Showing posts with label massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label massachusetts. 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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Piping plover mother brooding her chicks, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick approaching its mother to brood

The photo above is another one that made my list of 2019 favorites. I love the color tones provided by the warm sunrise light under a high overcast sky, and I'm drawn to the sense of interaction as the piping plover chick approached its mother to brood. A few other chicks were already tucked underneath their mother, so this chick was searching for the right spot to sneak in.

Piping plover looking for an opening to snuggle under its mother

In the frame below, I love the look shared between this young chick and its mother -- these are the moments of connection we strive to capture as wildlife photographers. As an individual photograph though, I feel like it fell a little short of having enough connection with the viewer. The mother turned her head back far enough to look at the chick that it leaves me feeling disconnected from her in the photograph. The emotion of the young chick's expression still warms my heart though.

Moment of interaction between a piping plover chick and its mother

After a little bit of trying to find an opening between its siblings, this chick found a spot under her wing and tucked itself out of sight.

Three piping plover chicks under their mother


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.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Brooding piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover brooding its chicks on the beach in Massachusetts

At the end of the year it's always fun to look back through the photographs I've made over the last 12 months. In 2019, the bulk of my work came during the summer, and especially during the time when tiny piping plover chicks were scurrying across the beaches at Sandy Point State Reservation. I had been saving a few of the photos I knew would be on my list of 2019 favorites to post throughout the fall, and while I didn't get to it then, I'll share them now.

Piping plover brooding chicks in Massachusetts

I love to photograph parent plovers caring for their chicks, and especially when the young ones are tucked underneath to brood. I have many different compositions of similar images from the summer, but I've been really drawn to the combination of lighting and color from the dunes in the background in these. When viewed together, I think this series shows how important the tiny changes in head position can be for changing the feeling of an image. Overall, the top photo is my favorite, with a clean profile view. But I also like the one just above, which adds a touch of connection between the plover and the camera. And then there's the image below, which loses the connection to the viewer and adds the focus of the parent on its chicks.

Piping plover looking after its brooding chicks

Thanks for viewing and Happy Holidays to you and yours!!


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 17, 2019

Seeking shelter on the tidal flats, Piping plovers at Sandy Point

A piping plover looks to brood under his father's wing in Massachusetts

I had a lot of fun watching this family of piping plovers on my first trip to Sandy Point State Reservation for the summer breeding season. I initially encountered them along the dunes, but eventually some of the chicks decided to explore the expansive tidal flats of a very low tide. The patterns in the sand left behind by the receding water made for a unique setting to photograph them as they sought refuge under their father's wing.

Piping plover shelters two chicks under his wing on the tidal flats


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Least tern chick receives a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick sees parent returning with a fish

On my mid-summer trips to see the breeding birds at Sandy Point State Reservation, I was almost always focused on the piping plovers running around the beach. There is a colony of least terns there as well, and when a family chose to stay near the ropes, a large crowd of photographers tended to form near them each time I visited. I spent the first light of one trip focused on terns, and it was easy to see why there is a such a draw to them. Unlike the piping plovers, which are in constant motion and responsible for feeding themselves, the terns are much more stationary and you have a chance to witness the tender moments of a parent bringing prey back to the little ones.

Least tern chick being fed a fish by its parent

For a while, the chick was snuggled with its other parent on the sand. At some point it must have heard the call of this parent returning, because it leapt to its feet and started running around excitedly. Then its parent flew into the frame and handed off a rather large fish. Unfortunately, I was zoomed in a bit too tight and clipped the tips of the wings, but it was a great moment to witness!

Least tern chick takes a fish from its parent


Shared with this week's Wild Bird Wednesday


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Piping plover chick in the spotlight, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover chick illuminated by sunrise light at Sandy Point State Reservation

Warm sunrise light with just enough high clouds in the sky came together to illuminate this young piping plover chick while it was exploring the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Piping plover family in the rain, Sandy Point State Reservation

Piping plover parent with three chicks on a rainy day

The dreary last few days in the Boston area reminds me of my first trip this summer to see the piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation. There were dull-gray skies with off and on drizzle, but it was great to spend some time watching this piping plover family. In this frame, two chicks are already under their parent, and it's pretty clear the third wants to get out of the rain as well.


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.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Preening sandpipers, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of two semipalmated sandpipers, with one sleeping and one preening

One of the pleasures of watching wildlife is when they are totally indifferent to your presence. After slowly approaching a large flock of sandpipers resting on the beach, the shorebirds simply went about their morning business. This pair of semipalmated sandpipers was near the front of the group, with one napping while the other preened its feathers.