Anatomy of a photo #73: The Common Murre


The Common Murre (Uria aalge) is not a rare bird on Tomales Bay, but neither is it as common as its name might imply. I see them with some regularity on the quiet waters of this slightly inland area, but generally it is only one or two at a time, if I see any at all. The chances of seeing one are slightly improved if one ventures closer to the mouth of the bay (as I often will in my kayak). There isn’t a specific season when they are especially common, but don’t expect to see them on the waters of the bay when they are nesting (they prefer big rocky islands, like the Farallons).

This Common Murre ended up getting a little Eel Grass wrapped on its bill when it surfaced

This particular bird is in its non-breeding plumage. you can expect them to look about like this (or with a little more white on their heads) by the time September begins to wind down.  I think I prefer them in this plumage… but I am not a Murre. I really enjoy seeing them when the chance arrives. They are a fun little bird to watch as they dive deeply for fish and the occasional crustacean.

A proud little bird, with its head held high (and eel grass on its neck)

This image was taken using a 300mm lens with a 1.4x attachment for a total of 420mm. Shutter speed was fairly fast at 1/500th to capture any movement without blurring and to allow me to hand hold (so very difficult to use a tripod on a kayak). Aperture was stopped only partway down, so that the bird and only a narrow strip of water would be in focus, but with a slightly blurry foreground and background (aperture was set to f/9). ISO was set to compensate at 400.

And here is a bonus image of a murre beating its wings

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, birds, kayak photography, murre, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #73: The Common Murre

  1. Cee Neuner says:

    You wildlife photography is amazing! I’m going to add a link of your blog to my links page.

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