Friday, July 11, 2014

California quail calling out, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

California quail calling out in Golden Gate National Recreation Area
A California quail throws its head back in song along the Tennessee Valley Trail in the GGNRA.

For a long time, an image that was high on my wish list (at least of local opportunities) was a clean shot of a California quail in song. They’re already such interesting and charismatic birds, but it’s taken to another level when they throw their head back and call out toward the sky. During my time in California, I had a few fleeting opportunities to attempt a shot, but none of the images I produced quite met my expectations. On my recent trip to California though, I was finally able to capitalize. On one of my first mornings in Point Reyes, I photographed a female quail calling out from her fence post. She was not quite as exuberant about it as I might have preferred, but it still felt like I was putting a small checkmark on my list. Then, on my lone afternoon spent in the Marin Headlands, I came across this very loud male who was repeatedly calling out from his branch of coyote brush on a hillside above the Tennessee Valley Trail.

Quail singing from a twisted branch of coyote brush
The same quail singing from his perch on an old branch of coyote brush.

This quail was dedicated to making sure the whole valley knew he was there, and this gave me the chance to fire off a lot of frames from a few different compositions. It was exciting to have the chance to mentally score a photo of a quail singing in such a great setting as well. Coyote brush is a bit more appealing than a standard fence post would have been – and the unique twisted branches he selected as a perch really added some great character to the scene.

Browse more of my photographs of California quail.

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sparrow singing on a curved branch, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow singing from a curved branch in Point Reyes
A white-crowned sparrow sings along the Abbott's Lagoon Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

While looking for songbirds to photograph on my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, my primary objective was to capture them perched in front of wildflowers. Of course, it wasn't always possible to get a bright, colorful backdrop in each frame. I was drawn into this scene by the old, weathered branch of coyote brush that this white-crowned sparrow was perched on. Even better, a distant hillside provided a clean background of neutral colors for the shot as it started to sing. This otherwise drab bird provided its own splash of color though, flashing its green and orange leg bands.

Browse more of my photos of song birds.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mule deer in the wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Mule deer in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A mule deer hiding in the wildflowers along the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore is one of my favorite places to photograph wildlife set against a backdrop of wildflowers. The hillside along the trail seems to explode in a wall of color, and the flowers conveniently grow all the way to eye level. In the past, I've photographed some song birds like this white-crowned sparrow set against the colorful backdrop, and I walked this trail a number of times on my recent trip looking for similar opportunities. As I was scanning for birds perched on the blooms, it was a delightful surprise to see these big ears and eyes staring back at me from behind the flowers. There was a slight breeze on this morning, so in many of my frames this lovely doe was distractingly obscured by the yellow blooms, but in this one, the flower stopped in the middle and gave a clean connection with her eyes.

View more photos from the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs
A white-crowned sparrow brings a beak full of bugs back to its young in Point Reyes National Seashore.

During my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I dedicated a fair amount of time to photographing song birds among the early summer wildflowers. The first stretch of the Tomales Point Trail was absolutely covered in colorful wild radish and the trail to Kehoe Beach was also lined with dense wildflowers. These shots were taken on the trail to Abbott's Lagoon, which doesn't have as high of a density of wildflowers, but the yellow bush lupine was in full bloom (and provides the splash of yellow in the background here).

White-crowned sparrow with grasshoppers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A white-crowned sparrow looks around before returning to feed its young.

While I didn't see any nests, there were definite signs of young birds around with the parents bringing back beaks full of bugs. In the high-res version of these photos, you can clearly see that this sparrow returned with at least two grass hoppers crammed into its tiny beak. While on a much different scale, this behavior reminded me of seeing photographs of puffins returning to the cliffs with a mouthful of fish (definitely something on my lifetime photographic wishlist!).

View more photos of songbirds perched on wildflowers in my Song Birds Gallery.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Curious quail in focus, Point Reyes National Seashore

Curious quail in Point Reyes National Seashore
A California quail casts a curious glance at the photographer in Point Reyes National Seashore.

If you couldn't already guess from the banner on my blog, California quail are one of my favorite subjects to photograph, and Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to get them in front of your lens. I photographed a bunch of quail on my recent trip there, and this was one of my favorite shots. Quail seem to have such personality, and the way that they turn their head in a curious glance cracks me up. For these shots, I was parked in the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot watching a few quail bouncing around the tops of coyote brush a bit further away, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy pop up between the bushes to get a look at me. After slowing turning my lens toward it, it was exciting to see that it positioned itself behind another bush in a perfect way to provide a smooth out of focus foreground and background. 

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Quail &emdash; Quail stare-down
An alternative view of the same quail after it moved higher on the coyote brush.

As he made his way to the top of the bush, the delightful bokeh effect started to disappear, but he posed there for a while providing some clean portrait opportunities too.

View more of my photographs of California quail.