Saturday, November 12, 2011

Young bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Young bull tule elk in tall grass on a foggy day

I finally started going through the images from my final trip to Point Reyes National Seashore before moving to Massachusetts. On many occasions I had glanced at the folder in Lightroom, but couldn't bring myself to seriously go through my last set of new images from my favorite place in the world until yesterday. My wife accompanied me for my last trip to Point Reyes two days before we left California, and we decided to start with a hike along the Tomales Point Trail with the hope of photographing some rutting tule elk. As you can see, the day greeted us with the characteristic fog of Point Reyes, and really, no weather could have been more appropriate! That park taught me to love the fog, and especially the quiet solitude that it brings, and I spent so many mornings walking this trail hoping that the fog would lift just enough for photographs.

This was my favorite shot from the day, since there is a fair amount of emotion to the pose of the bull elk -- much like we were at the time, he was sensing the wind and deciding which direction to go (of course, his decision was based simply on the availability of female elk). Otherwise, I didn't get too many images that I was very happy with from this trip. We spent a fair amount of time watching a large bull guard his harem, and were able to listen to him bugle at many rival males in the area, but the images lacked the clarity that I favor due to the amount of moisture in the air. No regrets though -- Point Reyes gave me more than my fair share of favorite photographs over the years, it was wonderful to spend one last morning in the park with my wife. Even though I'm not sure when I'll make it back, I am already looking forward to greeting the sunrise (or a thick layer of fog) the next time I'm able to be in Point Reyes!

The tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore are fantastic photographic subjects and you can view more in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feeding dunlin, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a dunlin about to eat a clam at Parker River NWR

The seventh beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island came through for me again on Tuesday when I went out looking for shorebirds in the late afternoon. The weather was absolutely beautiful, which meant that there were many more people on the beach 2 hours before sunset than I had seen on my sunrise trips, but the birds didn't seem too perturbed by the small crowd. As the sun crept closer to the horizon, the beach started to empty out and it was mostly birders and other photographers wandering across the exposed sediments of low tide. It was a nice change of pace on this trip to have a flock of mostly dunlin and black-bellied plovers to photograph, instead of the sanderlings like on my previous trip.

View more photographs of dunlin and other sandpipers in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunset over the salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Golden back-lighting highlights cattails as the sun sets over a salt marsh

With the beautiful weather we had yesterday, I just had to get outside with my camera. After having an October snowfall a week ago, it was clear skies and temps in the upper 60s! Since there was going to be an evening low tide along the coast, I took a trip up to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to look for shorebirds. I found a friendly flock of dunlin, and was able to crouch in the sand with them for quite a while as the sun dropped towards the horizon. Just before the light started reaching the top of the dunes along the shore, I decided to pack up there and start my trek out of the refuge to see what might be around to photograph with the final light of the day. I was headed for the ponds in the northern part of the island, but when I saw the backlit cattails and reeds along the road, I just had to stop to photograph it! Tidal marshes hold a special place in my heart, and this one looked fantastic last night.

View some of my favorite landscape photographs in my Landscapes Portfolio.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sanderlings feeding at low tide, Parker River NWR

Photograph of a sanderling picking up a clam

Here are another couple of images from a recent trip to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. There was a very low tide that morning, which left behind some wonderful textures in the sand as it pulled out. The low angle of the sun just after sunrise was perfect for capturing the bright blue colors of the morning sky in the wet sand, and there were also some opportunities to capture some reflections of the birds as well.

Photograph of a sanderling carrying a clam at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

The shorebirds were taking advantage of all of the exposed sediments, and were pulling small prey from below the surface with ease. It is amazing to me how much life there is just below the sand, since huge flocks of these birds will scour the area during every low tide. It was also really interesting to see them pull small clams from the sand, and then swallow them whole. Sometimes they would even rinse it in a puddle before eating it.

Photograph of two sanderlings hunting on the sand in Massachusetts

View more photos of sanderlings in my Sandpipers Gallery.

This post was submitted to the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- follow the link to check out this week's posts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Young pronghorn at sunset, Yellowstone National Park

Baby pronghorn at sunset

I've been fascinated with pronghorn ever since seeing them in nature documentaries as a child. I think that they are so remarkably beautiful, and its amazing to see them running so fast. While in California, I had learned that there were a few populations of pronghorn in the state (some remaining naturally and some introduced) and we had taken a road trip to Carrizo Plain National Monument with the hope of finding and photographing some. We did see pronghorn, but it was always at too far of a distance for good photographs. Having missed out on that opportunity before, I was really excited to have another chance to photograph one of my childhood favorites in Yellowstone National Park in September. Since I had read that they can be skittish, I wasn't sure what opportunities I would have to photograph pronghorn in the park. Much to my delight, we saw a small herd of around 8 animals right near the Gardiner entrance every day as we drove in and out of the park. It was so much fun to be able to pull the car over and watch them for an extended period of time, and it was great to have so many opportunities to see them up close. One of the members of the herd was this young pronghorn, and it was especially cute as it bounded around the group with the unbridled enthusiasm of a young animal.

View more photos of Antilocapra americana in my Pronghorn Gallery.