but it's always worth it when you have a chance to spend time with these adorable chicks bathed in the first light of the day.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Piping plover hug, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover parent and chick looking at each other on Plum Island, Massachusetts

The brooding behavior of piping plovers makes for such special photographic moments. While the precocial chicks are incredibly independent on the beach, they still check-in with their parents regularly to brood. If you're in the right place, this gives a great opportunity to capture short moments of direct interaction between the chick and its parent. In the photo above, a young chick approaches with the clear intention of snuggling under those insulating feathers. Having the two birds looking directly at each other adds a nice tenderness to the interaction.

Baby piping plover ready to warm up under its parent's feathers

I really love the two photo below though, after the two chicks have nestled in under the parent's wing. You can see the two small beaks peeking out from under the feathers, and I just have the sense that this must be what plover smiles would look like, in the embrace of a warm parental hug.

Two piping plover chicks in an underwing hug from their parent in Massachusetts


Friday, June 28, 2019

Co-parenting piping plover chicks, Sandy Point State Reservation

Male piping plover with chick at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

According to the field guides, it can be a little challenging to identify the sex of Atlantic Coast piping plovers. The notable difference is that the black brow bar and collar are more "bold" in the males. While I have generally not tried to distinguish this in my plover photography before, I had a unique opportunity to differentiate the mother and father of a parenting pair on a recent trip to Sandy Point State Reservation. This piping plover couple was caring for a brood of four chicks, and both parents were participating the family activities. It was interesting to see them actively trade off responsibilities between the male and female. This offered the chance to directly compare images of the two birds caring for the chicks. And in fact, one did have a much bolder mark between its brows, nearly touching the eyes (the male, pictured above), while the female's was more subtle (pictured below). Wishing the best of luck to these plover parents!

Female piping plover brooding two chicks on Plum Island, Massachusetts


Monday, June 24, 2019

Room for one more? Piping plover chicks on Plum Island

Piping plover father with chicks brooding at Plum Island, Massachusetts

This piping plover father was doing his best to keep his chicks safe and warm as they explored the tidal flats. In the photo above, two of his four chicks are nestled in to brood, and the third chick has just arrived. It also wanted to join-in, and tried to figure out how to get under those warm feathers as well.

Piping plover chick attempting to brood in Massachusetts

It seemed to find a comfortable spot alongside its siblings by jamming itself under the wing too.

Piping plover chick joins two siblings under the parents wing

But then things got even more complicated when the fourth chick arrived.

Four piping plover chicks looking to brood under their father

It too wanted to warm up under the father plover, but there was limited space available for everyone.

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Plovers &emdash; Piping plover parent with chick

The father seems to be going along with things here...

Four piping plover chicks brooding under father on Plum Island, Massachusetts

.... but I can't help but interpret this look as the piping plover version of "You've got to be kidding me!"

Piping plover father has too many chicks trying to brood

The dad seemed to sense this was getting a bit out of control and hopped off of his four chicks.

Male piping plover jumps off of four brooding chicks

Once free, he then ran off to the warmer dry sand further up the beach and called his chicks to follow and try again.

Piping plover parent with four chicks

Shared with Wild Bird Wendesday.



Sunday, June 23, 2019

Piping plover chick ready to brood, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover brooding chicks at sunrise on Plum Island, Massachusetts

My successful trips to Plum Island this year so far have been under overcast skies. While I enjoy the flexibility that this even light allows for wildlife photography, there is something special about moments that occur in the warm glow of the rising sun. Here are two images of a young chick looking for the right spot to brood under it's parent from a clear morning back in 2015. In the top frame, you can see the tiny legs of its siblings already taking up prime locations underwing.

Piping

Friday, June 21, 2019

Piping plover father and chick, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover father with chick at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

It’s such a treat to see the interaction of a young animal and its parent. For piping plovers, who are responsible for feeding themselves from birth, a critical role of the parent is protection and shelter from the elements through brooding. Before these images were taken, this young chick was nestled under the feathers of its father. I would generally observe the chicks to stretch and run off to scour the beach almost immediately after pulling out from below the warm embrace. This particular chick seemed to want some additional reassurance this time though, snuggling up to its dad for quite a while before heading off again on its own.

Piping plover chick snuggling its father in Massachusetts