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

Friday, January 24, 2020

Sanderling at dusk, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Sanderling wading in shallow water at dusk in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A few years ago I had a wonderful evening spent with a large flock of sanderlings as they settled in to roost along the beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. After the sun dropped below the dunes behind me, beautiful pastel colors were reflected in a pool of shallow water at the edge of the beach. A lot of the birds were preening or tucking their bills in to rest, but this one slowly walked through the water, providing some lovely reflections without making many waves in the still water.

Sanderling with pastel reflection


Friday, January 17, 2020

Little blue heron catches a shrimp, Bunche Beach Preserve

Little blue heron pulls a shrimp from a in tidal pool in Florida

For someone who typically photographs small shorebirds that feed on tiny prey, it was pretty amazing to watch waders pull all kinds of large foods from the warm waters at Bunche Breach Preserve in Florida a few years ago. This little blue heron worked its way back and forth across a tidal pool over and over again, catching a variety of fish as well as this shrimp.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

White ibis hunting in a tidal pool, Bunche Beach Preserve

White ibis feeding in morning light

The white ibis looks like it should be awkward with that elongated bill, but this one kept a stately posture as it moved back and forth across a tidal pond at Bunch Beach Preserve.

White ibis knee-deep in a tidal pool

While I saw ibis catch a lot of prey on my few mornings in the preserve, a near miss let this crab escape.

White ibis with tiny crab


Monday, January 13, 2020

Willet catches a crab, Bunche Beach Preserve

Willet feeding in the shallows at Bunche Beach

It was fun to work some shorebird reflections in the rapidly rising water of this tidal pool at Bunche Beach Preserve in Florida a few years ago. The diversity of prey that the birds pulled from the water was remarkable, and in the shot below, this willet came up with a small crab!

Willet snatches a small crab from a tidal pool


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


Friday, January 3, 2020

Northern shoveler drake, Radio Road Ponds

Northern shoveler drake

Yesterday I posted a photo from my archives of one of my favorite winter traditions while I was living in California, and another was all of the beautiful duck species that over-wintered on San Francisco Bay. A trip to see the northern pintail lek at Bothin Marsh was always worthwhile, but my favorite duck to look for was the northern shoveler. These handsome birds were relatively easy to find in the ponds of the South Bay, though they are unfortunately a rarity for me now in Massachusetts.

Swimming northern shoveler in profile


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Northern elephant seal, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Bull elephant seal resting on the beach in California

Digging into the archives for a few frames from one of my favorite experiences at the turn of each new year while living in California -- a visit to the breeding colony of elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve. These photos are of a large bull that had taken up residence on loser's beach during our January 2011 trip. We didn't see any females on this stretch of beach away from the main colony, but he was actively defending it from rival males just in case any arrived.

Elephant seal aggressively stretching up at Año Nuevo State Reserve


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!!


Monday, December 23, 2019

Favorite Photos from 2019

My photographic productivity this year was constrained to the summer and early fall. While the number of trips was limited the quality was great, and I had a lot of luck finding shorebirds during the summer breeding season and fall migration through Massachusetts. My encounters with the piping plover chicks made it a fun challenge to parse down my list of 2019 favorites, and I tried not to let them dominate my selections. My ten favorites from the year are below, in no particular order.

Thanks as always to Jim Goldstein for his inspiration each year to compile my list of favorites for his annual blog project.


Piping plover chick ready to brood, Sandy Point State Reservation
The moments of interaction between a parent and its young is such a special thing to witness. Here, a young plover chick is approaching its mother to warm up under her feathers.
Piping plover chick approaching its parent to brood


Sanderling at the edge of the flock, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
When photographing shorebirds, I generally find myself trying to isolate an individual bird away from the clutter of the flock. It's a fun challenge to incorporate other birds in the background, and nice when it adds to the composition.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Sanderlings feeding in Parker River NWR


Consolation prize, Sunrise sliding down Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park
I had forgotten how crazy the summit of Cadillac Mountain can be for a summer sunrise, and arrived too late to get a spot in the lot on this August morning. I drove to the overflow lot down the road, and instead of joining the huge crowd looking east, I stayed on the western slope and had this view over Eagle Lake to myself.
Sunrise on the peak of Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park


Least tern chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation
A tender moment between parent and chick as they waited for the other parent to return with a fish.
Least tern chick snuggled with parent in Massachusetts


Piping plover chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
Pulling off a portrait of a tiny piping plover chick would be a real challenge if they weren't so delightfully curious. I'm always amazed at how close they'll come if you're lying still in the sand.
Piping plover chick standing tall in morning light on Plum Island, Massachusetts


Brooding piping plovers, Sandy Point State Reservation
There's something special about seeing a parent caring for its chicks, and I love to photograph piping plovers brooding their little ones.
Piping plover brooding its chicks on the beach in Massachusetts


Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
I'm a sucker for head-on shots of shorebirds, and nailing the focus on the eyes of a moving target creates a fun (or frustrating?) challenge.
Head-on view of semipalmated sandpiper in Massachusetts


Room for one more? Piping plovers at Sandy Point
This photo is one frame from my favorite series from the summer, where four large chicks attempt to brood under their father at the same time.
Piping plover chick joins two siblings under the parents wing


Dramatic sunrise light, Sanderling at Parker River NWR
The high tides on this particular morning offered a non-traditional lighting for my style of shorebird photography. As this sanderling came very close to my position, I attempted to maximize the warm tones of this dramatic sidelight.
Sanderling with dramatic side-lighting at sunrise


Piping plover chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation
It's easy to forget about the 3:30am wakeup call when you find yourself taking portraits of an adorable chick blanketed in the warm golden tones of a mid-summer sunrise!
Piping plover chick at sunrise on Plum Island, Massachusetts


Thanks for viewing my favorites photographs from 2019! If you've enjoyed them, feel free to check out my previous favorites from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. All the best to you and yours in 2020!


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pied-billed grebes in the marsh, Coyote Hills Regional Park

Pair of pied-billed grebes in the open water of a marsh

I believe this 2011 trip to Coyote Hills Regional Park is the only opportunity I've had to photograph pied-billed grebes. As I recall, I encountered them while crossing a boardwalk over the open water in the marsh. Thankfully the water management had the marsh at its high water mark, so it was possible to get reasonably close to eye-level when I went prone on the platform. I enjoyed the chance to spend a few brief moments with this adorable pair before they slipped back into the vegetation.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Black phoebe on cattails, Coyote Hills Regional Park

Black phoebe on cattails in Coyote Hills Regional Park on San Francisco Bay

From the same lost trip in the archives as my previous post, here's a black phoebe perched on cattails in Coyote Hills Regional Park in California. It's hard to beat a morning spent in a wetland, but I had an impression that there was nothing to show from this particular trip to the South Bay and had often overlooked this folder. This past summer I was digging around a little bit in my archives and came across a few keepers buried in the wrack. A heavy evening fog had settled over the bay, casting a nice even light over the marsh.