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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tule elk grazing in the fog, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk grazing in fog at Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

My nascent photographic vision was developed under the coastal fog of Point Reyes, and now that I’m settled in the Northeast, I don’t have nearly as many opportunities to experience ground-level fog like this. Standing in the middle of a thick cloud is perhaps a bit heavier than would be truly helpful for photography, but it does add a different feel of weight and solitude to the story told by a photo. I don’t know if sounds are actually dampened in fog, but looking back at these images, my mind’s interpretation is a quiet scene with only the sound of elk footfalls softly stepping through the wet grass.

Tule elk under heavy fog in Point Reyes National Seashore


Monday, July 15, 2019

Quail on a fencepost, Point Reyes National Seashore

Male California quail on a fencepost in Point Reyes National Seashore

Three years ago, I was back out in California with a few days to spend on photography. I posted a handful of images from this trip last year, but there are a bunch still waiting their turn in my upload folder. Since I’ve shared a lot of baby plovers recently, this seems like a nice time to break things up a bit by tapping into my July archives. A California quail on a fence post is hard for me to pass up when I’m in Point Reyes National Seashore, so these seem like a logical place to start.

Profile view of a California quail in Point Reyes National Seashore


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


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Willets in a tree, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Two willets perched in a tree in Massachusetts

While driving the road down the island in Parker River NWR, I'm always scanning for birds, hoping to find something interesting. The flight of two shorebirds caught my eye and I pulled over onto the shoulder to watch them pass. I was amazed to see them both land in a pine tree! I absolutely love shorebirds, and I've spent countless hours watching them -- but this was a totally new behavior to me. What a fun experience to see them perched on a tree branch, as if they were song birds. I'm not sure if a predator spooked them or what exactly was happening, and after maybe 10 minutes or so, they flew off again. A delightfully unexpected encounter for sure!


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.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Harbor seal on kelp covered rock, Point Lobos State Reserve

Harbor seal on kelp covered rock in Point Lobos

A walk along the northern trails of Point Lobos State Reserve is always a nice treat. This park tends to fill up to capacity frequently, but most of the traffic (both car and foot) stays toward the main trails in the southern side of the peninsula. On this summer trip, we enjoyed a nice view of a herd of harbor seals resting on the rocks just offshore in Moss Cove. Their colors ranged from sun-bleached gray to this particularly handsome darker black. The kelp covered rock was an interesting setting for a photograph, but even in the short time we were watching them, the tide was visibly rising and its lush green island was soon to disappear.

Monday, April 2, 2018

California quail fledglings calling (almost), Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail fledglings perched on coyote brush in Point Reyes

California quail are one of my favorite species to photograph, and it was a treat to get to see some fledglings on my last summer trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. On several previous occasions, I had seen younger adorable downy fluff balls scurrying around behind their parents, and this was the first time I had some really nice looks at slightly older fledglings.

The Abbotts Lagoon area is a hotspot for finding quail in Point Reyes. In fact, I often didn't even need to get out of parking lot, or even the car, to find some in front of my lens. Since they can be rather skittish, it actually works quite well to use the car as a mobile blind to get close as they stand on the fence railings and bounce around the coyote brush along the parking lot. That's what I was doing on this rather dreary morning in the park. There was a small covey hanging out along the fenceline, so I drove up slowly, rolled the windows down, and parked the car in a nice position to observe them out the passenger side window.

California quail fledgling calling Chi-Ca-Go

As I was watching the group, I heard the distinct call of "Chi-Ca-Go" from behind my vehicle on the driver's side. Though notably, it was a rather small rendition of a quail song, and when I turned around in my seat, I saw this pair of fledglings on the branches. I had long been chasing a photograph of California quail in song, which I finally managed to capture on a 2014 trip -- but I had never imagined the opportunity to capture young birds doing the same. Unfortunately, to have a chance, I needed to contort my body to point my lens out of the opposite rear window to get the right angle before the moment had passed. I strained my body to get into a reasonable stable position and waited for another chance.

California quail fledgling singing in Point Reyes National Seashore

California quail can put on such a show when they are calling out -- throwing their heads back with abandon -- but that means the beak and eyes are moving quickly. On this morning, it was just too quick for my lens under the deep overcast light, and the frame above is the closest I came with any bit of sharpness to the singing head. I had only a few chances to capture the song before this young pair scuttled back down into the brush, and I'm disappointed to have failed to capture a clean shot. That said, these unexpected moments are what is so fun about wildlife photography, and even without something to add to my portfolio, it's an encounter I won't soon forget.

California quail fledglings in Point Reyes National Seashore




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mule deer behind the dunes, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female mule deer standing in dune grass, Point Reyes National Seashore

The short road to the North Beach parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore always feels to me like it has a lot of potential. There's nice tall grasses on the backside of the dunes, with splashes of color from the abundant wildflowers. I've seen a fair number of raptors there, occasionally a coyote, but the most likely find are the abundant mule deer in the area. This doe was browsing among the dune grass under the thick morning fog. She gave me a couple of curious glances before sauntering across the road to the other side.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tule elk in wild radish, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule elk standing in a field or wild radish in Point Reyes National Seashore

While the peak of the tule elk rut in Point Reyes National Seashore is generally in late August and into September, this handsome bull was keeping track of his harem in early July. It made for some nice photographic opportunities as the herd grazed among the late summer wildflowers (predominantly wild radish) on the hillside along the road to Drake's Beach. From this vantage point he was keeping track of the other bulls bugling in the area. In the top frame, he's listening carefully as a rival bull sounds out across the valley, and in the bottom frame he's responding with his own call (through a mouth full of grass!).

Bull tule elk bugling in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore