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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Early morning blues, Piping plover on Plum Island

Photograph of a piping plover fledgling at Sandy Point State Reservation

Nothing much to be blue about on this morning (or any morning when you're out to do some photography at sunrise!) unless you're the morning light reflecting off the water in the background. I took this photograph on a mid-July trip to Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island, and I suspect that this is a fledgling from one of the piping plover clutches I saw as tiny chicks in early June.

View more of my photographs of piping plovers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Curious piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation

Shallow DOF photograph of a young piping plover

The uneven sand along the high tide line of Sandy Point State Reservation made for an fun setting to photograph this piping plover chick as it curiously checked out the photographer laying in the sand. At times, some objects in the wrack obstructed the frame, but when it stepped into the right location, it was exciting to capture this dreamy effect of an exaggeratedly shallow depth of field.

Photograph of a curious piping plover chick in Massachusetts

Browse more photographs of plovers in my Plovers Gallery.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Piping plover chick exploring the beach, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a baby piping plover searching among the shells on the beach

I've been pursuing clean foregrounds and backgrounds on the beach with my shorebird photography lately, but it was really exciting when this tiny chick started walking toward me through the tide-line of shells.

Photograph of a newborn piping plover chick on Plum Island, Massachusetts

This interesting setting provided some variations in color and pattern to set up the scene and really helped to illustrate just how tiny this young chick was.

Photograph of a baby piping plover chick surrounded by seashells at Sandy Point State Reservation

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Least tern on its nest in the sand, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a least tern incubating its eggs in a nest in the sand

This summer, I have primarily been enthralled with photographing the piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts, but there are other species of breeding birds in the park as well. While there were a handful of little tern chicks running about the beach already, this adult was taking care of its two eggs nestled into a small depression in the sand.

Least tern looks as its two eggs at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

View more photographs of terns and gulls.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peeking piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a piping plover chick peeking out from behind its mother

I took a trip out to Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island again last week, and the baby plovers are growing up. There were two youngsters with this parent in the early morning light, which were significantly larger than when I was there in June, but not yet fledged. I did see a couple of really young chicks too, as well as an adult plover that appeared to be incubating a nest. What a special place that relatively small stretch of beach is with all of the breeding birds.

View more of my photographs of plovers.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reacquainted with the sunrise

Photograph of a piping plover chick approaching its parent in early morning light

I’ve written many times on this blog about my love of experiencing the first light of the day. While the brilliant colors of sunset are just as visually pleasing, the sunrise provides a much stronger fuel for my soul. With the less than ideal amount of sleep I get during the semester, coupled with the lengthening days of spring feeding into summer, it had been a long time since I felt the warm glow of the first rays touch my face. Even though Plum Island is over an hour away and we were near the earliest mornings of the year due to the solstice, the gravitational pull of the chance to photograph tiny piping plover chicks in warm morning light was strong enough to get me out for the sunrise twice last month and again earlier this week. There’s magic at the leading edge of the day, and it feels great to be reacquainted again!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Piping plover parents, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chicks snuggled under their parent's feathers in Massachusetts

I must say, after watching the job these piping plover parents have on a few separate mornings last month, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to keep track of the chicks! These tender moments of warming them together in a single group seemed to be short-lived, as a few minutes later all four chicks will inevitably be running in four separate directions around the beach. It’s amazing to me that the adults are able to keep track of them all!

Eight baby plover legs stick out from under a parent at Sandy Point State Reservation

View more photographs of piping plovers, as well as other plover species.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Close encounters of the adorable kind, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick close-up at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

One of the most fun things about photographing these piping plover chicks as they explored the beach outside of their roped-off protected area at Sandy Point State Reservation is how curious they were. On many occasions, as I was quietly lying in the sand nearby, the chicks would come well within my minimum focusing distance of 8 feet. No complaints here though – it was a great chance to pull my eye away from the viewfinder and enjoy a close encounter of the adorable kind.

View more plover photography.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Piping plover chicks in morning light, Sandy Point State Reservation

Fluffy piping plover chick in early morning light on Plum Island, Massachusetts

I took a Friday off in June to do some photography. The forecast wasn’t great, and I almost canceled my plans, but a Thursday night read of the Plum Island bird sighting reports convinced me to go. I had seen that folks were still spotting some sandpipers that seemed late to leave for the tundra, so the potential chance to photograph some peeps in summer colors was enough to get me to drag myself out of bed early. I had a delightful time wandering the beach and watching the courting rituals of least terns, and it felt great to have my camera in hand again. After the best light faded, I decided to start heading back to my car – and much to my surprise and delight, I saw a small flock of tiny plover chicks zig-zagging across the sand. Limited time in harsh light wasn’t enough, so with some helpful suggestions from my wife, I went back for sunrise on Sunday and then again a week later when this pair of images was taken. Multiple plover families were cruising the beach and drawing quite a crowd of photographers each morning.

 Piping plover chick at Sandy Point State Reservation

View more of my photographs of plovers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Common tern at Sandy Point State Reservation

Common tern on the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation
A common tern watching the sky at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

In early August I took my first and only trip to Plum Island for the summer. I was hoping to catch the front end of the fall shorebird migration, and while I saw a fair number of sandpipers, the breeding colony of terns was the real highlight. In general, I find terns to be a tough bird to approach, even with my standard slow-motion belly crawl. On this day, however, I was lucky to find a small group of common terns that were rather indifferent to me and let me crawl close. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy a few short minutes of photographic excitement before a beach runner came jogging by and ended my fun.

Head-on view of a common tern in Massachusetts
A common tern follows the flight path of an overhead flock at Sandy Point State Reservation

View more of my photographs of terns.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection

I have a habit of keeping tons of images that I'll never do anything with. On my first pass after downloading the images from a trip, I'll delete anything that doesn't meet my standards for focus or sharpness. I'll mark images that have a particularly strong composition (flag with a "P" in Lightroom) to come back for another look, but I generally just let the normal images take up space on my disks and fill up my Lightroom catalogs. I basically make the argument that if it's sharp, perhaps I'll find a purpose for it later. I've really come to the realization though that there are tons of images I'll probably never look at again, and that I'll certainly never do anything with. So, I've started going through old folders and trimming out things that just don't meet a minimum level of compositional interest. It's kind of fun to re-experience old outings, and while my primary focus is cutting images, I've found a few diamonds in the rough that I had no idea were in there. This image of a semipalmated sandpiper and its reflection in the sand is one such example. I have no idea how this wasn't favorited when I took an initial pass through this folder, but I'm excited to find it again!

View my twenty favorite shorebird images in my Shorebirds Portfolio.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dunlin in the dunes, Sandy Point State Reservation

Dunlin in the dunes by Pat Ulrich

A dunlin peers out from a depression in the sand behind the dunes at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island, Massachusetts.

View more of my dunlin photographs.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Semiplamated plover, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated plover at sunset, Sandy Point State Reservation

This shot was taken as the fading rays of the setting sun broke through an overcast sky in Sandy Point State Reservation last October. It won't be too long from now that the shorebird numbers will start increasing with the spring migration, and I hope to get out there to photograph them. Plum Island (which contains both the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Sandy Point State Reservation) gets red knots passing through each year -- and it's my goal to photograph one in their gorgeous spring colors.

View more of my photographs of plovers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pair of semipalmated plovers, Sandy Point State Reservation

Pair of semipalmated plovers in sunset light at Sandy Point State Reservation

This past weekend, my wife and I took a trip out to Sandy Point State Reservation on the southern tip of Plum Island. The impacts of Hurricane Sandy and the recent Nor'easter were clear. The small dune that I found this flock of plovers taking refuge behind in early October is no longer there, as the beach is now one large flat expanse. It's fascinating to see the power of nature, and this was a prime example of the ephemeral existence of the beach environment.

View more of my photos of plovers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Semipalmated plover at sunset, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated plover in warm sunset colors at Sandy Point State Reservation

I had a lovely encounter with a flock of semipalmated plovers at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island a few weekends ago. The late afternoon hours were mostly overcast, but as the sun crept towards the horizon, its last rays lit up the clouds and cast a beautiful golden glow over the birds.

View more photos of plovers.

Monday, September 10, 2012


A semipalmated sandpiper is focused on finding prey

It had been a while since I had touched my camera when I went out on this mid-August trip. Actually, much longer than "a while" -- especially compared to the frequency I became accustomed to in California. It had been over three months since I tried to make a meaningful image. Worse yet, it had been just as long since I was able to be out enjoying and connecting with nature. Throughout my growth as a person and a photographer during the past half-decade, I had really come to rely on these moments of connection with nature to help to re-center myself. So in the end, enough was enough, and I had to prioritize some time to get outside. One weekend evening was all I could take, but it would have to be enough. My wife and I hopped in the car and drove out for the sunset on Plum Island on the North Shore.

I was almost giddy with excitement to be going through my pre-trip rituals of charging batteries, formatting memory cards, and cleaning lens surfaces. Donning my outdoor clothes and hiking shoes gave my heart an extra bounce to its step. All of these things were leading to seeing the ocean, feeling the breeze, and smelling the warm salty air. I could feel it in my soul, and couldn't wait to hit the sand.

When we arrived at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge entrance, I was hit with the sad realization that it was summer in the Northeast and not along the California coast. Lot #1 was recently reopened to the public after the plovers had moved on, and it was packed. Signs along the road warned that there was no parking available at Sandy Point, my ultimate destination. I stuck to my plans though, and figured that 90 minutes before sunset, and very near to dinner time, most cars would be heading home. When we reached the end of the island, we were thankful that someone was pulling out of a spot in the overcrowded lot just when we got there. Soon enough I was pulling out my gear from the back seat.

What a refreshing moment it was to step out of the car and feel the coastal air. As we made our way along the trail, I could see that the beach was packed. There were excited children and loud families everywhere. Quickly, I realized that I may not be able to find that connection with nature that I so desperately sought. Amidst the chaos of a summer's evening along the shore, I spotted a small group of peeps feeding in the sand exposed by the ebbing tide. "Peeps!" I called to my wife, who knew that she'd be on her own to wander the beach for a little while now that my target was sighted. I watched from a distance as a beachwalker strolled right at them, and thankfully the flock parted and they remained in the area.

This was a good sign that these were friendly birds (and most likely naive juveniles), and I made a quicker than usual approach. Soon enough, I was down in the sand seeking an eye-level view. I laid on the shutter and reveled in the rapid fire sound of the birth of new images. Even though it had been a while since I used my camera, the feeling quickly came back, and I lost myself in the world of these small shorebirds feeding in the sand.

After a few minutes, the silence in my mind was disturbed by my own thoughts. How peculiar that I was interrupting myself -- but that's what this particular thought was about. Somewhere in those moments of lying in the sand and framing the birds, the realization came to me that I had actually found the connection I was looking for. It didn't matter that kids were splashing and yelling their shouts of joy around me, because I didn't hear them. It didn't matter that people were looking at this strange guy covered in sand photographing tiny birds that many people don't even notice. What mattered was that I was there, feeling nature -- breathing the air, sensing the pulse of the waves, feeding off the energy of the birds. Every other thought dropped away from my mind, and I was fully in the moment. Focused.

It was, ironically, this trip to a crowded summer beach on the Massachusetts coast that helped to solidify my understanding of the personal connection with nature that I have sought out for so many years. There's just something about being in that moment, completely focused and absorbed by the tiny piece of the world visible through my telephoto lens. While I love to experience nature while hiking, I do find a much deeper connection when I have my camera along. For a long time I've wondered why that was. But now I think it all makes sense to me. When my eye is pressed to the viewfinder, it's not just my vision that's reduced to only what is focused within the frame. For those moments, my mind is singularly focused too. There's no thought of unanswered emails, tasks left unfinished, chores yet to be done, and the rest of my everlasting to-do list. Everything else is gone. My entire being is focused on what I can see in the lens, on feeling the energy of the animal I'm watching, and on working to capture just a tiny piece of the magic of that moment in my images. What a truly meaningful experience it is to have a singular focus, even if it only lasts for the fleeting time of a wildlife encounter. It's no wonder I keep coming back for more. I'm already looking forward to the next time I can bring my eye to the viewfinder and find the quiet solitude that it brings to my mind.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snowy owl for a snowy day, Sandy Point State Reservation

Juvenile snowy owl sitting on sea ice

Today is the first significant snowfall of the season for the Boston area, so while I sit watching the flakes drift past my window I thought I'd honor the whitened city landscape by posting a photo of the snowy owl that I saw earlier in the month at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. There was no snow on the ground that day when I visited the park, but some sea ice had formed in the inlet, which is where I found this beautiful juvenile owl.

View more images of owls in my Birds of Prey Gallery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Snowy owl on the beach, Sandy Point State Reservation

Snowy owl on the beach

This juvenile snowy owl was kind enough to give me a couple different settings to photograph it in as it moved between the dunes and sea ice that had formed in the inlet at Sandy Point State Reservation. It's really quite fascinating to see an owl in a beach setting, but since they breed and live on the arctic tundra during the summers, this sort of landscape seems to make sense for them. Lots of low plants, and good visibility. I'm still hoping to return to find and photograph snowy owls in golden light and perhaps during a snow flurry, but we'll have to see if they'll cooperate with me for those.

In other news, if you would like to see some great photography, Jim Goldstein has posted the list for his 2011 Blog Project, which includes a "Best Photos of 2011" post from 289 different photographers that follow his blog! If you have some time and would like to be inspired, I highly recommend browsing the list, and perhaps a good place to start is my own Favorite Photographs of 2011 post.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to check out this week's posts.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Success -- A snowy owl! Sandy Point State Reservation

Snowy owl on sea ice along the beach

As soon as we arrived in Massachusetts last September, I was investigating the nearby parks to find out what wildlife opportunities might exist. I quickly discovered that Plum Island (which contains the Parker River NWR and Sandy Point State Reservation on it) is a terrific place for birds on the Massachusetts coast. Even better news was that it often harbors a wintering population of snowy owls, and it's considered one of the best places in the lower US to find them. I think these birds are stunning, and I immediately added a snowy owl to my mental wish list for this winter. After seeing reports of owls in the area on I took a trip there in December, but came back empty handed. On my first outing of 2012 though, I was able to photograph this gorgeous juvenile along the dunes of Sandy Point State Reservation (and in this image, sitting on the ice that formed in the tidal areas). I was there for sunset, but the skies were cloudier than I expected, so I was shooting mostly in fading overcast light -- all the more reason to make a return trip under blue skies as well!

View more images of owls in my Birds of Prey Gallery.