Showing posts with label wildlife photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife photography. Show all posts

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.


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.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sanderling feeding in evening light, Parker River NWR

Sanderling feeding in shallow water after sunset

The sun had dropped below the dunes but was still high enough to cast its beautiful pastel colors over the scene as a flock of sanderlings went through their evening routines in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds were preening and napping, but this lone sanderling was slowly moving through a shallow tidal pool looking for a snack.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rutting tule elk on Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

Rutting tule elk smelling the scent on the wind

This bull tule elk was protecting a small harem of females on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore. Hiking out the Tomales Point trail during the August rut is great fun, but during this particular summer this herd was regularly hanging out near the end of the road as you descend toward the Pierce Ranch parking lot.

Male tule elk bugling through the fog

There was a lot of elk activity in the area and this bull seemed to be in constant motion -- smelling the air like in the top frame, or bugling loudly down the valley in the one above.

Rutting bull tule elk throwing grass

The high levels of hormones also had him aggressively showing off, including roughing up the lupine and grasses of the coastal scrub before loudly bugling again.

Loud tule elk bugle in Point Reyes


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dominant bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Rutting bull tule elk in wildflowers

The sound of a bugling tule elk in the rut is truly spectacular. This large dominant bull, the same individual I included in my post yesterday, was keeping close tabs on his harem and bugling regularly and loudly on this August morning in 2011.

Tule elk starting to bugle in Point Reyes

It was awesome to observe and hear this behavior from close range along the road down to Drake's Beach. Especially as he let out one of his long, loud calls and you could hear it echo down the valleys -- often eliciting a response from a rival.

Dominant bull tule elk bugling in Point Reyes


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore

Dominant bull tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

August was always a fun time to be in Point Reyes National Seashore, as the tule elk rut was kicking into high gear. This large bull was king of his harem along the road to Drake's Beach in 2011. On multiple occasions that summer I had a chance to watch him protect his herd and respond to the bugles of rival bulls from across the valleys. His large palmated antlers were a distinguishing feature, but the identification was even easier since he walked with an obvious limp. I'd be curious to know if he was able to hold his throne again in future years and when his reign came to an end.

Tule elk bull walking through his harem in Point Reyes National Seashore


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 14, 2019

Sandpipers bracing against wind blown sand, Plymouth Beach

Dunlin in blowing sand on the beach in Massachusetts

I've written about this a few times before, but a windy day along the beach really shows how tough these sandpipers are to withstand the harsh conditions of their life on the coast. On this blustery day, the wind repeatedly blasted the shorebirds with sand as they attempted to rest.

Dunlin being pelted with blowing sand on the beach

In the photo above, the wind was just starting to rise and a few individual grains of sand are visible bouncing off of the face of the dunlin in the foreground. A few moments later, the gust picked up speed and the scene started to dissolve in a cloud of blowing sand. I found it interesting to observe how the birds would instinctively turn directly into the wind as they brace against it, which makes sense given that they are aerodynamic in flight.

Shorebirds in a small sand storm on Plmouth Beach

Submitted to this week's Wild Bird Wednesday.



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Take your rest, Sanderlings on Plymouth Beach

Two sanderlings resting with their feet in the sand on Plymouth Beach

For as perfectly adapted to the coastal life as shorebirds are, it's interesting to see that even their feet can sink into the wet sand if they're stationary for long enough. This pair of sanderlings was part of a larger group that was resting on Plymouth Beach as the water receded.


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.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper probing the sand, Parker River NWR

Semipalmated sandpiper with its bill in the sand in Massachusetts

With their rapid sewing machine motion as they probe the wet sand, it can be challenging to get a tack-sharp shot of a sandpiper with its beak deep in the sand -- but this frame kept all the details. I didn't see what it pulled up, but hopefully it was tasty.


Monday, August 5, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Semipalmated sandpiper stalking the tidal flats in Massachusetts

I went out for a sunrise session on Plum Island yesterday in the hope of finding some friendly sandpipers. I started at Sandy Point State Reservation, and when the light was beautiful, the peeps were skittish. It was a bit disappointing to see only a few small flocks of sandpipers despite the large swaths of exposed tidal flats. After losing the early light with nothing to show for it, I decided to head up the island and try one of the newly opened stretches of beach (Lots 6 & 7 both had beach access again, now that the piping plovers have fledged). I could see larger flocks of shorebirds to the north in the area that was still closed for nesting, and just a small flock of 4 semipalmated sandpipers was cruising the beach to the south. The light wasn't great and I didn't come back with too many keepers in the bunch, but it was a treat to quickly earn their trust as we leap-frogged each other down the beach. They were looking for food at the high edge of the tidal flats, and I could reliably drop myself 15 yards in front of them and wait for them to approach and pass at close range in front of my lens. We did this over an over again as we made our way down the beach together.


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.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Sanderling in water, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling tracing a line of water at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

I've thoroughly enjoyed my summer opportunities to photograph piping plover chicks, but I'm ready to do some sandpiper photography! It's exciting to see the bird reports that they're starting to arrive on Plum Island, and I'm hoping to get out to find a flock soon.

Sanderling with water droplets in Massachusetts


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