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

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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Inquisitive piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping Plover standing in wet sand on Plum Island

Summer trips to Sandy Point State Reservation always have the chance for piping plover chicks in the nesting colony there. I suspected that I was going to be a little too early for chicks when I took this trip on this first weekend in June, but it’s still fun to see the adults running around the beach. As I was attempting to work my way into a good position for the lone semipalmated sandpiper I encountered, this overly curious piping plover came into very close range to check out the photographer lying in the sand. It’s staccato stop-start running brought it into full-frame portrait realm, before coming so close that I hand to pull back from my telephoto since it was well-within the minimum focusing distance. Curious shorebirds are the best!

Close-up photograph of a piping plover in Massachusetts

Monday, June 17, 2019

Least tern rival, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display with a small fish

This series of photos shows one of the more interesting least tern interactions I observed earlier this month at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. The female was sitting in the wrack line well outside of the temporary fence erected around the main breeding colony. I approached carefully and took up a spot lying in the sand to observe her in the hopes that a male would bring in a fish to share. It didn’t take long for one to arrive. He showed off his prize, but she really didn’t seem interested in taking it from him. He persisted in offering the fish for a while, from multiple angles, and I laughed this off as another rejection of a male’s advances (a common theme on the beach that morning).

Eventually, she settled in to rest, and rather than flying off to find a different female to impress, he scarfed down the fish and took up a position nearby. At this point, I started to suspect that perhaps they were already a pair, and she was just full of fish that morning. From my position in the sand, I enjoyed watching her do a little preening before tucking in her beak and closing her eyes.

Least tern pair sleeping on the beach

Before long, another male noisily arrived to offer his catch to her, and the first male quickly jumped to the occasion to defend his (apparent) relationship.

A male least tern lands with a fish to offer to a female

There was rapid-fire action of vocalizations and posturing, with the female literally in the middle of it all.

Two male least terns fight over a female at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

During a brief standoff, it wasn't clear to me which way this fight would go.

Two male least terns stare eachother down in a fight over a female

Without any physical interaction, the couple thwarted the interloper, who flew off to show his fish to someone else, and they both settled back in. I quietly wished the tern couple luck, and carefully crawled away in the sand before wandering further up the beach.

A least tern flies away after unsuccessfully offering a fish to a female

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper on the tidal flats, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper on the tidal flats, Plum Island, Massachusetts

A very low morning tide opened up a huge swatch of tidal flats at Sandy Point State Reservation. The small mounds and dark sand in this region of the beach made for an interesting setting for the lone semipalmated sandpiper I encountered. In my trip preparations the night before, the eBird reports from the previous few days had sightings of flocks with 150+ semipalmated sandpipers and dunlin. Given the time of year, there was a great chance that they’d be showing some of their summer colors as well. While I had hoped that the low tide would keep the flocks foraging on the flats around the southern edge of the island, as it turned out, they happened to be further up the estuary while I was in the park (which I observed on a quick stop at the Bill Forward Bird Blind on my drive out). It’s hard to pass up a chance to spend time with a sandpiper in non-basic plumage, and this individual gave me a couple of fleeting opportunities as it traversed the flats.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Least tern courtship at Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

Dreary fog and low visibility did not deter the courtship rituals of a large flock of least terns at Sandy Point State Reservation earlier this month. The start of breeding season is such an exciting time of year on the southern tip of Plum Island, regardless of the weather. While I saw a handful of piping plovers running over the exposed tidal flats, the highlight of this trip was definitely having so many opportunities to enjoy the fish-offering antics of least terns. While I saw a couple of successful transfers between terns, the majority of the interactions I witnessed involved an excited male flashing its catch to an otherwise uninterested female. It was rather comical to watch the females repeatedly turn away as the male desperately tried to impress. Eventually, he would give up and fly off to try to impress someone else.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warm spring light, Piping plover at Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover running over the sand at sunset in Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

Developing my photographic vision under the cool marine layer in the San Francisco Bay Area has turned me into a sucker for overcast skies, but I still enjoy a lovely golden hour when I have the chance. The last few days in Massachusetts have been gorgeous -- with unseasonably warm temperatures and spectacular evening light! It's been a pleasure to get out for few short walks after work to enjoy this wonderful taste of springtime, and it's great to notice the days getting longer. Even if it is still February, spring is in the air at least for another day or two.

This photograph is from a springtime trip I took last year to Sandy Point State Reservation. There were a handful of piping plovers cruising the beach, and I was able to get a few close encounters with this particularly curious bird as it searched for a meal before losing the daylight.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Harsh realities of being small, Piping plover at Sandy Point

This piping plover wraps up my belated posts of the stories behind my five favorite photographs from 2017. In a typical year, the goal would be to blog about the photos long before the annual summary -- but I've ended up trying things in reverse this year. Anyway, it was a beautiful day on this late spring trip to Sandy Point State Reservation with moisture-rich clouds adding color to the sky and providing nice diffuse light and a handful of piping plovers scurrying around the beach. Really, it's hard to ask for much better conditions, at least between the intense gusts of wind blowing across the water.

Piping plover walking slowly across the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation

I was laying in the sand with this friendly plover, enjoying the chance to watch it rest and preen. But when the wind started to blow, the sand fiercely ripped around. While walking around the park that day, the sand steadily pelted my face whenever the wind blew. But while laying prone in the sand, I could really feel the intensity of the higher density of sand near the ground. While my sand blasting was optional, it was a hard lesson to realize that these tiny shorebirds have to deal with this every time a stiff wind blows!

Piping plover in lightly blowing sand in Massachusetts

In this series of photographs, you can see how when the intensity of the wind picks up, the bird is heavily obscured by the sand, even from my relatively close observation point. It was apparently intense even for the bird, who closed it's eyes against the wind. I found the plovers to be fairly resilient though, as well as opportunistic in seeking shelter. I observed them scurrying behind any small windbreak they could find, including this tiny "dune" formed by a small collection of leaves and wrack.

Piping plover obscured by blowing sand in Massachusetts

Eventually, this bird realized that it's wind break just wasn't cutting it, so it stepped out and leaned into the wind as it sought better shelter. I really love how this last frame came together -- with the stoic look of the bird boldly walking into the sandstorm against the streaks of individual sand grains -- leaving me with one of my favorite photos of the year.

Piping plover facing a stiff wind and walking into blowing sand


Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sprint and stop, Piping Plover at Sandy Point State Reservation

Photo of a running piping plover on the beach in Massachusetts


As I mentioned in my favorite photos of 2017 post, this very friendly piping plover gave me a lot of great looks as it sprinted across the sand and then stopped on a dime. It's an interesting behavior -- I'm not sure if it's related to finding prey or to evading predators, but its certainly common among the piping plovers I've had a chance to observe. After I positioned myself in the sand, the plover kept working its way closer, giving me wary but seemingly curious looks along the way. It continued to close the distance between us, with the frame below being taken at 270mm on my telephoto zoom. Eventually, it came close enough that I could no longer attempt to focus on it (my Tamron has a minimum focusing distance of 8 feet), so I pulled back from the viewfinder and just enjoyed the chance to observe a gorgeous shorebird at close range. It's always special to earn the trust of a wild animal and the opportunity to share space with it on its own terms!

Curious piping plover at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Protection from the world, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photo of a piping plover protecting its chick from the blowing sand in Massachusetts

I led off my favorite photos of 2017 post with this handsome piping plover and its chick set against the lush green backdrop of the dunes. On its own, that image (the last in this post) warms my heart with a tender moment between a parent and the most important being in the world to it (something I can now relate to!). I think the full context of this image is interesting to show as well. It was a reasonably nice day on the beach, but there was an occasional stiff wind ripping over the inlet and across the spit of sand at the tip of Sandy Point State Reservation. The strong gusts were pelting us with blowing sand, and this noble adult was attempting to shelter its chick from the elements.

Photo of a piping plover protecting its chick from blowing sand

But when the winds settled down, the chick was ready to go again, and quickly pulled away from the warm embrace of its parent.

Piping plover pulling out from beneath its parent

It paused for a moment, leaning in for reassuring touch before darting across the sand on its own. I can empathize with how I imagine the parent must have felt, left behind to watch its offspring cutting out on its own -- still needing protection and assurance, but also the chance to explore the world independently. No matter how much we want to, there's only so much we can do to protect our kids, and at least mine still has a while to go before he's charting his own path across the beach!

Photo of piping plover parent and chick in Massachusetts

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In the shadow of my hat, Plover chick at Parker River NWR

Photograph of a plover chick stepping into the shadow of my hat

When I was putting together my Favorite Photographs of 2015 post, I had a hard time winnowing down the number of piping plover chicks to include. In the end, I still selected plovers for 3 of the 9 photos, which felt a bit heavy-handed, but it was so special to share space with these curious young birds multiple times throughout the summer. This photo helps to illustrate just how inquisitive they were. There I was, lying in the sand photographing the chicks as they scurried around the beach, and this one took a real interest in trying to figure out what I was. It came close enough to step into the shadow that was cast by the low hanging sunrise and the hat I was wearing. From my experience visiting the beach a few times over the summer, the chicks were very curious about the photographers in the sand -- often coming well within the minimum focusing distance of my lens.

View more photographs of piping plovers


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Least tern delivers a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a least tern delivering a fish to its partner

While I was watching this least tern incubating its two eggs on the beach, I had the pleasure of observing its partner bring it a fish. In the excitement of this unexpected moment, I unfortunately clipped the tips of the wings of the bird who stopped by only briefly enough to hand off the fish and fly off again. While I'm excited to have a nice record of the moment, I'm a bit bummed that I made such a technical error. I waited around for a while longer to see if I would be lucky to witness another exchange, but unfortunately it never came. A valuable lesson that I've heard before, but failed to execute, is that when photographing birds that are likely to flap their wings (like in this case, or especially with birds that are bathing in shallow water), it's always better to zoom out and leave extra space. You can always crop away the excess later, but you can't regain the tips of those wings in post-processing.

Photograph of a pair of least terns on their nest sharing a fish

View more photographs of terns.


Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Piping plover parent with chick underwing, Sandy Point State Reservation

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Plovers &emdash; Plover parent with one chick under its wing

Another interesting tidbit I came across while reading up on piping plovers recently, in addition to what I posted yesterday about plover chicks being entirely responsible for feeding themselves, is related to the role of the parents. While both the male and female share responsibility for incubating the nest, it is relatively common for the female to abandon the brood within a week of the chicks hatching. That leaves the male in charge of protecting the chicks until they fledge a few weeks later. I'm not sure if this is a male or female parent, but there is a very young chick tucked under its left wing. You can see a tiny leg sticking out and the top of its downy head under the popped-up feathers.

View more photographs of plovers