Friday, August 12, 2011

Bugling bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Bugling bull tule elk in the tall grass of Point Reyes National Seashore

The tule elk rut is in full swing in Point Reyes National Seashore. I started my day with an early morning hike along Limantour Spit, but I again saw very few shorebirds. So since it was still early by the time I was back in my car, I decided to take a trip up to Tomales Point to check on the tule elk. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick that I could barely see the bushes just a few feet outside my window. So instead of taking a hike through pea soup (I've done that enough times in the elk reserve to know that it's just not photographically worth it), I decided to take a drive out to the outer peninsula. I saw some elegant terns on Drake's Beach last week, so I thought perhaps I could find them (or maybe some shorebirds) there as a consolation prize. Instead, I was treated to a fantastic display from the free-ranging tule elk herd. There are often elk near the turn off to Drake's Beach, but they are not often so close to the road. It was a real treat to park the car and spend some time watching three separate harems on the hillside.

The largest harem belonged to this very large bull, and although he was moving with a substantial limp from one of his back legs, he was still bugling loudly, chasing off rivals (no antler-locking fights while I was there though), and mating with his females. He was a truly impressive specimen, and it's always fun to see that slightly crazed look in his eye that you see this time of year. In this shot, he is bugling loudly across the valley, and it was fun to hear the other bulls answer him back. Since I was hearing multiple responses to his calls, it was also nice to know that there were more elk just down the road.

View more images of these majestic animals in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ruffled willet at Pillar Point Harbor

Ruffled feathers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

My past three posts have included shorebirds looking quite relaxed while tucked into their classic resting pose. To change things up a bit, here's a willet shaking out its feathers, and looking a bit more unkempt.

View more willet images in my Willets Gallery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

American avocets at Radio Road Ponds

Flock of Avocets

On my way back from Pillar Point Harbor last month, I decided to take a slight detour to Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City. I was delighted to see a large flock of American avocets resting in the shallows near a convenient place to set up a tripod. While they were far enough away that making a compelling image of a single bird was difficult, it was a fun challenge to find some pleasing compositions within the flock.

Avocets tucked in

Many of the birds were busy preening, but occasionally they would all tuck their bills into their feathers to rest. I really love the shape of a shorebird in this pose, and it's always nice to photograph such a relaxed subject. The rippled reflections were a nice bonus too.

American avocets

More photographs of these elegant shorebirds in my Stilts & Avocets gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- follow the link to check out this week's posts!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Resting willet, Pillar Point Harbor

Resting willet at Pillar Point Harbor - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

A lot going on right now for me that has kept my hands off of the camera and away from the blog for a couple of weeks, but this shot is from my last outing in mid-July. I headed down to Pillar Point Harbor hoping to find shorebirds in summer colors. There were only a few sandpipers around that never stayed in front of my lens for long, but I did get to spend some quality time lying in the harbor sediments photographing a group of 15-20 willets as they rested and preened on an exposed rock outcropping. Some birds were already in their plain basic plumage, and a few were quite striking in their breeding colors -- and this particular bird was somewhere in between.

More photographs of these charismatic shorebirds in my willets gallery.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Western sandpiper in summer colors, Point Reyes National Seashore

Western sandpiper in Point Reyes - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

From an overcast morning in July 2010, a western sandpiper rests on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. This is an exciting time of the year when the shorebirds return from their breeding grounds still wearing their bright summer colors. I was out on this beach last weekend and didn't see many birds, but hopefully I'll have a chance to get down in the sand with them soon.

Western sandpipers - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

View more images of peeps in my Sandpipers Gallery.